Thursday, December 29, 2016

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #14 December 31, 2016


DECEMBER 31, 2016
During a Sabbath School lesson discussion earlier this quarter, a guest sat quietly, listening. Unfamiliar with the Bible she held in her hands, someone directed her to the book of Job. Silently, she read. She never spoke during the class, but afterwards at potluck she shared a remarkable testimony:
"I am a Buddhist. For thirty years I have struggled to understand why bad things happen. In Buddhism, we believe in karma. If you do something bad, something bad will happen to you. Today I learned that sometimes bad things happen not because I did wrong, but because it is a test. Karma instills fear. We live in fear. But now I can see there is a bigger reason why things sometimes go wrong. We are being tested. I feel so free and happy to have discovered this truth!"
She said the Sabbath School lesson answered many questions she has had for years. She expressed a desire to study the Bible and continue attending the Seventh-day Adventist church.
God is working all around the world to prepare hearts for His soon coming. We have in our hands a message that casts out fear and will lighten the earth with God's glory: the revelation of His character of love.
The story of Job explains the behind the scenes controversy waging between Christ and Satan. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He intimated that God had shown partiality to Job: "Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side?" Job 1:10.
Once the question was asked, the seed of doubt was planted. Did Job worship God out of love or for reward?. There was only one way to find out. The blessings would be removed. Affliction must come. Job would be tried by fire.
For nearly 4,000 years, the story of Job has served to encourage believers in all ages who have suffered loss and persecution. There are larger issues at stake than what we can see, and in each case the charges of Satan must be met and defeated for the eternal security of the universe.
Before Satan had brought charges against Job, he had made allegations against God and the character of Christ. These imputations could not be dismissed with a simple explanation. Christ would come to this world and humble Himself even to the death of the cross, becoming part of the human race forever -- thus making an eternal sacrifice that we but dimly comprehend. All this was necessary that Satan's accusations might be silenced and that sin might not rise up a second time.
We are still in the crossfire of Satan's arrows. There are times when we experience bad outcomes because of poor choices we have made. But there are other times when bad things happen because we are in the midst of a raging war between good and evil.
The search for an answer to why bad things happen is nothing new:
"And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they're worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.' " Luke 13:2-5
We are living in the time just before Jesus' second return. We are about to behold catastrophes on a scale of which this world has never seen.  "The calamities by land and sea, the unsettled state of society, the alarms of war, are portentous. They forecast approaching events of the greatest magnitude." 9T, p. 11
It is imperative that we remember Jesus' admonition: "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
As we see these events taking place, we should heed Christ's admonition.
Lot's wife perished by looking back to her home in Sodom. Those bitten by poisonous snakes in the wilderness were  to look at the cross and live. Repentance is the continual turning away from sin and towards Christ. Despite the tragedies that came upon Job, he was able to testify with assurance: "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another." Job 19:25-27.
In many ways Job is a type of the last generation that will live on earth. It will be their custom to minister to the poor and needy. Unselfish love will characterize their lives. They will intercede for the souls in spiritual danger around them. Suddenly, unexpectedly, every earthly support will be removed. Calamities will strike: Fire, flood, wind, sickness, financial loss, death. Friends will fail us. It will feel as though God has forsaken us.
Under circumstances such as these, Job looked steadfastly to Jesus in faith. He looked beyond the darkness, pain, and affliction of this world and was sustained by a Power outside himself.
We are told: "It is impossible to give any idea of the experience of the people of God who shall be alive upon the earth when celestial glory and a repetition of the persecutions of the past are blended. They will walk in the light proceeding from the throne of God. By means of the angels there will be constant communication between heaven and earth." Maranatha, p. 206.
"Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand. . . . My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord--that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful." James 5:7, 8, 10, 11.
Notice here that patience is an attribute that Job developed under the severest test. And of those people who live in the final days of earth's history it is said, "Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." Revelation 14:12. The patience here referred to will likewise be cultivated in earth's darkest hour. Notwithstanding these trials, the salvation of souls will be uppermost in the minds of those whose eyes are fixed on Jesus. "Through many dangers, toils, and snares" they -- dare I say we? -- will carry the message forward to the ends of the earth. "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come." Matthew 24:14.
"Those who have held the beginning of their confidence firm unto the end will be wide-awake during the time that the third angel's message is proclaimed with great power. During the loud cry, the church, aided by the providential interpositions of her exalted Lord, will diffuse the knowledge of salvation so abundantly that light will be communicated to every city and town. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of salvation. So abundantly will the renewing Spirit of God have crowned with success the intensely active agencies, that the light of present truth will be seen flashing everywhere.
"There is to be, at this period, a series of events which will reveal that God is Master of the situation. The truth will be proclaimed in clear, unmistakable language. As a people, we must prepare the way of the Lord, under the overruling guidance of the Holy Spirit. The gospel is to be given in its purity. The stream of living water is to deepen and widen in its course. In all fields, nigh and afar off, men will be called from the plow and from the more common commercial business vocations that largely occupy the mind, and will be educated in connection with men of experience. As they learn to labor effectively, they will proclaim the truth with power. Through most wonderful workings of divine providence, mountains of difficulties will be removed, and cast into the sea. The message that means so much to the dwellers upon the earth will be heard and understood. Men will know what is truth. Onward, and still onward the work will advance, until the whole earth shall have been warned. And then shall the end come."
Maranatha, p. 219.

~Patti Guthrie

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Friday, December 09, 2016



DECEMBER 10, 2016

"Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: 'Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.  Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Tell Me, if you have understanding.'"  Job 38:1-4.

I don't know if you've ever read this passage and thought, "Uh oh, Job and his friends are in for it now!  They've been saying bad things about God for 35 chapters and now He's pretty upset and He's going to give them a piece of His mind."  The basic theology that Job and his friends shared was that God does things to people based primarily on their good or bad behavior.  If you do bad things, God imposes penalties and punishments on you but if you do good things, God will send blessings to you.

Their theology was fairly similar; the primary difference was in their assessment of Job himself.  Job looked at his life and felt there was nothing in his life that would have caused him to deserve these imposed penalties from God, while his three friends felt that Job must be hiding some sin from them or from himself, that if he would only recognize and acknowledge it, then he would understand why God was imposing punishment on him.

While there are multiple misperceptions about God in Job and his three friends understanding, let's address the most fundamental one.  The fundamental premise that they were all working from is the idea that God is a micromanager who controls all the things that happen in our lives by imposed penalties and punishments for bad deeds, and sending "imposed" blessings for good behavior.  "God is in control" is understood to mean that every detail that we experience every day is part of God's scripted plan for our lives.  If good things happen – it's all part of God's plan.  If bad things happen – it's all part of God's plan.  Some have called this "determinism" or "blue print theology".

Cause-effect understandings, and design laws that have inherent consequences - rather than imposed blessings/punishments - are poorly discerned and not appreciated.  Job and his three friends, and most religious and secular thinking today, is governed by this same type of thinking.  In religion there is some variation of a micro-managing controlling deity, in secular thinking there is "fate" or "luck".  But these are all ways of missing the reality of how God has designed the universe to operate.

Job wasn't the object of a punishment from God for misbehavior.  Behind the scenes, there was the free-will exercise of Satan's choices, to bring suffering on Job, and for God to allow it.  Now, "why" God allowed Job to experience suffering, and "why" Satan acted as he did, is a separate question, but God was not controlling all the details and outcomes and circumstances as Job and his three friends assumed – based on their faulty "God is a micro-manager" theology.

In the end of Job, we don't have God getting "fed up" and responding to Job and his friends in an angry, "how dare you puny humans question Me" attitude.  Don't impose the tone of voice that we so often have when someone questions us on to God's voice.  Too often we read the words of God in the Bible, and impose a tone of voice on Him that is foreign to His nature and character.

God wants Job to understand the great issues in the great controversy.  And so God patiently and carefully asks Job a series of questions, which are wisely constructed to lead Job to an understanding of the origin and motives for creation and the source of suffering in the universe.  God identifies "leviathan" as "king over all the children of pride".  God is not angrily telling Job, "don't question me; you're a puny human with no power and I'm the powerful Creator of the whole universe from quark to galaxy!!"  No, what God was doing, was patiently and tenderly, asking Job a series of questions to help Job learn and understand "how things are" in this universe.

How do I know what God's tone of voice was?  Because in Job 42, Job says he repented of his former misperceptions of God – and the ONLY thing that causes repentance – is the goodness of God (Rom.2:4).  The goodness of God leads to repentance.  So in Job 38-41, God is revealing His goodness to Job.  God is revealing that He is a God of freedom and choice, a God of well-designed cause-effect laws, a God who isn't a micro-manager.

This is the God that the 1888 message is communicating.  A God of much more abounding grace and love, Who gives freedom and abides by understandable laws is the God of the 1888 message.  A God Whose goodness is what leads us to repentance – not a fear of punishment or hope of reward.

Notice the words that E.J. Waggoner used to clarify the passage for our study today and see if it is not truly a precious message!

"When God "answered Job out of the whirlwind," He began at the beginning, saying: "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding." Job 38:1. The same question could be asked of every man who lives, or who has ever lived, and not one of them could say a word.

Everything else in the whole creation was made before man was. Man was the last of all. When he came into being, he found everything complete; and every man that has ever been born has found everything waiting for him when he arrived.

Why this arrangement? Evidently so that no man could have any chance to lay claim to share with God the honor of creation. It is a fact that no man can create. This needs no argument. Men work, and effect changes in form and appearance of many things; but no man ever yet added the slightest particle of matter to the substance of the earth or to anything that exists; and no man ever can do it. Yet such is the conceit and self-assertion of the human mind that if God had performed any new act of creation after man came into being, man would surely claim that he himself had done it. 

Even as it is, men are very prone to exalt themselves above God. The only thing that will keep them-us-from doing this in some form or degree is to remember "who is the beginning." We are wont to pride ourselves not a little upon the fact that man was made last-"the crown of creation;" it may serve to abate that pride if we think that God made man last because there was no use for him before; there was nothing that he could do, he would have been hopelessly in the way of the progress of creation, and what is more, he would not have been able to maintain himself. God had to provide all things first, so that man, the most helpless of grated things, might be able to live.

If all men had but kept in mind this simple truth, and had remembered that in Christ, Who is the Beginning, "were all things created," and "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together," there would never have been a pope, great or small. "Seekest thou great things for thyself; seek them not," says the Lord. Let us rather be content to remain children, keeping close to the Beginning. "In all thy ways acknowledge Him," as the Beginning, "and He shall direct my paths." What He begins He will carry too successful completion." {June 30, 1898 EJW, PTUK}

"In the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth chapters of the Book of Job the Creator Himself recounts the wonders of created nature, which He has made and demands of Job a definite answer as to his knowledge of them.

It is a long and searching examination-a half a hundred questions at least-and Job fails utterly, he cannot answer one. But Job understood his failure, and said, "What shall I answer Thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer; yes, twice; but I will proceed no further."

But, again, from out the whirlwind, the Lord speaks to Job, and questions him further, until at length, overcome with the grandeur of the view of Almighty power and omnipotent wisdom presented to him, Job breaks forth:

"I know that Thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from Thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of Thee, and declare Thou unto me. I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now Mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repentant in dust and ashes."

Job acknowledges that his previous knowledge of God had been by hearsay, but now he saw and knew Him and the wonder of His works. In his previous ignorance, knowing God only by hearsay,-by criticism and commentary, as it were,-he had uttered many things that he understood not, and had attempted things too wonderful for him, which he knew not.

Now, however, he had determined to accept the word of hearsay no longer, but to go to God direct for knowledge and wisdom: "Hear I beseech Thee, and I will speak: I will demand of Thee, and declare Thou unto me." Then the Lord heard Job, accepted him fully, and blessed him." {April 29, 1897 EJW, PTUK}

~Robert Hunsaker
Raul Diaz

Friday, December 02, 2016

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #10 December 3, 2016


DECEMBER 3, 2016

Then I said, "I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name."
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.  Jeremiah 20:9
In the story of Job, Elihu remains for many an enigmatic figure. For one thing, God does not include Elihu in His reproof of Job's friends (Job 42:7-9), nor of Job himself (42:1-6).  Further, both Job and his three friends are brought to repentance, but Elihu's repentance is not explicitly mentioned.
It may be tempting therefore to more or less ignore the message of Elihu, or at least be unsure how it fits in the story of Job, other than perhaps the rant of a novice theologian before God finally appears to clean things up.
But I believe that if we look carefully at the story, we can see the gospel in the book of Job, and especially in the words of Elihu. His message is strategically placed in the book of Job. It is no coincidence that he speaks after the arguments of Job and his friends are exhausted to the point of silence, and right before God speaks.
Elihu, which means "He is my God," or "the God of him," is very much the Elijah, "Jehovah is God," of the story. Like John the Baptist, he is calling his friends to behold God for who He is as revealed in Christ, and to begin to see things from the heavenly perspective. In a sense he is calling for a paradigm shift, a complete reframing of the conversation to that point. He is the 1888 messenger of his day.
Like Jeremiah, Elihu is wrought up to the point where he has to say something. He can't hold back - the stakes are too high to remain silent. The impasse must be broken.
Job, who "was righteous in his own eyes," who "justified himself rather than God," needed the divine eyesalve. So did his friends, who had no answer or explanation for Job, yet had condemned him.
We might place ourselves squarely in the middle of this story, for is not the world suffering interminably? Do we as Seventh-day Adventists believe we have been doing all the right things for God, like Job, and yet our human suffering goes on? Or like his friends of counsel, do we point to others in the church who we condemn for the wrong theodicy? Once "they" get it right, we can go home.
Elihu was young, yet was burning to deliver the "fresh message" to Job and his friends. The wisdom of this message is in the power of the Holy Spirit, the "breath of the Almighty." (32:8)
The message is impartial, and unflattering to self righteousness. (32:21,22)
Elihu places himself as Job's representative, compassionately identifying with him in solidarity as one who is also made of clay. (33:6,7) As such, we might see him "corporately repenting" with Job. He introduces the thought that what God is dealing with in this world is saving man from death-dealing pride (33:17) The source of that pride God Himself later reveals as the summation of the problem as "king over all the children of pride." (42:34) In this coming alongside Job, Elihu becomes a type of Christ, to whom he is pointing as the "messenger for him, one among a thousand, to show man His [God's] uprightness," so He can be "gracious to him," and "deliver him from going down to the Pit." Christ Himself is the ransom who experienced that second death experience on behalf of all men and whose righteousness alone must be revealed as the definitive solution to the sin problem (33:23,24). See Romans 3:21-26.
Even as God is rescuing us from sin, and viewing us in Christ as He viewed Job, as "blameless and upright," (1:8, 2:3) He is calling us to a deeper repentance, based on His revelation of how deep rooted the sin problem is in our shared, corporate humanity. Job did feel he had righteousness, and called it his own. (27:6) He was stuck in the paradigm of looking at the problem from man's perspective. This distorted his view of the controversy, and he called God, rather than Satan, his Accuser. (29:35) He had confessed his sins, and trusted in that for his justification. He had the wrong emphasis we sometimes get when we read 1 John 1:9 - on his own action, rather than the justice and mercy of God.
Elihu's message was to lay the glory of man, including Job's glory,  in the dust. Indeed, if God simply stopped supporting human life through His Spirit, all men would immediately return to dust. (34:14,15) Look at the sin problem through God's eyes!
This problem is not something that a just and merciful God can solve with a snap of His fingers. The wicked must be given a chance to reveal their final choice. (34:21-30) Nor does He necessarily work on our terms or timetable. (33:31-33)
Sin is inherently destructive, so there is profit in avoiding it, even if we suffer or feel there is no apparent immediate benefit. (35:3) But neither our sins nor our best works accomplish anything in moving the loving heart of God. (35:6-8) He remains the same. He has given all for us.
God's salvation is universal in its scope, for He is always working for the salvation of all mankind (36:5-12), and thus He allows the "hypocrites in heart" time to "store up wrath," (36:13). We have much to learn, and much to unlearn, in our understanding of God. (36:22) Eventually the latter rain message of His goodness, like a powerful lightning and thunder storm, will break upon the entire world. (36:27-37:24)   In the face of this revelation, those who are wicked will grow more so, but the wise will understand what is happening. (Daniel 12:10)
It appears in the last of Job 36, and the majority of Job 37, that Elihu is witnessing an actual storm, a metaphor and revelation of God's great power revealed in the plan of salvation. Notice the many references to rain and light. In fact we see God speaking "out of the whirlwind" beginning in Job 38. Like they did through Elihu, His words break forth directly from Him as a torrent of powerful truth, as He "takes the reins in His own hands," giving the answer in the person of Christ, for prior to the baptism of Christ we are told that "He had before communicated with humanity through Christ." (DA 116) Christ, the Messenger of the Covenant, the one whose faith would rescue mankind from the Pit by going into it Himself, was speaking to Job.
Do we see a storm gathering today? Even in the cataclysm of earth's final hour God's love is to be revealed in His mercy and justice. Eventually, as in the story of Job, God's ultimate purpose of love and blessing will be accomplished. Let us prepare for the storm by anchoring in the Rock, Jesus Christ, who is "the Lord our Righteousness." Like Job, let us be called by Elihu to the Faith of Jesus. And let us be those who proclaim by our very name and identity, "'Elihu - This is our God', we have waited for Him, for He is the one who has saved and will save us."
Ellen G. White -
    "No finite mind can fully comprehend the character or the works of the Infinite One. We cannot by searching find out God. To minds the strongest and most highly cultured, as well as to the weakest and most ignorant, that holy Being must remain clothed in mystery. But though 'clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judgment are the foundation of His throne.' Psalm 97:2, R.V. We can so far comprehend His dealing with us as to discern boundless mercy united to infinite power. We can understand as much of His purposes as we are capable of comprehending; beyond this we may still trust the hand that is omnipotent, the heart that is full of love."  (Ed 169.1)
     "He that ruleth in the heavens is the one who sees the end from the beginning--the one before whom the mysteries of the past and the future are alike outspread, and who, beyond the woe and darkness and ruin that sin has wrought, beholds the accomplishment of His own purposes of love and blessing. Though 'clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judgment are the foundation of His throne.' Psalm 97:2, R.V. And this the inhabitants of the universe, both loyal and disloyal, will one day understand. 'His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.'" Deuteronomy 32:4.  (PP 43.1)
     "This is the day of the Lord's preparation. He says: 'Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.' The great work from which the mind should not be diverted, is the consideration of our safety in the sight of God. The storm is coming, relentless in its fury. Are we prepared to meet it? Are our feet on the Rock of Ages? Are we one with Christ, as he is one with the Father?"  (RH, December 27, 1898, par. 14)
E. J. Waggoner -
"'Does the Lord require me to give this up? Can I not be saved if I do not?'"
"Have you not often heard such questions? Perhaps you yourself have had similar thoughts. There is among many people a feeling that God is exacting; that He requires too much of us, and that He ought to be satisfied with less. Indeed, if people would analyse their thoughts they would find an idea that God is really benefiting Himself at their expense.
"That this idea is actually held, is shown by the words of Elihu to Job: 'Thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God's? For thou saidst, What advantage will it be unto thee? and, What profit shall I have, if I be cleansed from my sin? I will answer thee, and thy companions with thee. Look unto the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds which are higher than thou. If thou sinnest, what doest thou against Him? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto Him? If thou be righteous, what givest thou Him? or what receiveth He of thine hand? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit the son of man.' Job xxxv.
"This thought, often unexpressed and half-unconscious, is nothing else than the reverberation of the subtle temptation by which the serpent caused the fall of Eve. With a contemptuous sarcasm he asked the question, 'Has God really said that ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?' and then followed up this insinuations against God's justice by boldly saying that there was no harm in eating from the forbidden tree: 'for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof ye shall be as gods.' Thus He made her believe that it was unjust for God to require her to abstain from eating the fruit of that  tree; that she was really been abused; and that God was profiting by their abstinence. 
"What now is the real truth in the case. Just this: that whenever we give up anything in obedience to God, we profit greatly at His expense. We talk about sacrifice, and what it costs us, foolishly forgetful of the fact that it is the Lord who has made the sacrifice, and the only real one that ever has been or can be made. Do you know what it costs the Lord every time you give up an evil habit?-Nothing less than His life. You think it will cost you your life, or at least all that life is worth, to give up that darling practice, yet in doing so you will find life in such rich measure and so full of joy as you never knew before, but it cost Christ's heart's blood to enable you to do it. Ah, never again let the shadow of the thought enter your mind, that God is causing huge inconvenience to gratify Himself. He is, on the contrary, giving you happiness that the cost of His own life.
"In this lies our strength, and the assurance that nothing is impossible to us. God is really asking us to receive something, instead of to give up. He asks us to receive His life, in which there is no shade of evil, and which is the very essence and fulness of light, and joy, and peace in order that we may be delivered from that which is to us darkness, sorrow, misery, and death. And the fact that our deliverance from the bondage of evil habits costs the Lord His life, is the assurance of deliverance; for His life has proved victorious over every temptation. Then instead of murmuring about what we are required to give up, let us give thanks to God for His unspeakable gift.
"'What shall I render unto the lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.'" Ps. cxvi. 12, 13.  (November 7, 1901 EJW, PTUK 709,710)

~Todd Guthrie