Friday, December 18, 2015

Insight: No Cure for Rejecting the Cure

No Cure for Rejecting the Cure 

Let's say a child is born with a fatal congenital disease for which there is no cure.  Because he was born with it, the condition is not his fault. Therefore, the fact that he has the disease and will die from it cannot be held against him.  Let's also say that years later a cure is discovered and the child, now a man, can receive the medicine for free.  He still, however, has to choose to take the medicine.  If he takes it, he will be cured, and, therefore, live longer.  And if he does not choose to take the medicine, he will continue with the disease and eventually die.  Can he still blame his parents for the disease and dying from it?  No.  After his rejection of the medicine, he can only blame himself.  There is no cure for rejecting the treatment.

In Numbers 21: 5 - 9, we read that the people of Israel murmured against God, and, therefore, God allowed the serpents to bite them. God had given the people manna.  But, they did not appreciate this food of the angels; instead, becoming bored with it, they despised it. So the Lord allowed the venomous snakes to slither into the camp and bite the people. As long as they had been filled with faith he was able to protect them from the designs of the evil one. But as the people murmured against God, their rebellious attitude ripened, and so did their disrespect of Moses and God. Consequently, God had to remove his hand of protection at his people's insistence, and they were bitten. Everywhere could be heard the cries of the stricken ones.  Almost all of the households were touched, and the numbers of the dead mounted. As the people were suffering and dying, many longed for relief. At last, realizing the connection between the snakes and their Sin, they requested Moses to pray for deliverance.  God did answer, and he told Moses to build a brazen serpent, put it on a pole, and have the bitten ones look and live. Those who heeded looked and were healed.
In God's providence, He did not get rid of the serpents, and neither did he prevent them from attacking the people. Instead, he encouraged the people to exercise faith. The issue was: would they believe that in looking at the brazen serpent, they would live?
The brazen serpent was placed high on a pole for all of the people in the camp to see.  But, only those who looked when bitten would be delivered. Did any of the people deserve the cure? No, not one person in the camp deserved deliverance (Romans 3:10 – 12). But God, in His love and mercy not only allowed the people to have what they insisted on, the distance they desired of him as demonstrated by their murmuring and complaining, which brought the snakes, He even provided them with the cure. This gesture toward them displayed not only God's mercy by not giving them what they deserved, but it manifested his grace by giving them the power to overcome their unbelief. Furthermore, if they took him at his word, it energized them physically to overcome the effects of the poison.
Now, just because God gave this opportunity or gift to all, did not mean that God spared all bitten by snakes from the effects of the poison. He wanted to, but those who chose not to believe, just would not look; and not looking, meant certain death. Unfortunately, there was no grace for this. There was no remedy for rejecting the solution. And the same applies today -- those who dismiss the grace that can save them, will find that there is no grace for rejecting the grace. Grace, as we see, has limits.
The lesson's author states something similar regarding the Jews in Jeremiah's time.  Generations later they had not learned their lesson. Our Lesson states:
"This week's lesson brings us toward the end of the saga of Jeremiah the prophet. However, this is not a "…and they lived happily ever after" ending. In a sense, one could summarize this week's study, and even a good portion of the book of Jeremiah, by saying that what we see here is an example of the limits of grace. That is, grace will not save those who utterly refuse to accept it. No matter how much the Lord spoke to them, sending them salvation, protection, redemption, peace, and prosperity, all but a tiny and faithful remnant scorned and rebuffed God's gift.  …Even after everything Jeremiah warned about came to pass, the people still clung to their sins and paganism and rebellion, openly defying the Prophet to his face and scorning the Word of the Lord to them.
How we need to be careful ourselves. Grace is grace because it's favor and power given to the undeserving, yes; but it's not forced on anyone. All must be willing to receive it for themselves.
Just as grace is a gift to all, but only useful to those who receive it; grace does not cover all Sin.  Some may get the impression from Romans 5:20 through 6:2 that grace covers all sin. But that is not the case, for the passage says,

"Moreover, the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 5:20, 21). "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Rom 6:1, 2).

Those who are of the belief that the more they sin, the more grace abounds - if they continue in that path - forget that eventually they will commit the unpardonable Sin.  Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 12:31, 32--

"Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come" (Mathew 12:32, 32).

The sin spoken of in the verse is the final rejection of God's wooing to you.
Blasphemy is committed at the point where the heart has barricaded its door against the Holy Spirit's invitation to intimacy with God, and repentance is steadfastly refused. Christ died to save us from our Sin, but grace beaten back for the last time will not abound, at the sinners' insistence. Thus, the rejected grace can not save. Oh, it's so important to trust willingly and heed the promptings of God's Spirit, for he would not have us die, for the cure has already been provided.

~Raul Diaz 


Friday, December 11, 2015

Commentary: The Fork in the Road

The Fork in the Road

Driving Eastbound on I-94 in Chicago (it is southbound in Chicago) the road splits.  It is what some call a fork in the road.   I-94 continues to the left (eastbound), and I-57 continues to the South.  There are signs warning of the split a mile or two before by also suggesting possible destinations to which each route will take you.  Depending on where you are going you will go right or left.  There is no reason anyone should go in the wrong direction.  But, some manage just that.  Taking one route means not taking the other; which means that if you take the wrong route, you will gradually go farther off the your intended destination.  The farther you go on the wrong road it will probably be longer and harder to get back on track. 

At Sinai, the Israelites came to a spiritual fork in the road (Exodus 19 and 20).  They had had to choose which spiritual road to take.  Their issue was not that they did not want to go where God intended to take them.  They thought they could get there by going on the road of their choosing and not God's intended road.  They sincerely thought their chosen road could take them there.  So, they deviated from God's road and took the other.

Abraham had a similar experience of a spiritual fork in the road.  Like the Israelites later, it was not that Abraham did not want what God promised him.  Abraham thought he could get there following a road of his choosing.  Abraham thought that he could fulfill God's promise to him, by performing methods not suggested nor approved by God.  Thus, Abraham conceived a child with Hagar (Genesis 16: 4).  Once Abraham went down that road, it would take years of hardship to get back on track.  God's idea and intention were that Abraham conceived with Sarah (Genesis 17: 16, 19). 

According to Paul, this event was symbolic of the Old Covenant.  When Abraham finally had a child with Sarah, it was the new covenant.  Let us read Galatians 4:22-26,

Galatians 4: 22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
Galatians 4: 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
Galatians 4: 24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
Galatians 4: 25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
Galatians 4: 26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

In this verse, Paul ties Hagar with Sinai.  In other words, the Old Covenant that Abraham followed by conceiving with Hagar is what the Israelites followed in Sinai. A covenant the Jews continued to follow even on to the day of Paul.  While, Abraham eventually, after years of hardship found God's road again, the majority of Israelites and Jews never found God's road again. 

What road have we taken: The Old Covenant or the New Covenant?  It is important to know that a misunderstanding of the Covenants can lead you to the wrong road.  Many Christians have what is called a dispensational view of the Covenants.  To them, the Old Covenant is a road that failed to take them to their destination so then they tried another road, which is the new Covenant.  The Covenants to them is a matter of time, not a heart relationship with God.  To them from Sinai to Jesus people were saved by keeping the Law and the ceremonies of the Sanctuary.  According to this view, this method failed, so God then instituted the new method that is saved by grace.  Paul has argued successfully in Galatians that this is not true.  Paul's example of Abraham being under both covenants at different times in his life shows us that dispensation is wrong.  Especially, when we know what Abraham was going through at each of these stages.  Abraham's unbelief led to the Old Covenant.  When Abraham believed, He was under the new covenant. 

Paul's argument also stands against Mainline Adventism view in the Covenants.  Adventists are not quite dispensational.  They believe that it is only one Covenant.  To them, the Covenant is one road, which at different points has different scenery and even a different name, but it is the same road, nonetheless.  From Sinai to Jesus the covenant was to be understood and practiced by following types, forms, and symbols of the ceremonial law; this is the old covenant.  Since, the ceremonial law pointed to Jesus, when Jesus came, type met antitype, and thus Christ fulfills the ceremonial law.  After Christ's death, the Old Covenant fulfilled its purpose of revealing the new Covenant, so, it is no longer relevant.  But, how can the Old Covenant be the Sanctuary and its services, if according to Paul 430 years before the sanctuary service began, Abraham was under the Old Covenant?  

 Now, although the Adventist view is different from the dispensational, it is similar in that they both believe the Old Covenant is passed.  We need to reiterate, they are two different covenants.  And, each covenant is a different method of salvation.  Each covenant is a different attitude toward God and the Gospel.  As the author of the Lesson tells us, "The two covenants are not matters of time; instead, they are reflective of human attitudes."  One of my favorite authors states, "These two covenants exist today. The two covenants are not matters of time, but of condition. Let no one flatter himself that he cannot be bound under the old covenant, thinking that its time has passed."

The basis for The Covenants is how our heart relates to God.  The New Covenant is for God to fulfill His promises to us; we are just to receive them humbly and gratefully.  In the New Covenant God dwells in our hearts and there writes His law (Jeremiah 31:33).  In the New Covenant, we abide in Christ and Christ in us (John 5).  In the New Covenant, He becomes our God and us His people (Ezekiel 37: 23, 27).  In the New Covenant, we become His royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9).  In the New Covenant God bestows on us His inheritance:  eternal life in the new earth.   "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 John 3:1)!

Raul Diaz

Friday, December 04, 2015

The Reason for Captivity

Originally published: Friday, September 02, 2011

The Reason for Captivity

 David was once driving his car.  He started to switch the dial of his car radio.  When he heard his favorite rock song, David stopped changing stations.  As he typically did, he started singing the song along with the recording.  But, unlike the previous time, after a few seconds he smelled fire.  He looked down at the dashboard, and he saw flames coming from the radio.  He stopped the car and tried to put out the fire, but to no avail.  Interestingly, only the radio burned.  The rest of the dashboard was intact.  When David got home, he immediately told his wife.   Her reaction surprised him.  Calmly she said to him, "I am glad you are OK."   He looked puzzled; he asked her, "why are you so calm?"   She smiled and replied, "I was concerned that your interest in that secular music would drive you away from God, so I prayed to Him that He would burn the radio."  Surprised he asked, "Why would you do that?" She replied, "I love you, honey, I want you to be saved."  David never fixed the radio.  He understood that God was more important than that.  God allow the radio to burn to save David.

Has God done anything like that for you?  Do we see in the Bible how God has done that to the Jews?  We could argue that that was a reason for the Babylonian captivity.  Just like a parent chastens a child who misbehaves, God chastens those whom He loves.  God used the Babylonian captivity to teach the Jews a lesson in humility; and, to teach them to be dependent on Him. 

Years before Moses warned the Israelites about being unfaithful. Through Moses, the Lord declared in Deuteronomy 28,

Deuteronomy 28:15 But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day…
Deuteronomy 28:36 The LORD shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone….
Deuteronomy 28:64 And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone…

Those who were faithful to God saw this as a rebuke from God.  Not necessarily as punishment, cut, as the chastening of a beloved child. Paul says in Hebrews,

Hebrews  12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
Hebrews  12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Hebrews  12:7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
Hebrews  12:8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Ellen White elaborates on this topic.  Let us read what she says, 

"The trials of life are God's workmen, to remove the impurities and roughness from our character. Their hewing, squaring, and chiseling, their burnishing and polishing, is a painful process; it is hard to be pressed down to the grinding wheel. But the stone is brought forth prepared to fill its place in the heavenly temple. Upon no useless material does the Master bestow such careful, thorough work. Only His precious stones are polished after the similitude of a palace."—Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 10.

In the story above, the Lord allowed David's radio to burn, because the Lord loved David.  The Lord allowed the Babylonian captivity because He loved the Jews.  He used it to develop their character.  Had this not been the case He would not have told Jeremiah,

Jeremiah 29:10 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Jeremiah 29:12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
Jeremiah 29:13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:14 And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.

 These words can apply to us.  Let us not resist the Lord's chastening.  He has a purpose for it.  And, it is for our good. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

How can the "good" turn bad?

How can the "good" turn bad? 


A few years ago I saw the movie "Lord of the Flies." It was a disturbing movie. How could a group of kids from a civilized country, from "good families," and attending "good schools," turn into savages when left unsupervised for a few days. Yes, the situation was extreme. They were lost in a jungle from a shipwreck. They were forced to fend for each other, to cope with an environment they did not know. Only in movies you say. 

In 1965 Stanley Milgram conducted a psychological experiment in which the subjects were led to believe that they were delivering ever more powerful electric shocks to a stranger, on the orders of a white-coated researcher. Our lesson elaborates on the experiment:


"… the depth of corruption that had befallen Israel can be seen in the kind of reforms that Josiah had to undertake. How, though, could the nation have fallen so far? In one sense, the answer is easy: it's because humanity has fallen so far. Just how far humanity has degraded was revealed in a famous experiment conducted at Yale University in the 1960s.

Participants were brought in arbitrarily through newspaper ads and told that they were to administer electric shocks to people tied down to chairs in another room. The switches that administered the shocks were marked from Slight Shock to Danger: Severe Shock, including two more ominously marked XXX. Participants were told to administer the shocks according to the orders of the scientist leading the experiment. As they did, the participants would hear the people in the other room scream and plead for mercy. In reality, the people in the other room were just acting: they were not getting shocked at all. The point of the study was to see how far these normal participants would go in inflicting what they thought was pain on those whom they didn't know, simply because they had been ordered to do it. The results were frightening. Though many participants got anxious, distraught, and even angry, that didn't stop a stunning 65 percent from administering the severest shocks to these people, believing that they were truly hurting them. Ordinary people, wrote the scientist who conducted the experiment, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. How many ordinary people have done terrible things through history, or even today? Too many have, for sure. Why? Christians know the answer. We are sinners, plain and simple."

Some of Milgram's subjects were anguished afterward by the revelation of their dark potential.  Milgram's high school friend, Stanford psychology professor Philip Zimbardo, conducted the now infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. The subjects of this experiment were put in a realistic mock prison. Some were selected as guards and some as prisoners. In five days the abuses by the guards to the prisoners were so disturbing, the experiment had to be cut short.  This experiment revealed the dark potential of humans.  The "good" turn bad, because they were not good to begin with. 


The only explanation for this is found in the Bible.   We read in Romans 3: 12,


They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Rom 3:12 [KJV])


This is something Jesus agrees with.  In the tenth chapter of the book of Mark, a young man approached Jesus and called Him, "Good Master." Jesus answered Him,

Mark 10:18 * Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

Our biggest mistake is to think that there is any goodness in any of us. Our natures are tainted with Sin. We are conceived in Sin and born in iniquity.  Anything that comes out of us is evil and selfish. There lies the problem.  The solution is a heart renewal.   It can only happen when we allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, pour God's love in our hearts, by letting Him write the Law of God in our hearts.  


Friday, November 13, 2015

“The Crisis Continues”…Today

Fourth Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Crisis Continues"…Today
For the week of November 14, 2015

This commentary is borrowed from another author.  I believe it is exactly what we need to hear.
In Jeremiah Chapter 9 we find the prophet weeping. "Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night, for the slain daughter of my people!" verse 1. The reason for the weeping is given in verses 5,6 and 13: "They have taught their tongue to speak lies", they "weary themselves to commit iniquity", their "habitation is in the midst of deceit" and "through deceit they refuse to know Me", says the Lord. In the Insight a few weeks ago, we learned that the Hebrew word translated in English as deceit, means "to seize someone by the heel, to betray, to supplant." Supplant means to take the place of. Synonyms would be to replace or supersede. These definitions are helpful as we look at verses 13 and 14 of Jeremiah 9 which tells us that God's people had "forsaken My law which I had set before them", "have not obeyed My voice" and have "walked according to the imagination of their own heart…after the Baal's." This could be summarized as the Baal's have supplanted My laws and My voice. Chapter 10 plainly states the depth of idolatry into which Israel and Judah had sunk to the point that they had to be reminded that these gods did not create, but the God of heaven had. Additionally the "know" in verse 6 of Chapter 9 is not just a casual knowing but the intimate relational knowing that is achieved in the marriage relationship. It is not intellectual ability or informational knowledge but an intimate knowing of the highest relational quality. Verse 6 says that through deceit, supplanting, betrayal, they don't just not know Him but they refuse to know Him. For these reasons we find Jeremiah weeping. Weeping for the transgression of God's people.

The weeping of Jeremiah here can be seen as the weeping of God for His people then and now. There are at least 2 reasons God weeps. 

First Jeremiah Chapter 3:6-10 and verse 14 gives us a hint as to God's relationship to His people and His pain over "My people." Israel had gone upon every high mountain and every green tree and there played the harlot. After everything she had done God loved her still and pursued her, asking her to return to Him but she would not. Hear the language of the intimate relationship of marriage in verses 8 & 14. "Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce." "Return O backsliding children…for I am married to you." This is the broken heart of God supplanted, replaced in the heart and mind of His wife! God views His people in marital terms. 

"not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord." Jeremiah 31:32

"I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice, In loving-kindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the Lord." Hosea 2:19,20

When God sees His people He sees His wife, and as she rejects Him, refuses to return and supplants Him with idols and refuses to know Him, His heart is broken, He weeps. But how can we in the 21st century relate to these kinds of texts about idolatry , which breaks the heart of God? Two quotes from the pen of inspiration:

"The apostle's words of warning to the Corinthian church are applicable to all time and are especially adapted to our day. By idolatry he meant not only the worship of idols, but self-serving, love of ease, the gratification of appetite and passion. A mere profession of faith in Christ, a boastful knowledge of the truth, does not make a man a Christian. A religion that seeks only to gratify the eye, the ear, and the taste, or that sanctions self-indulgence, is not the religion of Christ." AA317. Ellen White described that it was when the children of Israel sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play, that they threw off the fear of God and made the golden calf. 

"I was pointed back to ancient Israel. But two of the adults of the vast army that left Egypt entered the land of Canaan. Their dead bodies were strewn in the wilderness because of their transgressions. Modern Israel are in greater danger of forgetting God and being led into idolatry than were His ancient people. Many idols are worshiped, even by professed Sabbath keepers. God especially charged His ancient people to guard against idolatry, for if they should be led away from serving the living God, His curse would rest upon them, while if they would love Him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might, He would abundantly bless them in basket and in store, and would remove sickness from the midst of them. A blessing or a curse is now before the people of God—a blessing if they come out from the world and are separate, and walk in the path of humble obedience; and a curse if they unite with the idolatrous, who trample upon the high claims of heaven. The sins and iniquities of rebellious Israel are recorded and the picture presented before us as a warning that if we imitate their example of transgression and depart from God we shall fall as surely as did they. "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." 1T 609.

These quotes are compelling and worthy of much thought and meditation as to how the sections highlighted above apply. First of all then God weeps because of the rebellion and idolatry of His people.

The second reason Jesus weeps is found in the 2 episodes recorded in Scripture- John 11:35 with the death of Lazarus and Luke 20:11 when Jesus weeps over Jerusalem after the triumphal entry. Again Ellen White's comments are helpful.

Speaking of Lazarus she writes, "It was not only because of the scene before Him that Christ wept. The weight of the grief of ages was upon Him. He saw the terrible effects of the transgression of God's law. He saw that in the history of the world, beginning with the death of Abel, the conflict between good and evil had been unceasing. Looking down the years to come, He saw the suffering and sorrow, tears and death that were to be the lot of men. His heart was pierced with the pain of the human family of all ages and in all lands. The woes of the sinful race were heavy upon His soul, and the fountain of His tears was broken up as He longed to relieve all their distress." 

 Then speaking of Jerusalem she writes this in DA 575 and 576:
"Jesus gazes upon the scene, and the vast multitude hush their shouts, spellbound by the sudden vision of beauty. All eyes turn upon the Saviour, expecting to see in His countenance the admiration they themselves feel. But instead of this they behold a cloud of sorrow. They are surprised and disappointed to see His eyes fill with tears, and His body rock to and fro like a tree before the tempest, while a wail of anguish bursts from His quivering lips, as if from the depths of a broken heart. What a sight was this for angels to behold! their loved Commander in an agony of tears!... In the midst of a scene of rejoicing, where all were paying Him homage, Israel's King was in tears; not silent tears of gladness, but tears and groans of insuppressible agony….The tears of Jesus were not in anticipation of His own suffering. Just before Him was Gethsemane, where soon the horror of a great darkness would overshadow Him. The sheepgate also was in sight, through which for centuries the beasts for sacrificial offerings had been led. This gate was soon to open for Him, the great Antitype, toward whose sacrifice for the sins of the world all these offerings had pointed. Near by was Calvary, the scene of His approaching agony. Yet it was not because of these reminders of His cruel death that the Redeemer wept and groaned in anguish of spirit. His was no selfish sorrow. The thought of His own agony did not intimidate that noble, self-sacrificing soul. It was the sight of Jerusalem that pierced the heart of Jesus—Jerusalem that had rejected the Son of God and scorned His love, that refused to be convinced by His mighty miracles, and was about to take His life. He saw what she was in her guilt of rejecting her Redeemer, and what she might have been had she accepted Him who alone could heal her wound. He had come to save her; how could He give her up?"

Jeremiah's weeping is for the same reasons that God the Father and God the Son weep. Jesus weeps because He has been a husband to His people and they have scorned His love. He weeps because the result of scorning Him would cause suffering and sorrow and pain to the human family. He weeps because we have rejected the world's Redeemer who alone can heal our wounds and it pains His heart to give us up! 

Jeremiah says that might and riches are nothing to glory in, but knowing and understanding God. "Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the Lord." Jesus Himself says, that "this is eternal life that they may know You the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." What is it we are to know? After all, Jesus said that it is eternal life. And how does it change us? When Moses asked this question of God, He showed Him His glory, which was His character comprised of both His justice an His mercy (see Exodus 34: 6,7). There is no greater place that the ability to know is manifested more clearly than on the cross of Calvary where as Friday's lesson points out the sundering of the Divine powers pierces the hardness or our hearts. The lesson highlights that in the cry of Jesus, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?" is the clearest and most powerful expression of that "sundering", of what it cost the Godhead to save us. 

There is hope for us who caused the Divine powers to sunder.  We, that pierced Him, will one day mourn Him.  We read in Zechariah 12:10,
"Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly for Him as one weeps for a firstborn."
In that day He will rejoice. Finally, His bride will be ready for Him.


Friday, November 06, 2015

Spiritual Pipettes

Fourth Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Symbolic Acts"
For the week of November 7, 2015

Spiritual Pipettes

In every field of work, there are instruments and devices to perform that work.  Each of these has their proper names and a particular use.  In the laboratory where I work, most of the tests are performed with automated and computerized instruments.  There is no need to make reagents.  All that the instrument needs is pretty much supplied by the manufacturer, typically in plastic containers.  One of the tests we do, however, is still performed the old way.  We have to make our reagents.  Making our reagents requires weighing solids, measuring the volume of liquids and mixing.  So, we still use the old type of containers for the preparation of these reagents.  There are many kinds of containers with different shapes and sizes and made out of different materials.  Each of them has a purpose.

When preparing the reagents we pretty much follow a recipe:  you weigh so much of this and add so much that.  It always has to be the same amount.  So, for weighing we have a scale.  For measuring the volume of liquids, we have graduated cylinders and volumetric flasks.   If we need to transfer a certain amount of liquid from one flask to another, we have pipettes.  With a pipette, you suction a certain amount of liquid inside the pipette from one flask and dispense the liquid into another flask.  Unlike, many of the other flasks used for storage, pipettes have only one function: transferring liquid.  So, the pipette has but one principle: you fill them to empty them: just as a pot from a potter.

In Jeremiah 18, the Lord tells Jeremiah to "... arise and go down to the potter's house . . . to hear [the Lord's] words" (Jeremiah. 18:2-6).  Let us read the rest of the story.

Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.

And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

In case we missed in the text, Isaiah also tells us Who the potter and the pot represent, "But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand" (Isaiah 64:8).

We learn from this parable that we are a "vessel" the Lord has been forming on the potter's wheel. He has a happy purpose for us to be useful in His great work of lighting the earth with the glory of His "everlasting gospel" message.  But, as a vessel, we are marred from the beginning, because "all" of us "have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).  In His mercy, the Divine Savior-Potter never throws any marred vessel (us) in the trash, no matter how lowly it may have become through being "marred."  This act of kindness is the "good news" encouragement. So, the Potter always takes the marred vessel to "[makes] it again into another vessel, as it seem good to the Potter to make" (v. 4). By this action the Potter reveals redemption in action.

However, unlike the real vessel we can resist the Potter's work.  We have freedom of choice and can resist God's will.  This resisting God, Paul considers foolishness.  He says in Romans, "But who are you, my friend" asks Paul, "to talk back to God? A clay pot does not ask the man who made it, 'Why have you made me like this?'"(Rom. 9:19, 20, GNB).  Remember, in this context Paul thinks of himself as the chief of fools (1 Timothy 1:15).  It is obvious that the "clay pot" needs to be reconciled in the heart to the Potter, as Paul did!

The obvious point here is that you cannot fill a marred pot, and empty it effectively, later.  When the Potter remakes us, we are ready to be filled with living water.  Christ told the woman at the well, 

John 4:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Jesus repeats these words to the crowd at one of the feasts.  Let us read John 7:37-19,

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

John says that Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit.  Paul says that "God has poured out His love [agape] into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God's gift to us" (Rom. 5:5, GNB).  Filled with His love, we cannot help but love in return.  As Mary Magdalene loved Jesus, pouring all that she had on Him, we will pour all that God has given us back on Jesus in the form of our giving to others in need.  Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 25.  He told the sheep on the right that they'd receive a reward for helping Him in a time of need.  They asked, "When did we do this?"  Jesus replied, "As you have done unto these, you have done unto me."

Brothers and sisters let us take counsel and heed the Word. We are all broken, but, God can remake us.  Let us allow Him to do His work, by filling us with His love.  Only, then, will we truly love others.  

Raul Diaz


Friday, October 30, 2015

Why does God permit suffering?

This week's memory text is: 

Memory Text: O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me (Jeremiah 20:7). 

Jeremiah suffered greatly.  But, God did not forsake Him.  He suffered for Christ's sake.  Christ said, 

Matthew 5:10-12

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Paul adds in Hebrews 11 that, 
Through faith ... 
Hebrews 11

36 ...others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:

37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;

38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

This week we take a look at suffering and how God uses it,

Why does God permit trials?

Sister Grant was distraught and frustrated. She could not understand why her life seemed to be a never-ending drama. It seemed like one crisis engendered another. She asked herself, "Why would God do this to me?" Her Pastor said that "those who are faithful to God will not see so many trials in their life. In fact," he added, "trials are a sign that God is not favoring you; which means that you are living in Sin." She met with some co-workers for support and prayer and told them about her dilemma. Surprisingly, most of them agreed to be in a similar situation. However, not one of them could find what was wrong. They did all the things that their pastor's said they should do. They were faithful attending church. They tithed and gave the offering. And, they were active in church programs. Why was God not rewarding them?

The youngest in the group, Ms. Bradley, waited until all the other ladies finished talking. She asked them a question, "What do Job, most prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, and most Apostles have in common?" They all were silent looking at Ms. Bradley, suspecting she had an answer. Sister Bradley understood their silence so she continued, "Were they not faithful?" They all looked in toward each other murmuring possible answers to the question. After, a few moments, they all agreed and said, "Yes they were faithful." Sister Bradley, then said, "Then, why did God allow them to suffer? And, many of them died horrendous deaths. Could it be that we have it all wrong? Why would God treat us any differently?"  What does James 1: 2 – 4 tell us about trials,

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and com­plete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2–4, NKJV).

The word patience here is from the Greek hupomone, which means, endurance, steadfastness, and fortitude of every affliction that one confronts on one's spiri­tual journey.  The word Paul uses in Galatians 5:22 is macrothumia – translated as longsuffering - which essentially means "long tempered" as opposed to short tempered.

Although, hupomone is not part of the fruit of the Spirit, it is nevertheless very important in our walk of Faith.  According to James, it is through trials that we develop the endurance to continually overcome unbelief and remain faithful to God.  A past lesson stated about this,

'The Greek word for "trials," sometimes translated "temptations," is the word peirazo, which has the broader significance of "proving" or "testing." The devil tries us or tempts us to do evil. The tests and trials that God allows to come into our lives are for the purpose of developing our characters.'  

Ellen G. White talks about this,

"The trials of life are God's workmen, to remove the impurities and roughness from our character. Their hewing, squaring, and chiseling, their burnishing and polishing, is a painful process; it is hard to be pressed down to the grinding wheel. But the stone is brought forth prepared to fill its place in the heavenly temple. Upon no useless material does the Master bestow such careful, thorough work. Only His precious stones are polished after the similitude of a palace."—Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 10.

This doesn't mean, however, that every trial is in God's providence. Often we bring suffering upon ourselves through disobedience; often, too, trials and suffering are just the results of what it means to live in a fallen, sinful world where we have an enemy who hates us (1 Pet. 5:8). What this does mean, however, is that through a complete sur­render of ourselves to the Lord, to grasping hold of Him in faith and obedience, no matter what we go through, we can come out better or more refined if we allow God to work in us. No one said it will be fun. Life here often isn't fun, but we are given this wonderful promise: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).

Job never understood why he suffered. His cry to God was, "Why?" However, Job never stopped trusting God. In the middle of his crisis, Job cried out, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" Job13:15. Daniel's friends were faithful in all things, yet under threat of being burned they declared, "… our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Dan3:17, 18. 

In contrast, we have the people of Israel. God was with the people of Israel. The people of Israel saw how God delivered them from the Egyptians. God accompanied them in the day with a cloud, and at night with a pillar of fire. The pillar probably gave them not only light but also warmth. With all this, the people disbelieved that God would have them drink the waters of Marah. But, did God not sweeten the water when Moses put a tree in the well (Exodus 15: 22-27). 

After all this when they reached Rephidim they disbelieved God again. In Exodus 17:1-7 we read how they threatened Moses life accusing him of bringing them out of Egypt to die in the desert. How soon they forgot about God being able to provide for them any and every need they had, including water to quench their thirst. The cried out, "Is the Lord among us or not?" Sister White says of this experience,

It was by the express command of God that the children of Israel encamped at Rephidim. He knew of its lack of water, and he brought his people hither to test their faith. But how poorly they proved themselves to be a people whom he could trust! Again and again he had manifested himself to them. With a high hand, he had brought them out of the land of their captivity, slaying the first-born of all the families of Egypt to accomplish the deliverance of his people. He had fed them with angels' food, and had covenanted to bring them into the Promised Land. Now, when brought into difficulty, they broke into rebellion, distrusted God, and complained that Moses had brought them and their children out of Egypt only that they might die of thirst in the wilderness. 

The lesson is for us. Many think that in the Christian life they will find freedom from all difficulty. But everyone who takes up the cross to follow Jesus comes to a Rephidim in his experience. Life is not all made up of pleasant pastures and cooling streams. Trial and disappointment overtake us; privation comes; we are brought into trying places. Conscience-stricken, we reason that we must have walked far away from God, that if we had walked with him, we should not have suffered so. Doubt and despondency crowd into our hearts, and we say, The Lord has failed us, and we are ill-used. Why does he permit us to suffer thus? He cannot love us; if he did, he would remove the difficulties from our path. Is the Lord with us, or not? {RH, April 7, 1903, par. 2 - 3}

Perhaps this is why Peter admonishes us 1 Peter 1:6-7,

1 Peter 1:6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

This verse tells us that trials are neither random nor chaotic. Trials have a purpose. One of them is to produce genuine faith in those who will persevere through all kinds of trials. In other words, trials teach us to depend on God to overcome temptation and to endure the pain and suffering that Sin brings to us until we either die or are translated. We can trust that God's promises to us will be fulfilled. We may not see it now. Only in retrospect, God may allow us to see a glimpse of the purpose of trials. For many of us, it will be until we reach eternity before we see clearly God's purpose in letting us suffer. We will also see that God was in it with us all the way. We were not alone. And, in fact, our faith grew stronger and our character became more Christ-like because of the suffering God put us through.-- 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Forgiveness for Unknown Sin

Although the focus of the story is Daniel, the principal verse is Jeremiah 17: 9.  Through Daniel, we see the deep implications of this verse.  This commentary was first published Friday, August 04, 2006.


Forgiveness for Unknown Sin


A very famous film actor was stopped because of improper driving.  The Police officer suspected that the driver was DUI – driving under the influence of alcohol.  The officer approaches the car window and before he could ask the driver for his driver's license, he could smell the alcohol.  He immediately asked the actor to leave the car.  The actor gets annoyed by the request and starts insulting the officer.  Recognizing the actor, the police officer asks the actor, if he had been drinking and how much.  The actor is now infuriated, and tells him, "None of your business?"  The police officer asks the actor one more time, to get out of the car.  The actor at that moment tells the officer some improprieties about the officer's apparent ethnic background, and then adds, "The reason why this world has problems is because of your people."  The next day the incident was all over the press and the media.  The actor, released a statement of apology, saying in part, "It is a known fact that one effect of alcohol is losing your inhibition.  You say things you would not say sober.  However, I said what was inside my heart.  I was not aware that I held such dark feelings about other ethnic groups.  While the incident was indeed embarrassing, what it revealed in my heart is humiliating."  Through this incident, the actor realized that we harbor Sin in our hearts and may not be aware of it.


In chapter 9, Daniel prays for forgiveness.  He prays for forgiveness for him and his people.  But, There is something unusual about his prayer.  Daniel includes himself with his people.  Let us read some instances from Daniel 9: 4 - 19, where Daniel includes himself with his people,


5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:

 6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets,

10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

 11 …because we have sinned against him.

 13 … all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.

14  … for we obeyed not his voice.

 15  …we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

 16 … because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.

 18 …for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses,


As you can see, this prayer is not only intercessory but also corporate in nature.  Why does Daniel pray corporately?  As far as we know, it was the iniquity of his people - not his own - that lead the Jews to Babylonian captivity.  Maybe Daniel knew the phrase, "there go I, but for the grace of God."  Daniel perhaps understood that given the same set of opportunities and circumstances he would have participated in the Sin's of his people.   What separated Daniel from his counterparts? The grace of God, to which Daniel yielded, and his brethren did not.


We know that Daniel read Jeremiah.  He must have read Jeremiah 17:9 that says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"  Could it be that Daniel was confessing all Sin that his heart may harbor – even unknown Sin?  However, any act or word we say comes out of the abundance of our heart (Luke 6: 45).  All sinful actions that we commit, are committing, and will commit are borne in our hearts before we let them out.  All these Sins need is the right opportunity.  The problem is we cannot know what is in our hearts.  However, God knows the secrets of our hearts (Psalms 44:21).  Daniel, very likely, was aware of this truth.  And, by including Daniel's prayer in this book of Daniel, sealed until our day, God was stressing the need to see this prayer as a model for us living in the last days.


God knowing how Sinful our hearts are, says through the prophet Ezekiel, that He wants to put in us, "A new heart … and [also] a new spirit … within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26).   Perhaps our prayer should also be "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:4).     David understood this concept of unknown Sin.  He probably never thought that he was capable of coveting his best friend's wife, committing adultery with her, and murdering his best friend.  This is perhaps why David wrote, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalms 51:10).


What unknown Sins do we bear in our hearts?  If only God knows what lays deep and secretly in our hearts, only He can take it out.  But, we must let Him do it.


Saturday, October 17, 2015



 Most of the prophets studied in a previous quarterly were sent to prophecy against Judah and surrounding nations.  The words to Judah are as strong as, or stronger than, to the other nations.  Zephaniah's message is no exception.  Zephaniah is speaking to the people of Judah and the nations surrounding them. What were the conditions in Judah at the time? It was an Idolatrous nation according to 2 Kings 21-25 and 2 Chron. 33-36.  How had the nation gotten to this point? After Hezekiah's death, Manasseh became king and led the country so far into idolatry so that "they did more evil than the nations" they had displaced in Canaan. (2 Chron. 33:9).

Who was the king when Zephaniah was prophet? Josiah. Our lesson states that Josiah was the sixteenth king to rule in the Southern Kingdom; his dates were 640-609 b.c. He became king at the age of eight, after more than half a century of moral and spiritual decline under his father (Amon) and grandfather (Manasseh), two of the most evil kings in Judah. Josiah's reign lasted for thirty-one years. Unlike his ancestors, however, Josiah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 22:2), despite an environment that worked against him.

Born of a wicked king, beset with temptations to follow in his father's steps, and with few counselors to encourage him in the right way, Josiah nevertheless was true to the God of Israel. Warned by the errors of past generations, he chose to do right, instead of descending to the low level of sin and degradation to which his father and his grandfather had fallen. He 'turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.' As one who was to occupy a position of trust, he resolved to obey the instruction that had been given for the guidance of Israel's rulers, and his obedience made it possible for God to use him as a vessel unto honor.-Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 384.
What was the king doing? He was attempting reform. What was his reformation like? Josiah's reform consisted of two main components: First, it was getting rid, as much as possible, of anything and everything that smacked of idolatry. That is, he worked to remove the evil practices that had arisen in the nation.  He destroyed the high places, "did away with" the false priests, broke down Asherah poles, tore down the shrines of the male prostitutes which were in the temple, desecrated sites and shrines and he tried to get rid of everything else that was dedicated to false gods. The Bible says during his lifetime, the people "did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their fathers" (2 Chron. 34:33.)
But that was only the first step. An absence of evil or wrong practices doesn't automatically mean that good will follow. Second, after hearing the book of the law read to him, the king made a covenant before the Lord to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book (2 Chron. 34:31).
Josiah knew that the kingdom of David, of which he was now the ruler, was virtually on the rocks; their very existence was only a "millimeter" away from national disaster, for God was on the verge of withdrawing His care and protection from them, leaving them to the mercies of the pagan Babylonians.

Hilkiah the high priest had found the book of Deuteronomy in the Temple, and when Shaphan the scribe read it to the king he "rent his clothes" (II Kings 22:8-13). He was utterly sincere in his efforts to avert the national ruin he saw coming. He put his whole soul into a work of repentance as he saw it was needed; what he led the people into was a "national repentance" or one might say, a "corporate repentance." It began in the king's palace, the proper place for any national or corporate repentance to begin.

Jeremiah hopes that there will be no more weeping his eyes out in anguish for the incomprehensible rebellion of God's own people. The evidence indicates that they are repenting and doing what is right, for they are following their king (Jer. 9:1, 2).

But that was exactly their problem--they were following their king. That's what Israel did throughout their history--they followed their good kings like Hezekiah and Josiah and they followed their bad kings like Manasseh and Ahab. They never truly followed the Lord!
Ellen White described this condition: "Depending on man has been the great weakness of the church. Men have dishonored God by failing to appreciate His sufficiency, by coveting the influence of man. Thus Israel became weak. The people wanted to be like the other nations of the world, and they asked for a king. They desired to be guided by human power which they could see rather than by the divine Theocracy, the invisible power which till then had led and guided them, and given them victory in battle. They made their own choice, and the result was seen in the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the nation." [Ellen G. White, Ms. 159, 1899.]

Was Josiah successful? Not really. How do we know? As soon as he was gone, the people returned to their false gods. What does this tell us about the state of their hearts even during the reformations of Josiah? They were hard-hearted…they conformed outwardly, but there was no real heart change.  Josiah's heart was in the right place.  But, the people's heart was not.  Josiah's heart had been transformed by the renewal of his mind (Romans 12: 2), but not the peoples'.  The people did not truly reform, they conformed.  

A survey of our church leads us to conclude that we have fallen in the same trap of the Jews in Josiah's time.  And, the solution to our problem is found in the message to Laodicea combined with the 3rd Angel's Message (Revelation 3: 14 – 22; 14: 6 – 12).  He that hath an ear let him hear and heed.  


Friday, October 09, 2015

Commentary: Are we affair proof?

Commentary: Are we affair proof?

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.  By the time of Jeremiah, the Priests – whose forefathers had fled idolatry in Israel, had apostatized into idolatry - along with the other leaders –and led others to the same (Jeremiah 2: 8).  
Hundreds of years later, the priests continued to be 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.


Friday, October 02, 2015

FAQ’s of Prophecy

Originally published on Friday, April 20, 2007

FAQ's of Prophecy

FAQ is an abbreviation for "Frequently Asked Question(s)". The term refers to listed questions and answers, all supposed to be frequently asked in some context and pertaining to a particular topic. Depending on usage, the term may refer specifically to a single frequently-asked question, or to an assembled list of many questions and their answers. Originally the term FAQ referred to the Frequently Asked Question itself and the compilation of questions and answers was known as a FAQ list or some similar expression. Today "FAQ" is more frequently used to refer to the list, and a text consisting of questions and their answers is often called a FAQ regardless of whether the questions are actually frequently asked (if asked at all). This is done to capitalize on the fact that the concept of a FAQ has become fairly familiar online - documents of this kind are sometimes called FAAQs (Frequently Asked and Anticipated Questions). I thought that in this commentary we will tackle the have frequently asked questions about prophecy. 

Q. What is a prophet?
A. In the Biblical Hebrew, the noun used for prophet is "nabi." Nabi means a spokesperson or person authorized to speak for another. Another word used in the Bible is "seer." A prophet is an ordinary person that has been gifted with a gift to hear or see things others cannot see. 

Q. What is the job of a prophet?
A. Again from the Hebrew, the verb "naba," which means to prophesy.

Q. What exactly is prophesying?
A. To communicate – normally orally or written - what is heard or seen.

Q. Who does the prophet represent or speaks for?
A. In the context of our discussion, the prophet represents and speaks for God. All prophets speak for their god. True prophets speak for the Living God. 

Q. Who chooses the prophet?
A. God himself chooses them. He calls them. (Isaiah 6: 1- 8; Jeremiah 1: 1 – 9; Moses in Exodus 3)

Q. Are prophets different than regular human beings?
A. Not in nature. They are sinners, just like any other. They are different than other human beings in their willingness to serve God. This does not make them special. Serving God is a choice any human being can make. This does not mean that all that choose to serve will be prophets. That is God's prerogative. We read about the distribution of gifts in 1 Corinthians 12: 11 - But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 

Q. Are the words of the prophet the Word of God?
A. Only when he is prophesying. Normally, as a spokesperson, the prophet speaks in his own language and style. However, the essence and principle of what he says is from God. There are times when God may tell the prophet to say things exactly as instructed. This again is God's prerogative.

Q. How do you know the words of the prophet are indeed from God?
A. Many quote the verse that the prophecy must happen. However, this was not true for Jonah. Even so, God's purpose was accomplished. God does not delight in the killing of people. We read in Luke 15:7 "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance." A better text is Isaiah 8:20, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." 

Q. Is prophecy always about the future?
A. Often it is. However, you will find that all foretelling prophecy ends up pointing to Jesus and the different phases of the plan of salvation. These prophecies are meant to encourage, as well as to educate, those who live by Faith. Most prophecy is to reveal and rebuke Sin. It is to bring people to repentance and back to God.

Q. Are there any prophets in our day?
A. As the lesson says, the fact that Jesus warned about false prophets lets us conclude that they are true ones also. Another fact is what it is written in Joel 2 about the last days,

Joel 2: 28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

We are in the last days, are we not? 

Q. What happens if I reject the prophet and/or what the prophet is saying?
A. You reject God. Rejecting God has its consequences. Rejecting the prophet and or what the prophet says will result in the same consequences.