Friday, March 27, 2015

“Women and Wine”

Insights #13 March 28, 2015
First Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Women and Wine"
For the week of March 28, 2015

The Virtuous Woman

There are three kinds of women featured in Proverbs.  The strange woman – which leads men astray, the contentious woman - which rots his bones, and the virtuous woman - which supports him.  The wise man warns against the first two, but encourages the man to find a virtuous woman.  The latter is apparently not easy to find.  After offering a clear description of this virtuous woman, the wise man contrasts her with the other two.  He says, "Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised" (Proverbs 31:30). 

Let us clarify what the fear of the Lord is. The translators of the NET version of the Bible included an accurate explanation of this concept.  They say the title,

'the Lord…' functions as the object of fear. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew term for fear is used commonly and has a three-fold meaning: (1) 'dread; terror' (Deut 1:29; Jonah 1:10), (2) 'to stand in awe' (1 Kings 3:28), (3) 'to revere; to respect' (Lev 19:3). Used with the Lord as the object of fear, it captures the polar opposites of shrinking back in fear and drawing close in awe and adoration. Both categories of the meaning appear in Exodus 20:20, where the Lord descended upon Sinai amidst geophysical tremors. Moses encouraged the Israelites not to be afraid of God arbitrarily striking them dead ('Do not fear!'). Furthermore, he also informed the people that the Lord revealed Himself in such a terrifying manner to scare them from sinning ('God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him in you so that you do not sin'). The fear of the Lord is the foundation for wisdom (9:10) and the discipline leading to wisdom (15:33).  Therefore it is expressed in reverential submission to his will which is the characteristic of 'true worship.'

E. J. Waggoner's also expounds eloquently on this subject.  Let us read what he says,

'The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.' Prov. viii.13. It is not to be afraid of Him and shun His presence, but to hate and shun that which is unlike Him. The love of God is that we keep His commandments. And as hating evil is identical with keeping His commandments, so the fear and the love of God are identical. God wants all men to love Him; and 'there is no fear in love' (E.J.W., The Present Truth [British] April 4, 1895).

It is clear in Proverbs that the wise fear the Lord.  Therefore they hate evil.  But, what happens when the wise realize there is evil in them?  This is not far fetched.  David cries out to God, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps 139:23-24).  The Lord answered David's prayer several times.  One such occasion was the Bathsheba and Uriah incident, where David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband Uriah afterward. In response, the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to reprove David, who admitted that he had sinned and cried out to God in Psalms 51:1-4,

'Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.'

Solomon says that, "A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool" (Proverbs 17:10).  A person of virtue is not a person that has never erred, but someone who does not scorn reproof when it is given.  This person reverently submits to God's chastisement.

Taking the contrast of the virtuous and non-virtuous woman further, Ellen White says, "In Revelation 17, Babylon is represented as a woman, a figure which is used in the Bible as the symbol of a church, a virtuous woman representing a pure church, a vile woman an apostate church" (GC 380).  God is searching for His virtuous church (Luke 18:8).  In John 18:4, she is warned to, "…Come out of [Babylon], my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."

Many feel safe from Babylon because they do not attend a Sunday keeping church.  Others feel safe because, they know or practice 'this' or 'that' other truth. But, what if the Lord finds them partaking of the sins of Babylon?  We ought to remember that the Third Angel's Message and the Message to Laodicea are for the last days; therefore they are for the same people.  We could even argue that they are the same message.  Regarding Laodicea, Ellen White states,

The people of God are represented in the message to the Laodiceans as in a position of carnal security. They are at ease, believing themselves to be in an exalted condition of spiritual attainments… What greater deception can come upon human minds than a confidence that they are right, when they are all wrong! The message of the True Witness finds the people of God in a sad deception, yet honest in that deception ... Those addressed are flattering themselves that they are in an exalted spiritual condition ... secure in their attainments ... rich in spiritual knowledge" (3T 252, 253). 

Laodicea is a fool – wise in her own eyes (Proverbs 12:15).  And, like all fools, she scorns and hates reproof (Proverbs 9:8).  Ellen White points to what was revealed in relation to reproof,

I have been shown that the greatest reason why the people of God are now found in this state of spiritual blindness is that they will not receive correction. Many have despised the reproofs and warnings given them [Ibid]. 

Can Laodicea become virtuous?  The solution is in Revelation 3:18-20,

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."

Ellen White expounds further by saying,

The gold that Jesus would have us buy of him is gold tried in the fire; it is the gold of faith and love, that has no defiling substance mingled with it. The white raiment is the righteousness of Christ, the wedding garment which Christ alone can give. The eye-salve is the true spiritual discernment that is so wanting among us, for spiritual things must be spiritually discerned (RH, April 1, 1890).

We ought to pray David's prayer (Ps 139:23-24).  Let Him reproduce Himself in you.
-Raul Diaz

Raul Diaz

Thursday, March 19, 2015

“Living By Faith”

Insights #12 March 21, 2015
First Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Living By Faith"
For the week of March 21, 2015

The title of this week's lesson, "Living by Faith," sparked great hope in my heart that we would find in this lesson some beautiful gems of truth clearly related to the gospel.  However, a quick glance at the title of each lesson section for the week brought a keen sense of disappointment.  As I read the lesson, it seemed to say to me that we must keep the law, and seek the Lord, and do what is right.  This is our duty.  And I would never suggest that this is not our duty, nor would I suggest this it is not the natural result of "Living by Faith".  Nevertheless I must confess, the lesson reminded me of what Joshua said to the children of Israel.
Everyone remembers Joshua saying,

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served there on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

We often see part of this famous verse of scripture on beautiful wood carvings hanging on walls or printed on posters that Christians seem to appreciate.  Everyone, it seems, is familiar with this inspiring statement from Joshua.  But no one seems to know or remember what Joshua said to the people shortly after making this statement.  When the people said, "We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God" (Joshua 24:18), the Bible says Joshua responded saying, "You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God.  He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins" (Joshua 24:19).

What could Joshua have meant by these startling words?  Evidently, Joshua wanted the people to realize the seriousness of what they were saying.  He wanted them to realize what they had not realized when they encamped at Mount Sinai and said, "All that the Lord has said, we will do" (Exodus 19:8).  At that time the people had failed to realize they could not "establish their own righteousness" (PP 373).

The same realization should be clear in our minds when we speak or write of our need to "keep the law" and "seek the Lord" and follow the counsels presented in Proverbs and other biblical books.  Joshua spoke the truth when he told the children of Israel, "You cannot serve the Lord."  The only hope of our living lives that is pleasing to God is "Living by Faith."

There is a very good reason the Bible says, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11:6).  Faith is the key to living a life well pleasing to God.  Unfortunately, many fail to correctly understand what the Bible teaches concerning what it means to live by faith.

The Bible repeatedly states, "The just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:17).  What does this expression mean?  One of the clearest examples of what this expression means is revealed in the life of Abraham.  The Bible says, "By faith Abraham when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.  Of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called,' concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense" (Heb. 11:17 -19).

This is an inspiring and interesting story.  The Lord awakened Abraham one morning saying, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of mountains of which I shall tell you" (Gen. 22:2).  Consider the turmoil, the questions, and the agony, this command had brought upon Abraham.

The Lord had promised that He would make of Abraham a great nation.  This promise was to be fulfilled through Isaac.  Now (Gen. 22) the Lord comes back and tells Abraham that he is to sacrifice Isaac!  Abraham did not understand.  This command involved a profound mystery.  Not only was human sacrifice contrary to God's religious order, but it must have seemed to Abraham that the Lord was about to break the covenant that He had made with him and his descendants.  For three long days and three long nights, Abraham proceeded by faith toward the mountain upon which he was commanded to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.

Again and again Abraham pleaded with the Lord, asking that He confirm the word that had come on the morning of the start of his journey.  No confirmation came.  Abraham hoped for a reprieve from this strange command.  For three days and three nights, no reprieve came.  It was an excruciating test of faith.  Yet Abraham continued his journey, by faith.  As he did, he thought through what was about to take place. 

Despite the lack of any response from God, to his earnest petitions, Abraham clung to the promise that had been given before this trial had commenced.  He clung to God's promise to make of him a great nation through Isaac.  And little by little, by faith, by believing what God had promised, Abraham was able to put the pieces of this strange puzzle together in a logical order.  At this point in history, no one had ever been resurrected from the dead.  Yet, by faith Abraham concluded that there would be a resurrection.  God had promised to make of him a great nation, through Isaac.  God had commanded that he should sacrifice Isaac.  Therefore, Abraham concluded there was only one way the promise could be fulfilled.  God was going to resurrect Isaac.

This is a clear example of what it means to live by faith.  Abraham chose to cling to God's promise, even when things did not make sense.  He moved forward to do what God said, when that made no sense.  And he agonized, and struggled, and reasoned, based upon what God had said.  Finally, he reached a logical and reasonable conclusion based upon what God had said, even though the conclusion was completely beyond his human experience.

His conclusion, based on his faith in what God said, enabled him to say to his servants, "the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and WE will come back to you" (Gen. 22:5, emphasis supplied).  The only way Abraham could honestly say this is that he firmly believed what God had said. 

Abraham was living by faith.  He reasoned through a difficult situation by faith.  He acted by faith.  He spoke to his servants by faith.  It was faith that enabled him to obey the command of God.  Without faith, it would have been impossible for him to please God.  Clearly, those who have faith are the only ones who can live lives that are pleasing to God.

It is in this context that we must understand the instruction to "Keep the Law," "Seek the Lord," and all the biblical counsel to the rich and to the poor.  We must live by faith.  Remember, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23).  And, "Faith is the victory."
-Mark Duncan

Raul Diaz

Thursday, March 12, 2015

“Living By Faith”

Insights #11 March 14, 2015
First Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Living By Faith"
For the week of March 14, 2015
As a group committed to the preaching and teaching of the "most precious message" given to our church at the Minneapolis General Conference session in 1888, Proverbs has not been a book to which we have often turned. So this quarter has presented a tremendous opportunity to explore new frontiers. In Acts 20:27, Paul says, "For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of truth." We will find gems of truth as we "seek her as silver" and "search for her as for hidden treasures," Proverbs 2:4. Then Solomon declares, continuing in verse 5, we "will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God."

The lesson this week is Living by Faith and one is quick to observe through the daily titles where our focus should be. We will deal with three of the themes: keeping the law, seeking the Lord, and loving the truth.

Keeping the law

Proverbs 28:4, 7, 9
"Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but such as keep the law contend with them." "Whoever keeps the law is a discerning son." "One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination." Psalms 19 tells us that the law of God is "perfect, converting the soul," "it enlightens the eyes," "rejoices the heart," is "more to be desired than gold, yea even find gold," and this is "sweeter than honey." How can this be when it is a law? In the book Patriarchs and Prophets, page 52, we read, "The law of God is as sacred as God Himself. It is a revelation of His will, a transcript of His character the expression of divine love and wisdom. The harmony of creation depends upon the perfect conformity of all beings of everything animate and inanimate to the law of the Creator. To Man, the crowning work of creation, God has given power to understand His requirements, to comprehend the justice and beneficence of His law, and its sacred claims upon him; and of man unswerving obedience is required." The same book starts out God is love, His nature, His law is love. The law has been given that we may know Him and grow in intimate fellowship with Him, like Enoch did, that we may more and more reflect the divine image.

One of two most notable declarations of the law in scripture is Exodus, chapter 20. Starting from verse 1, we read, "And God spoke all these woods saying: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the house of bondage." Here at the outset, before any demand or action is required of mankind, God speaks the gospel to us. I am the One who has redeemed you, I have taken the initiative in mankind's redemption. Salvation has already come to us. God gave the commandments to Israel after He had delivered them from the cruel Egyptian bondage, and God gives us the good news today of a righteous act to all at a historic point in time "to all and on all who believe." The Bible tells us that, "When the fullness of the time had come God sent forth His son born of a woman born under the law to redeem those who were under the law," Galatians 4:4, 5. Before there was sin or a written law, there was a Savior. 2 Timothy 1:8, 9 informs us that "God has saved us and called us with a holy calling not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began." "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us." Armed with the power inherent in this good news, Paul is able to tell us that the gospel is the dynamite of God to salvation and, I will add, obedience. Salvation comes in the law (through the obedient life and death of Jesus) and before the law. We don't keep the law to be saved, but vice versa. Now our ears can listen and cherish what the remaining verses in Exodus 20 are saying.

The first commandment says, "You shall have no other gods before Me." The second commandment deals with deeper issues related to idol worship and the complex entanglements of idol worship. Many Adventists today quickly rush past these first three commandments on our way to the fourth, but let's hear what the pen of inspiration says about idolatry. She comments on I Cor. 10:14, "Therefore, my beloved flee from idolatry" in Acts of the Apostles, p.317: "The apostle's words of warning to the Corinthian church are applicable to all time and are especially adapted to our day. By idolatry he meant not only the worship of idols but self-serving, love of ease, the gratification of appetite and passion. A mere profession of faith in Christ, a boastful knowledge of the truth, does not make a man a Christian." And here I must say, God protect those of us who love this most precious message from a "boastful knowledge of the truth" and from impatience with our brethren.

Then Testimonies, Volume 1, page 609- "I was pointed back to ancient Israel. But two of the adults of the vast army that left Egypt entered the land of Canaan. Their dead bodies were strewn in the wilderness because of their transgressions. Modern Israel are in greater danger of forgetting God and being led into idolatry than were His ancient people. Many idols are worshiped, even by professed Sabbathkeepers. God especially charged His ancient people to guard against idolatry, for if they should be led away from serving the living God, His curse would rest upon them, while if they would love Him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might, He would abundantly bless them in basket and in store, and would remove sickness from the midst of them.  A blessing or a curse is now before the people of God--a blessing if they come out from the world and are separate, and walk in the path of humble obedience; and a curse if they unite with the idolatrous, who trample upon the high claims of heaven." The high claims of heaven! In the giving of the Decalogue, God makes plain that in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and everything that is. He rested on the seventh day and hallowed it as a perpetual sign for all the ages of His creative and redemptive power, of His love and faithfulness to mankind, and as His ultimate sign of righteousness by faith. In the "wisdom of man" the Sabbath has been changed, and now the veracity of scripture from Genesis chapter 1 is felt to be foolishness. Proverbs 28:4 says, "Those who forsake the law praise the wicked but such as keep the law contend with them." This brings us to the second section:

Seeking the Lord

Proverbs 28:5, "Evil men do not understand justice. But those who seek the Lord understand all." Proverbs 2 says things like "incline your ear to wisdom," "apply your heart to understanding," "cry out for discernment," "lift up your voice for understanding" – "then we will understand the Fear of the Lord." The process of seeking the Lord is a persistent gazing upon the uplifted Savior – Romans 1:16, 17 – with wide-open eyes as at something remarkable. This is different from simple voluntary observation or mechanical, passive, casual vision, and is an earnest, continued inspection. We listen to His word, we meditate on His inspired word, and we pray for guidance, understanding, and application. This is what Enoch did. Ellen White said that he hungered and thirsted for that divine knowledge which God alone could impart. She says, "Communing thus with God, Enoch came more and more to reflect the divine image. His face was radiant with a holy light, even the light that shineth in the face of Jesus." Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 87. Human knowledge is enriched by meditating on divine matters. Proverbs absolutely rejects human wisdom. Proverbs 28:26, "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool." Proverbs 29:25, "The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe." Proverbs 26:4,5, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes." Proverbs 3:7, "Do not be wise in your own eyes." The good news is that, as we seek God, we remember that we were first and already known by Him, with peace and joy we search deeper into the unsearchable riches of Christ, and with thanks to God for His indescribable gift to us. The love of Christ compels us. This brings us to the final point:

Loving the Truth

We have touched on some tremendous gospel truth – did you notice? 1) The law of God is a transcript of His character. 2) God is love and His law is love. 3) The truth that, from the foundation of the world, God took the initiative in the plan of salvation. 4) We don't obey in order to be saved. We are saved, therefore, by the Faith of Jesus we obey. We have seen the gospel truths in 2 Timothy 1:8, 9; Ex. 20; Gal 3:13, 24; and Rom. 1:16,17, and we have seen the immutability of God's law and truth. These truths have brought us to contemplate the uplifted Saviour as we seek the Lord.

Proverbs 29:1,15

"He who is often reproved and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy." And verse 15, "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother." We often think of verse 15 in terms of disciplining children, but could this also refer to God's last day remnant people. Revelation 3:19, "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten therefore be zealous and repent."

Some Truths:

Review and Herald, April 1, 1890

Several have written to me inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have said "It is the third angel's message in verity.

Testimonies to Ministers, page 92

The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.

6T, page 19

The message of Christ's righteousness is to sound from one end of the earth to the other to prepare the way of the Lord. This is the glory of God, which closes the work of the third angel.

Elsewhere, Ellen White states that had Adventists held fast their faith and followed unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and proclaiming it to the world, that they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward… It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. Last Day Events, 36, 38.

Finally, in Manuscript Releases, vol. 20, page 313 she says this, "We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel; but for Christ's sake, His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequences of their own course of action."

As we listen to the important truth that the angel to the church of the Laodiceans writes, which I believe is a vital message for the remnant church to comprehend, I pray that we can embrace and even love the message to Laodicea. God lays out the remedy for insubordination. It is the gold tried in the fire, the white garments that we may be clothed, and the divine eye salve.
-Lyndi Schwartz

Thursday, March 05, 2015

“Behind the Mask”

Insights #10 March 7, 2015
First Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Behind the Mask"
For the week of March 7, 2015
Our study this week covers Proverbs 25-27. Let us attempt, by the Holy Spirit's help, to trace through these sayings what Jesus may have done in Luke 24:27, 44, 45. Can we see here the "things concerning" Jesus, the embodiment of the law and the gospel together, "the express image" of the Father (Heb. 1:3)? My prayer is that we indeed may see that "a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver" (25:11). (References are from Proverbs unless otherwise noted.)

We start with the simple statement, "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing" (25:2). Paul wrote the Corinthians that his commitment was to "preach Christ crucified" (1 Cor. 1:23). In describing this mission he said, "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory." He described this also to the Colossians, in saying that he was "made a minister" to unfold "the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:25-27). Do we understand this glory?

It is the glory that Jesus manifested as He entered into the reality of being "surety for a stranger" (27:13) when the soldiers "took His garments" (John 19:23). This human race which had become the "strange woman" had Someone who long before became "a pledge" for us. At the cross the pledge came due. As He hung there in His nakedness, in order to cover ours, we must see Him in His glory. He is "the author and finisher of faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb. 12:2). I sense that one verse that carried Him all the way down to the "death of the cross" (Phil. 2:5-8) is the one that says, "My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that reproacheth me" (27:11). The accusing reproaches of diabolos now had an answer! This was "good news from a far country" bringing "cold waters to a thirsty soul" (25:25)!

God covers things for a purpose, to be revealed in the proper time. The mysterious plan of salvation, called the everlasting covenant (Heb. 13:20), was revealed and ratified in Jesus Christ. Part of this plan is to cover sins in such a way, that when they are revealed in the judgment (1 Tim. 5:23, 24), those guilty of those sins are shown to have accepted the atonement in Jesus, His death for all men (1 John 2:2). The books of record will then reveal "Christ in" them. Before that final time of judgment, every action of true agape addresses the hidden sin (27:5, 6) in a way that it is seen to be part of the curse that was the cause of Jesus' death (26:2), enabling the sinner to truly experience sending that sin "before to judgment."

In contrast, the fool (26:3-11; 28:3), the mad man (26:18, 19), the talebearer (26:22), and the hater (26:24-26) all manifest a perversity that inverts the covering and revealing. They try to expose the sins of others in order to exalt themselves, to appear better than others. This is a hypocritical "transparency" that feigns rightness and goodness. When the time comes for God's revealing, we find them hiding from His presence (Rev. 6:15-17). Lacking "perfect agape," they will lack boldness in that day (1 John 4:17, 18). Behind their mask there is no "Christ in" them.

We see how God deals with fools (26:3) with the "rod of His mouth" (Isa. 11:4) in the way Jesus addressed the two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:25, 26), bringing to their self-centered foolishness the bright light of a suffering Messiah. It brought repentance to these witnesses of His sufferings, as well as to the other eleven fools later that evening (Luke 24:33, 44-47). Might it also bring repentance to the Laodicean fools who think they need nothing? Jesus' "open rebuke" (27:5) as a "wise reprover" (25:12) to the "angel" of that church has also the promise of repentance, remission of sin, unity, and a final outpouring of the Spirit (Luke 24 to Acts 2).

If we refuse such a Friend (27:6, 9, 10, 17), the only thing left for us is the nature we inherited from Adam, and have developed ourselves. Not only is it described with the word "fool" but also with "slothful" (26:13-15) and "sluggard" (26:16). There is no healthy energy in the unregenerate nature. The strife, agitation, and contention are but the death struggle. Regarding anything good and eternal, there is only abject laziness, even paralysis.

Only the agape of Christ, revealed pre-eminently on the cross, has the ability to constrain us to relentless, positive activity (2 Cor. 5:14). Selfishness will always see such intense unselfishness as mad (2 Cor. 5:13; John 10:20; Acts 26:24), but it is the passion of wisdom in an all-out struggle to save as many as possible from oblivion.

If we refuse agape, we have refused "a love of the truth" and will "believe the lie" (2 Thes. 2:10, 11). We are "willingly ... ignorant" of all the word of God tries to teach us (2 Pet. 3:5). We are left with deception (26:24, 26; 27:6), clinging to the "strange woman" who has no future (Rev. 18).

The only hope for any of us humans, caught in the foolishness of sin, is to have "an obedient ear" (25:12) for the good news of Jesus the "faithful messenger" (25:13), bringing not only hope to fools, but pleasure to His Father (Matt. 3:17). While we were His enemies (Rom. 5:10), He died for us, giving us bread and water, heaping "coals of fire upon" our heads (25:21, 22), opening the way for us to be cleansed as the coal cleansed Isaiah's lips (Isa. 6:7).

 As we enter into the refining process (25:4) of such a Friend, we will in the end, when our "time of trouble" comes, find that our "confidence is [not] in an unfaithful man" (25:19), but in One whose faith not only makes Him the "true witness" but also "faithful" (Rev. 3:14). This faith of Jesus alone will secure us through the storm ahead.

Before then we will respond to the final call, the Loud Cry to come out of Babylon, and will recognize how "contentious" she is (27:15), and avoid her "brawling ... in a wide house" (25:24). We will foresee "the evil" and hide ourselves in the Rock of Ages (27:12).

And in the end, we will see "the wicked [taken away] from before the king, and his throne ... established in righteousness" (25:5).

May that day hasten!
-Fred Bischoff