“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Johns

John the Baptist was a hard-core survivalist. He was Elijah come alive again. The training for his special role in the great controversy was a unique training, a unique life for his time. He resembled the prophets of a forgotten era. He lived like the prehistoric cavemen surrounded by a modern society. Rome was the height of world civilization.

John was a miracle baby. He could claim the status of the great father Isaac whose parents were also aged when he was born. But, the difference was that his father had discovered righteousness by faith. And that true righteousness reflected on his son.

Isaac knew perfect peace. He was a prince of peace, the great peacemaker of his time. God prospered him in everything and he shared the wealth to everyone around who wanted it. He dug a well. It hit water. The envious locals claimed it and wanted to fight for it. So, Isaac dug another well in lieu of an endless feud. Then the locals claimed that well, too. It was their land, even if they couldn’t develop it under God’s blessings. So, Isaac gave them that well also; after all, it was a gift from his Father in heaven. In Isaac’s mind God had given it to him, and would probably do it again.

The Philistines didn’t have access to a relationship with Jehovah, but Isaac’s example taught them something. Big, empty pits spread all over the countryside shamefully indicated their many attempts to find water unsuccessfully, even after all of their professed morality and attempts to propitiate Allah through unending flattery and infant sacrifices. The third well Isaac dug was also a gusher and the Philistines realized that three wells out of three must mean Allah was with this outsider, and they left him alone. So the prince of peace quietly “called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For now the LORD hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” (Gen. 26:22).

John the Baptist had godly parents also, but, having lived under a more stringent regime handed down from Moses, which they were happy to keep perfectly, they couldn’t achieve the faith of Abraham, or his grace. But they lived up to all the light they had and sought the Lord with their whole heart; so, Jehovah picked them to rear up the greatest of prophets. Like his parents, John was “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” (Lk. 1:6). He would also be childless.

Stern, strict, and regimented, John the Baptist knew his purpose for Israel and faithfully prepared for his difficult task. He read the experiences of Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

“Then the LORD put forth His hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put My words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.…And I will utter My judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken Me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands. Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.” (Jer. 1:9-10,16-19).

“And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against Me: they and their fathers have transgressed against Me, even unto this very day. For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD. And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them. And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. And thou shalt speak My words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious. But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee. And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein; and He spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.

Moreover He said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that roll. And He said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness. And He said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with My words unto them. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel; not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee.

But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto Me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted. Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. Moreover He said unto me, Son of man, all My words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears. And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.… And I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me. ” (Eze. 2:3-3:11, 14).

The Messiah was to come and John was to get Israel up to speed to receive Him with honorable obedience. But, oh, what a work of preparation was needed!

He saw his people deceived, self-satisfied, and asleep in their sins. He longed to rouse them to a holier life. The message that God had given him to bear was designed to startle them from their lethargy, and cause them to tremble because of their great wickedness. Before the seed of the gospel could find lodgment, the soil of the heart must be broken up. Before they would seek healing from Jesus, they must be awakened to their danger from the wounds of sin. The Desire of Ages, p. 103.

But he wisely discerned that the desert could protect him from the influences of the insidious idolatry of modern civilization. Wilderness living would teach him the needed austerity and dependence on God. He comprehended in Daniel’s prophecy the Messiah’s coming to be the antitypical Day of Atonement which demanded the mortifying of the flesh. “Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.” (Lev. 23:27-29). The deserted haunts of southern Judea would afford his lifelong straitness and separation from temptation. His communion with God and Bible study were heightened by the perpetual silence broken only by the sounds of the King’s creation. Because he bowed low before the King of kings he could stand erect and fearless before earthly monarchs.

John the disciple came from a vastly different upbringing than John the Baptist. More like Isaac’s and David’s, his childhood and home life was that of living under his father’s love. Being the youngest of Zebedee’s household, he was treasured like a little lamb. Under the regime of grace, he early learned to savor tenderness and compassion. Though a different chapter than the Baptist, John the disciple formed the other bookend of this story of the great New Testament revival. The apostle took up the work of Elisha’s revival; and, centuries earlier, the preparation for that work Elijah had modeled for the Baptist.

John was an Adventist. While John the Baptist awaited the Messiah’s first coming, John the Adventist prepared for Messiah’s second coming. John the Adventist had been a Baptist, but came out of that following because he met and followed the one to whom the Baptist had pointed. This decision led him on to heights of glory that his first pastor never knew. John the Baptist had great light and perfectly fulfilled his divine commission. But even he knew his limitations. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn. 3:30). His anointing had not the fullness of the One who was to come and he never intimated that he had the full gospel.

“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matt. 3:11,12, cf Lk. 3:16, 17).

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” (Matt. 3:7-10).

Oozing atheism, the unaffected papal leaders continued their cool investigation of the uncertified, new public phenomenon. “‘Who art thou?’ And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’ Then said they unto him, ‘Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?’” (Jn. 1:19-22).

The Baptist reiterated his oft repeated message given him from heaven. “He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.’” (Jn. 1:23). “‘As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Lk. 3:4-6).

John the Adventist witnessed this and never forgot the disparity between this Baptist man of God and those atheists wearing garments flowing with hypocrisy. Their Roman ways and words stood out in sharp contrast to the authentic prophet. The Adventist would never forget this. Everything John the Adventist would ever preach and pen would convey the distinction between true righteousness and the falsified; the divine nature and second birth compared to the dead human nature and the first birth.

John the Adventist looked forward to the return of the Messiah because he had seen the other side of Jesus that the Baptist had not been privileged to see.

As John the Baptist had studied the sacred scrolls. He read that Messiah would “sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and … purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years. And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Mal. 3:3-5).

But, Messiah would also be called “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6). And, John the Adventist had seen both sides of the anointed One and partook of His anointing.

That anointing gave him a vision that far exceeded even the bold and upright message of the Baptist. The Adventist looked down the corridors of time with a mysterious vision, a full screen, surround-sound production of Hebrew hieroglyphics, a lengthy and compact proverb that riddled the minds of Satan’s kingdom until “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Dan. 12:4).

The final days in which his most precious Master would finally come back again inspired the famous words that closed the Adventist’s ministry.  “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Rev. 22:20,21).


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