Wednesday, November 27, 2019

1888 Message Study : Trials, Tribulations, and Lists




"Where are the Priests?"


Our lesson quarterly asks a vital question. "Where are the Priests?" Lest we rush to use this question as an opportunity to detail failings of pastors and administrators, let us remember Exodus 19:6, where God was speaking through Moses to the WHOLE nation of Israel, "you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." God's goal has always been that every one of His people will function as priests – representatives and ambassadors – for Him and His kingdom.


Peter echoes this idea in 1Peter 2:9, "you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." To the question of the lesson – and Ezra – "where are the priests" – we might respond by pointing the finger at leadership and saying, "yeah, where are you guys!", or we might more appropriately say, "Lord, here I am, send me!" (Isaiah 6:8). Because, from God's perspective, we are all "the priests"!


In Ezra 8, after delineating the households that left "Babylon", Ezra notes a missing party. Notice Ezra 8:15, "I looked among the people and the priests, and found none of the sons of Levi .", or, as the NLT puts it, "I found that not one Levite had volunteered to come along."


Notice Ellen White's commentary on this time in prophetic history:  PK 612-617.


"In the issuing of this decree by Artaxerxes, God's providence was manifest. Some discerned this and gladly took advantage of the privilege of returning under circumstances so favorable. A general place of meeting was named, and at the appointed time those who were desirous of going to Jerusalem assembled for the long journey. "I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava," Ezra says, "and there abode we in tents three days." Ezra 8:15.


Ezra had expected that a large number would return to Jerusalem, but the number who responded to the call was disappointingly small. Many who had acquired houses and lands had no desire to sacrifice these possessions. They loved ease and comfort and were well satisfied to remain. Their example proved a hindrance to others who otherwise might have chosen to cast in their lot with those who were advancing by faith.


As Ezra looked over the company assembled, he was surprised to find none of the sons of Levi. Where were the members of the tribe that had been set apart for the sacred service of the temple? To the call, Who is on the Lord's side? the Levites should have been the first to respond. . . .


There was pressing need of men of God to act as teachers of the people. And besides, the Jews remaining in Babylon were in danger of having their religious liberty restricted. Through the prophet Zechariah, as well as by their recent experience during the troublous times of Esther and Mordecai, the Jews in Medo-Persia had been plainly warned to return to their own land. The time had come when it was perilous for them to dwell longer in the midst of heathen influences. In view of these changed conditions, the priests in Babylon should have been quick to discern in the issuance of the decree a special call to them to return to Jerusalem."


This call is for us. Before we can call people out of Babylon, we need to get Babylon out of us. Again, we will never be able to powerfully give the three angel's messages, including the call to leave Babylon, when we as the Levites of God's kingdom, are still, consciously or unconsciously, living or thinking or relating or functioning on the principles of Babylon. Do we even see how frequently, and to what degree, we function from a foundation of the principles of Babylon – of the motivational reality that originates not in God's heart or kingdom, but from Satan's kingdom of Babylon.


When we look around us, how often do we identify the "problem" in the church as "them". If I'm a leader, I feel that if the laity would just be more committed and engaged, then things would move forward to God's kingdom. If I'm a lay person, do I see in leadership, a lacking work ethic and "put on" enthusiasm? If I'm conservative, do I see in the other side of the church a lack of appreciation for doctrine and obedience, and if I'm liberal do I point to the other side and see judgmentalism and a lack of compassion?


As a Levite in Babylon, and infected by Babylon, the first call is to self-examination – and repentance. Too often in order to evade my own shortcomings and lukewarmness, we give in to the temptation to see the failures in the others in order to quiet and stifle the voice of our own conscience telling us about Babylon in us.


This will never occur by a more stringent effort to finally get my act together. This will not occur by more vivid portrayals of how terrible the time of trouble will be or how amazing heavenly mansions will be. This will never occur by loading ourselves and the other priests and Levites down with a greater sense of evangelistic obligation.


It is ONLY the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). This will only occur as we are brought deeper and deeper in our appreciation for the beauty and breadth of God's love and goodness for us as seen in the life and death and heavenly ministry of Christ for us. The revelation of the goodness of God in Christ will supply the depth of motivation needed to bring this generation to a final repentance – not to be repented of.


"And (Jesus) shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.  Malachi 3:3


Where are the priests? Where are the priests? Where are the priests? Lord, I want Your goodness to do a work of repentance in my heart, which leads to a purity and righteousness, which will finally allow You to reveal to the world – my family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and strangers – the beauty of your character in my life. Get Babylon out of me! And may I be a priest and Levite for you. Here I am Lord – please – SEND ME!


~Bob Hunsaker

Thursday, November 21, 2019

1888 Message Study : God and the Covenant




Israel, after 70 years of captivity, was called out of Babylon to return to Judea to restore the temple, repair the wall, and rebuild the city. With much opposition and delay the temple was completed and with Nehemiah's leadership the wall was completed and gates hung. Despite all the setbacks they were now able to see results and were keenly reminded that none of this would have happened but by the grace of God clearing the way and enabling the people to bring this all to fruition.


With hope restored and hearts sensitive to the moving of God's Spirit, they gathered during the seventh month for the feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles to rededicate their hearts and lives to God. The word of God was read and studied and their history was reviewed. God's faithfulness was made plain and contrasted with their unfaithfulness. Hearts were moved to repentance individually and corporately for their sins and the sins of their fathers.


"And because of all this, we make a sure covenant and write it: our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.' We will not neglect the house of our God". (Nehemiah 9:38, 10:39b)


Determined to not repeat the sins of their fathers they made a covenant, produced a document, outlined a plan, and made an oath to stay faithful. They determined to separate themselves from the world, to keep the law of God, to observe all the commandments, to not intermarry with the surrounding people groups, to not buy food or any other goods from the merchants on the Sabbath, to support the Levites with their tithe, and to not forsake the temple of God.


Wow! They were preparing for translation.


For six generations they perfected their outward obedience with such exactitude adding laws upon laws. All of this only to not recognize God made flesh when He walked among them. Or perhaps they did recognize Him but did not like what they saw. In either case, leaders and laity alike, ultimately rejecting Jesus and put Him to death.


Making a covenant with God is a tricky thing. I can't help but see an old covenant promise being made here by Israel. Don't get me wrong. It is necessary to make the decision in our hearts to turn from rebellion and want a change in our life. But the covenant made here by the people harkens back to Exodus 19. The Lord's words in Exodus were, "If you will indeed obey (listen to) My voice and keep (care for, guard and protect) My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people for all the earth is Mine." (Exodus 19:5). To that Israel who had just been delivered from the bondage of Egypt said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do" (Exodus 19:8). A pledge or promise to do something that He had never asked for. It was His covenant that He was asking them to listen to. He never asked them to make a covenant of their own in return.


Listen to Waggoner while commenting on Galatians 4:21-26 mentioning Exodus 19.


"So when the people came to Sinai, God simply referred them to what He had already done and then said, 'Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar people: for all the earth is Mine.' Exodus 19:5. To what covenant did He refer? Evidently to the one already in existence, His covenant with Abraham. If they would simply keep God's covenant, keep the faith, and believe God's promise, they would be a 'peculiar treasure' unto God. As the possessor of all the earth, He was able to do for them all that He had promised.


The fact that they in their self-sufficiency rashly took the whole responsibility upon themselves does not prove that God had led them into making the covenant.


If the children of Israel who came out of Egypt had but walked 'in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham' (Romans 4:12), they would never have boasted that they could keep the law spoken from Sinai, 'for the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.' (Romans 4:13). Faith justifies. Faith makes righteous, If the people had had Abraham's faith, they would have had the righteousness that he had. At Sinai the law, which was "spoken because of transgression" would have been in their hearts." Glad Tidings pp. 99-100


So, at Sinai an old covenant was made and the new covenant was rejected. Therefore, the law was engraved on tables of stone rather than on their hearts.


So, turning back to Nehemiah, I can't help but see the same thing taking place here. The people have recounted all the great things God has done. His endless mercy, His long-suffering, and His unrelenting deliverance. And in response to this the people felt compelled to do something God never asked them to do. To make a covenant with Him rather than express faith in His covenant that He had already made.


How could everything seem like it was going so well after coming out of Babylon, restoring the temple, and repairing the wall? Yes, there were setbacks but now that those were apparently behind them this seventh month was a time of repentance and re-dedication. And now a promise to God. This is so reminiscent of Sinai the Golden Calf experience that followed shortly after their old covenant promise of Exodus 19. And now another old covenant promise here in Nehemiah 9 and 10. How do we know it was an old covenant promise? Because like all our promises which are like ropes of sand (SC 47, see below) the people quickly fell away from their resolve on Sabbath observance requiring Nehemiah to enact restrictions on merchants so their food and goods were not available for the people to buy on Sabbath. But even more significantly this marked the beginning of the process to prepare a people that would get incredibly good at keeping laws and staying separate from the others around them. So good in fact that several generations later they would ultimately be so focused on those things that they would not recognize the Christ when He came to them.


Could it be that modern day spiritual Israel who has also been called out of Babylon, who has been called to restore the temple (Daniel 8:14) and repair the breaches in the law of God that serves as a hedge and wall for His people have followed in the steps of Israel in Ezra and Nehemiah's day. Have we not also at times individually or collectively also made a covenant, an oath, a promise to stay faithful. We can get really good at keeping the commandments outwardly, perfecting our Sabbath keeping, be consistent in our tithing, and trying to stay separate from the world. Could it be, like Israel, after multiple generations we are better prepared to reject the living Christ when He comes to our heart temple than we are at actually allowing Him to prepare us for translation?


"Behold the days are coming says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and with the house of Judah - not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their god, and they will be My people." Jeremiah 31:31-33


Will we let this day be now?


"Here are those that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" Revelation 14:12


This will never happen by us making a return covenant or oath to God. It will only happen by faith (believing and yielding) in the covenant He has already made to us.


Even so come Lord Jesus.


Additional reading: Many are inquiring, "How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?" You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus, your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him. SC 47.1


~Kelly Kinsley

Thursday, November 14, 2019


NOVEMBER 16, 2019

As I looked at our lesson title this week and realized it was our seventh lesson for the quarter, it brought to mind Matthew 18:21 where Peter questions Jesus on forgiveness and asks how many times we should forgive our brother, thinking his suggestion of 7 times was a generous thought. The response of Jesus that 70 times 7 was appropriate was essentially saying that we should be willing to forgive with no limit. The real underlying message for us here is that God's forgiveness has no limit just as His agape love has no limit, for God is love! When we come to see more of the depth of His love and His sacrifice then our hearts and minds will be changed and as new creatures in Christ, we also, through the power of the Holy Spirit in us would be willing to forgive our brothers and sisters without limit. Before we can forgive, we need to see His forgiveness of us and so a key part of our lesson study this week will be to take a closer look at God's forgiveness of us.
The other key topic we want to study this week is the prayer of repentance in Nehemiah 9. As it mentions on Sunday's lesson, this prayer was not just an individual prayer of repentance but a "corporate prayer and confession that demonstrated a deep understanding of the nature of sin". Corporate repentance is significant in scripture and has a special significance for God's last day people today as well.
Let us start our study of God's forgiveness by looking at Christ's forgiveness of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11:
"In His act of pardoning this woman and encouraging her to live a better life, the character of Jesus shines forth in the beauty of perfect righteousness. While He does not palliate sin nor lessen the sense of guilt, He seeks not to condemn but to save." (DA 462.3)
What deliverance! What a Saviour! This story clearly shows forgiveness taking place before any confession or repentance. In fact, the Bible shows no evidence of any confession. Yet she was clearly pardoned and given hope when Jesus said "go and sin no more."
Can you imagine what she must have thought? Is it really possible? Can she not only be pardoned but cleansed? Is it possible she can actually go out and sin no more? She sees hope in the Lord's command. She wants to be cleansed. She wants to go and sin no more.
In Desire of Ages, we read: "In astonishment she saw her accusers depart speechless and confounded; then those words of hope fell upon her ear, "Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more." Her heart was melted, and she cast herself at the feet of Jesus, sobbing out her grateful love, and with bitter tears confessing her sins. This was to her the beginning of a new life, a life of purity and peace, devoted to the service of God. In the uplifting of this fallen soul, Jesus performed a greater miracle than in healing the most grievous physical disease; He cured the spiritual malady which is unto death everlasting. This penitent woman became one of His most steadfast followers. With self-sacrificing love and devotion, she repaid His forgiving mercy." (DA 462.1,2)
We see that her pardon led to a desire for cleansing and she was cleansed. The woman was pardoned before she confessed, and the pardon led to confession, repentance, and cleansing.
Here are several scripture texts dealing with forgiveness that further clarify what Christ has done for each and every sinner at the Cross:
Ephesians 1: 7,8: "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding."
Romans 3: 23: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
Colossians 1: 13,14: "For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness, and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, Who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins."
Consistent with these scriptures are several quotes from EGW, Waggoner, and Jones that help us to see more of the depth of Christ's infinite love and sacrifice in paying the penalty of the second death for every sin and every sinner none of which we earned or deserved:
"Justice demands that sin be not merely pardoned but the death penalty must be executed. God, in the gift of His only-begotten Son, met both these requirements. By dying in man's stead, Christ exhausted the penalty and provided a pardon." (1SM 340.1)
"Christ became sin for the fallen race, in taking upon Himself the condemnation resting upon the sinner for his transgression of the law of God. Christ stood at the head of the human family as their representative. He had taken upon Himself the sins of the world. In the likeness of sinful flesh, He condemned sin in the flesh." (RH 5/6/1875)
"Jesus has purchased redemption for us. It is ours;" (YI 11/4/1897)
"All men have been bought with this infinite price. By pouring the whole treasury of heaven into this world, by giving us in Christ all heaven, God has purchased the will, the affections, the mind, the soul, of every human being.
Whether believers or unbelievers, all men are the Lord's property." (COL 326).
Many Christians, including Adventists, do not understand that all of our sins were pardoned at the cross, although scripture is clear on this point. Some believe that the free gift of salvation is only a provision and that your sins are only forgiven when you are baptized, confess, and repent…and even then, it only applies to past sins. Every future sin must then be confessed and repented of, otherwise you are lost. In other words, we have to earn both our forgiveness and salvation.
This is in contrast to the peace and assurance that God wants us to have when we believe that the free gift of salvation is already ours in Christ. By faith, (the faith of Jesus), we believe that we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
We can see that forgiveness is more than a legal act or pardon by which He sets us free from condemnation. God also wants to reclaim us from sin-it is the outflow of His redeeming love that transforms the heart and causes us to want the cleansing only He can provide.
And so, we have Jesus as our High Priest in the heavenly Sanctuary, cleansing us from our sins and preparing a last day people for His second coming. But it is with a moment by moment surrender to His will through the power of the Holy Spirit that we will recognize our need and desire that cleansing so we may claim His victory over our sins and our sinful nature until He comes.
"We do not repent in order that God may love us, but He reveals to us His love in order that we may repent." (COL189.1)
"His death has secured life and pardon for all. Nothing can keep them from salvation except their own perverse will. Men must take themselves out of the hand of God, in order not to be saved." (Waggoner on Romans p.144)
"The Lord will not compel anyone to take it…no man will die the second death who has not chosen sin rather than righteousness, death rather than life." (GCB1895Feb.21, p.269)
"All the grace of God is freely given to everyone bringing salvation to all…Having given it all, He is clear, even though men may reject it." (RH 4/17/1894)
Now, as we move on with our study, this week we look at Nehemiah 9 and the corporate prayer of all the people, those who had been oppressed and their oppressors, including all the leadership, priests and Nehemiah himself. Their prayer recognized God's goodness and His mercy while acknowledging, confessing and repenting in sorrow not only their sins individually but as a people and the sins of their forefathers all of which had brought them to this point. In order to go forward and complete the rebuilding of Jerusalem, this was necessary so that they would be united as a nation under God and His principles.
The "corporate" concept is an important part of scripture in both the Old and New Testament. Just one example is Daniel's prayer (Daniel 9) stating "we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled" and asking for God's forgiveness.
Similarly, in the New Testament in Romans 5 we see how Christ as the Second Adam took the entire human race into Himself so that "by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (vs.18).
We also see at Christ's baptism (Matthew 3:13-17) corporate repentance. John was reluctant to baptize Jesus. "How could he, a sinner, baptize the Sinless One? And why should He who needed no repentance submit to a rite that was a confession of guilt to be washed away?" (DA 110.2). "Jesus did not receive baptism as a confession of guilt on His own account. He identified Himself with sinners, taking the steps that we are to take, and doing the work that we must do." (DA 111.2). "As one with us, He must bear the burden of our guilt and woe. The Sinless One must feel the shame of sin. The peace lover must dwell with strife, the truth must abide with falsehood, purity with vileness." (DA 111.4). Clearly, this was Christ's corporate repentance for us and as us.
So now let's bring this back to God's last day church today. We are indeed His final church, the Bride that Christ, as our groom, has been waiting for to be ready for Him to come. Ellen White said multiple times that Christ would have come before 1900. One example is the following:
"Had the purpose of God been carried out by His people in giving to the world the message of mercy, Christ would, ere this, have come to the earth, and the saints would have received their welcome into the city of God." (Testimonies for the Church 6:450 (1900).
Revelation 3 tells us that Laodicea is God's final church, and EGW has reminded us multiple times of our Laodicean condition thinking that we are OK and in need of nothing when in fact vs. 17 tells us we are actually wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. The good news is that in vs. 18 God has the solution for us:
"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 that 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).
But Christ's message to the angel (leadership) of the church (vs.14) tells us we need more as seen in vs. 19: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent."
While we, of course, do need individual repentance this is a message to His bride, God's final church, His last day church in our Laodicean condition. He is looking for our corporate repentance as a church and His bride. Our groom has been patiently waiting for us since He gave us a most precious message in 1888 to share with the world.
"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…. 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." (TM 91/92)
So, as with Nehemiah and his people, we also need to come together in unity, repent, seek His forgiveness and go forward to share the message God gave us that the world is waiting for. One final encouraging thought from Prophet and Kings, (Ch. 56, p.668) which deals with Nehemiah 9:
"Every true turning to the Lord brings abiding joy into the life. When a sinner yields to the influence of the Holy Spirit, he sees his own guilt and defilement in contrast with the holiness of the great Searcher of hearts. He sees himself condemned as a transgressor. But he is not, because of this, to give way to despair; for his pardon has already been secured. He may rejoice in the sense of sins forgiven, in the love of a pardoning heavenly Father. It is God's glory to encircle sinful, repentant human beings in the arms of His love, to bind up their wounds, to cleanse them from sin, and to clothe them with the garments of salvation."

John and Monica Campbell

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Friday, November 08, 2019

1888 Message Study : The Reading of the Word



So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

God had spoken the prophetic word (Jeremiah 29:10) that the Jews would be restored from their captivity. Belief in this word was the key in the hand of Daniel's faith to unlock heaven's storehouse, as he prayed for God to fulfill His word. The confirmation came as the starting point for arguably the two most important prophecies of all time. The prophetic benchmark given to Daniel was that the wall of Jerusalem would be rebuilt even in troublesome times, as God's word was fulfilled in the command of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:12-26; Daniel 9:25). It took some time from the command before the wall was finished, but God had done a marvelous work, recognized by all the surrounding nations (Nehemiah 6:16).

As the people saw what God had done, that His word was sure, they wanted to hear more. They gathered as a corporate body and asked Ezra to read the Word of God to them over the many centuries preceding. This was to be a review of God's teaching in their past history at the end of the seventy years, prefiguring a similar review at the end of both the 70 week and the 2300-day prophecies. We should readily own today's application throughout Nehemiah chapter 8.

"In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what God has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history." {CET 204.1}

The reading of the Word by Ezra was significant in that the command had been given to have the congregation corporately review God's Word every seven years, during the year of release of debts. We see in this particular case that the people came to the realization of how much of their corporate debt was needing to be released, and it was overwhelming, to the point of tears.

This came about because there were passages that brought deep conviction of sin. But there were passages of God's preemptive mercy not to be overlooked, like Isaiah 44:22:

"I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you."

It was a blessing that there were helpers giving the sense of each passage - the practical application of Christ-centered teaching. The palpable experience of joy was possible because someone understood the amazing loveliness of God's character seen in the face of the promised Messiah. God was all about reconciling Israel, and through them the world, to Himself.

The feast of booths could now be celebrated in the context of God's deliverance from Babylon, like it had been for His deliverance from Egypt. Not too many years hence, the Messiah would arrive to tabernacle in humanity, bringing deliverance to the humanity that needed it. To be truly set free, every person must be free from the Babylon within - the confusion of selfish motives and distorted views of God.


Now from A.T. Jones:

The Course and Cause of Backsliding

"The first coming-out of Babylon was a glorious deliverance; a wonderful manifestation of God's power and grace, both through the powers of the world and upon His people. The most perfect freedom in work and worship in the world, was theirs. Heaven and earth were united in their favor. But instead of being absolutely swallowed up in pure devotion out of gratitude for all this wondrous favor of God, they soon began to drift into formality and worldliness; they neglected the cause and work of God and thought of worldly gain; they so slighted the truth of God, so lost true love for it, that they neglected to instruct their own children, the children, therefore, easily swung into the ways of the heathen, into essential sympathy with the heathen, so that they could readily choose the heathen in marriage; and the parents were themselves so in essential sympathy with heathenism in principle, that they could readily assent to their children's marriage with the heathen, not seeing 'but that the children were about as well off as marrying the heathen as in marrying among their own people.' And this was true, because by the general neglect of the parents among their own people, the young of their own people had grown up within the heathen that any vital difference was difficult to see. And yet in the presence of all the essential confusion, these people were willing to pride themselves on being 'out of Babylon.' 'We have the truth.' 'God speaks to us by prophets.' {June 18, 1902 ATJ, SITI 5.2}

And when down in Babylon devout souls, seeking the full truth, longing for light and freedom and for deliverance from the confusion and darkness and redemption around them, really found deliverance and came 'out of Babylon' indeed, glad even to know that God was really speaking by living prophets to His people who were out of Babylon,— when these dear souls came, all expectant, up to Jerusalem to the people of God, as to the very gate of heaven, they were so disappointed and pained at the low and loose condition of the people in worship, in morals, and in mixing with the world, that they were made ashamed and to blush to lift up their faces to God in view of the iniquities that had increased over their heads, and trespasses that were grown up unto the heavens." {June 18, 1902 ATJ, SITI 5.3}

Today it appears we are no better in coming and staying out of Babylon's influence than was Israel in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. But someday soon, God's modern Israel will experience the repentance of the ages. There will be a deep joy in this experience as they finally understand Romans 3:19-24. The lesson poses discussion questions based on this passage. How do the law and gospel together provide the opportunity to mourn over our sins and simultaneously rejoice in the Lord?

Perhaps it is in the realization that the free justification (vs 24) of all who have sinned (vs 23) is something already there in Christ for each of us. When we truly hear and believe the Word made flesh, in our flesh, the law and the gospel will be in perfect harmony as He dwells within. May He truly tabernacle with each of us now in preparation for the anti-typical feast of tabernacles! That prospect is true cause for joy and celebration.

~Todd Guthrie