Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Trumpets, Blood, Cloud, and Fire"

This lesson encompasses many things; some we will only touch on. Let's consider first the discipline and orderliness necessary for Israel in their desert wanderings. Think of the size of the encampment. There were about two million people in the tent city surrounding the tabernacle. This city of tents was about the size of Houston, Texas. The land area used by the tents probably would not be the same as Houston, but there would have been many square miles stretching out from the tabernacle. So there would have been a great need for self-discipline and order, especially when they broke camp and began to move out.

When God led Israel into the desert, He led them in an orderly fashion. At the head of each tribe was a standard and each tribe had its place. God commanded that silver trumpets were to be made and used for the preparation to leave their encampment and for journeying, for directions in war, to call assemblies, and for use in the religious ceremonies connected with the tabernacle (Num. 10:1-10). The trumpet's various sounds were used so that Israel would know that their Leader was Christ, who was with them and led them.

It was Christ, the Cloud, in Whom they were protected by day; it was Christ, in the pillar of Fire providing for them in the darkness of the night (Num. 9:16). It was Christ who was their spiritual food and their spiritual drink; it was Christ crucified who was that spiritual Rock who followed them (1 Cor. 10:1-4) and who led them.

The first anniversary of Passover after being freed from Egyptian bondage was commemorated by Israel before they left their yearlong encampment at Sinai (Num. 9:1-3). At this time Israel read their history backward, but they were to live their lives forward. They were to live the emancipated life of Christ, by faith, who was then dwelling among them (Ex. 25:8), and who was to come in the future as the Incarnate One to dwell in human flesh (John 1:14; 1 Tim. 3:16).

The Passover not only pointed back in history to the deliverance from slavery in Egypt, but also forward to the greater emancipation by Christ on the cross for mankind. Let's fast forward to our day. From our time history is read backward, but must be lived forward. There is always the danger that we mould the great historical figures according to the influence that we know they had on the times long after they were dead. But they did not know that future. They could not make decisions by hindsight, any more than we can in our daily living. To understand them we need to live beside them in our minds, think their thoughts, feel as they felt, react to the changing situations with only the past to provide guidance.

It is here that Ellen White gives us guidance. She takes us by the hand and conducts us to the crises in our Advent history and introduces us to the main contenders for power and opens up some of the books and messages of the pioneers, especially the messages sent from heaven through Jones and Waggoner. Reformation was the issue then as it was in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Reformation in Minneapolis was similar in principle to Wittenberg. The vision of reformation for Jones and Waggoner was as unusual as was Luther's. And it is troublesome for us in our day.

The roots of the Reformation go back to the 14th century attacks on the wealth, the ethics, the behavior, of and the hierarchy of the Church of Rome. These were mere symptoms of spiritual sickness. Attacks on the symptoms were made both by loyal groups within that Church and by those who were marginalized by the Church, such as the Lollards and the Hussites. Luther recognized what those reformers did not. They all dealt, for the most part, with symptoms and how to destroy them. Luther identified the nature of the spiritual sickness of the Church and knew that it could not be healed, and so he went for the jugular.

The reformation Luther undertook was one of doctrine rather than ethical renewal as others before him had done. His was a reformation of the doctrine that occurred through the preaching of the Gospel of justification by grace through faith based on the Word of God. In his own words, "Life is as evil among us as among the papists, thus we do not argue about life but about doctrine. Whereas Wycliffe and Huss attacked the immoral lifestyle of the papacy, I challenge primarily its doctrine." [1] "Others before me have contested practice. But to contest doctrine, that is to grab the goose by the neck!" [2] "[O]ur gospel comes along, takes away indulgence, abolishes pilgrimages, puts a stop to bulls, checks covetousness, and achieves marvelous results." [3] Luther's trumpet gave a certain sound that prepared God's people.

Luther recognized that the behavior would change as people accepted the doctrine of justification by faith. He spoke and wrote of the doctrine of justification by faith under the influence of the "former rain." Ellen White spoke and wrote of the doctrine of justification by faith that Jones and Waggoner proclaimed as the "Loud Cry" during the "Latter Rain." Notice her words:

"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." [4]

This is God's trumpet certain sound of justification by faith. This will prepare God's people for what is coming upon the earth. Don't you think it's time to move out?

--Gerald L. Finneman


[1] Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1989, p. 55.
[2] Christian History Magazine, Issue 34: "Martin Luther: The Reformer's Early Years," 1992. Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today.
[3] "A Letter of Dr. Martin Luther Concerning His Book on the Private Mass," 1534; Luther's Works 38:231-232.
[4] Testimonies to Ministers", p. 91.