Insight #12 December 19, 2015
Fourth Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Back to Egypt"
For the week of December 19, 2015
Let's say a child is born with a fatal congenital disease for which there is no cure. Because he was born with it, the condition is not his fault. Therefore, the fact that he has the disease and will die from it cannot be held against him. Let's also say that years later a cure is discovered and the child, now a man, can receive the medicine for free. He still, however, has to choose to take the medicine. If he takes it, he will be cured, and, therefore, live longer. And if he does not choose to take the medicine, he will continue with the disease and eventually die. Can he still blame his parents for the disease and dying from it? No. After his rejection of the medicine, he can only blame himself. There is no cure for rejecting the treatment.
In Numbers 21: 5 - 9, we read that the people of Israel murmured against God, and, therefore, God allowed the serpents to bite them. God had given the people manna. But, they did not appreciate this food of the angels; instead, becoming bored with it, they despised it. So the Lord allowed the venomous snakes to slither into the camp and bite the people. As long as they had been filled with faith he was able to protect them from the designs of the evil one. But as the people murmured against God, their rebellious attitude ripened, and so did their disrespect of Moses and God. Consequently, God had to remove his hand of protection at his people's insistence, and they were bitten. Everywhere could be heard the cries of the stricken ones. Almost all of the households were touched, and the numbers of the dead mounted. As the people were suffering and dying, many longed for relief. At last, realizing the connection between the snakes and their Sin, they requested Moses to pray for deliverance. God did answer, and he told Moses to build a brazen serpent, put it on a pole, and have the bitten ones look and live. Those who heeded looked and were healed.
In God's providence, He did not get rid of the serpents, and neither did he prevent them from attacking the people. Instead, he encouraged the people to exercise faith. The issue was: would they believe that in looking at the brazen serpent, they would live?
The brazen serpent was placed high on a pole for all of the people in the camp to see. But, only those who looked when bitten would be delivered. Did any of the people deserve the cure? No, not one person in the camp deserved deliverance (Romans 3:10 – 12). But God, in His love and mercy not only allowed the people to have what they insisted on, the distance they desired of him as demonstrated by their murmuring and complaining, which brought the snakes, He even provided them with the cure. This gesture toward them displayed not only God's mercy by not giving them what they deserved, but it manifested his grace by giving them the power to overcome their unbelief. Furthermore, if they took him at his word, it energized them physically to overcome the effects of the poison.
Now, just because God gave this opportunity or gift to all, did not mean that God spared all bitten by snakes from the effects of the poison. He wanted to, but those who chose not to believe, just would not look; and not looking, meant certain death. Unfortunately, there was no grace for this. There was no remedy for rejecting the solution. And the same applies today -- those who dismiss the grace that can save them, will find that there is no grace for rejecting the grace. Grace, as we see, has limits.
The lesson's author states something similar regarding the Jews in Jeremiah's time. Generations later they had not learned their lesson. Our Lesson states:
"This week's lesson brings us toward the end of the saga of Jeremiah the prophet. However, this is not a "…and they lived happily ever after" ending. In a sense, one could summarize this week's study, and even a good portion of the book of Jeremiah, by saying that what we see here is an example of the limits of grace. That is, grace will not save those who utterly refuse to accept it. No matter how much the Lord spoke to them, sending them salvation, protection, redemption, peace, and prosperity, all but a tiny and faithful remnant scorned and rebuffed God's gift. …Even after everything Jeremiah warned about came to pass, the people still clung to their sins and paganism and rebellion, openly defying the Prophet to his face and scorning the Word of the Lord to them.
How we need to be careful ourselves. Grace is grace because it's favor and power given to the undeserving, yes; but it's not forced on anyone. All must be willing to receive it for themselves.
Just as grace is a gift to all, but only useful to those who receive it; grace does not cover all Sin. Some may get the impression from Romans 5:20 through 6:2 that grace covers all sin. But that is not the case, for the passage says,
"Moreover, the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 5:20, 21). "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Rom 6:1, 2).
Those who are of the belief that the more they sin, the more grace abounds - if they continue in that path - forget that eventually they will commit the unpardonable Sin. Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 12:31, 32--
"Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come" (Mathew 12:32, 32).
The sin spoken of in the verse is the final rejection of God's wooing to you.
Blasphemy is committed at the point where the heart has barricaded its door against the Holy Spirit's invitation to intimacy with God, and repentance is steadfastly refused. Christ died to save us from our Sin, but grace beaten back for the last time will not abound, at the sinners' insistence. Thus, the rejected grace can not save. Oh, it's so important to trust willingly and heed the promptings of God's Spirit, for he would not have us die, for the cure has already been provided.