“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.

Monday, March 23, 2020

When is the truth not the truth?

When is a boy not a boy? When he turns into a store.

But, seriously, when is a doctrine a true doctrine and when is it not? When is scripture interpreted correctly? When is it “walking in craftiness, … handling the word of God deceitfully” (2Cor. 4:2), “hold[ing] the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18)? This next quarter in the adult Sabbath School we study the rules for interpreting scripture.

Supposedly, there are 33,000 denominations. Who knows how accurate that allegation is. But, no doubt, there are many non-denominational churches that do not affiliate themselves with the old standard-bearer, mainline denominations. And maybe the non-denominational churches were all counted as “denominations”. But, what does Protestantism stand for? They all claim sola scriptura, “The Bible and the Bible only”. But they are all conflicting with each other, or else there would be one denomination.

So, how could there be such conflict among the children of the great Reformation? How did it get to this point where it seems anything goes? “In those days there was no king in [Protestantism]: every [church does] that which was right in [its] own eyes.” (Jdg. 21:25). Could the confusion come from the interpretation methods they hold of the Bible?

Don’t get me wrong—I love to see people, even Sunday churches, reading and studying the Bible. But, how does the Bible get understood by such a broad spectrum of interpretations, and leave the descendants of the Reformation so divided? The old enemy of the Dark Ages is coming back to life. We need to be united—and not around only a few doctrines. We need to be united around “every word of God” (Luke 4:4).

Maybe you’ve had this problem. I might read a Bible statement and interpret it metaphorically. But another person uses a literal interpretation for the same statement. I saw this happen after an Adventist funeral. I knew the Catholic sister of a deceased Adventist member of our church. This sister had a deep knowledge of Catholic doctrine. As is typical, the Adventist pastor used the funeral for an opportunity to explain the biblical understanding of the state of the dead. I sat next to her because I wanted to ask her, after the service ended, what she thought of the pastor’s explanation of Job 14:12-15 (“till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep”), and Luke 16:19-31 (the rich man and Lazarus). The pastor’s sermon was very well put together and clear that Job understood the true state of the dead, and Christ’s parable of the rich man was just that, a parable of a deeper lesson that the Jews were on the verge of committing the unpardonable sin that would result in a “great gulf fixed” (Luke 16:26) between them and the Lord God of Israel.

But, I turned to the Catholic woman to hear her say, “I now understand what the Bible says about the dead! Praise the Lord!” And, she simply said, “Job is a parable. And the rich man and Lazarus is literal.”

We have these statements:

“The track of truth lies close beside the track of error, and both tracks may seem to be one to minds which are not worked by the Holy Spirit, and which, therefore, are not quick to discern the difference between truth and error.” Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 202.

“As truth and error appear so near akin, minds that are not guided by the Holy Spirit will be led to accept the error and, in so doing, place themselves under the power of Satan’s deceptions. In thus leading people to receive error for truth, Satan is working to secure the homage of the Protestant world.” Christ Triumphant, p. 324.

Later on, as I read Job I could see why the Job account could be seen as a parable. There was a lot of repetition of statements that sounds like an Aesop’s fable.

For instance:

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” (Job 1:1).

And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (Job 1:8).

A little change-up of wording by the writers of Job would have avoided the rote-like, fairy tale effect. It can give the impression of some uncultured, undeveloped narrator’s lines of a skit from medieval times. But, is this necessarily correct conclusion? There are other repetitiveness with a similar effect elsewhere in the Bible.

“Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 
Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 
Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, 
That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: 
And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 
Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.” (Dan. 3:2-7).

The repetition of exact phrases gives the impression that Nebuchadnezzar was a character reading a script that had a lot of copy/pasting going on in it. And some other, not so blatant examples, such as,

And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.” (Dan. 2:1).

And [Jesus] said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:” (Luke 22:15).

Maybe the repetition made the account of Job sound like a fable with a moral at the end, but, as we can see, repetition was a common practice in Israel. In fact, almost everywhere in scripture you see parallelism poetry spoken.

 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” (Isa. 46:9,10).

Does our Creator really speak in poetry all the time? I can’t say definitively, but in scripture it happens everywhere. Was it a form of reverence or formalism to make the declarations of God’s word like that? What it Holy Spirit driven? Look at Isaiah 55. Every single verse contains parallel thought, even multiple parallelisms. It is beautiful. It flows so nicely, you can make a song out of it. And the parallelisms make scripture easier to memorize.

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 
Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. 
Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. 
Behold, I have given Him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. 
Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for He hath glorified thee. 
Seek ye the LORD while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: 
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. 
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. 
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. 
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. 
For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 
Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isa. 55:1-13).

So back to Job. I’m not sure why else it would be taken allegorically. Satan in heaven? That could be hard for some to wrap their mind around. An enlarged understanding of the great controversy would certainly be helpful here. And, folks, I believe we have this great need out there now, and coming in the Latter Rain. There’s a lot of misconceptions and vast holes in the bigger picture that we have the resources to fill. We have a huge blessing to share with a protestant world that still has a lot of ignorance concerning the scriptures. And all the doctrinal holes we can fill, we have a lot to learn about imbedding Jesus and the loving character of God in all the truths and doctrines. It must not be straight facts and figures and proof texts. In that case, the letter killeth unless the Spirit maketh alive. Let’s not be guilty of that heinous crime. We have a Bible study reform to start in Adventism. Jesus must be central, and I think we have lost that reform that began in 1888. Even the preachers of righteousness by faith too often keep Jesus out of it. It seems that, for them, it’s all about Paul. But, Paul would have chastised us for that.

“Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? 
I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 
Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. 
And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.” (1Cor. 1:13-16).

But, it seems we are back to baptizing in the name of Paul or James or Moses or Ellen White. But every one of them would have had something so say against that.

“ If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD; then the LORD will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance.” (Deut. 28:58,59).

What are some other issues in Bible interpretations?

Many a portion of Scripture which learned men pronounce a mystery, or pass over as unimportant, is full of comfort and instruction to him who has been taught in the school of Christ. One reason why many theologians have no clearer understanding of God’s word is, they close their eyes to truths which they do not wish to practice. As understanding of Bible truth depends not so much on the power of intellect brought to the search as on the singleness of purpose, the earnest longing after righteousness.” The Great Controversy, p. 599.

If we all had singleness of purpose, wouldn’t we all be united around Jesus, the Spirit of truth? Now this is a major obstacle to hurdle. Singleness of purpose, as in, Is our mind fully dedicated to the will of God?

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil [skewed], thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness” (Matt. 6:22,23).

This is a big source of confusion. Everyone deciding truth by what is deemed right in their own eyes. That’s why Israel needed a king. But he had to be a godly king, who had a constant love for communion with the heavenly King of kings. Thus the king would have a love of the truth, and escape the lusts of the flesh and the pleasures of unrighteousness.

So, justification and sanctification have a lot to do with understanding the Bible correctly. When people join the church without being born again and being transformed by the renewing of their mind, without renouncing their old conforming to the world, they are bound to misinterpret the word of God.

So, if I refuse to take off my jewelry, what am I going to do with 1 Peter 3:3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price”? I’m going to rationalize and call it a metaphor when it is a literal exhortation.

If I couldn’t live plainly in the image God created me to have, what would I do with Genesis 35:1-5? Rationalize again?

“And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. 
Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: 
And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. 
And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. 
And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.”

But, after so many witnesses of the truth of God’s will, if I don’t conform to God’s instruction in righteousness, then I will have to throw out the Bible altogether. Or, I will find a Bible version that suits me just fine by glazing over my personal idols. There’s a lot of Bibles to choose from these days. It seems a new and improved NIV comes out every several years, 1973, 1978, 1983, 2011. And new version of other Bibles are coming out every year. Will that add to or subtract from the disunity among the supposedly defunct Reformation?

So what’s the harm with a few idols? Are we better off than Rachel?

And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father’s house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods? 
And Jacob answered and said to Laban,…
With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them. 
And Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and into Leah’s tent, and into the two maidservants’ tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah’s tent, and entered into Rachel’s tent. 
Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel’s furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not. 
 And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images.” (Gen. 31:30-35).

If we don’t want to do what the Bible says and warns us away from, yet we want to be counted in the kingdom, then we will not know the whole counsel of God. Idols are devastating to knowing the Bible and the God of the Bible. We want to have certainty of salvation. We want to know that “Thou God seest me.” (Gen. 16:13). We want an experience in the things of God We want to know that He hears our prayers. But, His conditions for all that are made clear. “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the Law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” (Prov. 28:9). “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33).

Let’s be single-hearted and single-eyed and we will see the salvation of the Lord. The Bible will make sense. It will come together as one great masterpiece of a treatise on how to build the approaching kingdom of God. Let us go to the Spirit of Prophecy, even the testimonies for the church, to see ourselves as God sees us. Let the mighty cleaver of truth square and fit us up. At the first, we will be offended, but after all the “shaking among God’s people” by “the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans”, the “agonizing cries, pleading with God” “with strong faith”, the “pale” “countenances” “marked with deep anxiety, expressive of their internal struggle”, the “firmness and great earnestness”, the “large drops of perspiration”, the “solemn, earnest, anxious look” that “would settle upon them, the “deep repentance”, “the severe conflict”, “the agonizing struggle”. Early Writings, p. 269, 270. But after that exercising of faith we will have “the peaceable fruit of righteousness”.

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Heb. 12:11).

For His anger endureth but a moment; in His favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psa. 30:5).

If we find truth unwelcome, all is not lost for us. Divine grace has a caveat for that.

If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” (2Cor. 8:12). Give God what you do have. Choose to be a Christian. Hope thou in God.

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” (Psa. 42:11).

If we are willing to be made willing, then Jesus will work with our reticence to obey. But, we must follow through by going to the perfect law of liberty, and stand before it in hope that despite its searing and blinding light upon our idols, yet, the God of love, the Spirit of truth, will not give us more than we can take. Give Him what gifts of obedience you have, and hold it out that there will be more expected in His timing. And He will meet you more than half way. There needs to be a coming together of earnest seeking after God. And if we knock in hope and faith He will open the door, if we ask in all seriousness He will answer, if we seek in total desperation to have Him, then we will find Him. for He has promised,

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.” (Jer. 29:14).

Only an authentic prophet can correctly handle the word of God. Only they are “holy men [and women] of God…moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2Pet. 1:21). However, in the same breath, the very next verse says, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” (2Pet. 2:1).


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