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