Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"Preparing a People"

This week's lesson is taken from Numbers chapters 5 and 6, where some themes emerge: the putting away of sin, God's desire for purity in His people individually and corporately, faithfulness, and the special call of the Nazirite.

There is a quote at the top of Wednesday's lesson that says, "God purposed to organize Israel in the broadest sense to be for Him 'a nation of priests and a holy nation.' They would thus witness to the nations far and near about the truths concerning the living God and the Creator of all things." Several texts in Isaiah confirm this idea: 49:6, " Indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles'"; 42:6, "I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house." Although these two passages are clearly messianic they can also be applied to a people called by God to give a special message to God's people. Isaiah 58:6, 7, "Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry …"

The people of Israel were established as a "kingdom of priests and an holy nation" with a mission to the world. They were called to be God's prophet to the world. Most of the prophets of old spoke as individuals but a people can also be called by God to function prophetically. Israel received this call as we see in the verses above, and so also the Seventh-day Adventist movement has received such a call. As we contemplate this seemingly haughty claim and examine Numbers chapter 6, we see some similarities between the call of the Nazirite John the Baptist and the call of the Seventh-day Adventist movement. We use the term movement here purposefully. Moses had a dramatic call--the burning bush spoke to him. Jeremiah wore an ox-yoke around his neck, and Ezekiel lay on his left side for 390 days. Not so with John the Baptist. John was clothed in a camel's hair coat, "with a leather belt around his waist; and he ate locusts and wild honey." He looked like a prophet, he dressed like a prophet, and he ate like a prophet! But that was not the only thing. Luke 1:77, 79 says he was "to give knowledge of salvation to His people … to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Then the Bible says, "John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4). John the Baptist--that peculiar Nazirite as the Elijah-messenger of his day, has much to say to the bearers of the Elijah message of today. The prophetic call is founded on a message. The prophets' entire reason for being as prophets has to do with what they have to say. No message, no prophet. The Adventist prophetic movement will need to understand, receive, and preach what God has commissioned this people to say, and to say it with clarity. Prophets are given a voice.

What is the message about which we are to have clarity? "The soul saving message, the third angel's message, is the message to be given to the world. The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus are both important, immensely important, and are to be given with equal force and power. The first part of the message has been dwelt upon mostly, the last part casually. The faith of Jesus is not comprehended. We must talk it, we must live it, we must pray it, and educate the people to bring this part of the message into their home life" [1].

"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure [2].

"Several have written to me, inquiring if the 1888 message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, 'It is the third angel's message in verity'" [3].

"The loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth" [4].

"Why are our lips so silent upon the subject of Christ's righteousness and His love for the world? Why do we not give to the people that which will revive and quicken them into new life? The apostle Paul is filled with transport and adoration as he declares, 'without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory'" (1 Tim. 3:16) [5].

There are truths inherent in the 1888 message of Christ's righteousness that are not comprehended by any segment of Christians who do not understand the two-apartment ministry of the heavenly High Priest. In the absence of the truth of the "third angel's message in verity, "no body of people anywhere can be prepared for the second coming of Christ, regardless of their religious affiliation. And we must not forget the transcendent motivation of concern for the honour and vindication of the Saviour so that the great controversy can be ended in victory for Him. Isaiah 40:9 sums up well this insight and the call mission and message. Read carefully: " O Zion, you who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, 'Behold your God.'" May God give us courage, Amen.

--Lyndi Schwartz


[1] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 430.
[2] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91-92.
[3] E. G. White, Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.
[4] E. G. White, Review and Herald, Nov. 22,1892.
[5] 1888 Materials, p. 430.