Tuesday, May 14, 2013

“God's Special People (Micah)”

Second Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
God's Special People (Micah)
For the week of May 18, 2013
You have probably heard or even used the old expression, "He couldn't see the forest for the trees."
Sometimes Bible study can be that way, getting hung up in the details and losing the broader perspective.
In this Insights review of this week's lesson, we're going to step back for a wider-angle view of Micah.
Some of the points that stand out in this week's lesson include:
1) Division. Though originally one nation, Israel had long been divided into two kingdoms by the time Micah wrote his lament.
2)  Idolatry. The cause of the division in Israel stemmed from incorporating the worship styles and practices of the idolatrous, heathen nations into Hebrew worship Prophets and Kings, p. 322 
3) Judgments. When the people whom God had ordained to be light bearers to the world corrupted themselves and their worship, the Lord permitted judgments to come. They had a hard time believing, however, that God would really punish His chosen, special people.
4) Faithfulness. True prophets of God, such as Micah and Jeremiah, never abandoned God's church on earth--even in times of judgment--, but were often persecuted by the church for His name's sake.
5) False prophets. While true prophets fearlessly (and often with great personal consequences) denounced idolatry, false prophets abounded and continually exerted their influence to counteract the testimony of the Lord's true messengers. 
6) True messengers. These prophets of God recognized that the only true solution for the rebellion, idolatry, and brokenness of Israel was believing in the life-transforming message of Jesus Christ, the soon-coming Savior (Micah 5:2). 
Having noted these salient points, let's consider their application for us today.
1) Division. Thirty or forty and more years ago, it didn't matter where you were, if you walked into a Seventh-day Adventist Church on Sabbath morning at 9:30 a.m., you'd pretty much experience the same thing everywhere: song service, a mission report from overseas (often Mission Spotlight), and at 10 a.m. division for study of the Sabbath School lesson. And not so long ago, it was even the case that a record was taken by the Sabbath School teacher of number of persons helped, literature given away, etc., thereby hoping to encourage missionary activity by members during the week. 
In nearby classrooms, children of all ages were taught their Sabbath School lessons from Cradle Roll to Youth. They learned memory verses and sang songs such as "Dare to Be a Daniel" and "In the Temple (Stood a Little Boy One Day)." Sabbath School typically ended at 10:40 or 10:45 a.m., with the Divine worship service beginning by 11 a.m. In the Divine service, the ministers and elders knelt upon entering the sanctuary, and children were taught to "Be reverent" and "Walk softly in the sanctuary." Hymns were sung, and in general the order of service was rather simple. 
Anyone from that era suddenly transported through time to a modern day Sabbath morning might be surprised to discover the plethora of worship options now available in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Whether you are among those who have welcomed the changes or among those longing for the worship services of yesteryear, all would likely agree that while the multiplicity of worship styles has drawn those of like mind together, the same cannot be said for the church as a whole. The same is true of many other issues under discussion in the church today.
2) Idolatry. Is idolatry a relic of the past? 
"Jesus came by the authority of God, bearing His image, fulfilling His word, and seeking His glory; yet He was not accepted by the leaders in Israel; but when others should come, assuming the character of Christ, but actuated by their own will and seeking their own glory, they would be received. And why?Because he who is seeking his own glory appeals to the desire for self-exaltation in othersDesire of Ages p. 212. Fundamentally, idolatry is self-worship.
Division over church worship issues today can be succinctly summarized by two types of worshipers: those who have come to the house of God to worship themselves (and exalt like-minded others such as themselves); and those who have come to worship the self-emptying Savior of the world, in which the promotion of self has no place.
3) Judgments. In ancient Israel judgments from God befell a specific group of people (Israelites and those connected with them) in a specific place (the land of Israel). In modern times while God's people are no longer grouped in a specific country, there are still centers for publishing, health, and education. 
 "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten" Rev. 3:19. What a modern-day chastening would look like would be open for discussion, but it does seem the promise is there. It will come.
In Micah's day, Israel was living in a time of impending judgment. In a few generations Nebuchadnezzar's army would ransack the temple and carry hostage Israel's brightest and best. As in Micah's day, so it is now. 
4) Faithfulness. Those who are faithful to God's call to present the truth in Jesus will be persecuted. Jesus promised it.
"But as he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now" Gal. 4:29. 
We have a modern-day prophet and messengers which the Lord sent to prepare a people for the soon coming of Jesus by lifting up Jesus, the Savior of the world. Like the prophets of old, these message-bearers met with unbelief and resistance from the leaders of modern day Israel. 
"Is it not the same thing in our day?" Desire of Ages, p. 213
5) False prophets. [The Jews] would receive the false teacher because he flattered their pride by sanctioning their cherished opinions and traditions. But the teaching of Christ did not coincide with their ideas. It was spiritual and demanded the sacrifice of self; therefore they would not receive it. They were not acquainted with God, and to them His voice through Christ was the voice of the stranger" Desire of Ages, p. 213.
Christ warned His disciples that false prophets would be present until the very end. The mark of a false teacher is one who advocates being a follower of Christ while giving license to remaining in an unconverted, self-seeking state. 
6) True messengers. The Seventh-day Adventist Church was raised up to proclaim the everlasting gospel to the world. Teaching doctrines alone will never accomplish that purpose. In Micah's day people needed Jesus. In Ellen White's day people needed Jesus. Today, we need Jesus.
The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to the Seventh-day Adventist church through the ministry of Brothers Jones and Waggoner as well as Sister White. This Christ-centered message was the eye salve needed by the Laodicean church. By beholding Christ with clearer vision, would be transformed into His divine image. This is the fruit of a true messenger.
In the heart of his letter, Micah points readers forward to the day when " the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and many peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" Micah 4:1,2.
           -Patti Guthrie