Wednesday, January 14, 2015

“A Matter of Life and Death”

Insights #3 January 17, 2015
First Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"A Matter of Life and Death"
For the week of January 17, 2015
How important is it to live the way you were designed to live? What would be the consequences if you ignored or even rejected clear instructions about the very essence of your existence?

The way we often view Satan's lie to Eve in Genesis 3 tends to focus on the consequence (death) and not the cause (sin). Which is worse, thinking that death is not at the end of the road I am on, or thinking that such a road--one that leads to death--is actually commendable? So the core of Satan's lie was this: "The way to live is to take what you need for yourself." If that were true, that self-interest is essential to life, then of course you won't die. It is not true, but Eve believed it, which means she was deceived, to think a lie is actually true.

But this lie is not just any lie. It is what the Jesus called "the lie" (John 8:44; literal Greek), that takes life rather than gives it. This was the beginning of the great controversy, introducing into the universe a deadly principle, to live for self. Thus sin began, with everything related to that, on the road to death. That Eve did not immediately die speaks of God's intervention, not any truthfulness of Satan's assertion. But how can we sort out what is true from what is not? Believing the lie became part of our nature because of Eve's and Adam's choice. "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing" (Romans 7:18). We need help.

Solomon realized this. His prayer was, "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad" (1 Kings 3:9). And God's answer is the reason the book of Proverbs is in the Bible and is so important. For God responded to his request, "Because thou hast asked this thing, ... understanding to discern judgment, behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart."

A deceived heart blurs the distinction between "good and bad." That is why Proverbs is so black and white, describing the difference between a righteous life and a wicked one, and between the destiny of each. We need that, a description of what is right and what is wrong, to break the delusion that selfishness is healthy. So Proverbs stresses the importance of the law. Solomon's words echo God's:

Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law (Proverbs 4:1, 2).
Our passages in this week's lesson speak of the same.
My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother.... For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life (Proverbs 6:20, 23).

Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye (Proverbs 7:2).
Since the law describes how we were designed to function, and since we were designed in God's image, the law in its principles and practices reflects what God is like, the unselfish dimensions of His own character.

But solution must be deeper and higher than just descriptions. Since our very natures are perverted, the ability to leave the road to death must be more than having good road signs, or even the ability to read them. Both the signs and the ability to read are gifts of God, supernaturally preserved for sinners blinded by the lie. But a superficial understanding of "keep my commandments, and live" solves nothing, but does produce good hypocrites, as the Pharisees of old demonstrated. Jesus addressed this inadequate approach. "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20).

Paul wrote of the inadequacy of the law by itself.

Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe (Galatians 3:21, 22).
So where in Proverbs do we find "the promise by faith of Jesus Christ?" We must see that the instructions God gave Solomon are not detached, disconnected doctrines. They are expressions of His heart, fully aware of our need and inabilities, and offering Himself as the solution to our problems. "The commandment is a lamp; and the law is light," but only in Christ.  

The story in John 8 illustrates this. Jesus gave the adulterous woman the gospel ("Neither do I condemn thee"), and the law ("Go and sin no more") together, hand in hand. Then He immediately said, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:11, 12). So in Christ "the commandment" and "the law" are light--expressions of "the promise by faith of Jesus Christ." He sees us restored to His image, and empowers that very possibility by extending His vision to us in commands and promises.

Are we willing to follow Him, to give as He has given, and thus walk the path of light, and not that of the darkness of selfishness and condemnation?

Solomon explains God's solution. It is no superficial remedy. It goes deeper, and is higher, than we tend to think. It is His very presence, bringing us hope, expressing to us faith, wrapping us in love. Solomon addressed this in the very first chapter in Proverbs:

Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you (Proverbs 1:23).
So the instructions about binding, tying, and writing but express the New Covenant reality of His presence bringing His word into our very being, transforming our minds and hearts, and enabling a bastion against the flesh that remains, that we will war against until the change comes at Jesus' return. Think, then, of these verses in the personal way He designed for them:

Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck (Proverbs 6:21).1

Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart (Proverbs 7:3).2

This reality of His presence is addressed by Paul and Zechariah:
Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his (Romans 8: 9).

Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD (Zechariah 2:10).
Only thus can we be kept from living the lie, allured by "the evil woman," "a strange woman" (Proverbs 6:24)--the deceived, independent Eve in all of us, whose "house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death" (Proverbs 7:27).
-Fred Bischoff
1.  The word "continually" is the Hebrew tamiyd, used first of the daily activities in the sanctuary's courtyard and Holy Place. (Exodus 25:30; 27:20; 28:29, 30, 38; 29:38, 42; 30:8)
2.  The word "table" is the Hebrew luach, first used in this verse: "And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them." (Exodus 24:12)