Thursday, December 05, 2019

Lesson 10: Worshiping the Lord

Lesson 10: Worshiping the Lord


Along with other concerns, the Israelites wanted God to accept their worship of Him. So much time had passed during the 70 years of captivity, thus fading memories of appropriate worship practices. Even before captivity, worship had deteriorated as customs of foreign nations were absorbed into Israeli worship practices so the corporate memory had faded long before Nebuchadnezzar attacked Israel. During the long years of captivity, the temple services were not functioning, so very few remembered God's requirements.

No doubt, this was one of the important subjects that they covered during the "reading" described in Nehemiah chapter 8. Terrified of being returned to captivity or permanent loss of their city and temple, the Jews began to develop rules that delineated how to worship God the "right" way. This began the legalism that plagued them for centuries. By the time Jesus was born, they had completely lost sight of the reasonfor all the rituals. Israel had come to believe performing the ritual of not Who it symbolized produced the salvific effect. They forgot that God really wants our hearts, not the performance of religious acts. The Jews rejected a Savior Who died on the cross since they believed that they did not need a Savior. A Savior isn't necessary for someone who has faithfully done all the rituals.

Another thing that Israel misunderstood regarding the sanctuary rituals was that it foreshadowed more than just forgiveness. It also pointed to the ultimate cleansing made possible at the cross. There were two phases of cleansing, one embodied by the Day of Atonement, the other represented by the red heifer. The Day of Atonement was more of a corporate event where people were to participate by searching their hearts and confessing their sins, which were transferred by blood sprinkling into the sanctuary. The ashes of the red heifer were different in that they were used to cleanse individuals who were contaminated from contact with a dead body.

The message given to our church by the messengers of 1888 emphasized that the cross of Jesus accomplished more than forgiveness. Very few Christian denominations teach that anything is required beyond forgiveness. God wanted the Seventh-day Adventist Church to understand that before the end of time a group of people will be so dedicated to His cause that they will allow God to cleanse them of sin. Contact with dead bodies was symbolic of the effects of sin, and was considered highly contagious. A cleansing ritual was required.

When Israel was in the wilderness, Moses carried out God's specific command and killed and burned the first red heifer. [1] The rabbis remember that its ashes met the need for cleansing in these special cases for priests and people for the next eight hundred years. Ezra is believed to have prepared the ashes of the second heifer on his return to Palestine with the exiles. Between this time and the pillage of the Holy City by Titus, five more were cremated, making a total of seven such sin-offerings during the sixteen centuries of formal Tabernacle and Temple worship among the Hebrews. [2]

According to the law the crimson cow must be just over three years old. While other sacrificial victims could be any color, this heifer must be entirely red. The slightest defect such as one black or white hair was not considered appropriate to represent Christ's spotless sacrifice. Like today, such a perfect animal was difficult to find among the herds of ancient Israel, and therefore, was considered precious. This reminds us of John's dilemma recorded in Revelation 5:2 when a "strong angel" inquired whether anyone was "worthy" to open the seals of the scroll.

Like Christ, the heifer was to be sacrificed outside the camp signifying that His atoning death might embrace all humanity, Jew and Gentile alike. The animal was backed into a wood structure built for cremation after the animal's throat was cut. The ashes were sieved a dozen times until perfectly fine, and finally divided into seven times seven portions. One part was kept at the Sanctuary, and the others distributed to the forty-eight strategically located Levite towns, which included the six Cities of Refuge. Knowing that this provision was near at hand whenever needed, the Lord's people rested secure, rejoicing that Heaven had provided the means for their cleansing.

"The goal of Calvary's sacrifice, 'the ashes,' or end results of Christ's atoning death, left by the satisfied fires of divine justice, now make possible complete cleansing from sin, and restoration to fellowship with God and His congregation for all who have been defiled by contact with the dead. In Israel's ceremony these ashes were conveyed to the defiled person by the 'living water.' This is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). For the Christian today the cleansing blood is brought into contact with his defilement by the Eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:13, 14)." [3]

The apostle Paul may have been thinking of this imagery when he realized he needed release from the "body of death" (Rom 7:24). His allusion was to a horrible mode of Roman execution. King Mezentius fastened live men to dead men, strapped their hands together, tied face to face, and killed them slowly in the waste and stain and clasp of a long death. Without the power from above no one is able to free himself from the incubus of his own corrupt nature; all are already defiled by contact with the dead.

"God's warning to His royal priests, to be alert to the danger of defilement by contact with those who are 'dead' in sin, challenges us today. … In time's last hour our robes must be spotless, [our] characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent efforts, they must be conquerors in the battle with evil. While the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the Sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away sin, among God's people on earth." [4]

Many in Adventism and elsewhere believe that the corporate church can do nothing to affect the coming of Christ. This disagrees with Revelation 19:7: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready."

Ellen G. White states that while the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, the church must use "diligent efforts" to become conquerors in the battle with evil. On the surface that may seem like confusion, but Revelation 19:9 gives clarity: "And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints."

Notice that the church is given all the things she needs to become purified. If the fine linen is "the righteous acts of the saints," God has provided all the rightness actions in the gift worked out by Jesus while on this earth. Like the message to Laodicea, she is invited to exchange her human character for a divine one, symbolized in the imagery of Divinely provided clothing.

Has there been a delay in Jesus' second coming? If so, whose fault is it? "It would be tragic if the remnant church should in the least consider that the delay of the second advent is due to the work of cleansing having faltered in Heaven.… Failures in sacred history have always been the result of spiritual poverty, never because of inadequate resources, imprudent strategy or a poor reputation. The seventh church, the last church, has not been indicted because she is resting and has no 'works.' … The indictment is, 'thou … knowest not' (Rev. 3:17). He points out a blindness at the very time when the sanctuary is to be cleansed." [5]

"… He [God] wanted them to know that sin is the will to kill God. The church has a continuing need to understand this. The real 'time of trouble' will not be physical pain, thirst and hunger, all of which the martyrs suffered, but rather the terrible awakening when conscience comes understand that sin kills. Such an understanding could only come at the end of time when the sanctuary is to be cleansed." [6]

--Arlene Hill

[1] Josephus, Antiquities IV:4:6.
[2] Parah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five.
[3] Leslie Hardinge,With Jesus in His Sanctuary, p 498.
[4]Review and Herald, Jan. 17,1907; Ibid, p. 503.
[5] Donald K. Short, "Then Shall the Sanctuary be Cleansed," CFI ed.,pp. 33, 34 (2018).
[6] Ibid., p.41.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: