Insight #3 July 18, 2015
Third Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Unexpected Missionary"
In this week's reading there are lessons of vital importance for those who are endeavouring to promote the 1888 message at this time in earth's history. We are all "unlikely missionaries". Time is running out and God will use all the help He can get. Ellen White writes that "few great men" will be engaged in the last work. It will be the "common people" whom God will use to finish the work.
"Those who have trusted to intellect, genius, or talent will not then stand at the head of rank and file. They did not keep pace with the light. Those who have proved themselves unfaithful will not then be entrusted with the flock. In the last solemn work few great men will be engaged. They are self-sufficient, independent of God, and He cannot use them." (E. White, Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 80.)
"He will raise up from among the common people men and women to do His work, even as of old He called fishermen to be His disciples. There will soon be an awakening that will surprise many. Those who do not realize the necessity of what is to be done will be passed by, and the heavenly messengers will work with those who are called the common people, fitting them to carry the truth to many places." (E. White, Manuscript Releases, p. 312.)
As demonstrated in the instance of Naaman, a Syrian captain, human pride is not easily overcome. Note how strongly his servants needed to reason with him. All that was required was for him to take a bath in an obscure river! Yet it took painful submission. When Christ came to the Jews, He testified to their religious pride and bigotry by relating the story of Naaman, a heathen man who was cured while the lepers in Israel perished. The Israelites prided themselves as being "God's chosen people", saying in their hearts, "We are rich, increased with goods and have need of nothing." There was no sense of need which would cause them to abase themselves to do whatever God required of them. Isaiah describes the whole nation as leprous: "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment." (Isaiah 1:5-6.) Yet they deceived themselves as whole, and had no need of a physician. Not being "needed" in Israel, the blessing was given to a heathen man who would abase himself and confess his need.
There are only two classes in the world – they that are sick, and they that are whole. Christ's healing is for all they that are sick, no matter what their station in life. The drowning man clutches at straw – he is in a desperate situation and will reach out for anything that will give him hope. Likewise, it is the "sick" - those who will confess that they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked, AND do not know it – that will grasp every ray of divine light.
We have each been blessed with some shades of the spectrum of truth. What will we now do with it? Shall we permit it to reside only in the holy place of our intellect, or shall we draw aside the curtain of our hearts that its truthfulness may flood into our practical lives? The young maiden in Naaman's home was respected and loved because she lived up to the light that she had. Even though her religion was entirely different to theirs, the fact that she could not be called a hypocrite was more powerful in influencing Naaman's decision than anything else. If we want others to take us and our message more seriously, we must be very careful to practise what we preach. It is interesting to note that the little girl's advice was taken to and received by the very king of the country!
Elisha did not come out and meet Naaman, but sent him a message by his servant. "God is no respecter of persons," (Acts 10:34) and he will prove it in these last days. It will be the meek and lowly, the broken and contrite, the poor and afflicted, those that sigh and cry that He will use to finish the work. He will overlook those made haughty by pride of position of influence. The higher you go the further it is back down again. In this time when the first angel's message will be repeated, and the same sacrifices will be called for as in the few years previous to October 22, 1844, "few great men" among the ministry will be willing to give up the comforts of their homes, their churches and retirement assurances to engage in the work. Ellen White is clear that the Minneapolis experience will be repeated. There is no new thing under the sun. But heaven will be cheap enough for those who realise everything they have been given is given them for but one purpose – the proclamation of the righteousness of Jesus Christ before the entire world. All that God has given us, belong to Him – "for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee." (1 Chronicles 29:14.)
Naaman's desperate condition caused him to swallow his pride. How often God permits calamities to arouse us to our need of Him! How often do we fail to learn the lesson? The homeless man pushing his cart down the street – no home, no job, no family. Who knows his story? From what height may he have fallen – God entreating him every step downward to look to Him for salvation? To what lengths will He need to go with us before we "let go and let God"?
Seven times Naaman plunged beneath the water. Had he ceased at the sixth, he never would have been healed. Seven times Elijah prayed for Israel upon Mt Carmel, confessing their sins and claiming the promised rain. Had he become discouraged and ceased his intercessions after the sixth time, the entire nation would have perished from the drought. And perhaps the story of Sodom and Gomorrah would have been different had Abraham persevered just one more time with Christ beside his tent. We may never know how much more would God have done for us and those whom we pray for had we not stopped praying.
Each of us are accountable before God individually. "No man can believe for another" (E. White, Christ's Object Lessons p. 411). We must ourselves walk in the light that is shining upon our path if we would lead others to Jesus. We cannot wait for others to act. The prophecies are written because of individuals who made the choices that brought about its fulfilment. Are we going to make these choices, or leave it up to others? As Mordecai said to Esther, "Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14). When we make the decision to lay hold of Christ's right-doing for ourselves and to share its blessing with the world, regardless of station, talent and means, or even who else is running with it, what the whole world will see is described by E. J. Waggoner after quoting the words of Isaiah 52:11-15:
"Here is the arm of the Lord revealed in the sight of the nations as power, so that all the ends of the earth see the salvation of God; so that nations shall be astonished, and kings will simply shut their mouths in wonder and amazement. What has not been told them, what they could not dream of even, they will see. They will see a power, without seeing the source of power. They will see a mighty power, and yet no great appearance or show of power. They will see perfect unity of action, and yet no man possessing or claiming authority." (E. J. Waggoner, 1897 General Conference Bulletin, p. 249.)
One final thought in closing. Naaman said to Elisha, "Thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD. In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, [that] when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing." Elisha replied, "Go in peace." (1 Chronicles 5:17-19.) God would not condemn this man. He is a personal God and meets each and every individual where they are at. I am certain that today we would be inclined to condemn such an act, but God never changes (Malachi 3:6.) When we go forward with this message, let us remember to give each other the space to find who we really are in Jesus Christ. We are not to be like tin soldiers, but each one of us are a unique creation, created for a special role in the final work. When God takes the reins in His own hands, don't be surprised when He works "very much out of the common order" of your expectations. "The spread of the gospel will be an easy work, and it will be as the voice of a mighty angel enlightening the world, when God's people proclaim liberty among themselves." (S. N. Haskell, The Story of Daniel the Prophet, p. 127.) Righteousness by faith and liberty for every man to serve God according to the dictates of his own conscience go hand in hand. I pray that we will follow them all the way to that wonderful sea of glass. Amen.