Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Worship From Exile to Restoration

Third Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Worship: From Exile to Restoration”
For the week of  August 28 – September 3, 2011
(PDF Link)

This week’s lesson points out the pivotal role the Jerusalem sanctuary played in the religious thinking and worship of the Jews.  It calls our attention especially to the restoration of the temple after seventy years of Babylonian captivity. 

What was the Sanctuary service originally meant to accomplish?  Was it significant merely for its design and architecture?  Did it get its significance from the performance of a variety of worship acts and sacrifices?  Is it possible, in our day, that we have a superficial focus on the importance of structures and services, which to a greater or lesser degree have lost their true spiritual significance in our thinking?

Not long after the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, God told them the purpose of temples, sanctuaries, and sacrificial systems.  He said, "Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).  God’s purpose in setting up a sanctuary system, including a building, was for intimacy.  He wanted to be close to His people, and He hoped they would want to be intimate and close with Him.  He desired a deep and tender relationship with a group of people who could represent His goodness to an alienated and hostile world.  He put it simply, “I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jeremiah 31:33).

God’s desire to “dwell among them,” (and among us!), is not a statement of geography.  He is not saying, “I want to live nearby these people.”  God is making a statement regarding the desire of His heart to live in relational friendship and intimacy with the Israelites – and with us!  Revelation 7:15 tells us that for all eternity this will continue to be at the core of God’s desire regarding us – “He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.”  In the end, this closeness will be realized in God’s experience, and ours, because He will dwell among us.

Over and over the idea that God’s desire is to dwell with and in us is portrayed in Scripture.  The temple and sanctuary lesson book are one metaphor of this reality. 
  • “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
  • “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you”  (1 Corinthians 6:19)
  • “For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people’" (2 Corinthians 6:16).
  • “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up’" (John 2:19).

Clearly, the temple that God is interested in is the soul temple, the spiritual temple, the intellectual and emotional temple – the temple of our minds and hearts.  The temple is us – the very core of our being!

This temple relates to us as individuals, and as a corporate body of believers.  “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).

“From eternal ages it was God's purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator”  (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 161).

The problem for God has been that while He deeply and earnestly desired communion and fellowship with us, we filled our soul temples with other gods with whom we would rather have fellowship and communion.  God has not cast us aside, or given up hope that we will turn back to Him.  He is bending all His energies to win us back.  He labors to create in us a desire to turn from our current idols and “gods,” back to the one who has loved us with an everlasting love.  He says of His people – His bride, “I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.”  Hosea 2:14.

Our lesson title is, “Worship: From Exile to Restoration.”  While this is rightly applied to the Jewish nation, it is now urgently true that we as individuals and as a Seventh-day Adventist body of believers, are being called by God to return – in true heart and mind worship – from spiritual exile to spiritual restoration.  This call to return is a call to repentance.  Exile to restoration always involves repentance.  “Every animal slain by the hand of the sinner (in the sanctuary service) was to be a miniature Calvary.  It was to reveal the deep seated enmity the sinner held against God.  It was to prove that God held nothing back, not even His Son, if by any means He could get man to see and abandon the rebellion buried so deeply in his mind.  The service was to be a catalyst to melt the proud and stubborn heart.  Nothing less than “blood” could wash away such deeply hidden unconscious sin – the will to kill God” (Donald K. Short, Then Shall the Sanctuary Be Cleansed, page 35).  This is the exile from which God is working to bring us back– an enmity towards Him that manifests itself in all manner of self-absorption.

The good news of the gospel always leaves us with hope and encouragement.  “No man can of himself cast out the evil throng that have taken possession of the heart.  Only Christ can cleanse the soul temple.  But He will not force an entrance. . .  He says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him’ (Revelation 3:20).  He will come, not for one day merely; for He says, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them; . . . and they shall be My people.’ ‘He will subdue our iniquities’ (2 Corinthians 6:16; Micah 7:19).  His presence will cleanse and sanctify the soul, so that it may be a holy temple unto the Lord”  (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, page 161).  May He find an entrance in all our hearts today.
--Bob Hunsaker

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Trust Not in Deceptive Words": The Prophets and Worship

Third Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Trust Not in Deceptive Words”
For the week of  August 21-27, 2011
(PDF Link)

“Tell me the truth.”

Many times these words are breathed in moments of crisis – moments when a life hangs in the balance; when a relationship is under stress; when a disaster has separated loved ones.  At such times truth matters more than anything else.  Riches and honor and power are meaningless here.  Truth alone matters.

We are at the epicenter of the crisis of the ages.  Brilliant counterfeits envelop the world and taint the very air we breathe.  Competing theologies appeal alternately to our ego (we can do it ourselves) and our love of sin (It’s OK – God knows you are only human.  He won’t keep you out of heaven if you are still sinning!).  Everything hangs in the balance.  Truth – the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth must be had by all who would navigate this crisis successfully.

Truth is not merely a statement of fact.  Truth is a Person.  Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  It is a powerful thing to know that we are not left alone to thread our way through the conflicting claims and tainted information bombarding us at every step.  We have a Pilot, and that Pilot stands at the door of our soul temple, knocking for entrance (Revelation 3:20). 

Would we be free from all the deceptive wiles of the enemy?  "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).  "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).  E. J. Waggoner puts it this way:
The truth is the Son; the Son is the truth. "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Then how much does anybody know who does not know the truth? [Congregation: He does not know anything.]…We have been educated wrong; and we have to get rid of some of the things that we think we know in order that we may begin to know. What is truth? - Christ is truth, and his name is "I Am." Three different times in the 8th of John we find him applying this title to himself. It appears only once in our version, but it occurs three times: "Before Abraham was, I am." Also, in another place he says, "If ye believe not that I am, ye shall die in your sins." That is what it is, literally. Again, "When ye shall have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am." It is through the cross of Christ that we know God. His name is "I Am" - that is, the one who is. He is the one who is, the one who was, and the one who is to come. It is being, being, being, all the time. He is before all things, and all things are in him, and he is the beginning of everything that is. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything. Therefore there is nothing outside of him…In the Sanskrit, to which we trace our English language, the word for "truth" is simply a word signifying "that which is." Truth is something which is. Where can a thing be which is not? Can there be any such thing? The mere statement that it is not, states the whole case. It is not there - there is nothing there. "It is not." Rachel mourned for her children, and was not comforted, "because they were not." She did not have any children. 

Then you see that you cannot have anything unless you have something that is. And there is nothing except in Christ. Is not that clear enough? Then what is not in the Lord Jesus Christ is nothing. Oh, you say, you are so narrow. It is too bad that Jesus Christ is so narrow, and that knowing the Lord is such a limited knowledge! We want to know something more than that. [A. T. Jones: So did Eve.] Yes; Eve did, and we are reaping the results.
--E. J. Waggoner, General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 23, 1899 p. 71

Inspiration records the following:  “Faith is the medium through which truth or error finds a lodging place in the mind. It is by the same act of mind that truth or error is received, but it makes a decided difference whether we believe the Word of God (That’s Jesus Christ) or the sayings of men. When Christ revealed Himself to Paul and he was convinced that he was persecuting Jesus in the person of His saints, he accepted the truth as it is in Jesus. A transforming power was manifested on mind and character, and he became a new man in Christ Jesus. He received the truth so fully that neither earth nor hell could shake his faith” (Ellen White, Selected Messages Volume 1, page 346).    

“God designed that the temple at Jerusalem should be a continual witness to the high destiny open to every soul. But the Jews had not understood the significance of the building they regarded with so much pride. They did not yield themselves as holy temples for the Divine Spirit. The courts of the temple at Jerusalem, filled with the tumult of unholy traffic, represented all too truly the temple of the heart, defiled by the presence of sensual passion and unholy thoughts. In cleansing the temple from the world's buyers and sellers, Jesus announced His mission to cleanse the heart from the defilement of sin,--from the earthly desires, the selfish lusts, the evil habits, that corrupt the soul. "The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver" (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages page 161).

It all comes down to surrender.  If we open the door to the knocking Christ, and let Him come all the way into our hearts, we will find that He becomes the author of Truth and Faithfulness in our lives.  “The Lord is proving [us] in this life, to see if [we] will render obedience to Him with love and reverence. Those who would not be obedient to Christ here would not obey Him in the eternal world. The Lord is seeking to fit them for the heavenly mansion that Jesus has gone to prepare for those who love Him” (Ellen White,Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 78).

The fact is, that we must have a character that the Lord himself cannot see a single flaw in,—a character to which the perfect law of God will witness that it is righteous,—a character that will stand in perfect harmony with the ten commandments, in their deepest, completest meaning. But we have tried our best to attain to this, but have only failed, deplorably failed. Now how long shall that thing continue before we become righteous enough to be accepted of God, and to pass the searching test of the judgment? …Another means must be resorted to. We must look beyond ourselves for righteousness. We must have something better than our own efforts to depend upon. We must look to another source for power to make us fit to stand before God. Thank God, there is a power that can accomplish that: and that power will accomplish it, if you will only let it….I know that there is power in Jesus Christ to make any man a Christian. I know there is power there, and it does not require a great deal of time for it to work. That power can make a man a Christian if the man will let it. For God has set forth Jesus "to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past." It is the righteousness of God himself, and it is a free gift unto all and upon all them that believe, and there is no difference. And the righteousness of God will be accepted by the holy law. This is the character that will pass every test of the righteous judgment of God. This righteousness, this character, is the gift of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ. There is a character which, if you will receive it and depend upon it, will safely pass you in the judgment which is now pending, and which will soon be past forever. It is the character which God himself formed in Jesus Christ. There is a character that reaches from infancy to the grave; it is the free gift of God to every one who will take it.
— A. T. Jones, Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald, June 7, 1892

Today, answer the knock at your door.  Let the Truth make you free, keep you safe, bring you to glory.  Worship Him who is Truth.
--Helene Thomas

Monday, August 22, 2011

Robert Wieland, Mary Magdalene's Story

This is probably Elder Wieland's best known and most loved sermons. Delivered in July of 2006 at Columbia Union College, Takoma Park Maryland.

Monday, August 15, 2011

“Conformity, Compromise, and Crisis in Worship”

Third Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Lesson 8: “Conformity, Compromise, and Crisis in Worship”
For the week of  August 14 - 20, 2011
(PDF Link)

 “Conformity” and “compromise” describe both ancient Israel, and our own beloved church today.  Jesus described our day by saying, “[Thou] knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).  This problem has plagued God's chosen people throughout history.  The root problem of forgetfulness leads to unbelief and a disregard for the counsel of God.  “They soon forgat His works; they waited not for His counsel” (Psalm 106:13).  Solomon, Jeroboam, and Israel under King Ahab bear witness to the woeful results of forgetfulness.

God's people tend to forget the work of God, then reject the message of Christ's righteousness, then slide down the slippery slope of conformity and compromise.  This process is described in almost prophetic detail by A.T. Jones:
“Here was a Message [first angel's message] from God that opened up to the Church the length and breadth and depth and height of the glory of the everlasting gospel as it had never been seen since the days when the apostles preached it in the fullness of its living power.  In this Message was 'the mystery of God' revealed in all its fullness, – God manifest in the flesh, – Christ in men 'the hope of glory.'  And all this blessing and glory was to be proclaimed to all the world in view of the fact that 'the hour of His judgment is come;' and in order that men might be fitted to stand holy and without blame before God, ready in all respects to be translated without seeing death, at the coming of the glorious Lord. But lo! instead of receiving this wonderful blessing; instead of rejoicing and being glad that God had sent to her a message that would clothe her with such power as would make her the instrument of God's greatest work for the salvation of the nations; she refused the blessing, rejected the message of God, and would not walk in the light that had come to her and to the world...
“Since, then, faith comes by hearing the word of God, whenever any word of God, any message of the word of God, is rejected, faith itself is rejected; because it is impossible to retain faith while rejecting that by which alone faith comes.  Further: when any advance light or additional truth is rejected, ...there is also the rejection of whatever light and truth was formerly possessed.  A person refusing to breathe, rejects not only renewed life, but loses the life that he already has... Therefore whenever advance light or additional truth is rejected, the power and presence of God are lost; and, in this, the true source of legitimate power and influence with men is lost.  And whenever this is so, whether in the case of an individual or of a church…resort is invariably had to inventions of their own, to external and worldly means, to secure power and influence...
“Since 1840-44 it has been so with this collective Church of Protestantism in the United States.  She rejected the message of God; and so separated herself from the presence and power of God, and thus lost power and influence with men...But it is only the power of God that can keep her alive. By any other power, however great it may be, she will surely perish. The power of God, as manifested in the true gospel of Christ, draws men; for it is written: 'I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.'  And, in the nature of things, when the Church has rejected the drawing power of the everlasting gospel of the crucified Christ, she is compelled to resort to other means of drawing men.  And when she resorts to other means to draw men, again, in the nature of things, she draws them not unto Christ, but unto herself: there is a 'falling away;' she exalts herself, in the place of God, and draws disciples to herself…the milder forms of entertainment soon grew stale.  And these having lost their drawing power, other and more novel devices had to be invented.  As these, in turn, grew stale and lost their power to draw, still others had to be invented.  And at last they were brought to their wits' end for any such sources” (A.T. Jones, The Great Nations of Today, pg. 152-157).

The rejection of the third angel's message of Jesus Christ and His righteousness led to the rejection of key doctrines in the 1950s.  This in turn leads to the rejection of the truths of the first and second angels which we once cherished.  This truly is a “crisis” in worship.  What must we do now?  Jesus sends this testimony:  “What astonishing deception and fearful blindness had, like a dark cloud, covered Israel!  This blindness and apostasy had not closed about them suddenly; it had come upon them gradually as they had not heeded the word of reproof and warning which the Lord had sent to them because of their pride and their sins.  And now, in this fearful crisis, in the presence of the idolatrous priests and the apostate king, they remained neutral.  If God abhors one sin above another, of which His people are guilty, it is doing nothing in case of an emergency.  Indifference and neutrality in a religious crisis is regarded of God as a grievous crime and equal to the very worst type of hostility against God” (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pg. 280).
In Numbers 25 we have prophetic insight into our time.  At the borders of Canaan Israel experienced a crisis in worship.  Rejecting God's messages of truth, they committed whoredom with the daughters of Moab.  “Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed.  And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore” (Psalm 106:30, 31).  By faith Phinehas destroyed the works of the devil and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
In our conformity to and compromise with those churches who have rejected the first angel's message, we have disregarded the warning of God (see Deuteronomy 12:30) and have committed whoredom.  Says the prophet: “Thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness.  Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain...” (Jeremiah 3:2, 3)  “At the time when the danger and depression of the church are greatest, the little company who are standing in the light will be sighing and crying for the abominations that are done in the land.  But more especially will their prayers arise in behalf of the church because its members are doing after the manner of the world...The class who do not feel grieved over their own spiritual declension, nor mourn over the sins of others, will be left without the seal of God” (E. G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pg. 209-211; Ezekiel 9:4 and Joel 2:17).
Today, when all seems wrong, God's watchmen must act faithfully.  We must wield the word of God in the message of Christ and His righteousness that this plague might be stopped.  It will be counted unto us for righteousness for evermore.  It is urgent that we now take heed to the counsel of the true and faithful Witness.  Buy His tried gold, His white raiment, and His eyesalve; repent; open the door that He might come in.  In so doing, we shall pour forth His straight testimony.  Faithful, indeed, are the wounds of a Friend (Proverbs 27:6).
--Lee Folkman

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

“Worship in the Psalms”

Third Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Worship in the Psalms”
For the week of August 7 – 13, 2011
 (PDF Link)
The gospel, as portrayed in the Psalms, prepares the reader to recognize the character of God as seen in Christ.  Psalm 106:6 - 8 is just one case in point:  “We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.  Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked Him at the sea, even at the Red Sea.  Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power to be known.”  It is precisely this – our genetic pre-disposition to forget God’s mercies – which makes the Psalms so necessary.  God created music as a powerful tool to plant His regenerating Word in our hearts and minds.

The book of Psalms is made up of a collection of religious verses, sung or recited in both Jewish and Christian worship services.  The Psalms are poems written out of the experiences of humans in their walk with God. These poems were put to music to be sung both corporately and individually. Originally, psalms were accompanied with musical instruments. These poems reflect almost every phase of human emotion and circumstance.

Taken together, the 150 Psalms virtually express the full range of a believer’s religious faith and experience.  Some of the Psalms address temptations, trials, sufferings, and the depths of despair.  The majority of the Psalms are about mountaintop experiences that elicit praise and the worship of God as Ruler, Lord and Savior.

The Psalms formed part of the religious worship of the early Christian Church.  The New Testament records 116 direct quotations from the Psalms.  Both verse and rhythm were, at times, used for theological teaching.  Members taught and admonished one another in the form of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16).

 According to Wuest's Word Studies From the Greek New Testament,  psalmos (psalms) means primarily a musical accompaniment of humnos (hymns), and of praises to God.  Spiritual songs are also included in this category, whether or not they are accompanied by musical instruments.  “It was quite possible for the same song to be at once a psalm, hymn, and a spiritual song.”

The “hymn” was that part of the Hallel consisting of Psalms 113-118.  Here the verb itself is rendered “to sing praises” or “praise,” Acts 16:25; Heb 2:12. The Psalms are called, in general, “hymns,” by Philo; Josephus calls them “songs and hymns” (Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W. (1996). Vol. 2Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (316). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson).

The “Hallel” was recited at the three great national feasts—Passover, Pentecost and Day of Atonement.

The poems in the Book of Psalms were produced by various authors.  About two-thirds (73) of the whole collection have been ascribed to David.  Peter and John (Acts 4:25) credit David with writing the second psalm, one of 48 psalms that are anonymous.

There were inspired poets other than David who in successive generations contributed to the sacred collection.  Psalms 39, 62, and 77 are from David and Asaph and addressed to Jeduthun, to be sung in his choir.  Psalms 50 and 73–83 are addressed to Asaph, as the master of his own choir, to be sung in the worship of God.  The “sons of Korah,” formed a leading part of the Kohathite singers (2 Chronicles 20:19) and were entrusted with arranging and singing of Psalms 42, 44–49, 84, 85, 87, and 88.  Psalm 72 is ascribed to Solomon.  The 90th  psalm is attributed to Moses.  The Ezrahites, Heman and Ethan, are credited with writing the 88th and the 89th respectively.  The whole collection of Psalms extends over a period of a thousand years, ending about the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (see “Psalms” in Easton, M. (1996), Easton's Bible Dictionary).

In addition to all of the above, the Psalms reveal Christ’s emotions, His mental anguish, His faith and His mighty triumphs over His enemies.  A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner presented Christ from the Psalms.  Waggoner wrote: “David was a prophet (Acts 2:29, 30), and many of his psalms, even when he used the first person, refer to Christ.  We know that Jesus ‘came unto his own, and his own received him not’ (John 1:11), and John further says of Jesus, that ‘neither did his brethren believe in him.’ John 7:5.  This was in exact fulfillment of the prophetic utterance of David: ‘I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children’ (Psalm 69:8)” (E J Waggoner, Prophetic Lights, (1889), p. 16; also The [English] Present Truth” vol. 8, June 2, 1892).

And again: “The Psalms as a whole are the words of Christ” (EJ Waggoner, “The [English] Present Truth”  vol. 13, November 4, 1897).  “[T]he Psalms, to say nothing of the rest of the Bible, are full of Christ” (Ibid., September 9, 1897).

In his series on righteousness by faith Jones, likewise, wrote of Christ in the Psalms:  “It is impossible to touch the whole 150 Psalms in detail in one lesson or in a dozen lessons; yet in a sense we can touch the whole 150 by so touching a few as to show the one great secret of the whole number, and that secret is Christ.  We shall take some of the Psalms of which God Himself has made the application to Christ so that there can be no possible doubt that that Psalm refers to Christ” (A.T. Jones, “The Third Angels Message, No. 15,” The General Conference Bulletin, February 18, 1895, p. 299)

“In all points it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, and He is our brother in the nearest blood relationship. We are now to study another phase of this great subject: First in the Psalms--Christ in the Psalms--that we may see how entirely the Psalms mean Christ and that the one whose experience is recorded there is Christ” (Ibid.).

Jones wrote that the “time is coming soon, when Christ in the midst of the church will lead the singing.  Remember, this is Christ speaking in these quotations.  ‘And again, I will put my trust in him.’ This is Christ speaking—through the Psalms” (Ibid., No. 12, Feb. 18, 1895, p. 220).

When Jesus leads the singing, it will be when the people He has redeemed from every nation, tribe, and language, and people are gathered together to worship God in heaven. They will sing a new Psalm at that time.  It is “the song of Moses … and the song of the Lamb” (Revelation 15:3).  Not unlike the Old Testament Psalter, this song will reflect phases of the experiences, emotions and circumstances of their redemption (see Psalm 107 for an example).

Let us worship Him now; then forever in eternity!
--Jerry Finneman 

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Elder Robert J. Wieland Memorial Service:

A memorial service for Robert will be held on Saturday, August 13, 2011 at 4 p.m. in the Meadow Vista Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

“Worship and Song and Praise”

Third Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Worship and Song and Praise”
For the week of July 31 - August 6, 2011
(PDF Link)


According to the Scriptures, the strongest argument against all opposition to the truth of God, is praise. This appears plainly from the eighth psalm quoted below from the Revised Version:
"O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Thy name in all the earth!  Thou hast set Thy glory upon the heavens.  Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou established strength, because of Thine adversaries, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger."   

From the mouths of babes and sucklings comes a power that is sufficient to stop the mouths of the enemies of the Lord.  Little children cannot reason and discuss; if they attempt to do so, their reasoning is feeble, and the effect is painful, because it is unnatural for them, and out of place.  What does naturally come from the mouths of children? - Praise, gladsome praise, and joy.  This is the power that can stop the mouths of enemies. 

This is not merely our conclusion.  We have the words of the Lord for it.  When Jesus entered the temple after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the children cried out and said, "Hosanna to the Son of David."  The priests were displeased.  Jesus said to them, "Have ye never read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings Thou has perfected praise?" (Matthew 21:16).  Thus we have Christ Himself as authority for the statement that the "power" mentioned in the eighth Psalm is praise.

It is difficult to frame an argument to which a shrewd man cannot make some plausible reply, a reply at least plausible enough to cover his retreat.  But who can frame an argument against praise?  There is nothing to reply to.  Even the enemy's anger against the truth and the one who holds it, must to some extent be appeased, because "a soft answer turneth away wrath."  Then let us use the argument of praise more and more.  Aye, let us learn how to use it to the exclusion of everything else.  "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O Most High" (Psalm 92:1).  "Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt Him also in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders" (Psalm 107:31, 32).

WHO MAY PRAISE THE LORD?  A strange question, some may say.  But it is not an unnecessary one since many sincerely desire to serve God, but they dare not praise Him. One sentence is enough to answer our question, and it is this: "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord" Psalm 150:6).

If you will persist in regarding the words, "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord," as merely a permission, and not as the commandment that it is, then read the 117th Psalm:  "O praise Jehovah, all ye heathen, laud Him all ye nations!  For His goodness rules powerfully over us, And Jehovah's faithfulness is ever-enduring!  Hallelujah."  (Hallelujah means "Praise ye Jehovah!)

The more wicked a man is, the more need there is that he should praise the Lord.  If the heathen should praise the Lord, they would at once cease to be heathen.  Praise is worship, and they who worship the Lord are righteous.  So it is to the unworthy and the wicked that the command is specially directed, "Praise ye Lord!"  The others are doing it already. 

In the fiftieth psalm, last verse, we read these words of the Lord: "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me; and to him that ordereth his conversation aright, will I show the salvation of God."  Of course the reader knows that the word "conversation," here means "way, or manner of life."  But there is more to be said about this verse.  In the Hebrew text there are not nearly so many words as appear in the English.  If only the very words that appear in the Hebrew were translated, with no additions, the text reads as in the margin of the Revised Version:  "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me, and prepareth a way that I may show him the salvation of God." 

Here, then, we have an answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved?"  The answer is, "Praise the Lord."  And what then?  Keep on praising the Lord!  He who begins to praise the Lord, and continues to praise Him, will as surely be saved day by day and for ever, as the sun shines in the heavens, or as God lives.  Let us see how this may be; it is not difficult to understand.  One cannot praise the Lord, and at the same time blaspheme His name, or in any way speak slightingly of Him.  The mere statement of the case proves it:  He who praises the Lord serves Him.  The highest angels in heaven do no more than this. The living beings that are nearest to God, forming part of His throne, "rest not day and night, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come" (Revelation 4:8).

The fact that praise brings salvation will appear more vividly when we think of this phase of the subject, that praise is the easiest and most natural thing in the world.  If all men, the ungodly man, would act in harmony even with their own standard of common civility, they would be continually praising the Lord, and would be saved.  It is universally recognized that when a person receives a gift he ought to thank the giver.  The wickedest man, the one who will rage the most at the name of God, will thank you if you do him a favor.  Hand an infidel any book that he wishes to read, or answer his inquiry as to the right road to take, and he will thank you.  If he comes down to breakfast in the morning and finds a bouquet of fresh flowers at his plate, his first thought will be to ask who gave them to him, and his next will be to thank the one who so kindly remembered him.  Every man will do these things, and there is no one who would not feel that it was a gross breach of politeness to fail to recognize favors bestowed.

Let each one simply be consistent.  Let him not discriminate, and give thanks for some things, and neglect to do so for others.  Above all things, let him not say "Thank you" for little things, and say not a word for the greatest favors.  Who would be so foolish?  Let us see.  You come to the table, and find food.  How did it come there?  The good housewife placed it there, to be sure; but she did not make it.  No man on earth could make a grain of corn.  No man can make fruit grow from the ground.  All that any man can do is to watch it.  It is God that "causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man; that He may bring forth fruit out of the earth" (Psalm  104:14).  “He opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:16).  Is it seemly to take these things continually from the hand of the Lord, and never thank Him for them?

It is a great blessing, or favor, if you prefer to use that word, to be able to breathe.  If you have never thought of it, you will realize it if you get into a close room where the air is almost used up, or have your lungs so filled up that you cannot breathe without pain.  Now where do you get your breath?  You do not make the air.  Your neighbor does not furnish it to you.  It comes regularly and continually, without any thought on your part. It comes when you are asleep, and not able to think of it.  It is your life, the most necessary thing in the world, and yet you get it for nothing, absolutely free. Isn't it worth thanking for?

And there is the light.  You could not get along without it.  It is life.  Every day it comes new.  Is it consistent to say "Thank you" to one who hands you a flower, and never say a word to the One who creates the light and the air and the moisture that made it grow?  Just be honourable and fair.  Deal with God as justly, and treat Him as civilly, as you do your fellow-men.  "Render therefore to all their dues; . . . fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor."  Begin with the first thing at hand, and thank the one who gives it to you, and do so with everything that you receive, and you will then be a perfect man.  Come now, that is a fair proposition, isn't it? All that is required of you is to use ordinary civility, and give thanks impartially for all things that you get, to whomsoever gives them to you. 

Do this, and your mouth and heart will continually be filled with praise to the Lord, "who giveth to all life, and breath, and all things."  When you once begin, you will find things enough to be thankful for.  Do not cease giving thanks until you have exhausted everything that there is for which to give thanks.  Remember that it is not enough to have thanked a person once for a favor, when he repeats it.  If he does a thing for you twice, the thing to do is to thank him the second time, as well as the first.  If he does not tire of repeating the favor, surely you ought not to tire of thanking him for it.  The gift of life and light and breath and all things is continuous, and therefore the thanksgiving must be continuous.  I will not urge you to do this heartily.  No matter how you feel about it, simply recognize the Lord in His gifts, and have this ability to thank Him for what you receive of Him.  Do this, and the greatness of the gifts received from Him will impress itself more and more upon your mind, so that soon thanks will come spontaneously, and you will not know how to stop.  Then all will be well with you, for when you acknowledge that every breath that you breathe you get from Him, you will see that He is your life, and the same rule of fairness that led you to thank Him for what He gives, will lead you to allow Him to control His own life.  "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:6).  When God directs your steps in His own way, your way will be right, for "as for God, His way is perfect."
Oh, worship the King, all glorious above!  And gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, Pavilioned in splendour, and girded with praise.  
"Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?  It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain, And gently distills in the dew and the rain.  

Adapted from "The Value of Praise by E. J. Waggoner”
Find on EGW Research Edition CD: April 28, 1898 EJW, PTUK 257