Tuesday, January 26, 2016

“The Crisis Continues”

First Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Crisis Continues"
For the week of January 30, 2016
     Our lesson this week reminds us that worship always has been and always will be a central issue in the great controversy. In heaven at the origin of the controversy, the issue was worship of Jehovah versus Baal worship. In the garden of Eden, the issue was worship of Jehovah versus Baal worship – the same with Cain and Abel, the same with Noah and the antediluvians, and on down through history until the close of the great
     In the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel with Jezebel and the priests of Baal, the two pictures of what God is like stand in stark relief. The words and actions of Elijah, in contrast to the priests of Baal reveal two different pictures of God, and these two pictures – or ways of seeing and relating to God –are also seen in our own SDA history in the 1888 era.

     One picture of God, revealed by the prophets of Baal, is a worship that necessitates much activity, and ecstatic worship, and even blood, in an attempt to move god (Baal) to action. The priests of Baal spent all day in "prayer", and "worship", and dancing, and even the shedding of blood, and all this was done in an attempt to move or motivate god (Baal) to bless or save or listen to them. Call it legalism, or righteousness by works, or appeasement theology, but it all falls in the category of our worship being performed to move God. By contrast, notice Elijah's simple prayer – "Lord, show them today, that you are turning their hearts towards you". In all false worship, the premise is we (or an intercessor – even Jesus) does something to change God's heart toward us. In true worship, God is doing something to change our hearts attitude towards Him. The sacrifice of Jesus wasn't to change God's heart or attitude towards us, the sacrifice of Christ was to change our attitude and hearts towards God. This is the essence of the difference between true and false worship, between Baal worship and the worship of Jehovah, between righteousness by faith and righteousness by works, between the symbols of what the Sabbath and what Sunday stand for when rightly understood. God is the one working to change our hearts towards Him. The purpose of the Son of God is not and never has been –including in His role as our High Priest – to change the Father's heart towards us. Jesus' purpose is and always has been to change our hearts towards God.
     This was the issue in 1888. God was attempting to move us from legalism – Baal worship, to righteousness by faith – Jesus worship. This was ever the theme of the writings of A.T.Jones and E.J. Waggoner. Notice the following article that ties these themes together with the Sabbath Sunday issue that was present truth for our church and country in the 1888 era.
     "It will be remembered that the lesson for last week was upon the scene of Elijah's calling all Israel to the point of decision between the Lord and Baal; how that all Israel, and the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, came to him at Mount Carmel, and there the test was to be made, by which the people should decide as to whom they would follow. The prophets of Baal prophesied from morning till noon, "But there was no voice nor any that answered." Then they cried louder and "cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets till the blood gushed out upon them" till the time of the evening sacrifice (about three o'clock), but still "there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded." Then "Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near." Then he repaired the altar of the Lord, that had been broken down, and took "twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob;" with these he built the altar of the Lord; then prepared his sacrifice and commanded water to be brought and poured upon the sacrifice and the altar until it ran over and down and round about the altar and filled the trench that he had caused to be digged." "And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God."

     In last week's lesson we also showed that just before the Lord comes the people will be brought to just such a test upon their obedience to the Lord, in keeping the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, against the decree of Church and State in favor of Sunday, as was Israel against the decree of the ancient Jezebel in favor of Baal; that every man must decide whether he will "worship the beast and his image," or whether he will "worship him that made heaven and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." We called attention to the fact that there is now a party working for a union of Church and State, for the express purpose of compelling the people to keep Sunday; and that against this the Lord sends a message of warning, and also calls upon all men to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
     When the people all gathered before Elijah, they seemed to be wavering. It seems that they could not make up their minds what they should do. Although the narrative is very brief, it is plain that the attention of all the people had been called to the conflict that was going on between Jezebel and the prophets of the Lord, between Baal and Jehovah
     For (1) Jezebel had cut off all the prophets of the Lord that she could find, and those who escaped were obliged to take refuge in caves, and there were 7,000 persons scattered throughout Israel who had not worshiped Baal. It is impossible that all this could have been carried on without the attention of all Israel being called to this great subject.
     (2) Ahab had made such a diligent search for Elijah that it was impossible that the subject of controversy could have been hidden, for when Obadiah finally met Elijah, he said: "There is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord [Ahab] hath not sent to seek thee; and when they said, He is not here; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not." 1 Kings 18:10.
     (3) The prophets of Baal were working in the interest of Baal, throughout the nation of Israel; for when Elijah did show himself to Ahab and gave the challenge and told him to gather Israel and the prophets together, we read: "So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto Mount Carmel." Of these there were four hundred and fifty, and of the prophets of Ashera, the female companion of Baal, there were four hundred. From all these things it is plain that this thing "was not done in a corner;" and we may safely conclude that the subject had been thoroughly discussed by all Israel.
     This is further shown by the very first words that Elijah spake to the people, when they had assembled. Said he, "How long halt ye between two opinions!" It is plain therefore that the people were acquainted with the two views of the subject, although there was hesitancy in decidedly adopting either.
     On the one side was Jehovah, who had brought their fathers out of Egypt; who had planted them in Canaan, who had been with Samuel, and Gideon, and Barak, and Jephtha; who had led the host of Israel round Jericho, and had thrown down its walls; who had caused the waters of Jordan to stand still while Israel passed over; who had led them through the wilderness, and had fed them with bread from heaven, even with angels' food (Ps. 78:25); the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel; the Creator of heaven and earth; the lover of a world of sinners. On the other side was Baal, the embodiment of shame, with the wicked, licentious, cruel, shameful Jezebel as his grand patron, and the promoter of his worship.

     Oh! how were it possible for there to be "two opinions"? How could it be that they would not only recognize "two opinions," but actually "halt"—hesitate—between them? Was it because they were worse than any other people that have ever been? Not at all. It was simply because they were human. Let us see for a moment what there was to draw them toward Baal.
     First of all. Baal worship was fashionable, it was popular. Remember that Baal­worship was sunworship. It was just as fashionable, just as popular, then to worship Baal as it now is to keep Sunday. The king, the queen, the court, the rich, the powerful, the mighty, all worshiped Baal; and after these all the middle classes, and all the common people, all, all were for Baal—except only seven thousand out of all the multitudes of Israel. There were a few scattered here and there throughout the nation who refused to accept anything as worthy of an opinion but that the Lord was God, and that his commandments were yea and amen and must be obeyed, and these were held as fanatics.
     Then, too, a person could not prosper at all, unless he worshiped Baal. All the patronage and all the power of the kingdom with the queen at the head, was exerted in favor of Baal. So much so indeed was this, that it was even dangerous not to follow the way of Jezebel and Baal. It was at the risk of life itself that the faithful seven thousand and served the Lord. More than this, when by all these considerations they were induced to forsake their duty to God and their respect for is commandments, the restraints of conscience and the law of God were loosed, for Baal demanded nothing of this kind. No self­denial was ever asked of the worshipers of Baal; no pleasure, be it what it would, was ever denied to the followers of Baal.
     Then, it was just as fashionable to go to a feast in the house of Baal, as it now is to go to a festival in the house of the Lord. Then it was just as honorable to bow the knee to Baal in the house of Baal, as it now is to gamble in the house of the Lord. Then it was just as entirely proper to offer the young women to the highest bidder, in the temple of Baal, as it now is to put them up and sell them at auction, or sell their kisses, to the highest bidder, in the house of the Lord. And then, for the servant of the Lord to reprove those, was to make himself as unpopular, and as much of a troubler of Israel, as it now is to reprove these. Then, it was counted just as stubborn fanaticism to acknowledge Jehovah in the first commandment, as it now is to acknowledge Jehovah in the fourth commandment.
     And this fashionableness, and popularity, and worldly honor, and worldly advantage, and abundance of pleasures, were what caused the people then to halt between two opinions as to whether they would follow the Lord or follow Baal, just as it now causes people to halt between two opinions as to whether they will keep the Sabbath of the Lord, or keep the Sunday of the papal church.
     "How long halt ye between two opinions?" If the Bible says that "the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord," keep it, but if the Bible says that the first day of is the Sabbath of the Lord, then keep that. What matters it though four hundred and fifty prophets, with the second Jezebel (Rev. 2:20) at their head, all say that Sunday—the first day—is the Sabbath; until they point to a verse in the word of God that says plainly, The first day is the Sabbath of the Lord—until then their word on that subject is no more to be taken as the truth than was the word of the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal that Baal was God.

     There is no disguising the fact that this Sabbath question is fast gaining the lead of all public questions. The great multitude, as governments, and as nations, are rapidly wheeling into line in support of the claim that Sunday is the Sabbath and must be so kept under penalty of law. There are a few, a little company, who, in opposition to this, maintain that the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, and must be so observed. And this question, as to which day is the Sabbath, is not left for our decision, any more than the question as to who was the true God was left to theirs in the day of Elijah. The Lord himself has decided this question as well as that. And after the manner of Elijah we say to all. Write these two questions, 1. Is the seventh day the Sabbath? 2. Is the first day the Sabbath? Then which ever one that the word of God in the Bible says is the Sabbath, let that day be the Sabbath. And that holy word answers, with no uncertain sound, to every man in the wide world, "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work."
     "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." Isa. 58:13, 14." A. T. J. {August 13, 1885 ATJ, SITI}

~Bob Hunsaker