|LESSON 9||*February 24 - March 2|
|Seeing Through a Glass Darkly|
Read for This Week's Study:
|"Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him" (Ecclesiastes 8:12).|
8 Solomon continues exploring many of the themes he touched on earlier.
Again, it would be easy to get caught up in all the pessimism and complaints.
But then again, life "under the sun" is something easy to be pessimistic
about, is it not?
Nevertheless, as in most of these chapters, powerful gems of deep spiritual truth can be found amid all the more difficult rhetoric. No doubt that's another reason God had this book included in the Bible.
Look, for instance, at the memory text. What a promise, what a hope, is contained in there, a hope that must extend to something beyond this life. Indeed, amid all the negativity, Solomon shows a keen understanding of final justice and judgment, that regardless of how bad things on earth are nowas we are in the midst of the great controversy (Rev 12:12)God's final justice will be executed. That's one thing we can be certain of, even if we just have to wait. Maybe that's why the saints are said to, among other things, have "patience" (Rev 13:10, 14:12).
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, March 3.
Keep the King's Commandment!
As Christians we constantly are faced with the tension that comes from living in this world while accepting the reality that we already belong to another kingdom. Augustine called it the distinction between the City of God and the city of man.
Read Hebrews 11:13-16. How do these verses reveal the reality of the two lands between which we are pulled back and forth?
One source of potential tension Christians face deals, of course, with how we relate to the government under which we live. We all live under a government that holds the reins of power, that makes and enforces the rules and laws of our particular country. The Bible, time and again, makes it plain that Christians are to follow the laws; that is, they are to be good citizens.
Read Ecclesiastes 8:1-5. What is Solomon saying here? How do his words here fit with these texts: Rom. 13:1-4, Titus 3:1, 1 Pet. 2:13-17?
It's not all that surprising that Solomon would be saying this; after all, he is the king. However, the words do bring out an important principle of Christian citizenship. Regardless of where we live, we are obligated to obey the law of the land, even if there are laws we might not, personally, like. Notice the use of the word personally. There's a world of difference between obeying laws we might not personally like and obeying laws that are in violation of God's commandments, laws that directly contradict the basic principles of how God has told us we should live (see tomorrow's lesson). The crucial point, however, is that as people called to a standard of morality higher than the world's, we should be seeking to "keep the king's commandment."
|What would happen were everyone simply to decide that they would obey only laws that they, personally, like? Why is this not a valid option? Why should we, as Seventh-day Adventist Christians, be particularly sensitive to the importance of law?|
Keep the King's Commandment?
Keep the king's commandment? Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3) or like Daniel (Daniel 6)?
As we said yesterday, it's not always easy living in one land while your heart, ideally, is in another (Matt. 6:20, 21). What's a good Christian citizen to do?
What other examples can you think of from the Bible in which God's people were forced to disobey those in political power?
The Bible is filled with examples of people who have faced persecution, threats, jail, and death as a result of being in conflict with earthly rulers. What makes this even more complicated is that many of these earthly rulers were leaders of God's chosen nation.
Meanwhile, as students of the book of Revelation, we know, too, that right at the end of time God's people are going to have to disobey the laws of earthly leaders in order to be faithful to God (Rev. 13:12-16; 14). Thus, we see that we are to obey the king's commandment, just as long as it doesn't conflict with the King's commandment (John 19:19).
Such actions, though, are very serious matters and shouldn't be undertaken lightly. One, instead, should move only after counsel with others who are wise in the ways of the Lord and, of course, only after seeking the guidance of the Lord, who speaks to us through His Word.
"The laws of the land at all levels may at times conflict with some of God's commandments. While magistrates bear responsibility for the law, each citizen is accountable to God for the choices he or she makes. In such cases Christians will explain their convictions and appeal to freedom of conscience, which is a God-given right on the basis of creation in His image. If the appeals are rejected, faithfulness to God first may result in fines, persecution, prison sentences, or other sacrifices that Christians in centuries past had to make."--Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, vol. 12, p. 701.
|If you knew someone about to challenge the legal authorities over an issue regarding what that person believed was a biblical imperative, what advice and counsel would you give? What principles would you look for to help guide this person in doing the right thing?|
Trust Amid Uncertainty
Solomon then shifts to another train of thought. If you read the last part of verse 5 ("and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment") and then go through to verse 9, you will see that (however difficult the texts) he's talking about the uncertainties of life, that there are things that happen that we just don't understand. No matter how wise a person is or however much his or her heart can discern "time and judgment," there are things we just can't make sense of, things that even the wisest among us can't fathom.
The good news, however, is that as Christians we can trust God even when things unfold that make no sense. This trust, though, doesn't happen automatically; we just don't wake up after a life of faithlessness and suddenly start trusting God. Instead, we learn to trust God by reading His Word, claiming His promises, and living by faith and obedience. If we do these things with a will surrendered to Him, we will learn to trust Him no matter what we face.
Below are texts that deal with faith and trust in God. After each text, write down what it means to you personally, how you have experienced the reality of the promise. Also, if there are some texts we've missed that have been special to you, write them down and what they have meant. Bring your answers to class on Sabbath.
Trust and Justice
Read Ecclesiastes 8:11-13. What point is Solomon making?
Solomon is, again, dealing with the painful question of injustice in this life (see also vs. 14). He notices that, indeed, the wicked often seem to get away with their deeds, with no immediate punishment. Though at times we do see the wicked suffering from the wages of their deeds, they don't always. That it happens sometimes is fine, but that it doesn't always happen leads to the question of Why not? Why is there no justice here?
Solomon doesn't have the answer; what he does have, however, is a powerful admonition: Don't worry about the evildoer; just be faithful to God, and He will reward you.
In a certain sense here, Solomon is calling us to live a life of faith, of trust. Sure, there is injustice; we all know that. And, certainly, God does. The Lord, though, hasn't given us here an explanation about all these things. Instead, He has called us to live a life of faith and obedience, trusting on the merits of Jesus Christ as our hope of salvation. These are the truths He has revealed to us now (John 14:9; Gal. 3:21, 22; Heb. 1:1, 2; 1 John 5:3), not the reasons for so many bad things that happen "under the sun."
The point of today, as with yesterday's lesson, should be that we need to trust not in what we can see or understand but in the promises of God, who has revealed Himself and His love to us through Jesus, especially Jesus crucified.
|Are you troubled by the injustice you see in this world? Think about the injustice of the Cross, the greatest injustice ever. How should this great truth of Christ as the victim of injustice, all for our salvation, help you trust in the goodness of God despite all the injustice around you?|
The Business That Is Done on Earth
8:16, 17. What point is Solomon making? How does this fit in with what
came before in the chapter? Why is this point so
In the past years there has been an explosion of knowledge. We know more about our world than ever before. Every day new discoveries are made in all areas, especially in science. And yet, the more we learn, the more we realize our ignorance. The "simplest" things turn out to be so full of mysteries that we can't begin to explain. No matter what level we get at, there's always something underneath it, something out of our reach. The work and power of God in nature alone is something that we only barely grasp. And, of course, the greatest of all God's work, the plan of salvation, is itself deemed a "mystery" (1 Cor. 2:7, Eph. 3:9, Col. 2:2).
Perhaps one of the best insights into how we are to deal with things we don't understand comes from the book of Job. Though terrible calamities befell Job, when God appears to Job at the end of the book, He doesn't give Job any explanation for the events that ruined his life.
38-42. What is the essence of God's reply to Job regarding the trials
You probably noticed that the Lord said nothing about Satan's taunt (Job 1:9) or about God's reply to Satan (Job 2:6); indeed, He gave no explanation for anything that happened to Job. Instead, the Lord unleashed a flow of rhetorical questions about His own might and creative power in contrast to Job's transience and weakness. For Job, that vision of God was enough to convince him that his bemoaning about his dead children, ruined health, and destroyed property was all simply him uttering "things too wonderful for me, which I knew not" (Job 42:3).
Job, with his glimpse of God as Creator, was silenced; what about us, we who have a view of God not only as Creator but as Redeemer? How should the revelation of God at the Cross teach us that we can trust the Lord even in the worst situations?
|: Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy,
pp. 203-205; The Desire of
Ages, pp. 602, 603; Testimonies
for the Church, vol. 5, p. 699; vol.
6, p. 203.
"We are to recognize human government as an ordinance of divine appointment, and teach obedience to it as a sacred duty, within its legitimate sphere. But when its claims conflict with the claims of God, we must obey God rather than men. God's Word must be recognized as above all human legislation. A 'Thus saith the Lord' is not to be set aside for a 'Thus saith the church' or a 'Thus saith the state.' The crown of Christ is to be lifted above the diadems of earthly potentates."--Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 68.
"No finite mind can fully comprehend the character or the works of the Infinite One. We cannot by searching find out God. To minds the strongest and most highly cultured, as well as to the weakest and most ignorant, that holy Being must remain clothed in mystery. But though `clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the foundation of his throne.' Psalm 97:2, R.V. We can so far comprehend His dealing with us as to discern boundless mercy united to infinite power. We can understand as much of His purposes as we are capable of comprehending; beyond this we may still trust the hand that is omnipotent, the heart that is full of love."--Ellen G. White, Education, p. 169.
Look at this quote from T. S. Eliot. Think of it in the context of the last two verses of Ecclesiastes 8, about the futility of trying to find out the ways of God by seeking them or by laboring. What does this tell us about the limits of what we can learn about God, apart from the truths He has revealed to us through divine inspiration?
|I N S I D E Story|
|Never Alone: Part 2
by SELINA MWAKIPUNDA
My father told me that if I insisted on disobeying him, my education was over. I begged him to let me return to school. The school dean encouraged my father to let me stay in school and promised to watch me more carefully. Finally my father allowed me to return to school.
I signed the dean's book every Saturday and slipped out to church, satisfied to work in the garden on Sunday so I could worship on Sabbath.
Eventually the dean realized that she could not change my mind. She stopped making me sign her book or work in the garden.
But when my father learned of my disobedience, he told me I did not have to come home during vacation. "Since you love to be with Adventists, go live with them," he said. He hoped that I would give up this "foolishness," as he called it. But church members let me stay in their homes and even provided money for basic needs, such as soap.
I stayed at school until graduation. I was baptized, and I had my church friends but lived without my parents' support. While in college I met a young pastor. I tried to take him to meet my family, but my father refused to allow us on his property. We married and made a happy home. A year later our first child arrived, and the next year I became pregnant with our second. Then my husband suddenly died of a heart attack. I was 24 and a widow with a baby and another on the way.
My family refused to help me, and my husband's family blamed me for my husband's death. They took everything we owned-our furniture, even our clothes. I had nothing, no one to support me, and nowhere to go.
A missionary family took us into their home and helped pay my tuition and living expenses while I took a secretarial course. When I finished school I found work so I could support my daughters.
Life has not been easy, but God has never left me. No matter how difficult things have become, He has always been there for me. He means everything to me.
Mission offerings helped lead me to Jesus and support the schools that educated me. Thank God for the privilege of sharing.
SELINA MWAKIPUNDA is a secretary at the University of Arusha (formerly Tanzania Adventist College).
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