Friday, August 24, 2007


Elkanah, was a Levite, who dwelt at Ramah, in Mount Ephraim. He was a person of wealth and influence, a kind husband, and a man who feared and reverenced God. He was the father of Samuel. Due to irregularities in the Sanctuary services at Shiloh, his services were not required at the sanctuary, yet, like many another Levite during the period of the Judges (Judges 17:8, 9), Elkanah went up as a common Israelite with his own sacrifices to encourage his neighbors and set them a good example. Although he lived in the midst of an evil environment, his spirituality was evidently at a high level. Elkanah was faithful in his worship and in the offering of his sacrifices (The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 455).

Hannah was Elkanah's first wife. Elkanah's love for Hannah was deep and unchanging, yet a cloud shadowed their domestic happiness. The home was not made joyful by the voice of childhood. At length the strong desire to perpetuate his name led the husband, as it had led many others, to adopt a course which God did not sanction--that of introducing into the family a second wife, to be subordinate to the first. In short, when she didn't produce offspring, he took another wife. This move did not bring happiness expected. This act was prompted by a lack of faith in God, and was attended with evil results. The peace of the hitherto united and harmonious family was broken. Sons and daughters were added to the household; but the joy and beauty of God's sacred institution had been marred and the peace of the family was broken. Peninnah, the new wife, was jealous and narrow-minded, and she bore herself with pride and insolence. Upon Hannah the blow fell with crushing weight, and hope seemed crushed and life a weary burden. All happiness seemed forever swept away from her life. She bore her trials uncomplainingly, yet her grief was none the less keen and bitter (ST, October 27, 1881 par. 2; Ellen G. White, Daughters of God, p. 39).

Just because something is common or accepted it does not make it right. Bigamy was a common practice in Elkana’s time. However, it was a practice that God forbade (Genesis 2:18 – 24; Mal 2:14, 15). Something Elkanah should have known. While God did not strike Elkanah with a lightning when he took Penninah as wife, He did allow Elkanah to suffer the consequences of His Sin, and see how it also affected others in His circle. Elkanah’s bigamy tarnished his record and blighted the happiness of everyone in his household.

Bigamy – or polygamy – is not commonly accepted in Western society. In fact, in many Western countries it is against the Law. But that has not stopped men – and women – from pursuing illicit relations outside of marriage. Many of these are professed Christians who, as Elkanah, go to church every Sabbath (or Sunday). They are faithful in their tithes and offerings. And, they participate faithfully in the church programs. Their reasons may vary, but normally they are selfishly satisfying sinful desires that their spouse cannot or will not satisfy. The consequences are disastrous. Trusts are betrayed, relationships broken, families split apart; friends and associates are forced to take sides. This in turn weakens our institutions. Most importantly, this practice – as all Sin - drives those who practice it and those who are affected by it from God.

Faithfulness in some aspects of life does not atone for departure from God’s instruction in other particulars. Christianity is not a point system. It is not about a tally of your deeds at the end of your life, and if the good outweighs the bad then you are saved. Christ said it Himself, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Paul said it in these words, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Christianity is a daily moment by moment walk with Christ. Christianity is a constant and increasing yielded walk with the indwelling Spirit of God. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” John 14:16. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). While true Christianity is enmity with the world, compromising does not bring the peace temptation promises. Christianity requires letting go of my will, and upholding God’s. And, we do this not to please God, but out of gratitude for all He has done for us. We can only do this with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Repeating For Emphasis

What do you do when you want to stress something? What do you do when you want to make sure that others know that you consider that what you are saying is important? There are various techniques. If you are speaking, you can change the tone of voice, or the speed of your words. If you are writing you can modify the letters. One other way for both speakers and writers is to repeat things. This happens often in the Bible. Things are repeated to bring them to our attention. Sometimes what’s repeated for emphasis is a word, phrase, or a sentence. Sometimes what’s repeated for emphasis is a motif or theme. This week study highlights one of those motifs in the Bible: God brings the bride to the groom.

In the first lesson we saw how God brought Eve to Adam. We see this pattern repeated with Rebekah and Isaac. We could also argue that this was the case with Leah and Jacob. This week we see this same pattern repeated in Ruth and Boaz.

What is impressive is how God did it. According to the lesson God made or allowed at least 7 events to happen for Boaz to meet Ruth. The odds of they meeting were miniscule. But, to God nothing is impossible. Let us read the lesson’s suggestions.

“In the beginning of the story, the odds of Ruth ending up marrying Boaz were indeed minuscule. Many "circumstantial" events were necessary to lead to their eventual meeting and marriage. (1) There had to be a famine in Judah, else the family of Elimelech would not have left Bethlehem. (2) They had to choose Moab rather than some other country for refuge, such as Egypt or Edom, in order to come in contact with Ruth. (3) There had to be eligible bachelors in Naomi's family to marry Ruth. (4) The male had to die in order for Ruth to be eligible for a second marriage. (5) The famine in Judah had to end so that Naomi could consider going back. (6) Ruth had to decide to accompany Naomi. (7) Ruth had to happen to glean in the field of Boaz.” (Friday, August 17, 2007)

So, what seems circumstantial, accidental, or coincidental is really providential. This marriage was years in the making –long before Ruth and Boaz even met - and everything had to be right for it to happen. Most importantly, the hearts of those involved had to be right with God. In the fullness of time, God brought Ruth to Boaz. Boaz, like Ruth, was a Godly man. He treated his servants well. He was available for marriage. It seems that although he was not married, he was not a womanizer. We do not know if he was never married or a widow. We can only speculate that he was waiting on the Lord to provide for him. Boaz respected Ruth; he did not take advantage of her. They did not have sex before marriage.

If Boaz was waiting on the Lord, he was following the Word of God. Let us read the following verses on waiting on the Lord.

Isaiah 40: 31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Romans 8:25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

Psalm 27:14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

It seems this is another recurring motif. Isaiah, Paul, and David lived in different times. However, all three repeated the same concept. The emphasis is clear. Waiting on the Lord has benefits. It requires hope, trust, belief …in fact: Faith. Waiting on the Lord shows patience. Faith and Patience are both part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). From this we may understand that those who take matters in their own hand are sinning. Not only that, but by taking things in their own handed they also get in the way of God’s providence. God’s work of probably many years is wasted because we want our way instead of God’s.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Samson vis a vis Christ

Today we learn a new expression. Today’s expression is “vis a vis.” It is a word that originates from the French language. It literally means face to face. But other uses include: in relation to or compared with, and as opposed to. Let us aplly it to this week’s lesson. Let us put Samson face to face with Christ, to see how they compare and how they contrast, or oppose each other.

Let us look first at the similarities, or how they compare.
1. In both cases the parents were visited by angels before baby’s birth. Also, in both cases the angel spoke first to the mother, and afterwards to the father. And, in both cases the angel gave information as to what the babies’ mission would be. (Judges 13: 3-14; Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:18 – 25).
2. Both Samson and Christ performed supernatural things because they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Judges 14:6, 19; Luke 4:1, 14).
3. Both were persecuted by their enemies (Judges 16:2; Matthew 26:4; John 7:1).
4. Both are betrayed for money (judges 16:5; Matthew 26:15).
5. Both are asked to perform for mockery (Judges 26:15; Luke 23:8).
6. Both die for the sake of others (Judges 13:5, 16: 28 -31; Romans 5:6, 8; 14:9; 1 Corinthians 15:3).

Now let us look at the contrasts or they oppose each other.
1. Where Samson was indulgent, Christ was the epitome of temperance. Not that Christ was as strict as John the Baptist was in eating. However, Christ knew no woman. Samson fornicated or slept around.
2. Samson was presumptuous, Christ never dared to presume (Judges 16:20; Mat 4: 6, 7).
3. Samson gave himself the glory for his strength, Christ always gave the glory to the Father (Judges 16:16, 17; John 8: 28, 10: 25).
4. Samson’s good deeds including his death could not save humanity from Sin; Christ’s death did save humanity, including Samson.

Yes, Samson left a lot to be desired. He was indulgent, presumptuous, and a seeker of pleasure. However, God never gave up on him. And, neither does God give up on us. After all, we are no better than Samson. It would be easy for us to look back at Samson and say “Samson should have known better.” Samson knew and it was not enough. We, too, can know also and it will be not enough. I remember the old expression, “There go I, but for the grace of God.” And, yes maybe you will not sleep around, but the Devil has plenty of other temptations in his arsenal for us. The bottom line is that only Christ can deliver us. We have this promise “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20). And another one, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

God answers Samson’s prayer to destroy the temple and kill everyone in it. Not once is God heard saying, “Why do you come to me now? Did I not warn you enough? You are on your own, buddy.” No. God stays true to His love for us, as Paul says in Hebrews 7: 25,

Hebrews 7: 25 Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Samson repented and turned to God, and God was waiting. Will we repent and turn to Him? He is also waiting for us.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Only a Warning

A man, best known as Mr. X, received a small manila envelope. He was a sniper for hire. In the envelope there was a picture of the man who was to be his target, Mr. Waters. Also in the envelope, were papers detailing information about Mr. Waters, including his itinerary. At the bottom of the itinerary, there is a suggested time and place for the hit. A smaller envelope had a sum of money, and a card with a sentence written on it. It read, “Do not shoot to kill.” Mr. X thought it was unusual, but welcomed the challenge. At the accorded time and place Mr. X shot at Mr. Waters. The bullet did not hit Mr. Waters, but hit so close that there was no misunderstanding it was an attempt to Mr. Waters’s life. After the incident, Mr. Waters was shaking, and looking toward any sound he heard. With a shaky voice, he told some of his associates how his life was spared, because the shooter but missed. Suddenly, the phone rang and a grave voice was heard saying, “The sniper missed on purpose. Next time he won’t. This time was only a warning.” While God never forces us to do anything, He does warn us when we are straying from His will.

When we read Exodus 4: 24-26 we realize that the Lord wanted to warn Moses. Let us read the passage,

Exodus 4: 24 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.
Exodus 4: 25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.
Exodus 4: 26 So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

In the book Patriarchs and Prophets, Sister White expounds on this incident. She calls it “a startling and terrible warning.” Let us read what she said,

“On the way from Midian, Moses received a startling and terrible warning of the Lord's displeasure. An angel appeared to him in a threatening manner, as if he would immediately destroy him. No explanation was given; but Moses remembered that he had disregarded one of God's requirements; yielding to the persuasion of his wife, he had neglected to perform the rite of circumcision upon their youngest son. He had failed to comply with the condition by which his child could be entitled to the blessings of God's covenant with Israel … Zipporah, fearing that her husband would be slain, performed the rite herself, and the angel then permitted Moses to pursue his journey. In his mission to Pharaoh, Moses was to be placed in a position of great peril; his life could be preserved only through the protection of holy angels. But while living in neglect of a known duty, he would not be secure; for he could not be shielded by the angels of God. In the time of trouble just before the coming of Christ, the righteous will be preserved through the ministration of heavenly angels; but there will be no security for the transgressor of God's law. Angels cannot then protect those who are disregarding one of the divine precepts.” PP 255 - 256

So, the Lord in his mercy decided to warn Moses, not destroy him. The angel could have killed Moses if that was truly God’s will. But, God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). He wants us to repent. God wants us to turn around toward Him and to give ourselves entirely to Him. He wants us to be wedded to Him. There is a relationship between weddings and circumcision.

According to this week’s lesson,

“Several peoples of the ancient Near East practiced circumcision. So it was not a new custom that God invented for His people. He just gave it new meaning. For many it was a sign of marriage, performed when a man was wedded, but God used it as a sign of His special link with His chosen people.”

Let us consider this practice a little closer. A man removes the foreskin from penis when he is getting married to a woman. When they have sex and become one, his penis will be covered by His wife’s vagina. When our hearts are circumcised the foreskin of self-righteousness is removed, and God covers it with His own righteousness. At this point we are one with God and married to Christ.

This story lets us know that God is particular about details. What we often consider trivial and meaningless, God may consider the greatest offense. Many times is not the action, but the spirit in which we do what we do. It may be rebelliousness or presumption. He loves us, and because He does He often warns us with rebukes. Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” There are no exceptions. God loves us all, and we are all His children. All of us go through trials and tribulations. God allows them for His purpose: to bring us so close to Him, we become (and remain) one with Him. The more we heed to God and His warnings the more our hearts are circumcised and covered with his Righteousness. However, it is important to note, 1) it is God Who sends or allows the warnings, it is also God Who circumcises our hearts, and lastly, it is God Who covers our hearts with His righteousness. Resisting God’s work in us can come in two ways: 1) “I do not want it,” or 2) “I want it, but I want to do it myself.” Either way ends up with the same results: a heart that is covered with self–righteousness. Without the Righteousness of Christ covering our hearts we shut ourselves out of heaven and eternal life.