When we talk about Containers we may refer to Items used to contain, store, protect, preserve and transport products. Some obvious examples are: Cartons, Bottles, Cans, etc. Some containers are used for Shipping; they include (among others): Crates, Wooden boxes, and corrugated boxes made of corrugated fiberboard. Perhaps one of the most popular containers in the USA is the Food storage container.
Bags are also containers. There some are made for many applications and made put of many materials. And, such is also the case with the above mentioned boxes.
The vase is an open container, often used to hold cut flowers. It can be made from a number of materials including ceramics and glass. The vase is often decorated and thus used to extend the beauty of its contents. Some vases look like what would have been in the past an earthen vessel. Now, a vessel is a hollow or concave utensil, as a cup, bowl, pitcher, or vase, used for holding liquids or other contents. The term earthen refers to what they are made of: compressed earth (as in some dams), or baked or fired clay. So, an earthen vessel is a cask or utensil proper for holding liquors and other things, as a tun, a pipe, a puncheon, a hogshead, a barrel, a firkin, a bottle, a kettle, a cup, a dish, etc.
In Jeremiah 32, we find a mention of earthen vessels. God tells Jeremiah to buy a lot of land, and register the purchase. Let us read the passage,
Jeremiah 32: 10 And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances.
Jeremiah 32: 11 So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open:
Jeremiah 32: 12 And I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle's son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison.
Jeremiah 32: 13 And I charged Baruch before them, saying,
Jeremiah 32: 14 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.
This seemed like an exercise in futility being that the land would be conquered, destroyed and uninhabited shortly thereafter. But, it was a way of God letting the Jews knows that, "Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land" (Jeremiah 32: 15). So, the evidence of the purchase was put in an earthen vessel to preserve it.
This act was symbolic of the Gospel. In the Bible the term vessel can refer to people. Some examples are terms such as: Vessels of wrath, Vessels of mercy, and Chosen vessels. The term earthen can refer to us also, since we are made out of the earth.
Just as Jeremiah purchased the land, Christ bought us with His blood (Revelation 5:9). Jeremiah sealed the scrolls that were evidence of the transaction. Paul states in 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 that He has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. He follows in Ephesians 1:13-15, "… you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory."
So, we - the purchased earthen vessels - contain the sealed evidence – the invoice and the deed - of Christ purchase for us. Vessels can't do anything; it can however receive what is put into it and it is this that it can dispense; however the work is done by the One using the vessel. Let us then allow Christ to use us as His vessels. Let us receive what he puts in us – His Holy Spirit (His Word) - so that we may dispense that to others.
Christ our Pivot
This week we will study what balance is and how it is achieved. Following are the definitions of balance: stability produced by even distribution of weight on each side of the vertical axis. As a noun it means, a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc. As a verb (used with object) it means to bring to or hold in equilibrium; poise. And, as a verb (used without object) it means to have an equality or equivalence in weight, parts, etc.; be in equilibrium.
The key to create balance is to find the objects center of gravity (CG). This is the place form where if the object is suspended or supported then its weight will be evenly distributed so it will not tilt and fall. Because, the uneven object will weigh more on one side than the other, the side that weighs more will be affected more by gravity's pull and fall. For An object with uniform weight distribution the center of gravity is in the center or middle. But, if an object does not have a uniform weight distribution then the center of gravity will be closer to where most of the weight is located. For example, the center of gravity for a hammer is located close to the head. If we are talking about a person, the center of gravity may or may not be the waist area.
You can find the center of gravity of an object by suspending the object or supporting it. When you support the object the center of gravity also has to be your pivotal point. An object will balance on a pivot point when the CG is exactly above or below that pivot point. If the pivot is below the CG then the balance is unstable; any slight rotation causes the object to tip and fall off the pivot. If the pivot is above the CG then the balance is stable and a slight rotation makes the object just swing back and forth.
There is an implication that has not been mentioned: whatever is holding the object in place (the pivot) is bearing all the weight. This has implications not only for objects but for dancers, gymnasts, tumblers, etc. Dancer one must hold dancers two's body in the right spot. Dancer one must be able to bear dancer two's weight, even when dancer 1 is holding dancer two in a small area of the body.
Does this have spiritual implications? Yes, it does. If we are to find balance in life, we must let Christ be our pivot. This means we must let him hold us from our spiritual center of gravity. Where He holds us, now becomes our new pivotal point. This may not feel comfortable to us. In fact this point may not be by our spiritual waist. You need to trust that wherever He holds you, is your center of gravity. But, in time we will be amazed of how much freedom it gives us. We can "rotate" or "rock side to side or back and forth" without falling. Yes, you are limited in a sense: you have this freedom – and graceful movements - as long as you remain supported by Christ. No other pivot support can give you that grace and freedom. All of this means, of course, that Christ bears all our spiritual weight.
How does this tie in to our lesson? In Thursday lesson the author pointed out and asked, "We need to recount and remember God's dealing with us in the past. But at the same time, we need to be careful about dwelling on what happened in the past, at the expense of living correctly in the present. How do we strike a right balance here? How can dwelling too much on the past negatively influence our walk with the Lord today?" Similar questions have been asked about faith and works: how do we balance them. The answer to both questions is the same. You put all your spiritual weight on Christ and allow Him to support you by your spiritual center of gravity. Then you will discover the perfect balance between faith and works (that in fact faith yields works) and you will discover the perfect balance between "the need to recount and remember God's dealing with us in the past" without having to worry about being stuck in the past and not living the present.
Can Christ support us? Can He bear all our spiritual weight? The Bible says so. We read in Isaiah that God has laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53: 6). Just a few verses down Isaiah wrote that Christ will justify many, "for he shall bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53: 11). It is no wonder that Christ called Himself, quoting David, the "chief cornerstone" (Psalms 118: 22-23; Matthew 21: 42 – 43). Isaiah and Paul also call Christ by this name (Isaiah 28:16; Ephesians 2:20).
In ancient times the cornerstone was the stone at the corner of two walls that united them. The Cornerstone was the place where the building was joined and also the place where it rested. It was the visible corner of the foundation of the building and the starting point of all future building above the foundation. It was the most costly stone because of its beauty and strength. It was also the largest, most solid and carefully constructed stone. To cast aside the cornerstone would be to resist any future building on that foundation.
To cast aside Jesus as your chief cornerstone or spiritual weight bearer (pivot) means not having balance. You carry the weight yourself and add even more to your burden. Which also means you find no rest (Matthew 11: 28 -30). The final question is: will you trust the Lord to be you pivot? To bear your spiritual weight?
The Chosen Ones
The story of Zarepath is interesting because it contains an ironic twist of providence. The Lord often does things in an unexpected way, and chooses those whom we would never consider. What are His reasons for choosing? Are those He chooses more holy or sincere than others? Let us see. In I Kings 17 1-9, we have God reminding the Israelites not to mix with pagans nor adopt their practices. But of course they are stubborn and go their own way. So the Lord reprimands them through the prophet Elijah, by pronouncing a 3 year famine on the land. To preserve Elijah's life, the Lord sends him to the land of Zarepath in Sidon, to a widow. Talk about irony. Why was the Sidonite chosen for this task? Why not an Israelite widow? Why does God choose those whom He does? Follwing we will see a story of another unlikely choice: the shepherds at Jesus birth.
One year during mid December, a national Christian radio network changed all of its normal programming to Christmas music. Alongside the Christmas songs played, were vignettes focusing on the meaning of Christmas from a Christian perspective. After one of the vignettes, the announcers and studio audience were reminiscing about their past Christmases each recounting their favorite memories, when someone mentioned watching the animated Christmas TV special of the Peanut cartoon, in which one of the characters asked the question, "What is the meaning of Christmas?" For an animated cartoon, the character's response was enlightening; stepping forward, he, Linus, responded with a recitation of the Angel's dialogue with the shepherds in Luke 2:10-14 --
Luke 2:10 … behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
If you recall, Luke said that the shepherds had been "… in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid" (Luke 2:8 – 9). The Shepherds were chosen to witness the birth of the Messiah so they could be the bearer's of Good tidings to those in their country (Luke 2:17). And they were chosen because, as Ellen G. White says, through the silent hours of the night the shepherds kept their watch as they talked together of the promised Saviour and prayed for the coming of the King to David's throne (The Desire of Ages, p. 47). In other words they were considering, talking about and praying for God's promised Messiah. (Italics were added by authors.)
Both the scripture and Ellen White indicate that the shepherds were actively expecting the Messiah, while most others were distracted and unconcerned about spiritual things. Unbeknownst to them, their hearts were hardened by traditions, formalism and legalism.
A similar reason is given for the choosing of the Widow of Zarepath as a refuge for the Prophet Elijah. Christ says in Luke 4:23–27 that Elijah was without honor in Israel . The Lord sent Elijah away from Israel to a pagan land to find safety there.
Ellen G. White says the prophets or servants whom God had chosen for a special work, "were not allowed to labor for a hardhearted and unbelieving people. But those with hearts to feel and faith to believe were especially favored with evidences of His power…. In the days of Elijah, Israel had departed from God, clinging to their sins, they rejected the Holy Spirit's warnings through His messengers. Thus they cut themselves off from the channel by which God's blessing could come to them. This is why the Lord passed by the homes of Israel , and found a refuge for His servant in a heathen land, with a woman who did not belong to the chosen people. But this woman was favored because she had followed the light she had received, and her heart was open to the greater light that God sent her through His prophet" (The Desire of Ages, p. 238).
We can conclude, thus, that in each case the chosen are those who are eagerly and humbly listening to the Lord, and who are willing to follow what He says. They may not be the ones we would expect; however, they are the most willing. Are you willing? Are you listening?
The Commentary for this week was originally published Friday, September 28, 2007. It was based on the events that led to the apostasy which "the man of God" rebuked. The Priests fled from Israel to Judah, thus showing their commitment to God. But, generations later they conspired to kill the Man in whose sanctuary they served. The idea is that, unless prevented, we can allow our loyalty to switch from one object of affection to another swiftly and imperceptibly. For the most part, only in the passing of time will it be obvious.
Are we affair proof?
Jeroboam was the first king of Israel, after the nation divided in two kingdoms. Fearing the people of his new kingdom would ally themselves with Judah when they went to worship there, he decided to create a worship system just for his new kingdoms. As we read in 1 Kings 12: 28-30.
1 Kings 12: 28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
1 Kings 12: 29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.
1 Kings 12: 30 And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.
He built two golden calves so people would worship them in Israel. He then proceeded to elect new priests for his new religion. This was a hindrance to Israel of course. In 2 Chronicles 11:13-16 we read what happened to the priests that lived in Israel.
2 Chronicles 11:13 And the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts.
2 Chronicles 11:14 For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest's office unto the LORD:
2 Chronicles 11:15 And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made.
2 Chronicles 11:16 And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers.
Jerobaoam's choosing of new priests, meant that the Levitical priests of Israel in were virtually ostracized. Because of this they migrated to Judah, to worship Jehovah.
Hundreds of years later, the priests were far from there predecessors. While they continued to work in the temple services, their hearts were far from God. No longer tempted with pagan God's, they now worshiped money and reason. You see, a great number of them were Sadducees. They did not believe in resurrections or miracles, and probably did not believe that God speaks to man; hence, their skeptical stance toward Jesus - a miracle worker who preached resurrection and claimed that God spoke to Him (Desire of Ages 603-604). This would explain Zechariah's – John the Baptist's father – doubting the angel. Yes, he was a man that feared God; however it is possible that Zechariah had adopted some of the Sadducees' beliefs.
How could a group of people that were once so faithful to God, generations later, while still claiming to love God, kill his Son? The answer is that they switched their loyalty from God to self. While they did not play the harlot with pagan Gods, they played the harlot with gods of their own creation. They flirted with Greek philosophy and thinking. They found themselves liking the company of the Greek theories, and chose to spend more time with them than with God. The Greek system was more pleasing to their senses than was having faith in God. After a while, God's system of delayed gratification did not please the flesh as did the world's system of gratifying the flesh here and now. So much that eventually they started to believe it was impossible to deny the flesh its wants. In other words, they believed a life without Sin is impossible, and thus the sacrificial system was needed to cover for man's inability of keeping God's Law. While they were not as strict as the Pharisees, they created another form of legalism, albeit subtle. You were OK with God as long as you sacrificed an animal.
Jesus stood against all of the Sadducees beliefs. A Man in every way as they were that lived without sinning, and performing miracles they claimed could not happen (Hebrews 4:15; Desire of Ages, 537-538).
If this sounds vaguely familiar it is because it is very near to our modern belief. We do not sacrifice animals. But, we have created other requirements to support our theistic and almost existentialist form of Christianity. As the wise man said, "There is no new thing under the Sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Likewise Jesus still stands against us and our beliefs. A Man in every way as we are that lived without sinning, and performing miracles we claim cannot happen. We may not see Jesus in person, but we see how the hearts of men are miraculously transformed after they give their lives to Jesus. They are converted through the work of the Holy Spirit. From proud and arrogant, they become humble and sensitive. From uncouth they become refined. From selfish, braggarts, and self–centered they become God praising and generous. In time there will be a contrast between those who converted and those not converted. The Apostle Paul gives us this contrast in Galatians 5: 19 - 23, let us read,
Galatians 5: 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Galatians 5: 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
Galatians 5: 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Galatians 5: 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
The Holy Spirit transforms you into a new creature, if you allow Him. This process, by the way, is what keeps you loyal to God. It is the Holy Spirit that does this, if you let Him. The moment you block His work in you is the moment you are disloyal.
Abiathar, the Priest
The author of our lesson states that we're not told how Abiathar escaped the slaughter of his family. We're told only that he escaped and made his way to David. However, before fleeing, Abiathar managed to save the ephod (1 Samuel 23:6), one of the most important objects of priesthood (a sacred vestment worn by the priests; see Exodos 28:6; 39:2–7), which was used to seek God's will when making decisions. On at least two occasions, the biblical author reports that David called for Abiathar and the ephod (1 Samuel 23:9–12; 30:7, 8)
What is the ephod?
The ephod was a sacred linen garment worn by the high priests of Israel. It was in two parts-one covering the back, one the front of the body to the hips-and was fastened at the shoulders by two clasps of onyx on which were engraved the 12 tribal names, six on each. This probably symbolized that the tribes were to be their burden since they were on their shoulders. The vestment was held in at the waist by a twined linen girdle of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet; on the ephod was the breastplate - with four rows of gemstone (totaling twelve – one per tribe) and with the Urim and Thummim - hung by golden chains and rings. It is possible that since the twelve gemstones representing the 12 tribes of Israel were on the breastplate this then symbolized that Israel should be close to their hearts.
What were the Urim and Thummim?
The Urim "lights" and Thummim "perfections" were gemstones that were carried by the High Priest of Israel on the ephod / priestly garments. They were used by the High Priest to determine God's will in some situations. Some propose that God would cause the Urim and Thummim to light up in varying patterns to reveal His decision. Others propose that the Urim and Thummim were kept in a pouch and were engraved with symbols identifying yes / no and true / false.
It is unclear whether the Urim and Thummim were on, by, or in the High Priest's ephod. No one knows the precise nature of the Urim and Thummim or exactly how they were used. The Bible simply does not give us enough information. References to the Urim and Thummim are rare in the Bible. They are first mentioned in the description of the breastplate of judgment (Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8). When Joshua succeeded Moses as leader over Israel, he was to receive answers from God by means of the Urim through Eleazar the High Priest (Numbers 27:21). The Urim and Thummim are next mentioned in Moses' dying blessing upon Levi (Deuteronomy 33:8). The following Scripture likely also speak of the Urim and Thummim: Joshua 7:14-18; 1 Samuel 14:37-45; and 2 Samuel 21:1.
Abiathar escaped with this ephod providentially, in other words: by Divine design. God used Abiathar and the ephod to speak to David. David now had a way to know God's will himself. God now had a way to speak to David, his persecuted chosen one. According to Ellen White, "Still hunted by the king, David found no place of rest or security. At Keilah his brave band saved the town from capture by the Philistines, but they were not safe, even among the people whom they had delivered. From Keilah they repaired to the wilderness of Ziph" (Patriarchs and Prophets, page 660). God saw that Abiathar and the ephod were available to David. David was not left to run alone without any help. What was meant for evil God worked for good.
After a whole week of study we are left with not much knowledge about Abiathar. Abiathar does not speak in the Holy record. From the time he runs away to David all the way to when Solomon banished Abiathar to his house we do not know what motivates his actions. Paul says in Romans 14:23 "… whatsoever is not of faith is sin." If Abiathar's escape was motivated because he feared for his life and not because of faith in Jesus then to Abiathar it is Sin. We do not truly know his heart. Being faithful to David cannot be taken as an assumption of loyalty toward God.
We do know that at the end of his career Abiathar makes a choice. He chooses a man God did not choose, which to God it is a rejection of Himself (1 Samuel 8:7). This choice expresses what is in Abiathar heart already. But, at what point, how and why did Abiathar switch loyalties we do not know. Abiathar who was high Priest because he was Aaron's descendent, who for most of his life was entrusted to the precious ephod, now finds out that it takes more than lineage to serve God. As Jesus told Nicodemus, "you must be born again" (John 3:3). Could we be like Abiathar or even Nicodemus?
Light is electromagnetic radiation of a wavelength that is visible to
the human eye. It is perhaps because of this that our visual system
depends on this radiation to work. It is because of light that we can
see ourselves, where we are, what surrounds us, and where we are going.
(We can also see colors partly because of light.) Without light there
is darkness and night. Our vision is not equipped to work under those
The Bible equates God's Word with light. David says in Psalm 119: 105,
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." However
the Apostle John goes a step further. We read in John 1: 4-9 (King James
John 1: 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
John 1: 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness
comprehended it not.
John 1: 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
John 1: 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light,
that all men through him might believe.
John 1: 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that
John 1: 9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh
into the world.
John says Jesus is the Word, therefore the Light. This is something
Jesus said of Himself on several occasions (John 8:12; 9:5; 12:35;
12:46). When Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night Jesus told Him,
John 3:17-21 (King James Version)
John 3: 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the
world; but that the world through him might be saved.
John 3: 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that
believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the
name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3: 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the
world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds
John 3: 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither
cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
John 3: 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds
may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
Those who are in Sin, as David was in 2 Samuel 11, walk in darkness.
Those who walk as Uriah walked, walk in the Light. Now, just as Nabal
acted as his name - foolishly- Uriah acted as his. Uriah is a Hebrew
name that may mean: God is light, God is my light, The Lord is light,
light of the Lord, or my light is Jehovah. The meaning of the name is
derived from the prefix 'uri' meaning light, fire ; and the suffix 'ah'
meaning God, powerful. Uriah proved to be, by the grace of God, a man
of principle that frustrated David's scheme. Uriah showed him up badly.
David, who was once a man of integrity, now cannot seem to understand
We could argue that Uriah was a martyr. The light of God shone through
Uriah, exposing to David his Sin. David stood condemned, at that
moment, because he loved darkness rather than light, because his deeds
were evil, and Uriah's Light was a reproof to David. Uriah was killed
to shut off the light that exposed David's Sin. So, Uriah died because
of his unwavering belief in God. Do we have that kind of faith?
One day the scribes and Pharisees approached Jesus about an alleged bad habit the disciples had. They asked Him, "Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread" (Matthew 15:2). Context is needed to understand the question. The Pharisees and Scribes had a ceremonial washing of hands. This custom, although derived from scripture, was not scriptural. It was something the Jewish Rabbi's had established.
The fact that Jesus did not answer their question does not say that washing of hands is not needed. Jesus made a point that the Jews put more stock on the doctrines of men, than the Word of God (Matthew 15:9). To make the point Jesus told them that there practice of Corban was unbiblical. What is Corban? Jesus elaborated in Matthew 15: 3 – 6,
Mat15:3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
Mat15:4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
Mat15:5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
Mat15:6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
The Jews were basically saying to their parents "What you have done for me was a gift, I owe you nothing." This implied that if the Jews came into some money they felt no obligation to give any to their parents. They felt they were freed from caring for their parents. Christ was very critical of this practice. He said to the Jews,
Matthew 15:7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
Matthew 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
Matthew 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Jonathan stands in a great contrast to this practice. Jonathan found a way to be loyal to both his dear friend David and his father: even, when Jonathan's father, Saul, hated David to death, literally. Jonathan was not oblivious to his father's sinful ways. Jonathan seemed to have followed how we interpret Paul's advice to the Romans about the government, "as long as they do not go against the law of God, submit to them." When Saul insisted in wanting to kill David, Jonathan tried to appease his father. The scripture records one such moment in 1 Samuel 19,
1 Samuel 19:4 And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said unto him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been to thee-ward very good:
1 Samuel 19:5 For he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine, and the LORD wrought a great salvation for all Israel: thou sawest it, and didst rejoice: wherefore then wilt thou sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause?
1 Samuel 19:6 And Saul hearkened unto the voice of Jonathan: and Saul sware, As the LORD liveth, he shall not be slain.
Jonathan could have chosen to leave his father the King and go with David; but he did not. Jonathan could have disrespected his father by raising his voice and speaking badly to him. Jonathan was respectful and loving toward Saul. He is an example to this generation of Christ likeness. Jonathan is an example that in Christ we can overcome cultivated and inherited tendencies. Ellen White says of Joshua,
"On the record of those who through self-abnegation have entered into the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, stand[s] … Jonathan … [He], by birth heir to the throne, yet knowing himself set aside by the divine decree; to his rival the most tender and faithful of friends, shielding David's life at the peril of his own; steadfast at his father's side through the dark days of his declining power, and at his side falling at the last—the name of Jonathan is treasured in heaven, and it stands on earth a witness to the existence and the power of unselfish love…" Ellen G. White, Education, pp. 156, 157.
I pray we heed Jonathan's example.
A Reason for Infertility
Larry was a struggling colporteur who had too many books for sale and not enough customers. One day, a friend of Larry's, Mr. Andrew, called asking if Larry had books on parenting for sale. Apparently Mr. Andrew was friends with the Harold's, a married couple who were planning to adopt, and were looking to purchase some Christian parenting books.
Remembering that he did indeed have some parenting books, Larry got the number from Mr. Andrew, and asked the Harold's to come by to view them. Later that evening, the Harold's, having been thoroughly satisfied with their perusal of the books, ordered all of them. Excited about the books along with their upcoming adoption plans, the couple told their story. It seems that the Harold's had tried unsuccessfully for several years to have children, and now were days away from having their dream realized, through adoption. They would finally be parents of a 3 day old baby boy. Thrilled as only new parents-to-be can be, they promised to update Larry.
Six months later they called. "Larry, not only were the parenting books helpful, but we got our little boy, and -- we're now pregnant!" It became apparent during the conversation that Mrs. Harold suspected that she might be pregnant when she met Larry to buy the books, but had decided not to entertain the idea, less she be disappointed once again.
How could Mrs. Harold be pregnant after all those years of trying unsuccessfully to conceive? Larry's theory was that when Mr. and Mrs. Harold finally decided to adopt, the stress of trying to conceive was lifted, enabling Mrs. Harold to get pregnant. Although Larry didn't know of any scientific evidence supporting his theory, he was sure his explanation was logical.
Today, there is sufficient scientific evidence to prove that emotional and psychological stress can affect the body adversely. Stress affects the brain by causing an influx of stress related hormones to flood the various systems of the body. This includes the reproductive systems of both men and women. These hormones often affect menstrual cycles and can affect the body's ability to transport a mature egg through the fallopian tubes, thus hindering fertilization.
Naturally, one of the best solutions for successful reproduction is living a relatively stress free life, one of rest and quietude. This is because rest causes the brain to release hormones that frequently enable reproduction.
Christ told the disciples that they could exchange the heavy burdens they carried for rest in Him. In other words, He was their best source of rest. Let us read a text in Matthew 11.
Matthew 11:28 Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:29 Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
This is what Hannah did. We read in 1 Samuel 1:10 that "she was in bitterness of soul…" and that it was after eating that she arose and went to the temple, "… and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore." In verse 13 we read of her agony of soul as: "she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard." Verse 16 demonstrates the depth of the burden she carried as she states, "for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto." She came to Christ heavy laden, and in unburdening herself by taking His yoke, she found rest for her soul.
Speaking through Eli the priest, the Lord encouraged Hannah. Verse 18 says that Hannah "went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad." In other words, Hannah was relieved and content.
We do know that the scripture says that God "shut up her womb" thereby causing her infertility. We have also seen that it was reversed after she came to the end of herself, just as truly as was Sarah's. Each woman's complete trust in and dependence on God led to her rest.
How is it with you today, have you come to your rest?
I was driving with a friend down a country road with very little street lights. To add to our challenge we were surrounded by a very dense fog. My vehicle had no fog lights. The fog was so dense I could barely see beyond the hood of my car. Of course, trying to be cautious we were driving very slowly. After a few minutes of struggling, we figure we were better off returning and doing the trip when it was clearer. The fog prevented us from going further. This event reminded me of what happened to the Egyptians on their way to kill the Israelites. But, let's review the history before making the point.
By saying that Caleb knew what slavery was like, our lesson introduces by putting him in Egypt at the time of the Exodus. So, he witnessed God's power with the plagues. He also witnessed God's power in sparing the Israelites first born sons. He had been there when the Lord had led his people out of Egypt with a mighty hand. He had seen the sea open before Israel and swallow the Egyptian chariots and army.
These were mighty events that are often remembered when we talk about how God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians. These are the examples we use when talking about what the Israelites forgot when they refused to conquer the land of Canaan. A choice that forced them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until all that rebellious generation died. But, often forgotten is how God stalled the Egyptians with a dense cloud. An event I remember when I think how the fog prevented my friend and I from driving down that country road.
If we recall the people of Israel had reached the Red Sea; which meant they could not travel any further. Now behind them they could see the Egyptian army gaining on them. From a human point of view it seemed like a trap. At that moment the Israelites felt they had two options. Both about which death to choose: drowning in the sea or pierced by a sword. The people were sore afraid. The Biblical record shows,
Exodus 14:10 And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD.
Exodus 14:11 And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?
Exodus 14:12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
Exodus 14:13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
The Lord knew what He was doing. He told Moses what to do,
Exodus 14:16 But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
And, the Lord prevented the Egyptians from getting close to the Israelites. We read in Exodus 14: 19 – 20 how,
Exodus 14:19 And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:
Exodus 14:20 And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.
The dense cloud stalled the Egyptians from pursuing the Israelites (while at the same time giving light to the Israelites). Imagine the relief of the people who thought that in a few moments they would die in the hand of those pursuing them. And, the Lord kept the Egyptians in this cloud until it was certain the Israelites would cross the parted sea safely.
So, in the end it was a trap, but not for the Israelites, but for the Egyptians. The Lord fulfilled His Words to Moses in Exodus 14: 17 – 18,
Exodus 14:17 And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
Exodus 14:18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
God's name was glorified that day. He is merciful. How soon they forgot. Are we forgetting too ?
A man dressed as a pilot and sporting dark sunglasses is seen leaving the airplane into the tarmac with a dog walking by his side. Someone inside the terminal waiting to get on the same airplane sees this man with what seems to be a guiding dog and frantically yells out, "The Pilot is blind!" In an instant most of the crowd, also waiting for the same airplane went to the window, where they saw the man dressed as a pilot sporting dark sunglasses with a guide dog by his side. Suddenly the eyes of the awaiting crowd turned from the window to the airline employee. Fearing for her safety she calls her superior, who immediately dispatches security and launches a frantic investigation.
Security struggled to calm down the crowd, but it succeeded with minor difficulties. As soon as the crowd was calm an airline employee showed up with the news. "The man you saw is our pilot. He is not blind. The dog is not his. The dog belongs to a blind passenger in our plane. Our pilot offered to take the dog for a walk."
When we do not have the complete and or correct information we can reach the wrong conclusions which can lead to bad choices leading to bad consequences. The same thing happens when we have incorrect and or incomplete information about God.
Let us use the story of Job as an example. Job is introduced in verses 1 through 5 of the first chapter,
Job 1: 1There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
Job 1: 2And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
Job 1: 3His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
Job 1: 4And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
Job 1: 5And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
Job was a fortunate man and he seemed to credit God for it. He also constantly interceded with God for others. Starting on verse 6 there is a switch in scenes where we are made privy to background information that neither Job nor anyone else in the story has. The Devil attacks Job while God permits it and seemingly observes and waits. The rest of the story shows us how this moment in Heaven plays out on earth, specifically in Job and his acquaintances.
With out the context we have, Job struggled to understand why God would do this to him. Job's friends, also lacking this context, reached the wrong conclusions about Job and accused Job of suffering the consequences of his own iniquity. Job defended himself, while pleading to God for an answer. But, in the end of the story we find that because of this experience Job knew God better and trusted Him more.
It would behoove us to remember this story and what we learn from it when we go through our own struggles in life. This is perhaps the meaning of our memory text for this week's lesson,
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (American Standard Version)*
2 Timothy 3:16 Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.
2 Timothy 3:17 That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.
We are to learn from Job's experience. There is a great controversy in the universe, and it is being played out in our very own lives. God held Job through this trial and He will hold us also.
What God Cannot Accept
Thomas was a very happy father. He loved his son very much. There was nothing he would have not done for his son. So, when he found out his son was sick, he was of course very disturbed. It hurt him deeply. He could not sleep nor eat. The situation was even worse when Thomas found out his son's disease was highly contagious. "Is there anything I can do to help restore my son to health?" he asked. The Doctors said, "No. Your son must be quarantined. No one can be in contact with him. No one can touch him, not even breath the air he breathes. Even the plates and utensils he eats from must be decontaminated or destroyed." Thomas' heart was broken. How could this be? In this time when his son needed him most, Thomas could not be near him. Thomas loved his child. He loved him no matter what: disease or no disease. But, he could not accept the condition his son was in.
The lesson makes the statement that Paul needed to define to the church in Rome – and us – what are the grounds upon which God accepts us. So, we ask the question, what are the grounds upon which God accepts us? What is it that Paul says?
In the beginning of the letter Paul addresses the Gentiles and tells them that their unrighteous behavior shows how ungodly they are. Before the Jews got too happy, he told them that their righteous behavior was still not pleasing to God; which meant that they – the Jews - were also ungodly. In fact, Paul added that the fact that they descended from Abraham was not enough. He reminded them that Abraham – a former pagan – believed and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Romans 4:3). Paul says in Hebrews 11: 6 that without Faith it is impossible to please God. So, faith must be the answer; God accepts those who have faith. But, there is a problem with this answer.
Paul says in Romans 5: 6 that "in due time Christ died for the ungodly." Why would Christ do this? Paul says in Romans 5:8 that "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The reason why God sent His son to die for the World was His love for us (John 3:16). Love is the ground upon which God accepts us. But, He cannot accept our Sinful condition. Jesus was sent to take care of that condition; He is the cure. God wants to cure us all, but only those who accept the Cure, will be restored. Only those who accept the Cure will be truly righteous. This is the cure that Abraham accepted, and it was counted to Him as righteousness. It is the cure that the Jews rejected, but the Gentiles accepted (Romans 9: 30 – 31: 10: 2 – 3). In Romans 10: 4 Paul concluded that the Cure – Jesus – "is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." The end here means the fulfillment. So, although the cure is given to all men, only those who accept the Cure fulfill the law; which means that those who accept the cure are righteous. And, if they are righteous they are Godly.
God accepts all men. But, only those who accept the "Cure," will enjoy God's acceptance.