Friday, July 29, 2011

Wildfire of Sin

Wildfire of Sin


Fire is essential to human survival. The sun itself, by which we receive some of God's life-sustaining energy, is to us a perpetual hydrogen-fueled cauldron of purifying energy.  A small controlled fire in our house or out in the field can give us light and warmth.  But, fire can also be destructive if not controlled.  It can and will consume everything in its path, leaving behind nothing but ashes. 


One example of uncontrolled fire is a wildfire.  A wildfire is any uncontrolled fire that they takes place outdoors in areas of grassland, woodlands, bush land, scrubland, peat land, and other wooded areas that act as a source of fuel, or combustible material.  A wildfire differs from other fires by its extensive size, the speed at which it can spread out from its original source, its potential to change direction unexpectedly, and its ability to jump gaps such as roads, rivers and fire breaks.  The four major natural causes of wildfire ignitions are lightning, volcanic eruption, sparks from rock falls, and spontaneous combustion.  However, many wildfires are attributed to human sources such as arson, discarded cigarettes, and sparks from equipment, etc.  Wildfire is used as a metaphor for things that spread, circulate or disseminate quickly; typically negative, such as: rumors or diseases. 


Negative attitudes and behavior can also spread like a wildfire if not corrected immediately.  It seems that such was the case with Nadab and Abihu.  As we recall Nadab and Abihu were Aaron's sons; as such they were called to be priests.  They were part of the solemn ceremony to be consecrated as priests.  Next to Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu had stood highest in Israel. They had been especially honored by the Lord, having been permitted with the seventy elders to behold His glory in the mount (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 359).  Assisted by his sons, Aaron offered the sacrifices that God required, and he lifted up his hands and blessed the people. All had been done as God commanded, and He accepted the sacrifice, and revealed His glory in a remarkable manner; fire came from the Lord and consumed the offering upon the altar.  The people looked upon this wonderful manifestation of divine power with awe and intense interest. They saw in it a token of God's glory and favor, and they raised a universal shout of praise and adoration and fell on their faces as if in the immediate presence of Jehovah (Leviticus 9:22).


At the hour of worship, as the prayers and praise of the people were ascending to God, two of the sons of Aaron took each his censer and burned fragrant incense thereon, to rise as a sweet odor before the Lord. But they transgressed His command by the use of "strange fire." For burning the incense they took common instead of the sacred fire which God Himself had kindled, and which He had commanded to be used for this purpose. For this sin a fire went out from the Lord and devoured them in the sight of the people.


According to Ellen White Nadab and Abihu were not disciplined men.  They were lacked self-control.  Habits of self-indulgence, long cherished, obtained a hold upon them which even the responsibility of the most sacred office had not power to break.  They presumed to be favored of God for the privileges God gave to them.  They apparently flattered themselves that their privilege allowed them to do as they wish without being punished.  This attitude drove them to drink until they were partially intoxicated.  The judgment clouded, they were not able to distinguish right from wrong.  The Lord's judgment by the prophet Isaiah fell on them,


Isaias 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Isaias 5:21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

Isaias 5:22 Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:

Isaias 5:23 Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

Isaias 5:24 Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.


Let no one deceive himself with the belief that a part of God's commandments are nonessential, or that He will accept a substitute for that which He has required. Said the prophet Jeremiah, "Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?" Lamentations 3:37. God has placed in His word no command which men may obey or disobey at will and not suffer the consequences. If men choose any other path than that of strict obedience, they will find that "the end thereof are the ways of death." Proverbs 14:12.


Less anyone else in the camp thought that the conduct of Aaron's sons was permissible, the Lord destroyed them.  The influence of the two was would have been too strong.  Their Sin would have spread like wildfire among the children of Israel, with no easy way to stop it.  So God showed that service rendered to Him is not to be taken lightly like Nadab and Abihu did.    The same applies to us.  

Raul Diaz

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Happy Are You, O Israel"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 5: "Happy Are You, O Israel"

What makes people happy? There are as many different answers to that question as there are people. Probably the list would include both frivolous and thoughtful things, but one of the last things for many would be "worship." Yet, properly understood, it is the only thing that can bring real happiness and contentment. When David was trying to find something that brought true joy to his heart, he compared dwelling together in unity of the Spirit with the happiness brought by the oil of dedication that ran lavishly down Aaron's beard, even to the hem of his garments. Notice, the unity was because the Holy Spirit was present and allowed to participate in the worship service of the temple dedication (see Psalm 133).

This week's lesson takes its title from Deuteronomy 33:29: "Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help and the sword of your majesty! Your enemies shall submit to you, and you shall tread down their high places" (NKJV). Notice what is to make Israel happy: they are a people saved by the Lord, and good things flow from that.
Obviously the concept of worship involved here is different from putting in time once a week at church. All worship involves communication with God. Notice that Moses reminds Israel of what God has already done for them (saved them) and what He will do for them in the future (shield them), and what the result will be (enemies submit, and Israel will destroy false worship). That last point is interesting. Israel kept falling into the worship styles of people around them. Usually, this involved intimate physical acts in groves built in high places. Apparently, God knew this kind of worship would not bring them happiness and they needed to destroy the places where it occurred.

It might seem obvious that God prohibited this kind of worship because it was focused on heathen gods, not Jehovah. Certainly that was part of it, but maybe we can learn more. Generally in pagan worship the affection and allegiance to the deity is expressed by actions of sacrifice, the bigger the better. Since the god is not expected to be able to read the mind, it is not expected that the heart and mind be humbled in submission. It is enough that the act is performed. Whether the god is actually thought of during the act of "worship" is immaterial.
For centuries, Israel had performed the rituals of the sanctuary service in the most exacting manner. So caught up in the details of the ritual, they had forgotten the real purpose of the service. God told them that they were to build Him a sanctuary so He "may dwell among them" (Ex. 25:8), but they had come to consider that what really counted was the doing of the various rituals. This same mind-set can be our peril. God does not live in the rituals. Unless aided by the Holy Spirit, the human mind is incapable of recognizing God. Humans can perform the rituals of worship without ever submitting the heart to God and never recognize it.

God gave the services of the sanctuary because of the sin problem. God and sin could not abide together. The Lord made the sanctuary plan to explain this and provided that even the illiterate could understand. Different kinds of offerings were ordained, each with a specific application to the overall plan which was designed to demonstrate what it would take for God to restore the original Edenic face-to-face communication. The services were to impress minds that the ultimate conclusion of sin is to kill their Life Giver.

Most pagan worship is manipulative, that is, intended to induce the god to provide something beyond the capability of the worshiper(s). If the crops were dying because of drought, the sacrifices were to induce the god to bring rain. In addition to daily necessities, gods were also asked to protect worshipers in the afterlife. Israel had reduced the rituals of the sanctuary to a manipulative pagan level. When Christ, the great antitype, was born in Israel, they were so invested in the virtue of their rituals, they failed to recognize Him.

But there was one, a Boy of 12, who understood. Even at this early age, it dawned on Him that all these lambs and sacrifices "cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience" (Heb. 9:9). He reasoned that it was all a type of things to come, and eventually Someone sinless, innocent, holy and undefiled must die as the Lamb of God if lost human hearts were ever be reached! His youthful soul surged with a mighty resolve to fulfill His destiny to be that Lamb. He resolved to fulfill Isaiah's prediction that "His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, and it sustained Him" (Isa. 59:15, 16). This 12-year-old Boy chose to go to the cross.

All worship is centered on the sacrifice of Christ which He ministers to us from the heavenly sanctuary. Worship that falls short of being cross-centered is counterfeit worship. The sacrifice of Christ effected an atonement for the world as He "taste[d] death for every man" (Heb. 2:9). Now the race stands as it were neutral before the law of God since Christ received the penalty of eternal death on their behalf. Thus Christ has given a "blessing" of temporal life, unmerited grace, forgiveness of sin, and all good things that follow. All of this was taught by the sacrificial tabernacle services of ancient Israel.

When the love (agape) of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we choose the way of the cross as readily as the Son of God chose it. By identifying with His death, we also identify with His resurrection. "He who hates his life in this world will keep it for life eternal" (John 12:25).

His church, God's house-tabernacle, comprises humble, submissive people who understand their great need for communion with God to cleanse their heart-tabernacle. This house remains the object of God's interest, and the ultimate purpose of the entire sanctuary service now continuing in heaven is the final cleansing. In this final work, the whole universe is to see the power of the gospel displayed.

The 1888 message brings a special understanding of the final work of the Holy Spirit at the end of time. Rituals are only useful if we allow them to point the mind to God and the cross of Christ. We must understand our true condition of even unknown sin. At the end, the church on earth will begin to understand the whole truth in seeing not only conscious but unconscious sin. The old covenant dealt with the external rituals and ceremonial cleansing, but the new must deal with internal cleansing, having the law put in the mind and written on the heart.

Those who have allowed the Holy Spirit to do His work in their hearts are those who are waiting for the second coming of Christ. The power of His word in their hearts will demonstrate that power so fully that their message will "lighten the earth with glory." The message itself, not their personalities nor any goodness in themselves, will call believers to "come out of Babylon, My people," and honest-hearted people will respond to the "voice" from heaven (see Rev. 18:1-4). Nothing will be able to hold them back from stepping out boldly to honor Christ in the closing work of the gospel.

--Arlene Hill

For further study:
In Search of the Cross, Robert J. Wieland, chapter 5.
And Then Shall the Sanctuary be Cleansed, Donald K. Short, chapter 5.
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HAPPY ARE YOU, O ISRAEL! (notes by Pastor Penno)

All worship is centered on the sacrifice of Christ which He ministers to us from the heavenly sanctuary. Worship that falls short of being cross-centered is counterfeit worship. The sacrifice of Christ effected an atonement for the world as He “taste[d] death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). Now the race stands as it were neutral before the law of God since Christ received the penalty on eternal death of their behalf. Thus Christ has given a “blessing” of temporal life, unmerited grace, forgiveness of sin, and all that good things that follow. All of this was taught by sacrificial tabernacle services of ancient Israel.
Lev. 9:22: “And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and peace offerings.”
It was the priest who made atonement by sacrifice for the people. The purpose of all these sacrifices was that they might find fellowship with God, which is the final goal of the foundations of worship. The “blessing” resulted from the “offerings” made by the priest. The result of the sacrificial system within the tabernacle was the blessing of the people.
Lev. 9:23: “And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people.”
The blessing consisted of “the glory of the Lord”. The glory of the Lord was revealed in the offerings. By virtue of God’s love and mercy shown toward sinners, they were drawn to Him. It is at infinite cost to Himself that God gives His forgiveness of sins to His adopted congregation. The sacrifices reveal the character of God effecting a real-time at-one-ment in formerly alienated hearts.
Lev. 9:24: “And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.”
It is by the sacred fire that the offering was consumed. The sacrifice that is consumed by divine fire is acceptable to God. The victim was obliterated. Nothing remained.
The sacrificial victim represented the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). God “made Him to be sin for us” (1 Cor. 5:21). The fire does not consume the congregants. It falls upon their substitute who has identified with them by being “made . . . to be sin for us”.
The “fire” represents the agape of God as manifest in His law. “Sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Where sin appears there agape consumes it, for “our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29).
God did not hate His Son and thus consume Him with fire. He identified with His beloved Son on the cross while yet hiding His face from the sin-bearer. It was the Son’s faith which broke through the darkness and the consuming fire thus building a bridge of atonement between an estranged world and the Heavenly family. God’s intensity of hate toward sin is just as intense in His love of sinners. God’s forever-love of His Son was just as intense as His forever-hatred of sin which the Son bore.
Jesus died the death which the sinner who refuses God’s forgiveness will die at the close of the millennium. “He hath poured out His soul unto death” (Isa. 53:10). It was a comprehension of His death as revealed in the sacrifices which evoked worship in the hearts of the ancient Israelites.
“Assisted by his sons, Aaron offered the sacrifices that God required, and he lifted up his hands and blessed the people. All had been done as God commanded, and He accepted the sacrifice, and revealed His glory in a remarkable manner; fire came from the Lord and consumed the offering upon the altar. The people looked upon this wonderful manifestation of divine power with awe and intense interest. They saw in it a token of God’s glory and favor, and they raised a universal shout of praise and adoration and fell on their faces as if in the immediate presence of Jehovah.” {PP 359.1}
“It was intemperance that led to the awful results recorded in our lesson. The minds of Nadab and Abihu were clouded by the spirit of wine, instead of enlightened by the Spirit of God, and they could not discern the difference between the sacred and profane. And thus, strictly speaking, intemperance was the sin for which they were destroyed. By intemperance they clouded the glory of God in the true temple of God,—their bodies,—and that led to the error in relation to the figurative sanctuary. They defiled the living temple, and that naturally resulted in debased service in the temporary structure.” E. J. Waggoner, “The Glory to Be Revealed. Lev. 10:1-11,” The Present Truth 18, 30 (July 24, 1902), p. 466.
“The next day Korah and his friends were to burn incense before the Lord. God had said that only his fire was to be used for burning incense. Any other was called “Strange fire,” so that if Korah’s company really loved God, they would have said “We cannot burn incense unless God gives us fire.”
But they thought their fire was as good as God’s, and they came with their censers and the incense burning upon them.” E. J. Waggoner, “Gospel Primer,” The Present Truth 19, 37 (September 10, 1903), p. 587.
“A good illustration of how strict God is in his requirements is found in the case of Nadab and Abihu recorded in Lev. 10:1, 2. God had specified the fire that should be used in the services of the Sanctuary. Certain fire was set apart for this use and called holy.  None other was to be used. Nadab and Abihu could not perceive the difference between the fire that was holy and that that was unsanctified, and came before the Lord with strange fire. For this rash act they were instantly slain. They might have reasoned thus: “The spirit of the Lord’s requirement is that fire should be used. It makes no difference what fire we use if we only do it in the right manner.  There is no difference in the fire.’” E. J. Waggoner, “Which Day?” The Signs of the Times 7, 35 (September 15, 1881), p. 416.
“The first and most important is that God is very particular, and will not countenance any deviation from directions which he has given. He had specified the kind of fire and incense that should be used in the sanctuary. Ex. 30:9. He himself had kindled a fire on the altar when the first offering was made upon it, and no other was to be used. It might have seemed to Nadab and Abihu that there was no difference between the sacred fire and ordinary fire; but God had made them different, and it was their duty to recognize that difference.
“It may seem to many that death was a severe penalty for so slight a deviation from the commandment of the Lord; such must remember that the fact that the death penalty was inflicted by the Lord himself, is sufficient evidence that the offense was not small. The Judge of all the earth will do right. It must also be borne in mind that the heinousness of a sin is not determined so much by the actual quality of the deed itself, as by the spirit in which the deed is committed. Contempt for the Lord may be shown in the willful disobedience of a supposed minor precept, as well as by some act which would be generally recognized as a sin. But the sin of Nadab and Abihu was not a small one. It was the result of lightly regarding the service of the Lord. They engaged in his service as carelessly as they would in some business of their own; and this showed that they had no real reverence for God.” E. J. Waggoner, “The Commentary. God Requires Strict Obedience,” The Signs of the Times 13, 22 (June 9, 1887), pp. 346, 347.
“The incense on the golden altar was only to be lighted from the fire on the altar of burnt offering, and no strange fire was to be used. The altar of burnt offering represented the sacrifice of Christ, and no prayer or praise is acceptable to God except it be kindled in the heart Jesus.” E. J. Waggoner, “Back Page,” The Present Truth 15, 7 (February 16, 1899), p. 112.
Lev. 10:1: “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.”
The fire of the Lord is His agape revealed in His holy law. His unselfish love is so unique it is indigenous only to Himself. All other fire is common and derived from humans motivated by self-love. All the worship of the people centered upon the tabernacle. It was to be saturated with the blood-life of Christ consumed by sacred fire. If the fire in the censure was ordinary there was no appreciation on the part of the priest for the sacrifice of Christ. It left an empty impression upon the worshipers and thus was a counterfeit. No atonement was effected in hearts.
Lev. 10:2: “And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.”
“Nadab and Abihu were two youths who allowed their arrogance to blossom into blasphemy before God and offered “strange fire” on the Lord’s altar, as it were in His very presence. It was too much for Him to “take” and “they died before the Lord,” not because He hated them, but as a much needed lesson to their nation (Lev. 10:1, 2).” DDB
Lev. 10:3: “Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.”
Lev. 10:4: “And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp.”
Lev. 10:5: “So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said.”
Lev. 10:6: “And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindled.”
Lev. 10:7: “And ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses.”
Lev. 10:8: “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying,”
Lev. 10:9: “Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations:”
Lev. 10:10: “And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;”
Lev. 10:11: “And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.”

Deut. 33:26: “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in His excellency on the sky.”
“1. Who was Jeshurun, in Deut. 32:15? J. E. G.
The word is a poetical title of the people of Israel. It means “the upright,” or “the chosen,” from the verb yashar, “to be righteous.” The Septuagint has in this passage, Iakob, and the Vulgate has ditectus. In Deut. 33:5, 26, and Isa. 44:2, the only other places where the word occurs, the Vulgate renders it rectissimus.”
“Fear not, O Jacob, My servant; and thou Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.” The word “Jeshurun” occurs only four times in the Bible, the three other times besides this one being in Deut. 32 and 33. It is a diminutive, such as people use as pet names, and is equivalent to “the good little people,” or, “the dear little people.” It is applied to the whole people, just as a mother uses a term of endearment to her child. It reveals the tender affection of God for His people. It corresponds to the “little children,” so frequently used by the Saviour.”
“God has chosen Israel. But who are Israel? Israel is the prince of God, the one who overcomes. Does the Lord then choose as His favorites only those who have made a conspicuous success in life? Oh, no: the choice must necessarily be made before the struggle is ended. As we well know, Jacob was chosen before he was born. We are chosen in order that we may overcome. God has blessed us in Christ, “according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Eph. 1:3. All are chosen; we have only by submission to His will to make our calling and election sure.
It is evident that Israel means more than one man. The man Jacob, who was by the Lord named Israel, was dead hundreds of years before the prophet Isaiah wrote these words; they apply to all the children of Israel. And here appears some more of the comfort of God. God has taken away every ground for discouragement, in this promise to Israel. Notice that He uses both names, Jacob and Israel. Jacob is the supplanter, the deceitful schemer, the one whose character is anything but attractive. The Lord indicates that He has chosen Jacob from his birth. That means that He has chosen us from our birth. But we have a bad record. No matter, so had the original Jacob. He has chosen us, that He may make us better. So we need not mourn over our early life; God makes all that pass away in Christ. Every inspired prayer is a promise of what God will do; and in Ps. 25:7 we read: “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions.” That this is what God promises to do, we have already learned from the preceding chapter, where He says, “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgression for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy “sins.” He has chosen us, “that we might be holy and without blame before him.” Eph. 1:4. E. J. Waggoner, “The Gospel of Isaiah. The Gift of the Spirit. Isa. 44:1-8,” The Present Truth 15, 48 (November 30, 1899), p. 774.
Deut. 33:27: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and He shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.”
Deut. 33:28: “Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also His heavens shall drop down dew.”
 Deut. 33:29: “Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.”
For all who believe “the most precious message” is the beginning of the Elijah message, Hannah’s story is a great encouragement of how God will gloriously display His character to the world. It’s a quiet little secret in the Bible, but women play a pivotal role in the vindication of God in the great controversy. When Satan is accusing God and His people most vigorously saying that there is no one on earth who reflects back to God His self-sacrificing agape; they are all into God for the goodies He dishes out; God points to some poor soul who is a witness for Him.
Hannah is just such a woman. The state of the church in her day was pathetic. The priests Eli and his sons were corrupt. It was so bad that women were molested at the temple.
The books of Samuel depict a time of transition between the judges and the monarchy. Samuel was the last divinely-ordained prophet-priest-judge leader of Israel before the succession of kings ruled. Just how Samuel came to prominence during a time of vacuum in leadership among God’s people is the story of Hannah.
Elkanah was a priest-in-waiting who resided in Ramah about fifteen miles from Shiloh. Bigamy is a departure from God’s original plan for marriage. It is the source of conflict in Elkanah’s family (1 Sam. 1:2). Hannah is barren. Elkanah wants children. He takes Peninnah for the express purpose of continuing the family name.
The annual holy seasons were similar to campmeetings. They provided times of family unity in the worship of God. They were to be expressly times of refreshment and joy. There was feasting and drinking (vs. 4).
A high quality portion of meat was apportioned to Hannah, demonstrating his favoritism toward her (vs. 5). Hannah is faced with “the other woman” and her children. She shares a feast with a God who has persistently denied her children of her own.
Here is a barren woman who is loved and a fertile woman who is not (vs. 6). Penninah “taunts” (“provoked”, “fret”, vs. 7 “provoked”) Hannah with the reproach that God has caused her barrenness.
Hagar similarly treated Sarah in her barrenness. She persecuted the free woman who was promised the seed (Gal. 4:22-31). The old covenant generates a spirit of persecution within family systems and, yes, even in the church. Since faith has an egocentric motivation in the old covenant, it tends to ridicule, marginalize, and satirize new covenant faith which is motivated by God’s self-sacrificing agape.
Instead of venting her feelings on Penniah, Hannah turns inward and becomes silent. She hides herself in grief (vs. 8). Hannah experiences the pain of persistent childlessness. Elkanah knows the cause of her pain. Yet his crass insensitivity comes across as a reproach to her for not recognizing that he can fulfill Hannah’s void tenfold. Elkanah may love her but his arrogance reveals he thinks he is the center of her world.
Unable to get any help or sympathy from her husband she turns to the only one who can surely understand, and who can give her children (vs. 10). Hannah turns to God. She is the only woman, in the entire Bible to utter a formal prayer and have it recorded in the sacred text.
Hannah’s vow breaks her silence. She will now be given a “voice” throughout the rest of her story. Her prayer request is very specific in requesting a son; yet it is an extremely self-sacrificing vow. It reveals that she understands the very heart of God who “gave His only begotten Son” for the world. She most desires a son, not for herself but for the vindication of God. She will give the son to God forever (vs. 11).
Hannah’s prayer forever defines the genuine nature of a new covenant vow. She appreciates what it takes for God’s promise-covenant of salvation to be given forever to the world. It cost the life of God’s own darling Son. She offers her son to God as a mirror image of God giving His Son for her. She may or may not realize it, but she is a singular witness in a time of apostasy, when Satan is accusing God that there is no one among His people who serves God because they appreciate His character of agape.
God is silent. He was silent when His Son cried out, “Why hast thou forsaken me? The rules of the great controversy do not permit God to jump right in and give lavish assurances to His faithful ones in the midst of trials (vs. 12). But Eli “answers” her vow in a manner far removed from the answer she wants.
Eli is seated on his chair at the entrance to the temple. He sees her lips moving as she prays silently. He thinks she is drunk (vs. 13). Pilgrims to ancient Israel’s feasts often drank to excess.
Eli observes this woman’s distress, but displays no kindness at all (vs. 14). Eli takes more seriously the apparent drunkenness of a woman than the heinous crimes of his own sons.
Her protest is that she is not “a worthless woman” like Eli’s “scoundrels” (1 Sam. 2:12, “worthless men”) (vs. 16). This is a stinging rebuke to Eli, yet done most politely, in dissociating herself from the behavior of his sons. His moral authority is completely undermined.
Eli is so obtuse he doesn’t pick up on it. He doesn’t even know what she has prayed (vs. 17). But he blesses her in the blind. She will eventually place her little cuckoo in Eli’s nest, who will receive an epiphany in the night pronouncing the end of Eli’s family. This fool mistakes her distress for inebriation, fails to spot her veiled accusation, and unwittingly contributes to the blessing of her vow which will contribute to his downfall.
Eli has demonstrated no genuine compassion. However, his blessing has broken her isolation setting in motion her going back to family, assuaging her grief, restoring her appetite, setting up her restoration (vs. 18). With the brush of a wisp of hair, she departs saying, “May I find favor in your sight.” Hannah’s lowest ebb will now curve upward from this point on.
The deeper appreciation of God’s love has now paved the way for both Elkanah and Hannah to understand what it means to be “one flesh”. Something was missing in their love before. Now the Inspired writer portrays them as “one” worshipping the Lord and returning home (vs. 19). Because of “Elkanah’s choice” of Penninah his marriage is wounded. God comes in to bring healing. Now Hannah enjoys a greater intimacy with her husband. Her womb is healed with the words “the Lord remembered her”—the curing of Hannah’s barrenness. Genuine faith in God’s everlasting covenant does that. Here is God’s response to her vow in two words—“remembered her”. The course of church history could not be changed with a description of fewer words than that.
It’s entirely appropriate then that Hannah should name her son because she knows that he is God’s answer to her prayer. Samuel means “asked of God”.
After weaning Samuel she comes to Shiloh with a bull that is sacrificed representing God’s own Son “who should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). And now she offers her son to God forever.
This is Hannah’s pilgrimage to Shiloh. It is unprecedented in all the Bible for a woman to make such an offering. It is comparable to Abraham offering up Isaac to God. It’s hard to respond adequately to Hannah’s sacrifice.
Hannah is a type of all those poor, weak, ridiculed voices calling for revival and reformation in the midst of an ease loving people who are steadily growing in favor with worldlings (vs. 27). God apparently is silent to the prayers of His people who are longing for the return of the Elijah’ message. However, prayers that are tuned into what God wants never fall on deaf ears. God may need you to stand “alone” in order to win His great controversy with Satan.
Did God “lend” His Son to the world or did He “give” His Son to the world? If God only “lent” His Son for a few short years, then we have no Saviour now. Rather, God has given His Son as a permanent gift, the divine-human High Priest who administers the benefits of the ever-present cross to us from the heavenly sanctuary. The ultimate meaning of the cross is the atonement. He is illuminating the cross in order to draw alienated hearts by His love revealed there so we might experience being at-one-with God’s heart.
Hannah’s word “lent” indicates that Samuel was a living sacrifice for her all the days of her life (vs. 28). She felt keenly the separation from her darling son; albeit, she could go up and visit him anytime she wished being only fifteen miles away. But this should not diminish the value of “Hannah’s sacrifice”. She and Samuel are a type of the sacrifice given by the Father and the Son. In this her message speaks eloquently as no other woman in the Old Testament to the self-denial of God.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Commentary: Quantum Physics and Creation

Quantum Physics and Creation

Years ago an article was written to commemorate a milestone
anniversary of the publication of Albert Einstein's articles on the
theory of relativity. The author of the article discussed how
Einstein's theory was instrumental on the development of Quantum
Physics (QP). This is the science that studies subatomic particles
present in all atoms. (Everything is made of molecules. Some
molecules are larger than others. A water molecule is smaller than a
protein molecule. But, all molecules are formed of atoms. All atoms
are formed of subatomic particles such as: neutrons, electrons,
protons, and other particles. It is these particles that QP studies.)
These particles are so small no one has seen them. But, their
existence and presence can be calculated and measured. The thing
about these particles is that they also act like electromagnetic
waves, such as light. So, it is hard to isolate these particles to
study them. In the macro-world, if I see an object with the right
instruments I can tell you where the object is, where it is headed,
and how fast it is going. You cannot do that with these quantum
particles. They appear to be skittish. They show up and disappear.
In fact, the author of the article said that in the theory of QP you
can conclude things that contradict the law of conservation of mass -
matter cannot be created nor destroyed, only transformed. In
essence, according to the author, in QP you can conclude that matter
can be created out of nothing, and he added, "This cannot be!"

Is it that hard to believe that it is possible to create matter out of
nothing? To an evolutionist it is. They believe in gradual progress
and transformation. To an evolutionist things cannot happen
immediately. The slowly develop from simple to complex, and
gradually improving. So to them God cannot speak things into being
that are complex and "good."; which is exactly what the Bible says the
Lord does. Psalms 33:9 says that "... He spake, and it was done; he
commanded, and it stood fast." The Lord spoke and the thing happened.
In Genesis chapter 1 it says that God spoke and it was so, and "He
saw that it was good." Paul says in Colossians that Christ created
all things. Let us read,

Colossians 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in
heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be
thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were
created by him, and for him:

Colossians 1:17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

The Hebrew word for verb created - bara - refers to action by God
only. Humans can build things, make things, crate things, and form
things, but God alone can bara. Only God can create space, time,
matter, and energy - all part of the material world in which we exist.
It is all here, only because God bara-ed it. So, it should not be
hard to a Christian to believe that subatomic particles appear as if
out of nowhere. Paul adds in Hebrews 11:3,

Hebrews 11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed
by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of
things which do appear.

What we see, says Paul, was made out of things that were not in
existence before. God created matter out of nothing. Any Christian,
who does not believe this, is an evolutionist, not a real Christian.

We will take this a step further: if we believe that God can create
things, it should not be hard to believe that when Christ spoke for
people to be healed and resurrected, the thing happened. Anyone that
does not believe this is an evolutionist, not a real Christian. When
God speaks the thing happens; it is reality. So, when Christ says,
"you sins are forgiven," they are forgiven; for when He speaks the
thing happens; it is reality. Anyone that does not believe this is an
evolutionist, not a real Christian. Let us consider the story from
Luke 5 of the man taken by palsy. His friends let the man down the
rooftop in front of Jesus, "And when he saw their faith, he said unto
him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee" (Luke5:20). We are told in
verse 21 that, "... the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason,
saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins,
but God alone?" We read in the following verses what happened next,

Luke 5:22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said
unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?

Luke 5:23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to
say, Rise up and walk?

Luke 5:24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon
earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say
unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.

Luke 5:25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that
whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.

Christ proved in this story that He can heal and forgive. The man
accepted that he had been forgiven; therefore it was no stretch for
him to believe he had been healed. He did not question Christ. He
did not ask for a sign. However, with one act, Christ proved to the
unbelievers that He could do the other. "...With men this is
impossible; but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).
Here the question is, "do we believe this is true?"

Raul Diaz

Friday, July 08, 2011

Commentary: What is Religious Syncretism?

What is religious syncretism? 

Syncretism, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary, is "the reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief." This is most evident in the areas of philosophy and religion, and usually results in a new teaching or belief system.   Specifically, Syncretism in Religion is the combining of often mutually contradictory religions or belief systems, many times on the basis of political expediency, personal taste, or whim.  As with many morally or theologically dubious notions, rationalizations for syncretism are easy to come by.  Religious syncretism often takes place when foreign beliefs are introduced to an indigenous belief system and the teachings are blended.  The new, heterogeneous religion then takes a shape of its own.  This has been seen most clearly in Roman Catholic missionary history.  Take, for example, the Roman Catholic Church's proselytizing of animistic South America.  Threatened with the fear of death, natives were baptized into the church by the tens of thousands without any preaching of the Gospel whatsoever.  Former temples were razed, with Catholic shrines and chapels built on the same spot. Natives were allowed to substitute praying to saints instead of gods of water, earth and air, and replaced their former idols with new images of the Roman Catholic Church.  Yet, the animistic religion the natives had formerly practiced was never fully replaced—it was adapted into Catholic teachings, and this new belief system was allowed to flourish. 

This is nothing new.  It has been going on for a long time.  We will see that the incident of the Golden calf was syncretism, not outright apostasy.  In Exodus 19:8 the Israelites were certain that "All that the LORD hath spoken we will do."  But, we read in Exodus 32: 1 – 8 what happened a few days after,

Exodus 32:1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

Exodus 32:2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.

Exodus 32:3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.

Exodus 32:4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Exodus 32:5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.

Exodus 32:6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:

Exodus 32:8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.


Notice how quickly and easily the Israelites compromised truth in their worship.  Notice how quickly they adopted the local culture and this turned them away from the true God.   The passages (vss. 1, 4) in which the people are said to have asked Aaron to make gods for them and then praised these objects as the gods who brought them out of Egypt.  But we also have verse 5, in which Aaron refers to the impending festival as "a festival to the Lord" (NIV), literally Yahweh.  Taken together, all this suggests that at least some of the people thought that while still honoring Yahweh they could have gods similar to those of their neighbors.  They would have this riotous pagan (sexual) orgy, but by dedicating it to the Lord, they would somehow make it acceptable to God.   So, what we really observe in these passages is not so much open apostasy as it is syncretism.   The Israelites and Jews struggled with this throughout their whole history.  Other examples are the attraction the people and kings of ancient Israel had with the Asherahs, the Balls, and Baal worship.


More recently, religious syncretism can be seen in such religious systems as the New Age, Hinduism, Unitarianism, and Christian Science.  These religions are a blending of multiple different belief systems, and are continually evolving as the philosophies of mankind rise and fall in popularity.  According to some scholars, the Western evangelical church has had a fatal attraction to contemporary consumer culture and made a fateful alliance with it.  The attractions are not unlike the one like ancient Israel's subtle entanglement with the local pagan cults.   Many evangelical Christians, including many postmodern adherents, have seen the power of the gospel dwindle in their lives and their churches because they have gone whoring after the false gods of spiritual and material consumption.  Just as the ancient worshipers at Jewish shrines could not differentiate between worship of the one God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and local fertility rites, contemporary Christians frequently fail to distinguish between worship as self-surrender and as self-gratification. 


Because of how subtle it is, syncretism is very deceptive.  You can think you are worshiping God, when in truth you are far from doing that.  The problem with Syncretism is that it relies on the whim of man, not the standard of Scripture.  A "Thus saith the Lord" is replaced with "I think…" or "I believe…"  We adopt things that seem harmless and even useful, but are not according to God's will.  These things eventually open the door to more syncretism, thus leading farther from the truth.  We hear: "there is nothing wrong with that," "it is just a different style," "a little bit will not hurt," "you are just closed minded," or, "you are old fashion."  Sadly, God is never consulted about what He prefers and pleases Him.  Perhaps the greatest evidence that syncretism is not of God, is that those who participate in it are not converted.  If anything syncretism encourages and rationalizes Sin, while claiming closeness to God.   Oh, that we allow the Lord to open our eyes.  Only, God can protect us from the trap of syncretism.  Will we allow Him?


Raul Diaz