Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"The Jonah Saga"

Insight #4 July 25, 2015
Third Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

"The Jonah Saga"

For the week of July 25, 2015

There are many vital lessons to be learned from the story of Jonah.  God cares not just for His chosen or special people, but He cares for the whole world.  Two books of the Bible are devoted completely to the preaching of the gospel to non-Jewish nations.  One, the book we are studying this week, Jonah, and two, the book of Obadiah, written to Israel's cousins – the Edomites.
We learn from this that God has His people throughout the world.  In fact, we are called to be preachers of the three angel's messages.  These messages are re-echoed in the Loud Cry message of Rev. 18, and a major theme of that Loud Cry message is, "Come out of her, my people."

We are called, as members of what is to be a last generation movement, to be sounding the call for repentance to all the nations and churches around us.  Calling them out of a false system of worship, to the worship of God in His true character, is our mission.  Just as Jonah called the Ninevites, and Obadiah called the Edomites, we are to call God's people out of Babylon – and to make sure that Babylon is out of us.
The story of Jonah validates the truth that, God is no respecter of persons – with God there is no partiality.  We are called to the same gospel standard.  With us there is to be no partiality – no "respect of persons" – meaning no favoritism based on income, attractiveness, personality, education, etc.

God's ministry to the world is hampered and stunted when we take God's blessings – the "oracles" of God – and keep them to ourselves, revealing that in the keeping of the truth to ourselves, we have failed to live out that truth.
A.T. Jones understood this clearly from the story of Jonah, and published it in the Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald of 1900.  Notice how timely his counsel is today.  The issues have not changed in over 100 years.  May these wise words, which have their origin in the Bible, reignite our desire to be faithful stewards of the many gospel blessings that God has shared with us.
". . . God gives nothing to anybody to be shut in to himself, but only that it shall be passed on to other persons . . . "

"Why was it that Daniel or many others of Israel were in Babylon?—It was because they had confined to themselves the things that God had given them for all the nations. Everything that God gave to Israel when they came out of Egypt, or at any other time, was that they might pass it on to all the nations who did not know God. But they made the mistake of thinking, and acting thoroughly upon the thought, that God gave these things to them because they were much better than all the other people in the world. And since He gave these things to them because they were much better than everybody else, the other nations could not have any of these things unless they became as good 'as we are.'"

"And since, in that conception, Israel separated herself from all the people of the nations, and despised them, all the nations, being so much like Israel, simply said, All right; you can separate yourselves from us if you wish to; you can despise us if you wish to; what do we care? And the result was that all the nations despised Israel. And that will always be so. Just as certainly as you are like me, and I despise you, you will despise me. Just as certainly as you are like me, and I separate myself from you, you will say, All right; do it, I don't care. And you will separate yourself from me."  
"That was Israel and the nations. But where was the separation? By whom was it made?—Not by the nations, but BY ISRAEL; not by the heathen, but BY THOSE WHO KNEW GOD. And by that they lost all the knowledge of God, to such an extent that when He came into the world, and presented Himself to them in all His fullness, they did not know Him, and crucified Him out of the world."

"That is why Israel was in Babylon. It was because they would not pass on to the nations, in the light of God, to the glory of God, that which God had given to them in light and glory. They had shut themselves away from the nations, and by that means had become worse than all the nationsYet they had the truth: God had given it to them. Even though they had shut it away from the nations, and had abused it, and had trampled it underfoot, yet they had the light, and by them it must be given to the nations. And as they would not give it freely as God gave it to them to give, as they separated themselves from the nations, and thus hindered all the nations from having it, God scattered them among all the nations, in captivity, in distress, in bondage, in slavery; and thus He caused them to give to the nations that which He had given to them to give to the nations. But how infinitely better it would have been for Israel and all the world if Israel had given to the nations the truth, in the light, the blessing, the joy, and the peace in which God gave it to her."

"And when those people found themselves scattered among the nations, they were actually surprised to find there were persons among the nations, even kings, kings of the mightiest empires of the world, who were hungering and longing for the truth, and were ready gladly to receive it as soon as it came to their attention."  

"Israel had thought all the time that those people were so bad, so hard hearted, and so much in the dark, that they did not care for the truth. But the Lord had given them, all the way along, lessons that that view was not correct. He called Jonah, and had him go that long, long journey to Nineveh,—that great city, so wicked that it was about to perish,—to tell its inhabitants of their danger. And even Jonah, the prophet of the Lord, raised objection; and when he had really gone there and preached, and the Ninevites had repented, he thought strange that the Lord should forgive such persons as they. Butthe Lord taught Jonah the truth that He cared for other people as well as for Israel. And then that whole experience was written out, and was put into the literature of Israel as a living lesson that God cared for the other nations just as He did for Israel; and that Israel was in the world to take to the nations round, dark as they were, heathen as they were, that which God had given to her."  

"Yet, for all this, Israel would not learn that lesson. And the Lord had to pick them up bodily, and fling them out as seed in the wind, to fall where they might among the nations."

"Then, in their distress, in their loneliness, with no temple of worship, no sacrifices, no offerings—with all these taken away, they sought God without them, and found Him, as they ought to have sought Him with them, and found Him. And when they sought Him without them, and found Him and His blessing, then they became a blessing to all those where they were scattered."

"Now that is the philosophy of Israel's being in Babylon. And the book of Daniel is a last-day book, you know. It says so over and over. Then the book of Daniel is written to teach the people in the last days—the people of God, to whom God has given His truth—that unless they pass this truth on to all the nations, in peace, in quietness, in light and blessing, they will do it in distress, in poverty, in the confusion and contention of the nations as the curse falls upon the earth and spreads over it everywhere."

"And all this teaches to the people of God in the last days that there are persons in the world, in the darkness of heathenism, everywhere outside of the circle of the people of God, who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness; who long for the knowledge of God; who have hearts just as honest as any saint's heart,—only they have not the knowledge. They have not yet received the light. But they long for it, they wait for it. And if it shall not be given to them by the people who now have it, and who are dwelling in undisturbed peace, prosperity, and happiness, under their own vine and fig tree, then these honest souls among the nations will get the light and truth by means of these people who have it being scattered to the ends of the earth, and doing in poverty and distress what they would not do in peace and quietness."

"And when that time comes, there will be found again among kings, the greatest of earth's kingdoms, of mighty world empires, those who long for the truth, and who will welcome it when it comes. This, in order that all the peoples and languages may know the truth: even as it was before. For what was done with the truth when Nebuchadnezzar received it? Why was it given to him?—First, of course, it was given to him because he longed for it, because he desired to know what was the way of light and truth in the world. But when he had received it, immediately it was spread to all the nations. It was given to him to be spread to all the nations. And the last thing in Nebuchadnezzar's experience was that experience recorded in the fourth chapter of Daniel, in which King Nebuchadnezzar confessed his pride and his foolishness, and what came of it in judgment to him, and also what came out of it in blessing and glory to him, from God. And that experience was published to every nation and language and people in all the world as it then was, of which Nebuchadnezzar was the ruler."

"Thus, these people outside of Israel, when they received the truth of God, did with it exactly what Israel ought to have done with it when she received it; and which if she had done with it, Israel would not have gone into captivity to the nations,—would have been blessed instead of being cursed."

"Nebuchadnezzar is only one. Darius was another; Cyrus was another. These mighty rulers, all heathen to begin with, were all the servants of God to end with; and all this, through the instrumentality of the people of God who were scattered in the kingdoms which these men ruled." {February 13, 1900 ATJ, ARSH 99.12-100.7}

---Bob Hunsacker