March 14, 2016

Cliff's Edge

What sinful flesh ever uttered a prayer greater than the one in Daniel 9:4-19, a confession of the corporate wrongs that left Judah decimated and the temple trashed. Even as he pled with God to “take away your anger and your fury from your city, Jerusalem, your holy mountain” (Dan. 9: 16), Daniel admitted that his people had not been faithful, the idea being that had they been then they would have turned from their iniquities oule-haskiyl ba-amitteka “and prospered in your truth” (Dan. 9:13; author's translation).

Prospered in your truth?

How not? God had given the Hebrews light, truth, honor, privileges, and manifestations of His goodness and power unlike anything among the nations around them. “For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” (Deut. 4:7-8, KJV). And had His chosen ones done what their Lord had asked, which wasn’t so hard (“But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it,” [Deut. 30:14, KJV])—how majestically they would have prospered in God’s truth.

The parallel should scream to Seventh-day Adventists. The light, the teachings, the privileges poured out upon us have given us incredible opportunities to prosper in God’s truth—especially in contrast to the “nations” around us.

Still (still!) the vast majority of Christendom does not know the joy, the fullness, the richness that comes from the experience of the Seventh-day Sabbath—an outward expression of the Christian’s rest in the saving work of Christ for them (Heb. 4: 1-6).

And as millions are deceived by stories of those who, having died, claimed to have been swept into heaven (and then be unceremoniously brought back to earth), how fortunate to know that the dead sleep, soundly (to say the least), only to be awakened by Jesus in one resurrection or the other. How nice to know, too, that those not in the first resurrection will, ultimately, return to the nothingness out of which Christ first created them, as opposed to being tortured for eons in hell—a doctrine that has plagued multitudes who feared that fate for themselves or loved ones. What a privilege to know God’s truth about death and hell, and to prosper in it, especially in contrast to those who believe that the lost burn for ever.

And the light we have on the heavenly sanctuary, and on Christ’s intercession there (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25), should give us great assurance and comfort. On the Levitical Day of Atonement, the symbolic day of judgment, the tabernacle was cleansed “because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins,” (Lev. 16:16, KJV). In this ritual, because of the blood shed, God forgave the people their “transgression in all their sins.” Though hardly perfect, God’s people were covered by the blood, a prophetic representation from ancient times of what Jesus does for us, now, in the eschatological Day of Atonement (Heb. 9:23)—expressed in Daniel 8:14 (KJV) as, “And he said unto me, “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” While most Christians misinterpret Dan. 8:14 as having been fulfilled in the defeat of a minor Seleucid king about 150 years before Christ, we see it as a powerful representation of why, though sinners, we can have assurance in judgment (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10).

At times, when I see people stuffing themselves with food hardwired for heart attack, stroke, cancer, you name it— I so appreciate (especially as I get closer and closer to antique-status) the health message. Despite the mega-food industry spending untold sums of money in order to suppress the evidence (just as the tobacco industry did for decades), studies show over and over that a plant-based diet (basically, the Eden diet) remains the best way to achieve the kind of health and healing that Jesus administered while here. (Christ didn’t die on the cross so that we could now eat a pig.) With the health message, what a great opportunity to prosper in God’s truth.

And even after 36 years in the church I marvel, still, at what Jesus has poured out upon us with the Spirit of Prophecy (Rev. 19:10, KJV). Look, for instance, at this one excerpt, when she describes Pilate’s wife’s dream.

“In answer to Christ’s prayer, the wife of Pilate had been visited by an angel from heaven, and in a dream she had beheld the Saviour and conversed with Him. Pilate’s wife was not a Jew, but as she looked upon Jesus in her dream, she had no doubt of His character or mission. She knew Him to be the Prince of God. She saw Him on trial in the judgment hall. She saw the hands tightly bound as the hands of a criminal. She saw Herod and his soldiers doing their dreadful work. . .. Still another scene met her gaze. She saw Christ seated upon the great white cloud, while the earth reeled in space, and His murderers fled from the presence of His glory. With a cry of horror she awoke, and at once wrote to Pilate words of warning.” (DA 732).

When you multiply revelations like these, again and again, and over decades of ministry—the rhetorical question that the Lord asked, in Isa. 5:4 (KJV) — “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?”— is one that we, as Adventists, need to answer for ourselves.

The argument, then, that we should focus on Jesus, more than on doctrine, presents a false dichotomy. Every doctrine of ours, uniquely ours or not, is rooted in Christ; thus any Adventist presentation of Him at the expense of these doctrines will be a whitewashed, watered-down Christ, and not the One that we have been blessed with and have been called to reveal to the “nations” around us.

If only Israel had been faithful, then they would have turned from their iniquities oule-haskiyl ba-amitteka “and prospered in your truth” (Dan. 9:13, author's translation).

They didn’t; what a tragedy if we don’t as well.