Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Refiner's Fire: "The Shepherd's Crucible"

Welcome to a new Quarter of well-written Sabbath School Lessons! They are on a topic of practical day-to-day godliness: how to understand “despair, betrayal, disappointment, loss, injustice, and abuse.” The closer we come in the stream of time to the last-days’ events of “the great controversy between Christ and Satan,” the more critical will be our need to learn how to endure these tests of faith.

The “insight” of the 1888 message to Lesson One about the 23rd Psalm can be the parallels between the Shepherd’s Psalm and the New Covenant promises the Lord made to Abraham and his descendants (which we are, by faith).

The major contribution which “a most precious message” in 1888 made to Seventh-day Adventist understanding of righteousness by faith was the New Covenant. Let us note these parallels side by side. Remember that the promises He made to Abraham are made to us:

The 23rd PsalmThe Promises to Abraham (Gen. 12:2, 3)
“I shall not want”“A land that I will show you”
“Makes me lie down in green pastures”“I will make you a great nation”
“Leads me beside still waters”“I will bless you” (make you happy, GNB)
“He restores my soul”“I will make your name great.”
“Leads me in the paths of righteousness”“You shall be a blessing” (make others happy)
“I will fear no evil”“I will curse those who curse you”
“Your rod and staff comfort me”“I will bless those who bless you”
“My cup runs over”“In you all families of the earth be blessed”

The message that the Lord in His great mercy sent to us in 1888 was intended to lighten the earth with glory,” that is, it was the “beginning” of the glorious Loud Cry of Revelation 18:1-4. Not only did “God so love the world” (past tense) that He gave His only Son; He still loves this dark world lost in sin. He still loves all the multitudes who are bewildered and confused and alienated from God. The essence of the 1888 message was, “Be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). It was not a fear-oriented harsh demand, but “a revelation of the love of God.” We as a people needed to realize that as the sun goes down for the last time, the message the world must hear is that message of “Christ and Him crucified.” When Ellen White wrote these words, she remembered the 1888 message:

“‘Behold, the Lord will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him.’ ... Those who wait for the Bridegroom’s coming are to say to the people, ‘Behold your God.’ The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 415).

To know nothing except “Christ and Him crucified” is not an off-balance obsession; it’s the message that hungry-hearted honest people all over the world are longing to grasp. We can see as we review the history of the 1888 message how the message even then moved the lay people who heard it, even the non-Adventists who heard A. T. Jones proclaim it. If every Adventist church had been a place where people would hear only “Christ and Him crucified” (to borrow Paul’s statement), the Holy Spirit could have inspired people to come, and the message would have spread.

This new Quarter of lessons will direct us to see how all our trials and mishaps and disappointments are one means the Lord uses to remind us that He loves us individually, personally, intimately; if we will but believe that, we shall be prepared to look into His eyes with joy when we see Him coming in the clouds of heaven.

—Robert J. Wieland

(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by this Robert J. Wieland is available from the office of the 1888 Message Study Committee: 269-473-1888.) Listen to the audio recording for Lesson 1 now in MP3 format. To listen as a podcast go to To listen as a stream go to