Tuesday, September 28, 2010

“Story & History”

“Story &; History”

This quarter we will study a series lesser-known characters in the Old Testament. Christ Himself considered the Old Testament important for the Bible says, "Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] expounded to them in all the (Old Testament) Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27). John says "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39). All Old Testament Scripture reveals Christ. As we study each character, we miss the main point unless we ask, What does this person or story reveal about Christ?

The foundation of God's government is self-sacrificing love. Christ lives to give: "For God so loved the world that He gave… " (John 3:16). Satan has been misrepresenting God's character of love to the world: "So the dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9). Speaking of Satan, Jesus said, "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44).

Note: As we study Old Testament stories, we can see that people are either representing Christ and the principles of His kingdom, or they are acting like "their father, the devil."

The Setting

A plot to take the life of man had been laid before God breathed life into Adam. Satan had led a rebel host of angels in accusing God of being self-exalting (Isaiah 14). In truth, it was Satan who was self-exalting. Hidden in his heart was the desire to replace God, the only Being in the universe who held a higher position than he. Then he planned to rule the universe as he pleased. This plan shows how far Satan's self-deception had taken him. Were it possible for him to have annihilated God, his own life would have been instantly destroyed, because no one has life independent of his Maker.

In creating the human race with the capacity to choose, God risked the security of the entire universe. If man were to fall, Christ, who had humbled Himself from eternity past, would become the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 3:8). By separating from His Father, and allowing His divinity to be clothed with humanity, Christ subjected Himself to all the humiliation and torture demons in human form could possibly inflict. He waged a battle much greater than we will ever be called upon to fight. He sealed the fate of Satan and all his followers when He died victoriously on the cross. In so doing, He was not only the Creator, but the Savior and Re-creator of the world. What a theme to ponder!

Each character in this quarter’s lessons has a part to play in revealing to the universe either the character of Christ or the despotic nature of Satan. As we ponder the stories of the lesser-known Bible characters, we do well to review our own stories. We, too, are "lesser-known" characters. Our names may not be emblazoned on the pages of Holy Writ, but they are engraved on the hands of our Savior. Each of us has a part to play in the drama of the ages. History will faithfully record what part we have acted.

What is the story of my life? What is your story? Can you remember particular times in your life when you could sense God's drawing power? Have you fallen prey to Satan's lies? How has God revealed Himself to you in times of trial and perplexity? What is the story of our beloved Seventh-day Adventist church? Have we remained focused, or have we settled in and made ourselves comfortable on this rebel planet? Do we remember what it was that knit the hearts of the early advent believers together in hope of a soon-coming Savior? Do we understand their stories? Do we know what they sacrificed in order for us to enjoy the blessings we experience today?

A new book was released in June, 2010. The Return of the Latter Rain, by Ron Duffield (available through Glad Tidings Publishers or Light Bearers Ministry) tells the story of our Seventh-day Adventist Church history in a unique way. Hundreds of original documents, sequenced in chronological order, let the characters tell their own stories. The result is heart-wrenching and hopeful. History shows that God sent the message of the latter rain to us more than 120 years ago, by a couple of “lesser-known characters” who showed how all the Bible centered in Christ. One of the "Latter Rain" messengers, Dr. E. J. Waggoner, tells the story of how he first came to appreciate Christ in a new and personal way. Note the setting of the story and how it impacted his life:

"Many years ago, the writer was in a tent one dismal rainy afternoon, where a servant of the Lord was presenting the Gospel of His grace; not a word of the text or texts used, nor or what was said by the speaker, has remained with me, and I have never been conscious of having heard a word; but, in the midst of the the discourse an experience came to me that was the turning point in my life. Suddenly a light shone about me, and the tent seemed illumined, as though the sun were shining; I saw Christ crucified for me, and to me was revealed for the first time in my life the fact that God loved me, and that Christ gave Himself for me personally. It was all for me. If I could describe my feelings, they would not be understood by those who have not had a similar experience, and to such no explanation is necessary. I believe that the Bible is the word of God, penned by holy men who wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and I knew that this light that came to me was a revelation direct from heaven; therefore I knew that in the Bible I should find the message of God's love for individual sinners, and I resolved that the rest of my life should be devoted to finding it there, and making it plain to others. The light that shone upon me that day from the cross of Christ, has been my guide in all my Bible study; wherever I have turned in the Sacred Book, I have found Christ set forth as the power of God, to the salvation of individuals and I have never found anything else (E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant (International Tract Society, 1900), p. V, as quoted in The Latter Rain, p. 45).

"At this time Christ was set forth before my eyes 'evidently crucified' before me. I was sitting a little apart from the body of the congregation in the large tent at a camp meeting in Healdsburg, one gloomy Sabbath afternoon. . . . All that has remained with me was what I saw. Suddenly a light shone round me, and the tent was more brilliantly lighted than if the noon-day sun had been shining, and I saw Christ hanging on the cross, crucified for me. In that moment I had my first positive knowledge, which came like an overwhelming flood, that God loved me, and that Christ died for me. God and I were the only beings I was conscious of in the universe. I knew then, by actual sight, God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself; I was the whole world with all its sin. I am sure that Paul's experience on the way to Damascus was no more real than mine . . . . I resolved at once that I would study the Bible in light of that revelation, in order that I might help others to see the same truth" (E. J. Waggoner, "Confession of Faith," May 16, 1916, as quoted in The Return of the Latter Rain, p. 45).

Brother Waggoner saw what we need to see in this quarter’s lessons as we study the underlying theme of Scripture: "And these are they that testify of Me" (John 5:39).

--Patti Guthrie