“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).