Thursday, September 27, 2007

Yahweh and Israel: Fulfilment Beyond Failure

Is Jesus in love with a “woman”? Yes, He is!

It was Christ who invented sexual love and marriage. When Adam was in desperate loneliness in the Garden, the Lord brought Eve to him; He foresaw when He would assuage His own loneliness with the “marriage” to a “Bride.” Jesus is a lone, lonely Man in heaven; He belongs with His people in the earth.

No woman on earth could be so tall, so beautiful, so wise, that she could be the bride of the divine Son of God; the “woman” with whom He is in such desperate love is a “corporate” woman—a “body” of humans, redeemed sinners from “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6, 7). “She” has grown up from her infancy “in Christ”; she has come at last to maturity where she can stand by His side as His “help-meet.” And He needs her! What God said of Adam in the Garden is true of Jesus also: “it is not good that the Man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

In Revelation’s picture, she will share with Him the administration of His new kingdom where He has just been crowned “King of kings and Lord of lords,” for He invites her to sit with Him on His throne (Rev. 3:21). He can’t rule there alone! He has to have someone “sit” with Him whom He can love, trust, and respect as a king his queen.

When God’s people had wandered away from Him, Jeremiah likens Israel’s infidelity to a “wife” treacherously departing from her husband” (3:20). The husband’s brokenheartedness is implied.

Ezekiel spends an entire long chapter on Israel’s youth as a time when she was so charming, beautiful and innocent that He, wanting to be her husband-to-be, fell in love with her (cf. 16:8ff). This, like a surrealist painting, portrays the whole of human history and especially that of God’s people as a divine-human love affair, a husband wooing a wife. It’s the back-in-the-shadows reality that informs the whole of Scripture. Paul likens Christ to His church as a Lover being betrothed (2 Cor. 11:2).

In Ephesians he shocks Christians of all ages saying that agape-love is sexual love: “Husbands, love your wives [with agape] even as Christ also loved the church” (5:25); so Christ’s love for the church is conjugal, that of a Lover for the woman who arouses His love!

This is so shocking extracted criticism. “Bishop Wordsworth ... said that Charles Wesley’s famous hymn “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” was ‘inexpressibly shocking’, and should not be sung in Westminster Abbey.” Even his brother John excluded it from his 1780 Large Hymnbook, “and in other hymnbooks ‘lover’ has been altered to ‘refuge’ or ‘Saviour.’” [1]

This fear of the humanity of the Savior is probably due to the popular Dogma of the Immaculate Conception which cuts the Virgin Mary genetic link to the fallen Adam and thus separates her Son from true identity with humanity. The reticence even in our churches to sing Charles Wesley’s hymn probably derives unconsciously from the same.

Hosea stands in history as the preeminent example of the disappointed but steadfast love of man for a woman, because he still loved Gomer after she played the harlot on him. Paul insists that agape is sexual as well as “spiritual.” Hosea’s love for her was conjugal; it had to be. He was not an angel; he was a man. He illustrates Christ’s love for His church that keeps His commandments in the last days. Why does He single her out to love her, like a man singles out one woman from all the world of women to love?

Something about that “body” of believers, “the remnant” which “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” that has called forth the conjugal love of Christ. He wants to marry “her”; a burning desire, not to be turned aside. The disappointment of that love in “1888” was to Him “beyond description.” [2]

We could say that the little group who went through the Great Disappointment of 1844 were deeply beloved of Him in this special sense. They refused to give up their faith, confident that the true Holy Spirit was in the Midnight Cry through the Great Disappointment. They were especially dear to His heart (Jesus describes them in His message to “the angel of the church of the Philadelphians,” Rev. 3:9, 10).

When new truth came to them (the heavenly sanctuary and the opening of the second apartment), they believed; there was an endearing love for that “little flock” in His eyes. When Rachel Preston brought them the seventh-day Sabbath-truth, they welcomed it; no resisting and fighting it (as “they” did other precious truth forty-plus years later). Then when the first principles of health reform came, again they eagerly accepted, even some “dress reform.” Through the early history of this people, a special heavenly love affair was developing. Not since Pentecost had Jesus found such a group of believers loyal to Him.

Then, “1888.” Here the Song of Solomon 5:2-8 comes on stage. [3] The Lover has come “home” to His beloved after a long safari; tired, lonely, hungry, wet from the rain; He longs to be with her intimately. He “knocks” (the Hebrew says banging on the door). The woman whom He loves disdains him, she is too relaxed, gone to bed for the night; why does He bother her now? (The world is too comfy a place as it is, says the church of the Laodiceans.)

Finally, she forgets about her own selfish comfort and thinks about Him out in the darkness in the rain, hungry and alone; she belatedly gets up and goes to let Him in, but when she opens the door, He is “gone.”

We’ve been looking for Him for over a hundred years (cf. 6:1). Increasingly, thoughtful people see here the story of “our” disdaining Him in the most precious message of the beginning of the latter rain. In rejecting the message, says the Lord’s servant, we disdained Christ, just as “the woman” did her Lover in Song of Solomon 5:3. [4]

Christ’s pathetic appeal in His message to “the angel of the church of the Laodiceans” [5] (“be zealous therefore and repent,” Rev. 3:19) demands attention.

—Robert J. Wieland


1. Michael Harper, The Love Affair (Eerdmans, 1982), p. 75.
2. See Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Dec. 15, 1904, her statement describing how Jesus felt after the 1888 failure of the church leadership to receive and pass on the message, and the loss of the consequent reconciliation with Him: “The disappointment of Christ is beyond description.”
3. There seems no reason to include this book in the Bible unless it speaks of Jesus and His love for the church. Jesus described it as “scripture” in John 7:37, 38 (4:15). Paul quoted it in reference to the church in Ephesians 5:27 (4:7). Scholars have long recognized that Jesus quoted the Septuagint version in Revelation 3:20, “I stand at the door and knock.”
4. 1888 Materials, pp. 398, 399.
5. Ellen White identifies this as the Seventh-day Adventist Church (op. cit.)

If you would like a copy, sent via e-mail, of Robert J. Wieland’s “Seven Memorable Marriages in the Bible,” please request it from: Or, download the PDF document here.

(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 13 now in MP3 format. To receive as podcast subscribe to To stream online or suscribe to podcast go to

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dial Daily Bread

The theme of the prophecy of Hosea is the love of God for His espoused bride. Using the allegory of marriage, Hosea is a type of Christ as the expectant Bridegroom waiting for His bride to make herself ready. Gomer portrays rebellious sinners who repeatedly reject the loving wooing of her groom, but finally accepts Him. She is no longer divided about the identity of her husband.

“‘And it will come about in that day,’ declares the Lord, ‘that you will call Me Ishi [My husband] and will no longer call Me Baali” (Hosea 2:16, NAS).

Originally, God intended that He and His people should be one, but because of the acceptance of another lord by human rebellion in the Garden of Eden, the “Great Divorce” occurred. The Hebrew word in Genesis 3:24 that is translated “drove them out” is the word for divorce, similar to what Abraham was required to do with Hagar. Since Eden, God has stated and restated in various ways His promise to restore that most intimate relationship. It is no surprise that Satan has specially attacked all aspects of marriage so as to pervert our understanding of how God wants to relate to His people.

The command that Hosea take a wife from harlotry serves to illustrate the personal insult experienced by God each time humans elect to follow other gods. Whether she was a harlot when first married to Hosea is not certain, but we know he stayed with her even after she strayed. Gomer blindly attributed to her lovers all the blessings she enjoyed because of her marriage to Hosea. Like Laodicea, she needs to learn just how blind she is. To accomplish that, God did what He does for all His wayward children:

“‘Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths. And she will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them; and she will seek them, but will not find them. Then she will say “I will go back to my first husband”’” (Hosea 2:6, 7; see also 3:5).

God makes it hard to be lost by using all His resources to persuade His people to return to Him. This language echoes the Elijah message where God has turned their hearts back again (1 Kings 18:37, Mal. 4:6). God is grooming His bride to return to Him. Like the foundling in Ezekiel 16, who God took from nothing and made her a beautiful woman “at the time for love” (vs. 8), God asks Hosea to take Gomer from the lowest level of society. All he had to attract and keep her was his love and care. He doesn’t lock her up, or use other force to keep her. All he does is to patiently go after her when she decides to be unfaithful. He doesn’t drag her back, kicking and screaming in protest. He draws by lovingkindness. This is the true picture of our God, no force, just agape, which creates value in its object.

Later in the book of Hosea, God laments that they refused to return to Me, not recognizing that:

“Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in My arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love, and I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; and I bent down and fed them” (Hosea 11:3, 4).

The message of Christ our righteousness given to our church in 1888 helps us understand the story of Hosea. God is not an exacting taskmaster asking us to keep His commands by gritting our teeth with reluctant will power. By revealing Who He really is, the One Who sent His only Son to die for the wayward Gomers that we all are, we are brought back to God. The Son reveals more of the character of God when we realize that He assumed our fallen nature (yet never sinned), and allowed Himself to be forever given to our rebellious race. Hosea’s identification with someone of such lowly estate echoes the condescension which Christ undertook when He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh.”

Sadly, even with the persistent teaching by the Holy Spirit, there are those who deliberately reject the gift of nothing but love. God ultimately honors the choice of the individual, but with anguish cries out:

“What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah?” (Hosea 6:4); “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel?” (11:8; cf. Matt. 23:37).

Yet, like the foundling-made-beautiful in Ezekiel 16, we reject the promises and blessings of God, preferring to depend on the righteousness we attempt to establish for ourselves by our works. We are so blind that we believe the benefits and blessings God has given to us and to our church are because of the “work” we do for the Lord. How long will we worship at the “Baal” of our works-righteousness, saying with Laodicea that we have been enriched and have need of nothing?

Spend some special time with the book of Hosea in preparation for this lesson. Compare Gomer’s harlotry to that of the foundling in Ezkiel 16. Is there anything that God did not do to win their loyalty? Ask God to give you the belief that He is capable of accomplishing what He says: “while you [are still] in your own blood, ‘Live!’” (vs. 6). Like Boaz and Ruth, accept the bethrothal skirt He spreads over your nakedness, and His promise that you are His (vs. 8). Believe that God includes you when He says:

“I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, ... Those who live in his shadow will again raise grain, and they will blossom like the vine. His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:4-7).

—Arlene Hill

If you would like a copy, sent via e-mail, of Robert J. Wieland’s “Seven Memorable Marriages in the Bible,” please request it from: Or, download the PDF document here.

(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 12 now in MP3 format. To receive as podcast subscribe to

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ahab and Jezebel: Abuse of Authority

The first word which most readers associate with the name Jezebel is adulteress (Rev. 2:22). However, Scripture provides no evidence that she was ever unfaithful to her husband, King Ahab. So far as the record is concerned, she and her husband were monogamous, a refreshing change in that day and age.

She was a zealous patron of the theological school of Baal. [1] She had the power and authority of the king, and access to the treasury with the means necessary to deliver a knockout punch to covenant Yahwehism in the northern kingdom of Israel.

The timing was perfect. Israel had been drifting for over a century into the sphere of religious influence of her neighbors to the north—Zidon. Although Baalism and the everlasting covenant promise of Jehovah were opposites, by Ahab’s day the accommodation had become complete, so that very few could make the distinction. [2] Jezebel was the princess daughter of Ethbaal, king of Zidon. When Ahab took her for his wife there was no hue and cry in the land, for so many kings had set the precedent, that it was considered common practice.

Since the days of the prophet Samuel, the Lord had established schools of the prophets throughout the land to educate the people in the true principles of the law and the gospel. Jezebel undertook a systematic policy of exterminating the Lord’s select teachers and importing priests and prophets of Baal. She did this so effectively that Elijah thought he was the only one left who was loyal to Jehovah. These educators and curates, all eight hundred and fifty of them, were financed from the queen’s table, but they were deployed throughout the kingdom. Their activities of re-education solidified the gains of Baalism in Israel and well nigh signaled the extinction of the knowledge of the true God.

Baal worship consisted of the worship of the sun and rain. Jezebel was a devotee of Baal’s consort, Ashtaroth, the goddess of the moon. The Asherah pole that Ahab set up was a cult symbol for the goddess. From these two major figures a whole mythology and constellation of lesser gods evolved from the philosophical speculations of the priests and teachers. Such nature worship could only be characterized as spiritualistic pantheism, which eliminated the necessity for a Creator. The law of God was abolished, hence there was no sin or need for a Savior from it. It was a religion derived from self and was very pleasing to self.

The major theological tenets of Baalism fostered a system of ethics oppressive to the poor and fed the insatiable greed of power and privilege. For example, when Ahab desired the acquisition of Naboth’s ancestral vineyard, which was adjacent to his palace in Jezreel, he was denied by the owner. But Jezebel enunciated the written doctrine of the divine right of kings to declare eminent domain. Naboth and his sons were murdered upon a false rumor, and the seizure of the vineyard was complete.

In our day the religion of Baal, or self, is not dead by any means. “It is as easy to make an idol of false doctrines and theories as to fashion an idol of wood or stone. ... Though in a different form, idolatry exists in the Christian world today as verily as it existed among ancient Israel in the days of Elijah. The god of many professedly wise men, of philosophers, ... of many colleges and universities, even of some theological institutions—is little better than Baal. ...”[3]

How easy it is to read the prevailing teachings of righteousness by faith from the contemporary religious environment into Scripture, is confirmed by one authoritative observer. “The prejudices and opinions that prevailed at Minneapolis are not dead by any means; the seeds sown there in some hearts are ready to spring into life and bear a like harvest. The tops have been cut down, but the roots have never been eradicated, and they still bear their unholy fruit to poison the judgment, pervert the perceptions, and blind the understanding of those with whom you connect, in regard to the message and the messengers. ... Infidelity has been making inroads into our ranks; for it is the fashion to depart from Christ, and give place to skepticism. With many the cry of their heart has been, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ Baal, Baal, is the choice. The religion of many among us will be the religion of apostate Israel, because they love their own way, and forsake the way of the Lord. The true religion, the only religion of the Bible, that teaches forgiveness only through the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour, that advocates righteousness by the faith of the Son of God, has been slighted, spoken against, ridiculed, and rejected. ... What kind of future is before us if we shall fail to come into the unity of the [1888] faith? [4]

From these solemn words it becomes apparent that the church of Laodicea has permitted Jezebel to teach Baalism to her children. The Elijah message now comes to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers. “When Elijah was here in person, his greatest work was that of overthrowing Jezebel and her system of teaching, and in their stead to reinstall the Lord’s prophets in their school work. He is now to do the same good work among the Laodiceans.” [5] To Laodicea Ahab says, “Follow Jezebel, my wife.” The Lord says, “Hear ye, Elijah’s message, and follow Me.”

—Paul Penno


1. Wm. Covert, “Jezebel,” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Oct. 15, 1901, pp. 666, 667.
2. “The embrace of that alternative system of faith in Israel is likely not a deliberate alternative choice, but a slow, gradual, unwitting compromise, so that Yahwism is distorted by the alternative in its environment. Such a practice has no analogue among us, unless we imagine that ideologies of autonomous selves who can secure self lead to a compromise and distortion of biblical faith,” Walter Brueggemann, 1 & 2 Kings (Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys, 2000), p. 190.
3. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 583.
4. Ellen G. White, “To the General Conference,” Letter B-24-1889, The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 444, 445.
5. Covert, Ibid., p. 667.

If you would like a copy, sent via e-mail, of Robert J. Wieland’s “Seven Memorable Marriages in the Bible,” please request it from: Or, download the PDF document here.

(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 11 now in MP3 format. Click here to listen as a podcast. To stream online or suscribe to podcast go to

Friday, September 07, 2007

David and Bathsheba: Adultery and After

There many stories in the Bible with characters that we can identify with. We often say that we made a mistake like this person or that we obtained a victory like some other Bible character. I personally do not remember anyone saying that they were like David and Bathsheba. I certainly have never considered myself to be like them.

This (complacent) attitude reminds me of the story Jesus told in Luke 18:9-14 about the two men who went out to pray. If we say: “I am not like David and Bathsheba,” we seem to identify with the Pharisee. If we do identify with the Pharisee, we will go away unjustified.

When we view sin as Jesus viewed sin, we will admit to the many times we hated someone, or spoke hatefully about someone. How many times have each of us thought and spoken critically of another person, even in the church. How do we react to educated leaders who oppose this “most precious [1888] message?” I am afraid that at times we wish them off this planet.

Perhaps the first insight we receive from this lesson study is to see that everyone else’s sin is our sin corporately, but for the grace of God would be exactly our sin.

Insight number two is: all sin is against God. Our sin does great harm to others and ourselves. It can have lasting results against humanity but the sin is against God.

“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done [this] evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, [and] be clear when thou judgest” (Psalm 51:4).

“... how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? (Gen. 39:9)

If we understand this insight, it should be a great deterrent against sin in our lives. If we have a “deep heartfelt appreciation” of the cross of Christ, we will not want to sin against Him. In addition, we will not want to do great harm to our brothers and sisters.

The third in my little list of insights is to see the seriousness of David and Bathsheba’s sin. It was very nearly what we call the, “unpardonable sin.” Note the forethought and planning (scheming) involved in this series of events. This should be a warning to us. David and Bathsheba were not in a “backslidden” condition. They were most likely church members in good and regular standing. David was in a high leadership position—next to the High Priest. They seem to have fallen with their eyes wide open, and their destruction was almost complete and irreversible. We need to be sure we have on the full armor of God, which is primarily for our protection against the enemy. Jesus has already defeated the enemy, who will have no power over us if we have this armor on. If David had followed God’s plan of one man becoming one flesh with (only) one woman in the first place, he might not have fallen for this temptation.

Insight number four is seen in 2 Samuel 12:13: “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” It seems like the LORD had already taken care of David’s sin even before he repented and asked for forgiveness. If it were not for God’s merciful forgiveness, David would have been destroyed immediately. So it is with us, “It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not” (Lam. 3:22). “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4).

The fifth insight is to realize that forgiveness for any sin requires the “cross of Jesus Christ.” So any sin puts Jesus on His cross. A premeditated sin such as David’s and such as many sins we have committed is the same as saying “crucify Him, crucify Him” the same way as the “crowd” shouted at Pilate’s judgment hall so long ago. Our corporate oneness with David and Bathsheba and the rest of the human race allows Jesus to deal with “sin” in a corporate way at the cross. Our personal response of genuine faith to the cross brings to us the personal experience of “justification” and “sanctification” full and complete. We become “children” after God’s own heart when we respond in genuine faith like David did after his great fall.

Perhaps the sixth insight is to see that in spite of God’s forgiveness and taking away of sin, the long-lasting results or consequences of sin still take place. Please take some time in your lesson study this week and write a short (or long) history of the consequences of David and Bathsheba’s sin.

In conclusion, please note how God blessed David and Bathsheba as a married couple. They are in the direct line of “the Seed.” Their repentance must have been deep and sincere. They must have moved into a New Covenant relationship with God or God could not have used them. Their home life must have become exemplary. They must have provided the proper atmosphere for Solomon’s development. I would suggest that David set up a family alter and had family worship to teach his growing son spiritual values. It would appear that they were responsible for much of Solomon’s mature wisdom to make wise choices early in life.

Please spend time in the study of your Sabbath School Quarterly this week and God will bless you abundantly more than you could ever ask or think.

—J. B. Jablonski

If you would like a copy, sent via e-mail, of Robert J. Wieland’s “Seven Memorable Marriages in the Bible,” please request it from: Or, download the PDF document here.

(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 10 now in MP3 format. Click here to listen as a podcast. To stream online or suscribe to podcast go to