Thursday, June 04, 2020

1888 Message Study : The Bible As History


 Memory Text: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." Exodus 20:2 NKJV.

As we contemplate the memory text in context of the title of the lesson, I wonder if this text is the one that would have come to mind as the keynote text for the topic of the Bible as history. Certainly, there are many texts in the Bible that immediately and clearly bring our minds to history in the Bible. I will cite three examples here. The first is found in I Corinthians 10:9-11, "nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come." The second is Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." The last example is found in Acts 7 where Stephen is giving his address right before he is stoned. As you recall. Stephen takes his persecutors and all within listening distance on a journey through their entire history from Abraham to Moses, to their history of rebellion against God. He ends with these words in Acts 7:51-53, "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it." These have obvious historical significance.

But these were not chosen for our memory text. Instead, we were given Exodus 20:2, "am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." Why this text and what is the purpose of history in the Bible? Ellen White has a quote which I use often and is found in many places in her writings. It is this, "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."  {RH, October 12, 1905 par. 22}. "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".  The purpose of history is for us to see how God has led and His teaching in our past history which, according to the passage gives us confidence in Christ as our leader.

This is, I believe, brought out very well in our memory text. To the Israelites, the words of the memory text, particularly the first six words metonymic (shorthand) for the covenant that God made with Abraham and through him to them, his descendants. This is a crucial part of their history. Had they paid attention to those words, the journey to Canaan would have been a mere few days!!

So, let us look at those first six words. "I am the Lord your God." Here we are introduced to the kind of God Who acted in eternity past, in history. He is Yahweh, a covenant keeping God. Certainly, this should have evoked in the  minds of the Israelites on Mount Sinai, scenes of how the Lord kept the covenant made with Abraham in Genesis 15: 7-21 where God asked Abram to bring Him a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon. When Abram brought them to Him and cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other in preparation for a sacrifice. God placed Abram into a deep sleep and showed him something in verse 13, "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years." Abram is horrified. But God gives a promise, a covenant, that He will remember them. Let us pick it up in verse 17, "when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. 18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites." His covenant? You will go into captivity, but I will come for you and give you an inheritance. Why? So that in them, all the families of the earth will be blessed." Sure enough they went into captivity for 400 years as foretold in Genesis 15: 13. But we know from later in Exodus that the Lord did come through even though they were repeatedly and persistently committed to doing evil. We can see the history of rebellious Israel through the wilderness years and beyond juxtaposed against the pleas of this covenant keeping God. Jeremiah captures this well in Jeremiah 3:14, "Return, O backsliding children," says the Lord; "for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion." Then in Hosea 11:7, we have the lament of the Lord God saying "My people are bent on backsliding from Me."

So, in this memory text and particularly in the first 6 words , a request from God that as they go through their sojourn from Egypt, knowing their history, a history that included a faithful covenant keeping God would be critical to their success in carrying out their mission to the world. History in the Bible is truly "His Story". So as we read this chosen memory text and all of the historical record in the Bible, we are to see what God is like, a revelation of His character. The Lord God showed up to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7 and said this, "6 And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation." When God showed up to answer Moses' question posed in Exodus 33:18, God gives Him an answer of what He is like. Therefore, you can trust Me Moses.

On Sabbath's lesson, the authors of the lesson state it this way, "The Bible is constituted in history. Biblical history moves in a linear direction from an absolute beginning, when God created all things, to an ultimate goal, when He will restore the earth at His Second Coming.Inherent in this statement has to be the way God will accomplish that goal. Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning, God…" That is history. What sort of God was He? Revelation 13:8 says that "He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." This is our history. We have a self-emptying, self-sacrificing God Who wants to restore us in His image. As we review how God acts throughout the Bible and in modern history as a church, we can see the urgent plan He has for accomplishing His work on earth. We began with a text from I Corinthians 10:11, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come."

Does that apply to us as Seventh-day Adventists? It would be well for us to specifically consider our own history as a people. Because when God reveals to us what He is like, a response is necessary from us in order for Him to carry out His plan of remaking us into His image so that we can see Him come again. I will use Ellen White as our history teacher.

"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders [E.J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God.  {LDE 200.1}

Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. 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 (1895).  {LDE 200.2}

The message of Christ's righteousness is to sound from one end of the earth to the other to prepare the way of the Lord. This is the glory of God, which closes the work of the third angel."--6T 19 (1900).  {LDE 200.3}

What is in our history that is reminiscent of the Israelites? Sister White tells us this, "An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren {E.J.} Waggoner and {A.T.} Jones. By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world." {1SM 234.6}

But we, by accepting our history as truth and repenting of it, can indeed cooperate with Christ in restoring this "linear direction from an absolute beginning, when God created all things, to an ultimate goal, when He will restore the earth at His Second Coming." For this to happen we cannot ignore history and keep on going. The story of the children of Israel tells us that. Repentance is crucial. It is my prayer that as we look at this week's lesson, we will stand in awe of our covenant keeping God Who will never leave us nor forsake us. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 3:3,4 "For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar."

Praise God that even though history may be uncomfortable for us because of our rebellion, He does not cast us aside. He is indeed "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth."


~Andi Hunsaker