Thursday, December 30, 2010

“Emotions”

Our lessons this quarter address an aspect of the human mental make-up which we share in common with our Creator--the capacity to feel and experience emotion, an affective state of consciousness encompassing a wide range of feelings including love, hate, fear, anxiety, pain, compassion, and sorrow.  

This Insights overview endeavors to provide a context for human emotion in light of the cross.
In the beginning when God created our world, He said, "'Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness' . . . So God created man in His own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:26, 27). 

To be created in God's image includes the ability to think, feel, experience, reason, and believe as God does.  "Every human being, created in the image of God, is endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator--individuality, power to think and to do" (Ellen White, Education, p. 17) 

Before sin, the intelligent beings within God's creation knew only the happy emotions of love, joy and peace. The entrance of sin, however, brought about a change.  Even before the creation of this world, Lucifer's subtle insinuations and subsequent fall led to anxiety and sorrow throughout the angelic host.  These were feelings heretofore unknown save in the heart of God.  From eternity past, the knowledge that sin would one day enter the universe brought unspeakable pain to the Father and Son.  

In the garden of Eden, Eve was tempted by Satan to partake of the forbidden fruit.  She followed inclination rather than the Word of God. Allowing feelings to be her guide, she brought the whole human race under the control of Satan down the path of ruin.  In the book Early Writings is recorded an in-depth account of the fall of man:  "Sorrow filled heaven as it was realized that man was lost and that the world which God had created was to be filled with mortals doomed to misery, sickness, and death, and that there was no way of escape for the offender. The whole family of Adam must die. I then saw the lovely Jesus and beheld an expression of sympathy and sorrow upon His countenance. Soon I saw Him approach the exceeding bright light which enshrouded the Father. Said my accompanying angel, 'He is in close converse with His Father.' The anxiety of the angels seemed to be intense while Jesus was communing with His Father. Three times He was shut in by the glorious light about the Father, and the third time He came from the father we could see His person.  His countenance was calm, free from all perplexity and trouble, and shone with a loveliness which words cannot describe. He then made known to the angelic choir that a way of escape had been made for lost man, that He had been pleading with His Father, and had obtained permission to give His own life as a ransom for the race, to bear their sins, and take the sentence of death upon Himself, thus opening a way whereby they might, through the merits of His blood, find pardon for past transgressions, and by obedience be brought back to the garden from which they were driven.  . . . Then joy, inexpressible joy, filled heaven, and the heavenly choir sang a song of praise and adoration. They touched their harps and sang a note higher than they had done before, because of the great mercy and condescension of God in yielding up His dearly Beloved to die for a race of rebels. Then praise and adoration was poured forth for the self-denial and sacrifice of Jesus, in consenting to leave the bosom of His Father, and choosing a life of suffering and anguish, and an ignominious death that He might give life to others.  Said the angel, "Think ye that the Father yielded up His dearly beloved Son without a struggle? No, no. It was even a struggle with the God of heaven, whether to let guilty man perish, or to give His darling son to die for them" (Ellen White, Early Writings, pages 126, 127). 

Ever since the fall, feelings have proven to be an unsure guide.  Do you know what it is like to be powerfully drawn by your emotions in one direction, but to be pulled in another direction by what you know to be right? Every thinking person who has ever lived has experienced this, but none has ever experienced it to the degree that our Savior did on account of our sin. 

We, like our first parents, have sinned.  Our hearts condemn us. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, and despair tell us that our cases are hopeless.  The gospel teaches that in becoming a man, Jesus entered into our experience. "The faith of Jesus is that He 'Himself took our infirmities' and was touched 'with the feeling of our infirmities,' being tempted in all points like as we are.' If He was not as we are, He could not possibly be tempted 'like as we are' "(1905, ATJ, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, 38.7).  Christ was strongly tempted to believe that the weight of guilt he bore on our behalf would eternally separate Him from the Father.  "In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ prayed, " 'O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.'  "Three times has he uttered that prayer.  Three times has humanity shrunk from the last crowning sacrifice. But now the history of the human race comes up before the world's Redeemer. He sees that the transgressors of the law, if left to themselves, just perish under the Father's displeasure. He sees the power of sin, and the utter helplessness of man to save himself. The woes and lamentation of a doomed world rise before him. He beholds its impending fate, and his decision is made. He will save man at any cost to himself. He accepts his baptism of blood, that perishing millions may through him gain everlasting life. He left the courts of heaven, where all was purity, happiness, and glory, to save the one lost sheep, the one world that had fallen by transgression, and He will not turn from the mission He has chosen.  Having made the decision and reached the final crisis, he fell in a dying condition to the earth, from which he had partially risen…. God suffered with His Son. Man cannot comprehend the sacrifice made by the Infinite God in giving up his Son to reproach, agony, and death.  The angels who had done Christ's will in heaven were anxious to comfort Him; but it was beyond their power to alleviate His sorrow. They had never felt the sins of a ruined world, and they beheld with astonishment the object of their adoration subjected to a grief beyond all expression" (Ellen White, Present Truth, December 3, 1885). 

Through the amazing sacrifice He made on our behalf, Jesus, our Savior and elder Brother, has come very near to us. When we mourn the loss of a loved one, He is near. When we wrestle with a temptation that seems too strong to bear, He is near. When we feel the waves of despair crashing over us, He is near. When we feel that no one in the world understands, He is near. When the sense of our own sin weighs heavily on our hearts, He is near. He is a sympathizing Savior who is touched with our feelings. No one understands like Jesus. It is in the cross of Christ that we find comfort in sorrow, hope in despair, cleansing from sin, and healing for our emotion-scarred hearts. 

"Do not be afraid to confess your sins and to clear the King's highway. Jesus is not far away. He is at your right hand to help you. The promise is 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' When you confess your sins, it is your privilege to believe this promise, but not because you have a happy flight of feeling. Feeling is not faith. Faith is just as distinct from feeling as the east is from the west. You are to believe that God will accept you when you fulfill His conditions, believing His word because He has spoken it. You must rely upon the word of God” (Ellen White, Review and Herald, June 25, 1889). 

  "We should believe that God will answer our prayers, and not trust to feeling. We should say, My gloomy feelings are not evidence that God has not heard me. I do not want to give up on account of these sad emotions, for 'faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ . . . We are not to believe because we feel or see that God hears us. We are to trust to the promise of God. We are to go about our business believing that God will do just what He has said He would do, and that the blessings we have prayed for will come to us when we most need them." (Ellen White, Signs of the Times, May 7, 1896). 
"Never give up your faith and hope in God. Cling to the promises. Do not trust in your feelings, but in the naked word of God. Believe the assurances of the Lord. Take your stand upon the plain thus saith the Lord, and rest there, feeling or no feeling. Faith is not always followed by feelings of ecstasy, but hope thou in God. Trust wholly in Him” (Ellen White, Manuscript Releases Volume 4, page 410). 

"Many people mistake strong feeling for an assurance of faith, though they are essentially different. Strong feeling may be an accompaniment of faith, though it is not faith itself. And many suppose that there can be no faith without a happy state of feeling, which is a great mistake. Paul had great faith, though circumstances caused him to have great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart. Faith rests entirely upon the word of God, but feeling is often the outgrowth of impressions, produced in various ways. Self-complacency, deep satisfaction over one's own experience, is very often mistaken for assurance of faith, while, oftentimes, the individual has no faith at all--no clear conception of the teachings of God's word. Full assurance of genuine faith is unwavering confidence in God, with knowledge of his Word and implicit belief of the word" (E. J. Waggoner,  The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Volume 67, March 18, 1890). 

In the closing events of this earth's history, God's people will have opportunity for their faith to be tested. Our feelings will be completely against us. Like Jacob's night of wrestling with the angel, we will feel that our sins are too great for God to forgive. To live by faith is not to live by feeling, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, for we walk by faith, not by sight--or by feeling.  "Peace that depends on feeling will depart as soon as we begin to feel tribulation. But nothing can make any difference with the peace that comes by faith. 'These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (E. J. Waggoner, The Present Truth UK, October 11, 1894). 

Because of Jesus' victory, complete emotional healing is promised for all who love Him: "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" Revelation 21:4.  "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15).

--Patti Guthrie

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Baruch: Building a Legacy in a Crumbling World

“Baruch: Building a legacy in a Crumbling World”
The theme of our studies the last three months has been “Background Characters in the Old Testament.” As I’ve thought about this title, it has occurred to me repeatedly, that there are “background characters” only from our perspective – never from God’s perspective. In God’s view of reality, everyone is a “foreground” character. In God’s sight, there is no one more or less important than another. We tend to view someone as important in Scripture based on how much “face time” they get in the stories of the Bible. The more times you’re mentioned, or the more people you have under you, or following you, then the more important – or the more “foreground” – you are. But that’s our perspective, not God’s.
           
I have had the privilege over several years to go on medical humanitarian trips. Many days we’d be out in some village – just a shanty-town of corrugated metal, one-room, dirt-floor, shacks. When I first saw the houses, I thought they were chicken coops, but they were actually people’s homes. As we waited for our bus to take us all back to our hotel, the kids would pour out of the shacks to get candy from us (not so good on the health evangelism side). As I looked at these dozens of little kids, it was almost reflexive to see them as “background” characters in God’s plan. They were dirty, uneducated, poor, and from an insignificant town in an insignificant part of the world. I on the other hand, was educated, affluent, clean, and from the most powerful country in the world. I belonged to the remnant church, worshipped on the right day, ate the right food, knew my Bible, had daily devotions, etc. This wasn’t a conscious thought process, it was a reflexive feeling or sense of myself in contrast to them.
           
But in the perspective of eternity, a soul is a soul. “The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son” (Ellen White, Steps to Christ, page 100). God’s love, Jesus sacrifice, the angel’s interests, are just as strong and significant in relation to the children in a distant third-world country as in relation to any of us. In eternity, it won’t matter how educated, affluent, clean, or “with-it” we were. It will matter how our hearts resonated with the God who has no background characters. We are all, every one of us on planet earth, in God’s foreground. Each of those children had a guardian angel who works just as hard, and is just as hopeful, and just as energetic in working on their behalf as my guardian angel is on my behalf. 
           
We are all part of the great web of humanity, and in this world, there are no background characters. Every one of us matters to God. We are all impacting those around us in significant ways. May we see how much God values us, and relate to others as He has related to us. May there be no “background” characters in our sphere of influence.
           
This week, as our title reminds us, we see that Baruch was living in a “crumbling world.” Our world is also crumbling. As if speaking of the contemporary world, the first line of the lesson says, “The world, as Baruch knew it, was drawing to a close. Jerusalem and Judah were in their final moments.” 
The world, as we know it, is drawing to a close. Probation is in its final moments. As Winston Churchill said in reference to the period immediately before World War II, “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. It its place we are entering a period of consequences.” Like the Jewish nation of Baruch’s time, we are entering a period of final consequences.
Baruch aligned himself with God’s prophet, for the benefit of the nation. His choice ultimately resulted in his own salvation. It is time for us, also, to align ourselves fully and finally with God’s side in the great controversy. Even though the world is in a state of progressive “crumbling,” we have an opportunity to “build a legacy.” This legacy is an understanding of the character of God as manifested in the life of Jesus Christ. Such a knowledge of God bears fruit in individual characters that are changed into the same character as Jesus had. Baruch refused to be distanced from supporting the unpopular Jeremiah with his friendship and his service as time was running out. We can learn from him the value of allegiance to God and cooperation with those whom He chooses as His messengers.
We are privileged to have the repeated warnings and prophetic insights of Biblical wisdom. May we heed this saving wisdom as we move through a world that will become even more chaotic and crumbling than was that of Baruch and Jeremiah. We have a Savior who has proven Himself faithful, and worthy of our devotion. He is a safe hiding place for those who choose Him in the face of all that the final moments of history have in store for us.
--Bob Hunsaker

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

“Gehazi: Missing the Mark or Deliberate Transgression?”


 Gehazi: Missing the Mark or Deliberate Transgression?

 
 In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for obedience is shama. It means to listen or to hear with attention or interest. In Greek, the word used for obedience is hypakou┼Ź which also means to listen or to hearken. This Greek term is used in the context of listening for something, such as when there is a knock at the door (Revelation 3:20). Based on this context, biblical obedience is not a result of trying to “do” something but of listening to Someone. Romans 10:17 says, “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Therefore, to hear “the Word” is to obey and thus it can be said that this obedience precedes and causes faith. Furthermore, we read in Romans 14:23: “…whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” This must mean that sin is the result of not listening to the Word. But how else is sin defined?  What does the bible say?
 
Biblically there are at least twelve different words to define Sin; however, we can categorize sin into three basic concepts. These three concepts are expressed in Psalm 51: 2-3 as iniquity, sin, and transgression. Let’s consider each one separately, and then see how these concepts play out in the life of Gehazi.
 
 The first category is “Iniquity.”  The root meaning of iniquity is “to be bent.”  Specifically, this refers to our spiritual condition rather than the actions we take.  It represents our very core.  Thus when David says in Psalm 51:5 that he was “shaped in iniquity” from his birth, he means that he was bent.  Bent towards what, you say? Bent towards self.  As a result of the fall, the Agape love that had been placed in Adam and Eve became bent towards self.  The self-denying, self-sacrificing love with which their Creator endowed them was changed into the service of self.  And this condition is what they bequeathed to their offspring. Therefore all men, including David, by their very nature are “bent” towards self service, of which the driving force is the love of self.  Self-seeking comes naturally to all of us. 
 
In Matthew7:22, 23 we find that acts motivated by self-love, even though done in the name of Christ, are exposed in the judgment, and clearly identified as works of iniquity.  All Christians must consider this text seriously.   If our works come from Christ, they are therefore motivated by Agape. But if our works originate from the self, they are the “fair shew in the flesh” works (Galatians 6:12).  Are our works the evidence of Christ living in us doing the works of faith, or are they a product of a righteousness generated by self?   This is especially noteworthy since the law of God requires even our motives to be pure (Matthew 5:20-22, 27-28). 
 
The second category of sin is the word “Sin.”  The actual meaning of this word is “missing the mark.”  In its truest sense, sin is falling below the divine standard of God’s character, kind of like a singer singing off tune, or flat if you will, hitting just below the musical note.  
 
Now, since all men are born bent to self-will, it is not difficult to see what the Apostle Paul means in Romans 3:10, 12 when he says: “there is none righteous, no not one, and none does good.”  This condition of all men makes it impossible for any man avoid missing the mark. Even when he is a follower of God, trying to hit that mark, aiming directly at it, he cannot do it on his own. If he is not a follower of God, he will likely not even admit there is a mark.  
 
In Isaiah 64:6 we discover thatbecause man by nature is bent to self, all that he does through his own efforts is like filthy rags to God.  Without a Savior, man is doomed to consistently aim at the mark and yet fail to hit it (Romans 7:15-24). 
 
While man does have free will to choose between accepting Christ’s righteousness or rejecting it, he does not have a choice with regard to being bent to sin. No man is innately righteous.  Man is born a slave to sin and no matter how hard he wills or tries, he will fall short of the divine mark. 
 
The third category is “Transgression.”  This word means a deliberate violation of the moral law, or in other words, willful disobedience (see 1 John 3:4).  This pre-supposes that one has the knowledge of the law prior to offending.  Note the following: 
       
  • Galatians 3:19.  The law was given to make sin into transgression.
  • James 2:9.  The law convinces us we are transgressors.
  • Romans 3:20.  Through the law we have the knowledge of sin.  
 
Now Gehazi was a servant of Elisha the prophet.  We can certainly say that Elisha knew the law of God because he was God’s mouthpiece, seeking to establish God’s principles of law in the hearts and minds of the Israelites.  Did Gehazi know this?  Certainly he did.  Was he then familiar with the law of God?  Absolutely!  Therefore did he know it was wrong to covet?  Certainly!  Did he know it was wrong to lie?  Definitely!  Then what happened?  Sister White says this of him: 
 
Gehazi, Elisha's servant, had had opportunity during the years to develop the spirit of self-denial characterizing his master's lifework. It had been his privilege to become a noble standard-bearer in the army of the Lord. The best gifts of Heaven had long been within his reach; yet, turning from these, he had coveted instead the base alloy of worldly wealth. And now the hidden longings of his avaricious spirit led him to yield to an overmastering temptation (PK 251). 
 
Gehazi had years of opportunity to develop the attitude of self-denial which would battle against his condition of being bent to sin.  He was privileged to become a standard bearer. In contrast, he made internal choices which led to falling below the standard and missing the mark.  The ‘hidden longings of his avaricious spirit’ sprang forth as it were, unbidden.  This happened because he failed to heed the Spirit’s promptings to covet the best gift – Agape. (I Corinthians 12:31; 13:13).  Brothers and sisters, a way of escape has been made by our divine lover, for the iniquity of us all was laid upon Him.  Let Him “see the travail of His soul and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11,12).
 
--Raul Diaz

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

“The Widow of Zarephath: The Leap of Faith”

“The Widow of Zarephath: The Leap of Faith”

The story of Zarephath is interesting because it contains an ironic twist of providence. The Lord often does things in an unexpected way, and chooses those whom we would never consider.  What are His reasons for choosing?  Are those He chooses more holy or sincere than others?
 
In I Kings 17:1-9, God reminds the Israelites not to mix with pagans nor adopt their practices.  Israel is stubborn and goes its own way.  The Lord reprimands them through the prophet Elijah by prophesying a 3 year famine. To preserve Elijah’s life, the Lord sends him to the land of Zarephath in Sidon, to a widow.  Why, of all people, was a Sidonite chosen? Why not an Israelite widow?  Our focus this week: Why God decides whom he will choose.
 
The Chosen Ones
 
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. –Luke 2:8-14

The shepherds were chosen to witness to the birth of the Messiah so they could be the bearers of good tidings to those in their country (Luke 2:17).  Ellen White says that they were chosen because of their heart’s desire to see the Messiah. “Through the silent hours they talked together of the promised Saviour, and prayed for the coming of the King to David's throne” (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 47).  In other words they were considering, talking about and praying for God’s promised Messiah.
 
The shepherds were actively expecting the Messiah, while most others were distracted and unconcerned about spiritual things.  Unbeknownst to them, their hearts were hardened by traditions, formalism and legalism.
    
A similar reason is given for the choosing of the Widow of Zarephath as a refuge for the prophet Elijah.  Christ says in Luke 4:23–27 that Elijah was without honor in Israel.  The Lord sent Elijah away from Israel to a pagan land to find safety with a woman whose faith in Israel’s God was so strong that she literally gave her last morsel of food to the prophet. Her sacrifice proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that she loved the God of Israel more than life itself. 
 
Ellen White says, “The servants whom God had chosen for a special work were not allowed to labor for a hardhearted and unbelieving people. But those who had hearts to feel and faith to believe were especially favored with evidences of His power through the prophets. In the days of Elijah, Israel had departed from God. They clung to their sins, and rejected the warnings of the Spirit through the Lord's messengers. Thus they cut themselves off from the channel by which God's blessing could come to them. The Lord passed by the homes of Israel, and found a refuge for His servant in a heathen land, with a woman who did not belong to the chosen people. But this woman was favored because she had followed the light she had received, and her heart was open to the greater light that God sent her through His prophet” (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 238).
 
History repeated itself again in the 1880’s.  The Lord chose two young men to deliver a special message.  By now we are familiar with Ellen White’s endorsement of these two chosen ones. “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” (Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers, p. 91).
 
Many in church leadership had old, deeply rooted feelings of bitterness and prejudice against both E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones prior to the start of the 1888 General Conference.  Their minds were set beforehand to reject the message.  The leading brethren were “… unwilling to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth.”  This prejudice was “…foundational to much of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren [E.J.] Waggoner and [A.T.] Jones” (Ellen White, 1 Selected Messages, p. 234, 235).  Repeatedly the Lord, through His messenger, rebuked the leaders of the church for this attitude.  The Lord revealed to her that Jones and Waggoner were as Joshua and Caleb in the time of Moses, and that the brethren were as the children of Israel stoning the “two spies” with literal stones and stones of sarcasm and ridicule. They were mimicking and making all manner of fun of these two brethren.  Ellen White saw that those rejecting the message willfully rejected what they knew to be truth because it was too humiliating to their dignity.  Elders Waggoner and Jones had no experience that others could not have had, had they been willing to receive all the light.  Waggoner and Jones were chosen because they were listening to God while their brethren resisted.  
 
We can conclude thus; in each case, the chosen are those who are eagerly and humbly listening to the Lord, and who are willing to follow what He says.  They may not be the ones we would expect. They are the most willing.  Are you willing?  Are you listening?  
 --Raul Diaz
 

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

“The Man of God: Obedience is Not an Option”

The Man of God: Obedience is Not an Option
Whenever human wisdom is exalted above God’s word, we face a sobering question: “How does a person know what to do? How is God’s will discerned amidst conflicting voices that claim divine authority?”
Jeroboam was the first ruler of Israel after the ten tribes rebelled against the house of David. Ellen White says that Jeroboam could have brought about wise civil and religious reforms. Instead, he “took counsel” and decided to keep his subjects away from the temple in Jerusalem by making two golden calves to take the place of the God who brought Israel out of Egypt. But the way of the transgressor is hard, and before Jeroboam became hardened in his downward course, God sent a startling message of warning and reproof.    I Kings 12:33 says that Jeroboam made offerings on the altar which he had made at Bethel “on the 15th day of the 8th month which he had devised in his own heart.” Jeroboam was standing by his altar to burn incense when an un-named prophet identified only as “the man of God” found him.
This “man of God,” like Moses and Elijah who bore the same title, faithfully carried the message given him by God, replete with signs and wonders which witnessed to its veracity. Jeroboam resisted and rejected the message. Pointing his hand at the “man of God” he shouted, “Arrest him!” Instantly, Jeroboam’s gesturing hand and arm withered up. The king was horrified, not by his sin, but by its results. He pleaded with the “man of God” for a miracle of healing and his petition was mercifully granted. He then asked the “man of God” to join him for dinner. The “man of God” declined because God said he must not stay or eat or drink. He immediately went another way home according to God’s direction.  However “the man of God” was defeated by a second invitation coming from a prophet who lived in Samaria. This other prophet professed to speak in the name of God. This time “the man of God” failed the test (complete details in I Kings 13). The story is rich with spiritual lessons. We will look at just three.
#1: Jeroboam’s sin meets the faithfulness of “the man of God.” God never leaves anyone to be lost without warnings and loving entreaties. In Deuteronomy 5:4-7 we see God saying to Israel, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” The first commandment must always be read with this context. A personal, loving, compassionate God brought His people out of bondage. God did the work. Verse 15 says, “remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm…”
Baal worship is much more than bowing to golden calves. “Multitudes have a wrong conception of God and His attributes and are as truly serving a false god as were the worshippers of Baal” (Ellen White, Prophets and Kings, p. 177)   “Ministers of the gospel would be powerful men if they set the Lord always before them and devoted their time to the study of His adorable character. If they did this, there would be no apostasies” (Ellen White, 1888 Materials, page 433). “The man of God” prophesied that King Josiah would restore the true worship which is always vitally connected with righteousness by faith and a knowledge of the true character of God.
#2: The sin of the “man of God.” I Corinthians 9:27 says, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others. I myself should become disqualified.” The sin of the weary, hungry “man of God” came about as a result of the false words of the prophet from Samaria. The lesson asks, “How is God’s will discerned when there are conflicting voices that claim divine authority?”
“Those who fail to realize their constant dependence upon God will be overcome by temptation. We may now suppose that our feet stand secure, and that we shall never be moved. We may say with confidence, I know in whom I have believed; nothing can shake my faith in God and in His word. But Satan is planning to take advantage of our hereditary and cultivated traits of character, and blind our eyes to our own necessities and defects. Only through realizing our own weakness and looking steadfastly unto Jesus can we walk securely” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 382). 
Like this other “the man of God,” Moses and Elijah endured tests and trials. "It is at the time of greatest weakness that Satan assails the soul with the fiercest temptations. It was thus that he hoped to prevail over the Son of God... When the will power weakened and faith failed, then those who had stood long and valiantly for the right yielded to temptation. Moses, wearied with forty years of wandering and unbelief, lost for a moment his hold on Infinite Power, He failed just on the borders of the Promised Land. So with Elijah. He who had maintained his trust in Jehovah during the years of drought and famine, he who stood undaunted before Ahab, he who throughout that trying day on Carmel had stood before the whole nation of Israel as the sole witness to the true God, in a moment of weariness allowed the fear of death to overcome his faith in God” (Ellen White, Prophets and Kings, p. 176). 
“The man of God” in our lesson stood undaunted before King Jeroboam and all Israel as the sole witness to the true God. He did the job God asked him to do, but the enticing words of the prophet from Samaria, along with a little hunger tempted him to presumption. That is why in Hebrews 12:1,2 we are told that we are to run with endurance the race set before us and look to Jesus the author and finisher of faith.
#3: God’s amazing goodness. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psalm 97:2). “ Mercy and truth have met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (and Psalm 85:10) “The man of God” lost much through a mistake, but I think that he, like Moses, probably repented before his death. I believe that the story of “the man of God” will have a happy ending. 
2 Kings 23:16-18 tells of the fulfillment of the prophecy of “the man of God.” Josiah “turned and saw the tombs that were there on the mountain. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar and defiled it according to the word of the Lord, which the man of God proclaimed…then he said, What gravestone is this I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel. And he said let him alone; let no one move his bones. So they left his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria.” 
The heart of God speaks through King Josiah, “Let him alone, let no one move his bones!”   He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. “The Lord is merciful and gracious slow to anger and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:8-14). May God grant us greater insights into this chapter in Israel’s history. It is also our history and we need to apply it personally. Amen
Lyndi Schwartz

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

“Rizpah: The Influence of Faithfulness”

“Rizpah: The Influence of Faithfulness”
 
The story of Rizpah is told in two passages in 2 Samuel. In chapter 3 verse 1, we are told; “Saul had a concubine whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah…” In this passage she was implicated in an illicit liaison with Abner, Saul’s general. Abner vehemently denied any involvement. 
 
We hear nothing more of Rizpah until 2 Samuel 21. Here we learn that she was the mother of two boys, Mephibosheth and Armoni, by Saul. As such, she was considered Saul’s wife. This passage gives context to the story of Rizpah, and shows us who she really was. 2 Samuel 21:1 says, “Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year…”
 
How could there be a famine in a fruitful land under the reign of the one who was “a man after God’s own heart?” David consulted the Lord in 2 Samuel 21:1 to ask this question. God responded by saying, “It is because of Saul and his blood thirsty house because he killed the Gibeonites.” 
 
The incident to which God referred is told In Joshua 9. The Gibeonites, hearing what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, “worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors” (Joshua 9:4 NKJV) in order to avoid being slaughtered by the Israelites. They frankly lied, telling Joshua, “From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God; for we have heard of His fame and all that He did in Egypt” (Joshua 9:9). Bringing gifts, they besought him to make a covenant with them that they would not be destroyed. In verse 16, Joshua and the whole congregation swore an oath of protection with the Gibeonites. But, 2 Samuel 21:2 says, “Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah.”
 
David asked the Gibeonites how he might atone for this wrong. They requested that seven descendants of the house of Saul be given to them that they might be hanged before the Lord. The seven included the two sons of Rizpah and the five sons of Michal, Saul’s daughter. The execution of her two sons leaves Rizpah mourning in a very dramatic way from the beginning of the harvest until the rains came.
 
Two important points come to mind in this story: The first is the meaning of an oath, and the second is the power of a witness.
 
An oath, according to the Scriptures, was very serious and must be carried out at all costs (see Judges 11:30-39, 1 Samuel 14:24-28,43,44). The breaking of an oath meant certain death. The story in Judges is disturbing. A very distraught Jephthah declared, “For I have given my word to the Lord and I cannot go back on it.” Jephthah’s daughter was put to death as the result of his thoughtless oath. Even Jonathan would surely have died at his father’s hand for eating a little honey had not the people intervened for him and prevented the carrying out of the king’s oath.
 
All of this should remind us of another oath. It is an oath of eternal significance; one to which we owe our lives. In Genesis 22:16, God said to Abraham: “By Myself I have sworn says the Lord.” What did He swear to? Verse 18 continues, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…” God guaranteed with an oath that Jesus, who at that time was pre-incarnate, would come to earth as a man, lay aside His divine prerogatives and become obedient to the death of the cross. 
 
But why would God use an oath? Hebrews 6:17 says “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of His promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath.” The oath was for our benefit. 
 
E. J. Waggoner, in Present Truth, July 9 1896, puts it this way: “Think of it; God swore by Himself! That is, He pledged Himself and His own existence to our salvation in Jesus Christ. He put Himself in pawn, His life for ours…He has pledged His own existence to the performance of His word. If His word should be broken to the humblest soul in the world, He Himself would be disgraced, dishonored and dethroned.”  
 
The character of God was on the line. Was He a selfish being or was He, in fact, a loving and self emptying God? Hebrews 6:16 says that an oath was seen as a way to end all dispute. Because God wanted to make the strongest possible declaration of His promise to save man at any cost to Himself, and to demonstrate His character of agape, He could not just declare it as fact. He must swear to it. He condescended to use an oath, not for His benefit, but for ours, and also for the benefit of the on-looking universe. 
 
This brings us to our second point. Rizpah faithfully guarded the bodies of her sons. She did not allow “the birds of the air to rest on them by day nor the beasts of the field by night” (2 Samuel 21:10). David was watching, and his heart was touched as this mother set up camp and watched over her last remaining family members for a very long time, until the beginning of the late rains. The king was moved to bring back the bodies of Saul and Jonathan, and to “gather the bones of those who had been hanged” for the purpose of giving them a dignified burial. 
 
The Bible says “And after that God heeded the prayer for the land.” The rains “poured on them from heaven” (2 Samuel 21:10).
 
A witness is a powerful thing. God says in Isaiah 43:12 “…Therefore you are My witnesses, says the Lord, that I am God.” Proverbs 27:11 tells us why this is crucial. It says, “My son, be wise and make my heart glad, that I may answer him who reproaches Me.” The apostle Paul also understood this and proclaimed in 1 Corinthians 4;9 “For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” 
 
As with Rizpah, the world is watching us. What kind of witnesses are we? 
--Andi Hunsaker

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

“Joab: David’s Weak Strongman”

“Joab: David’s Weak Strongman”

Joab, whose name means “Jehovah is father,” was the son of David’s sister, Zeruiah. Joab’s parents named him in the hope that he would be like the name. They desired him to be a child of God by faith. In his early days Joab may have had a conversion experience. Later on he talked about God, but his actions show that he had no saving connection with God. Strong in military might, Joab became weak in moral power. A lesson we learn from his life is that evil pursues unrepentant sinners and will overtake them at the last.

After becoming king, David set out to conquer Jebus, a city of the Jebusites, and to make it his capital. David captured the city by defying a curse and by overcoming a seemingly impassable natural barrier. Before the battle David declared, “Whoever attacks the Jebusites first shall be chief and captain [of the army]. And Joab the son of Zeruiah went up first, and became chief ” (1 Chronicles 11:6). Thus Joab became second in command in David’s administration.

2 Samuel 10 records another “impossible” predicament. Joab’s men were between two enemy armies. He and his brother, Abishai, vowed to support each other, leaving the results in the hands of God. To Abishai Joab said, “If the Syrians be too strong for me, then thou shalt help me: but if the children of Ammon be too strong for thee, then I will come and help thee. Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good” (2 Samuel 10:9, 11–12).

Over time, Joab became a cold blooded murderer. There is no record that Joab ever felt remorse or repentance for his willing participation in David’s premeditated murder of Uriah the Hittite or any other of his murders. When Joab’s jealousy conflicted with the orders of the king, Joab plotted his own course, committing murder for personal revenge as in the case of Abner.
     
In a time of peace, Joab used deceit to kill Abner, the king’s guest, in revenge for the death of his brother Asahel whom Abner had killed during the war. Joab, like all false-hearted men, assumed that Abner and all other men were as false as he was. David understood this and distanced himself from Joab. He mourned over Abner’s death, and pronounced a wide-ranging curse upon Joab and his descendants (2 Samuel 3:28-31). Later when Absalom rebelled against David, Joab disobeyed the king’s direct command to spare Absalom’s life. This final indignity finally led David to depose Joab as commander-in-chief of the army. 

Infuriated and jealous, Joab determined to kill his rival, Amasa. Joab concealed his hatred and greeted Amasa with a kiss. Amasa trusted Joab’s gesture of reconciliation, and Joab used the opportunity to eliminate his rival (2 Samuel 20:7-10). David again spared Joab from punishment. He continued as commander-in-chief. Whatever his faults, he was the most able man for the position, and David still assumed mistakenly that Joab would be loyal to him. It was not until David turned the kingdom over to Solomon that Joab was appropriately punished.
     
Adonijah attempted a coup, claiming the rights of eldest surviving son of the king. Joab, deliberately going against David’s wishes, joined with Abiathar, the high priest in this traitorous act. The prophet Nathan and another priest, Zadok, foiled Adonijah’s attempt on the throne. Solomon was made king according to the word of the Lord. Thus Joab’s final act of treason insured that he would reap what he had sown. 

Though Joab was a mighty man of valor, his allegiance to the king was always contingent upon his own personal agreement with David’s decisions. Therefore, he did not actually serve at all. He essentially held the king hostage because of the unstable political and military situation and hiss own personal influence over the army. Joab’s treasonous acts were many, but in the end, David’s only recorded charge against him was regarding the assassination of Abner and Amasa. David told Solomon to not let Joab die a natural death for he knew that Joab was not repentant. He knew that Joab would do even more damage to the kingdom under Solomon’s reign.

Seeing his danger, Joab ran to the tabernacle and grasped the horns of the altar, claiming God’s protection (1 Kings 2:28). In this action, Joab showed his ultimate disrespect, not merely for David as king, but for God. The sacred act of taking hold of the horns of the altar as a claim for protection was for those only who had taken a life accidentally (see Exodus 21:12-14). According to the command of David, and in harmony with the Word of God, Solomon sent Benaiah, commander of his armed forces to take Joab from the altar, and to bring him to the judgment seat where he could make his defense. Joab, knowing that he had nothing to say, refused leave the altar, but insisted on dying there (see 1 Kings 2:28-34).
      
Had Joab been truly repentant, his life might have been spared. At the least, God in His mercy would have given Joab eternal life. But he had persisted in self-will and determined rebellion until he was so corrupted that his conscience was seared beyond repair.

David’s patience and longsuffering towards Joab seems almost unbelievable. Yet it only faintly mirrors Christ’s love. God is unwilling that any should be left to perish (2 Peter 3:9). No matter how monstrously a person has betrayed the Lord, he may flee to the Christ whom his sins have wounded. Jesus is both altar and sacrifice. If we take hold of the horns of the altar in true contrition – willing to be changed into submissive and obedient children of God, He will give back to us the joy of salvation and favor with God. 

And yet, the infinite justice of God which includes in its scope the full depth of mercy, puts a limit to the forbearance, even of God. Those who claim His protection while refusing to render Him service will eventually reap all that they have sown. The servants of the King of Kings may do many “good” things in Christ’s name, thinking to further His Kingdom. But if they operate outside His direction, they despise His mercy. 

Men who exalt themselves against God are still left to themselves until they are corrected with a scourge not of their own choosing, but of their own making. An example of this is seen in the late 1800’s when God sent to His church a most precious message of righteousness by faith. Those who rejected that message and mistreated the messengers exalted themselves and crucified Christ afresh. Seen in the light of eternity, the results of this rejection of truth will be recognized as treason against God. Those who remain unrepentant will reap all that they have sown, as surely as did Joab (see the chapter entitled “Rejecting the Light” in volume 14 of Manuscript Releases beginning on page 126).  

I pray that the people of God today will set aside personal preferences and unite fully with the King of Kings so that the work of God may be finished quickly in the earth.
 
--Jerry Finneman

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

“Abiathar: The Priest”

“Abiathar: The Priest”
 
This week’s main character is a priest who ministered before the ark of the covenant; a priest who prayed to God and received direct aswers to his prayers. And yet, after a lifetime of faithful service, he did not remain faithful to the end. If a man of such high rank fell, what hope is there for us? Is it possible to be sure that we will still be with our Lord to the end?
 
Let us look at a brief overview of the the story. The ruling King is Saul. Because of his disobedience, God had to choose another man to lead His people. The maddened king hated his soon-to-be successor, and sought to kill all who aided David. The priest’s family unwittingly fell into this category. Abiathar, the only survivor of all his father’s house, fled for refuge to David. With a deep feeling of guilt for the innocent souls who had died, David brought Abiathar into close association with himself.
 
Abiathar suffered much with the King. When David's son Absalom revolted, the priest remaind faithful to the King. But when the time came to choose David's successor, Abiathar supported David’s eldest living son, Adonijah. Surely he knew that Solomon was God’s choice, and that David planned for Bathsheba’s son to take the throne after he died. Yet Abiathar put his influence and support behind the man whom tradition would have made king. Everybody else who supported Adonijah was put to death. Solomon said that Abiathar also deserved to die, but in consideration of the fact that he had “carried the Ark of Covenant” in David’s time, he was spared. Even so, he was removed from the priesthood and placed under house arrest.
 
What was Abiathar's error? Was he a bad politician who could not forsee which of David's sons would be on the throne? Surely God did not leave Abiathar in ignorance on such an important topic. On the contrary, the Lord blessed the coronation of Solomon. Abiathar was guilty before God. But what where did he first go wrong? It is important for us to get the answer to this question because it relates to our own lives.
 
Two thousand years ago in Israel, a whole nation failed to accept its Savior. Why? The people had the Scriptures. They saw the miracles. The only answer is that tradition had become the substitute for a living relationship with the Lord. Everything that undermined Israel’s usual pattern of religious life was interpreted as a threat. The Son of God Himself became such a “threat.” Compliance with rites and traditions has always been a way of setting up a surrogate god. Such worship deprives people of a chance to learn and love the character of God, and then to dwell in the center of God's will.
 
The same tendency is seen in the story of Abiathar. Something in his life led to formalism. Did he begin to take the rites and ceremonies of the priesthood for granted? Did he slip into a meaningless formalism? We do not know. But we do see that he chose tradition when deciding whom to support as successor on the throne. According to long-accepted custom, the direct successor would have been Adonijah. Abiathar seems to have forgotten that the will of God is more important than tradition.
 
God had said, “Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever” (1 Chronicles 22:9-10). It is clear that the priest Abiathar not only rejected David’s plan, he opposed God’s revealed will. In the same way the Jews opposed the Son of God.
 
Are there the parallels between this story and our time? What is our ministry? Is there a danger that we may be followers of tradition instead of followers of the living God who has clearly revealed His will?
 
Because of man's sinfulness, he is tempted to put ceremonies in place of a personal relationship with God. Ceremonies, in the course of time, become “holy traditions.” To put it simply, we like to keep the “usual” rules and assume that we are enjoying a sense of personal salvation.
 
God raised up the great Advent movement for a purpose. Many truths were opened to the understanding of those who were searching the Bible. After this came the danger of prideful superiority and exclusiveness. The world, wallowing in sin, failed to notice the substitution of the “day of rest” (Sabbath day). Very few people recognized the beginning of the “investigative judgment.” We rushed to prove to this world that its forms of worship were purposelessness, lame and blind. We thought that in doing this we were spreading the gospel. But many of us forgot that what God entrusted us as the “people of judgement” was the ministry of reconciliation. This ministry is, indeed, the true gospel of Jesus Christ. We, the people of God, have become accustomed to our exclusiveness. We have kept our “holy tradition” and have not felt the quiet impressions of the Holy Spirit. God's plan remained unfulfilled by most of His people in 1888.
 
God sent His precious message of reconciliation through A.T. Jones, E.J. Waggoner and their supporter Ellen White. It was a beautiful and inspiring message, encouraging people to be reconciled to God. This is the message which we have lost sight of: “Now the just shall live by faith.” Neither knowledge of the investigative judgement, nor strict Sabbath keeping, nor conformity to other regulations can give us salvation. Only God is able to save us, and He has done it already. Our work is to accept this wonderful fact “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29).
 
How can we be sure that we will not find ourselves in the same situation as Abiathar? How can you be sure that you are still with the Lord? It depends on what you will choose: to follow “holy tradition” or to surrender freely to God's ministry of reconciliation.
 
1 Peter 2:9 says, “But ye are ... a royal priesthood.” It is assumed that every believer is, in a sense, a priest. This is a great responsibility and carries great significance. But what must the modern priest do? The usual answer is, “He must tell about God.” This is true, and even important. Yet there is something more.
 
“Every man who receives the grace of God, at the same time receives with it the ministry of that grace to all others. Every one who finds himself reconciled to God, receives with that reconciliation the ministry of reconciliation to all others. Here also the exhortation applies, "We. . . beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain." Are you a partaker of grace? Then "minister the same" to others; do not receive it in vain. Are you reconciled to God? Then know that he has given to you also the ministry of reconciliation” (A.T. Jones, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, September 29, 1896 page 621).
 
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
 
                                   --Dmitry Dolgozhitel

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

“Uriah: Faith of a Foreigner”

.
“Uriah: Faith of a Foreigner”
 
It is impossible for us in our own strength to maintain the conflict; and whatever diverts the mind from God, whatever leads to self-exaltation or to self-dependence, is surely preparing the way for our overthrow. The tenor of the Bible is to inculcate distrust of human power and to encourage trust in divine power” (Ellen G. White, Conflict and Courage, page 177).
 
This week’s lesson contrasts the fidelity, loyalty and principled life of Uriah the Hittite, one of David’s “mighty men,” with the treachery and evil behavior of the subsequently repentant King. David was a man after God’s own heart with this exception: “Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5).
 
Names have significance in the Bible, and Uriah’s name followed this pattern. The literal translation is “God is my light,” or “flame of the Lord.” 
 
How could a Hittite with a pagan heritage, a resident of the conquered territory of Canaan, gain a Hebrew name and identity with God’s people? Uriah’s identity was formed by beholding and dwelling in the light that God revealed through His faithful messengers in Israel. The promise of the everlasting covenant was clearly in force for the world prior to its articulation by Isaiah:
 
Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer.for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
--Isaiah 56:6,7.
 
As we read the exploits of the mighty men of David in 2 Samuel 23:8-39, we can readily see that their accomplishments were of such a nature as to show divine power acting through human agencies. These men knew what it was to trust in God, and not in self, for victory. God could do much through men such as these. They were true sabbath-keepers, resting in His power, and as such, were themselves “flames” of the Lord, active in the battle against evil.
 
The contrast between the effects of living after the Spirit as opposed to living after the flesh is stark in this story and in its aftermath. In the context of the great controversy, many lessons can be learned:
 
·       While mercy and grace are freely given, the consequences of sin are serious lasting.
·       Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds.
·       Self-reliance in any form will topple the ladder of Christian growth in 2 Peter 1:5–7.
·        In the final judgment, Uriah’s faith will justify the “flaming fire” against those who use David’s unfaithfulness as an excuse for sin.
·       Faithfulness is more important than sex -- indeed, more than life itself.
·       Past success in the Christian walk is no guarantee of success today.
·       Life here can be unfair -- only God can and will bring true justice to the oppressed.
·       Indirect evil is just as heinous as personal action.
 
“Whoever under the reproof of God will humble the soul with confession and repentance, as did David, may be sure that there is hope for him. Whoever will in faith accept God's promises, will find pardon. The Lord will never cast away one truly repentant soul. He has given this promise: ‘Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me’ (Isaiah 27:5). ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon’ (Isaiah 55:7)….’He shall restore fourfold,’ had been David's unwitting sentence upon himself, on listening to the prophet Nathan's parable; and according to his own sentence he was to be judged. Four of his sons must fall, and the loss of each would be a result of the father's sin” (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 726, 727).
 
“There was a great change in David himself. He was broken in spirit by the consciousness of his sin and its far-reaching results. He felt humbled in the eyes of his subjects. His influence was weakened….Now his subjects, having a knowledge of his sin, would be led to sin more freely. His authority in his own household, his claim to respect and obedience from his sons, was weakened. A sense of his guilt kept him silent when he should have condemned sin; it made his arm feeble to execute justice in his house. His evil example exerted its influence upon his sons, and God would not interpose to prevent the result. He would permit things to take their natural course, and thus David was severely chastised” (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 723).
 
“‘He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool’ (Proverbs 28:26). There is, indeed, a Christian independence which passes among men for self-reliance; but it is only trust in God. The man who distrusts himself, and depends wholly on God, can be the boldest, and the most unmoved by the opinions of others; but the worst folly any man can commit in this world is to depend on himself” (E. J. Waggoner, The Present Truth,  November 21, 1901).
 
“‘FOR so [in this way, by this means] an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ There is no other way opened, there is no other means provided by which that abundant entrance can be ministered unto us. Here is our work set before us each day as it comes. We live but a day at a time, and the Lord wants us to live in to-day. ‘To-day if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts.’ Each morning as we arise set our faith anew upon Christ as our Saviour; then show the virtue, the worth of our faith by confessing him before men, both in our words an our lives; then study the words of God for knowledge to guide us during the day; then practice the temperance—the self-control—that is enjoined everywhere and in all things in the word of God; then add patience in all the affairs of the day; add godliness by exemplifying the life of Christ among men by doing good; add brotherly kindness in all our associations with our neighbor; and all crowned by adding sweet charity, the bond of perfectness; the love of God shed abroad in the heart, loving him with all the heart, and loving our neighbor as ourselves, thus completing the day with a well-rounded Christian character. Can it not be done one day? Can it not be done to-day? That is all the Lord asks of us. Do ‘these things’ to-day ‘while it is called to-day,’ and so to-day each day as God gives us opportunity to do. And we shall then never fall, but unto all such an abundant entrance will be ministered into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (A. T. Jones, Signs of the Times, June 11, 1885).
--Todd Guthrie

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

“Abigail: No Victim of Circumstances”

Abigail: No Victim of Circumstances”

 
What is a peacemaker? The dictionary says, “a person, group, or nation that tries to make peace, especially by reconciling parties who disagree, quarrel, or fight.”
 
When I looked up the phrase “Peacemaker in history” on Google, I came upon an interesting article. Someone had asked who people thought where the ten best peacemakers from history. The answer included men like the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa and even Santa Clause.   Of course we know that the greatest peacemaker is Jesus Christ. He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). And one of the names given for Jesus in Isaiah is Prince of Peace. The story of Abigail beautifully illustrates how the spirit of a peacemaker transforms potential victims into victors. The story is found in 1 Samuel chapter 25. 
 
After the death of Samuel, and while the people were still in mourning for the prophet, David took the opportunity to find greater protection and security in the wilderness of Paran. While there, he was among the flocks of a very rich man named Nabal. David and his men were good to the shepherds. They didn’t hurt them, or take anything from them.
 
At shearing time, David sent a few of his men to Nabal to ask for some provisions. Nabal treated the young men badly, calling them run-away servants, and acting as if he didn’t know who David was. He sent them away empty handed. When David heard this he was very angry. Taking two-thirds of his fighting force, he set out for Nabal’s house to show him a thing or two. Meanwhile one of the servants ran to Abigail, Nabal’s wife and told her about the young men’s request for help. He also told how her husband had treated them. Quickly she took a large amount of food, loaded it on donkeys and set out to meet David and his army.
 
“She met them in a covert of a hill.” And when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience” (1 Samuel 25:24). Abigail addressed David with as much reverence as though speaking to a crowned monarch. Nabal had scornfully exclaimed, “Who is David?” but Abigail called him, “my lord.” With kind words she sought to soothe his irritated feelings, and she pleaded with him in behalf of her husband. With nothing of ostentation or pride, but full of the wisdom and love of God, Abigail revealed the strength of her devotion to her household; and she made it plain to David that the unkind course of her husband was in no wise premeditated against him as a personal affront, but was simply the outburst of an unhappy and selfish nature.”
--Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, page 666
  
Abigail admitted that what Nabal had done was wrong and yet still pleaded for his life. We, too, should always hate the sin and yet love the sinner. 
 
Abigail met David with respect, showing him honor and deference, and pleaded her cause eloquently. While not excusing her husband’s insolence, she pleaded for his life. She also revealed the fact that she was not only a discreet woman, but a godly woman, acquainted with the works of ways of God with David.                                                      --Ellen White, Manuscript 12, 1891
 
“A soft answer turneth away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).
 
Abigail did not take to herself the credit of this reasoning to turn David from his hasty purpose, but gave to God the honor and the praise. She then offered her rich provision as a peace offering to the men of David, and still pleaded as if she herself were the one who had so excited the resentment of the chief.   These words could have come only from the lips of one who had partaken of the wisdom from above. The piety of Abigail, like the fragrance of a flower, breathed out all unconsciously in face and word and action. The Spirit of the Son of God was abiding in her soul. Her speech, seasoned with grace, and full of kindness and peace, shed a heavenly influence.
--Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 666
 
Here is the secret to how Abigail could be a peacemaker, how she could speak words of peace and wisdom in the face of conflict. “The Spirit of the Son of God was abiding in her soul.” This peace is for us as well. Letting Jesus live out his life within us, we can be peacemakers. “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). A cup filled with sweet water cannot spill one bitter drop, no matter how violently jolted.
 
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Would that there were many more like this woman of Israel, who would soothe the irritated feelings, prevent rash impulses, and quell great evils by words of calm and well-directed wisdom.
 --Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, page 667
 
He who has the meek and lowly spirit of Christ will be a peacemaker. Such a spirit provokes no quarrel, gives back no angry answer. It makes the home happy, and brings a sweet peace that blesses all around.                                                                         --Ellen White, The Story of Jesus, page 62
 
A story told by Arthur Maxwell illustrates our point. A young boy attended evangelistic meetings. He gave his heart to Jesus. He went home and told his mother what he had heard, and how wonderful Jesus was. He begged her to go with him to the next meeting. His mother became angry and slapped him hard across the face. The boy remained respectful and kind, though he was shedding a few tears. The mother marked the ongoing changes in her son’s life, and decided that she wanted what he had. She went with him to the meetings and eventually gave her heart to Jesus also.
 
“Christ’s followers are sent to the world with the message of peace. Whoever, by the quiet, unconscious influence of a holy life, shall reveal the love of Christ; whoever, by word or deed, shall lead another to renounce sin and yield his heart to God is a peacemaker” (Ellen White, In Heavenly Places, Page35). Let us choose, with Jesus’ help, to be peacemakers today.
--Jnt