Monday, November 23, 2015

“Jeremiah's Yoke”

Fourth Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Jeremiah's Yoke"
For the week of November 28, 2015
To grasp as we ought the witness Jeremiah gave in his day, we need to recognize the parallel of his time (the first destruction of Jerusalem) to that of Jesus' day (just prior to the Jerusalem's second fall). Also vital is the parallel between Daniel (who grew up under Jeremiah's prophetic ministry) with his witness in Babylon, enduring its fall, and our day, during the end-time Babylon, with the messages we are commissioned to give about its fall. In fact, the final message of mercy to the world, which unites "the commandments of God" with "the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12) results in the "whole earth" being "lightened with his glory" of "the law and the gospel going hand in hand" (Revelation 18:1; Ellen White, The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 166, 217).
In our lesson this week, we note some apparently strange instructions God gave Jeremiah regarding his family and social life, in his witness. Considering further, we find some similarities between Jeremiah's, Daniel's, and Jesus' family bonds. Without dealing at length with these, we should note that there are three bonds God created us for, intended for security, unity, and intense joy, all the result of unselfish love. They are the main setting in which the final message to Babylon of our day will be given, as a witness. The order in which these bonds usually occur are:
1. Parent-child;   2. Sibling;   3. Husband-wife
Only Adam and Eve started with number three, having been created mature adults. But we must note that these bonds reflect primarily the connection that God Himself has with us. For after all, the first and great commandment is not, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:31). That is the second. The first is:
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and    with all thy soul, and with all thy might." (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5; Mark 12:29, 30)
So while these bonds would appear simply to define at the closest level the relations to our fellow "neighbour" creatures, we actually find God affirming His primary of relationship to us in each of these three bonds.
1. Parent-child:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6; see also Galatians 4:6)
2. Sibling:
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brotherand sister, and mother. (Matthew 12:50; see also John 20:17)
3. Husband-wife:
For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. (Isaiah 54:5; see also Jeremiah 3:20; 31:32)
Again, it is through these bonds in particular that the final message will be given, manifesting the endurance of unselfish love in the face of every one of them being broken or deviled with self.
It is that very dynamic that was behind God's instructions to Jeremiah, both telling him not to marry, and to avoid scenes of social joy and grief that both form and express these bonds. The path of selfish living Judah had been walking led to such devastating results that Jeremiah was to demonstrate the absence of the usual bonds in his human interactions, to show the impending doom of living for self. At the same time, Jeremiah was intensely bonded to God in the primary relationships, and that enabled him to endure both the absence of usual social bonds, and the intense antagonism his message aroused in many who heard it. We can safely conclude that a remnant minority understood and accepted the deeper message, including Daniel's parents.
The false security of attempting to maintain social bonds while living selfishly is what drove the message of the prophet Hananiah. He would deny the accumulating consequences of iniquity, both of his generation, and of his fathers' generations, which led inevitably to judgment. (See Leviticus 26:40-42). This is the very same thing Jesus predicted for our times of judgment.
For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Matthew 24:38, 39).
As the leaders in Jeremiah's day were attempting to hold things together on a national scale, without any sense of needing to repent (to say nothing of ever deepening repentance; see Jeremiah 8:5, 6; Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 561), Jeremiah's message of coming judgment, due to that very sense of "everything is okay" and "we must stand strong against our enemies," would have made it appear that he was an enemy of the state. But its doom was certain, and his God-given role was to appeal for a humility and repentance that would make the coming punishment redemptive and actually less intense. Jeremiah's message was intended to produce people like Daniel. All other messages were rooted in denial, though wrapped in "pride of state" and the hubris that accompanies such. They would actually prevent the very preparation that was necessary, and cause the ruin of many who wanted to believe the worst would not come.
The deception of the evil one is always to deny the consequences of living for self. He begins this deception by saying that all live for self (Ellen White, Education, p. 154), and he continues by denying every one of the consequences of living for self, saying they will not happen (like dying; Genesis 3:4), or that they are the result of other causes (such as God). All false prophets are thus in his service. (See Jeremiah 7:3-8; 14:14; 28:15.)
We are in a war between supernatural, mystical forces. The genuine Spirit of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1; Revelation 19:10) is arrayed against the spirits of devils involved with seduction and deception (Matthew 24:11, 24; 1 Timothy 4:1; 1 John 4:1). The grace of God is given in such times to discern the genuine, which always promotes the worship of the Creator (Romans 1:25), and calls for repentance (Romans 2:4) and denial of self (Luke 9:23).
The yoke of bondage from living for self (the curse that Moses warned of) was what Jeremiah was instructed to wear, in symbolic form, and to give this also as a gift to the leaders of the surrounding nations. The sentence was irrevocable (see 2 Chronicles 24:18-28), as a yoke of iron is unbreakable compared to a wooden one. So the end-time sentence against Babylon is certain.
Only in submitting to the yoke of unselfish love would one find freedom and rest (Matthew 11:28-30), whether in times of national peace or national apostasy and judgment. Daniel revealed the correct attitude, and in turn was also given the genuine Spirit of prophecy, with messages not just for the Babylon of his day, but especially for our day, in the closing days of the fourth kingdom (code named in Revelation "Babylon").
We must not forget that it was Jeremiah who wrote twice, in his days of judgment and destruction, the following prophecies about "that good thing" that God had "promised"--namely, "I will cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land." (33:14; 15; compare 23:5).
In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (23:6)
The second time he repeated the same with some variations:
In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness. (33:16)

Did you catch it? The husband-wife bond is seen in these two verses, for both "he shall be called" and "she shall be called" by the same name! (See Revelation 19:7.) The security of that bond, which nothing, not even death, can sever, we can present to all, as a preparation for the coming judgment. It is in that light that the following words were written on the heels of Minneapolis. I have inserted in brackets some personal observations.
The end [of Babylon] is near! We have not a moment to lose! Light is to shine forth from God's people in clear, distinct rays, bringing Jesus before the churches and before the world. Our work is not to be restricted to those who already know the truth; our field is the world [which will be lightened with His glory]. The instrumentalities to be used are those souls who gladly receive the light of truth which God communicates to them. [Those best can give what they have been given, for they recognize their own need, and how it has been met in Jesus, and see how others will benefit as well.] These are God's agencies for communicating the knowledge of truth to the world. If through the grace of Christ his people will become new bottles, he will fill them with the new wine. [If anyone does not submit to this on-going renewal, it will be impossible for him to retain the new light, and his light will grow dim and go out.] God will give additional light, and old truths will be recovered, and replaced in the frame-work of truth; and wherever the laborers go, they will triumph. [The victory of unselfish love is assured, because nothing can overcome giving; the more its enemies take, the more love can give, until even one's life is given. And that is the final victory.] As Christ's ambassadors, they are to search the Scriptures, to seek for the truths that have been hidden beneath the rubbish of error. [The truths and the rubbish span from doctrine to lifestyle.] And every ray of light received is to be communicated to others. One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other,--Christ our righteousness. [All "additional light," "every ray of light" will be seen in the light of "one interest," "one subject." "Christ our righteousness"--"the Lord our righteousness" will shine a bright light on every topic, revealing what reflects His glory and what does not. Thus the narrow path of life will be discerned, on which we can follow Jesus through the final storm of judgment.] (Ellen White, Review and Herald, December 23, 1890 paragraph 19; brackets inserted by current author)

~ Fred Bischoff