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The Holy Spirit and Spirituality
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Bible Study Guide - 1st Quarter 2017

The Holy Spirit and Spirituality

Many of us have heard the words: "And I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." And, if baptized, we surely heard them just before a minister immersed us in the water (see Matt. 28:19).

Baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Spirit is mentioned right there with the Father and the Son.

And no wonder. The Seventh-day Adventist Church's Fundamental Belief no. 5, "God the Holy Spirit," reads: "God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the Son in Creation, incarnation, and redemption. He is as much a person as are the Father and the Son. He inspired the writers of Scripture. He filled Christ's life with power. He draws and convicts human beings; and those who respond He renews and transforms into the image of God. Sent by the Father and the Son to be always with His children, He extends spiritual gifts to the church, empowers it to bear witness to Christ, and in harmony with the Scriptures leads it into all truth."

Nevertheless, as we read the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, we see the direct activity and work of God the Father. His actions are everywhere. In the New Testament, especially the Gospels, we read again and again about the work and activity of Jesus, the Son. Jesus-His life, death, and ministry in heaven- dominates the New Testament.

In contrast to the activity of both the Father and the Son, the work of the Holy Spirit is not as openly depicted in either Testament.

But there is a reason for this contrast: the Holy Spirit does not seek to be the center of attention. He plays more of a behind-the-scenes role. The Father and the Son are more directly revealed in the Word. And that's because the Holy Spirit is there to point us, not to Himself, but to Jesus and what Jesus has done for us.

As we study the work of the Holy Spirit, we will see how central He is to our Christian experience. The Holy Spirit, who, as God Himself, knows God as no person can; thus He can reveal God to us in a trustworthy and reliable manner. The Holy Spirit first inspired the Bible writers, and the Holy Spirit today guides us in our study of what He had inspired these writers to communicate. The Holy Spirit gives assurance of our salvation through Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:16), and He gives evidence of God's work in us (1 John 3:24). The Holy Spirit also cleanses us from sin and sanctifies us. "You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11, RSV). The Spirit produces in us lifelong growth in holiness, bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit within us-"love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal. 5:2223, NASB).

"The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail. The power of evil had been strengthening for centuries, and the submission of men to this satanic captivity was amazing. Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power. It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world's Redeemer." - Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 671.

Because of His crucial role in the lives of believers, this quarter's study will help us better understand the great gift we have in the Holy Spirit.

At the time of this writing, Frank M. Hasel, Ph.D., was dean of the Theological Department at Bogenhofen Seminary in Austria, Europe, where he was also the director of the Ellen G. White Study Center. In 2009 his wife died of cancer. Since then he learns to trust God's goodness in new ways every day and experiences the comfort, peace, and transforming power of the Holy Spirit in his life.


Lesson 1        December 31-January 6

The Spirit and the Word

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week's Study: 2 Pet. 1:19-211 Cor. 2:9-13Ps. 119:160John 17:17.

Memory Text: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:1617, NKJV).

The Bible says the following about itself: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:1617, NKJV). Scripture fulfills this role because it is the Word of God, revealed to humanity through the work of the Holy Spirit. In the Bible the Holy Spirit reveals God's will to us, showing us how to live a life pleasing to Him.

But the Holy Spirit was operational not only in the distant past, in the origin of the Bible. He is involved with the Word of God in many other important ways even today. And perhaps the most important is our reading the Word and desiring to understand it properly. This is when we need the Holy Spirit. This same divine Spirit awakens in us the desire to embrace the Word of God and to apply its teaching to our lives. Thus, the Spirit works with and through the Written Word to transform us into new creatures in Christ.

This week we will trace the work of the Holy Spirit as it relates to the Scriptures.

Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 7.

SundayJanuary 1

The Holy Spirit and Revelation

How does God ensure that His will is faithfully transmitted to fallen human beings? He does this in two major related activities of the Holy Spirit: revelation and inspiration.

In the process of revelation, human beings are dependent upon the help of Someone outside of themselves to reveal things to us that we, as created (and fallen) beings, cannot know of ourselves. That is, the Holy Spirit teaches us truths that have to be told to us (see, for example, Dan. 2:19-23); otherwise we could never know them through natural means.

Revelation is a process in which God makes Himself and His divine will known to humans. The basic idea associated with the word revelation is an unveiling, or uncovering, a disclosure of something that otherwise is hidden. We need such a revelation because, as finite and fallen beings separated from God because of sin, we are greatly limited in what we can learn on our own. We are dependent upon God to know His will. Hence we are dependent on God's revelation because we are not God and have only a very limited natural knowledge of Him.

Read 2 Peter 1:19-21. What does this say about the origin of the biblical prophetic message? What does the divine origin of the biblical message tell us about the authority of the Bible?

According to the apostle Peter, the prophetic message of the Old Testament was not of human origin. The prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit in such a way that the content of their message came from God. These men did not create the message themselves. They were merely the vessels of the message, not the originators. Peter was very intentional in stressing the Spirit-inspired source of the prophecies: though written by men, "prophecy never came by the will of man" (2 Pet. 1:21, NKJV). And it is this divine origin that gives the Bible its ultimate authority over our lives.

God used human beings to proclaim His Word to the world. How can we be used by the Holy Spirit to do something similar today, not in writing Scripture but in proclaiming what has already been written?

MondayJanuary 2

The Holy Spirit and Inspiration

Inspiration is the term used to describe God's influence through the work of the Holy Spirit in transmitting His message through human instruments. The work of the Holy Spirit in the process of inspiration is the reason we find a fundamental unity in all of Scripture in regard to truth. As the Spirit of Truth (John 14:1715:2616:13), the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth.

Read 2 Peter 1:21Deuteronomy 18:18Micah 3:8, and 1 Corinthians 2:9-13. What do these texts tell us about the biblical writers and about God's involvement in the origin of the Bible?

Being "carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:21, NIV) is a strong affirmation of the work of the Holy Spirit in inspiration. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-13, the apostle Paul credits revelation and inspiration to the Holy Spirit. To us, he says, God revealed the hidden things that no eye has seen, which he mentions in verse 9. God revealed them through the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10). The apostles have received this "Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God" (1 Cor. 2:12, NASB). Then in verse 13 he moves to the work of inspiration, where he speaks of things "not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words" (NASB). Paul had no doubt about the source and the authority of what he was proclaiming.

While many parts of the Bible are a result of God's direct supernatural revelation, not everything in the Bible was revealed in that manner. Sometimes God used biblical writers in their careful personal investigation of things or in their use of other existing documents (Josh. 10:13Luke 1:1-3) to reveal and communicate His message. Thus all parts of the Bible are revealed and inspired (2 Tim. 3:16). This is the reason Paul states that "whatever" was written, was written for our instruction, so that through "the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom. 15:4, NASB). The God who speaks and who created human language enables chosen people to communicate in human words the inspired thoughts in a trustworthy and reliable manner.

"God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do His work. He guided the mind in the selection of what to speak and what to write. The treasure was entrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, nonetheless, from Heaven." - Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 26.

TuesdayJanuary 3

The Holy Spirit and the Truthfulness of Scripture

While revelation is the supernatural act by which God reveals truth to chosen human beings, inspiration is the activity of the Holy Spirit that safeguards the truthfulness of what the human authors wrote, so that their words have the full approval of God. God hates false witness (Exod. 20:16) and cannot lie (Heb. 6:18). He is called a God of truth (Ps. 31:5Isa. 65:16). In a similar manner, the Holy Spirit is called "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:17).

Read Psalm 119:160. What does this teach about anything God reveals to us?

Read John 17:17. What does Jesus say to us here about God's Word?

The Word of God is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. It is not our task to sit in judgment over Scripture; Scripture, rather, has the right and the authority to judge us. "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Heb. 4:12, NIV).

Though, of course, the Bible was written by those living in specific times and places and cultures (how could it have been otherwise?), we should not use that fact to water down or dismiss the message of the Bible to us. Once that door is opened, the Bible becomes subject to humans and to their determination of what is truth. The result is that many people, while claiming to believe the Bible, reject such things as a six-day creation, a worldwide flood, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the literal Second Coming. These are just a few of many biblical truths that fallible people, sitting in judgment on the Scriptures, have thrown out. That's not a path any of us should ever take.

Why is it so crucial to submit our own judgment to the Word of God rather than vice versa?

WednesdayJanuary 4

The Holy Spirit as Teacher

The Holy Spirit is instrumental not only in giving us the Written Word of God but also in helping us understand it properly. Human beings are darkened in their understanding of truth; they are, by nature, alienated from God (Eph. 4:18). That's why the same Spirit, who revealed and inspired the Word of God, is the One who enables us to understand it. The problem is not that the Bible is an obscure book. The problem is our sin-tainted attitude toward God, who reveals Himself in the Bible.

The Holy Spirit is a Teacher who desires to lead us into a deeper understanding of Scripture and to a joyful appreciation of the Bible. He brings the truth of God's Word to our attention and gives us fresh insights into those truths so that our lives can be characterized by faithfulness and a loving obedience to God's will. This can happen, though, only if we approach the Bible with a humble and teachable heart.

Read 1 Corinthians 2:1314. What does the apostle Paul write about our need to interpret spiritual things spiritually?

In our understanding of the Bible, we are dependent upon the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, the spiritual significance of the biblical words is not discerned, only its linguistic meaning. Furthermore, as sinful human beings we often are opposed to God's truth, not because we do not understand it but because we would prefer not to follow it. Without the Holy Spirit there is no affection for God's message. There is no hope, no trust, and no love in response. What the Spirit brings to life is in harmony with the truth already proclaimed in the Bible.

"Many contradictory opinions in regard to what the Bible teaches do not arise from any obscurity in the book itself, but from blindness and prejudice on the part of interpreters. Men ignore the plain statements of the Bible to follow their own perverted reason. - Ellen G. White, <a" href="">The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Jan. 27, 1885. How has your pride been a stumbling stone that has hindered you from implementing the truth of Scripture in your life? In what areas do your own desires keep you from accepting God's truth in your life? How can you learn to surrender everything to God?

ThursdayJanuary 5

The Holy Spirit and the Word

The Holy Spirit, who has revealed and inspired the content of the Bible to human beings, will never lead us contrary to God's Word in any way.

Read John 5:394647 and John 7:38. What authority does Jesus refer to in these texts? How does the Bible confirm that Jesus is the Messiah?

Some people claim to have received special "revelations" and instructions from the Holy Spirit that go against the clear message of the Bible. For them the Holy Spirit has attained a higher authority than God's Word. Whenever the inspired and Written Word of God is nullified and its clear message is evaded, we walk on dangerous ground and do not follow the leading of God's Spirit. The Bible only is our spiritual safeguard. It alone is a reliable norm for all matters of faith and practice.

"Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks to the mind, and impresses truth upon the heart. Thus He exposes error, and expels it from the soul. It is by the Spirit of truth, working through the word of God, that Christ subdues His chosen people to Himself." - Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 671.

Ellen G. White has made it abundantly clear that "the Spirit was not given-nor can it ever be bestowed-to supersede the Bible; for the Scriptures explicitly state that the word of God is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested." - Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 9.

The Holy Spirit is never given to replace the Word of God. He rather works in harmony with and through the Bible to draw us to Christ, thus making the Bible the only norm for authentic biblical spirituality. We can be sure that when someone comes making claims that are in contradiction to the Word of God, that person is not speaking the truth. We can't judge hearts or motives. We can, though, judge theology, and the only standard we have to judge it is the Word of God.

What are some of the teachings that people are trying to promote in the church that are clearly contrary to the Word of God? What should our response be to (1) the people promoting these errors; (2) the errors themselves?

FridayJanuary 6

Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, "The Scriptures a Safeguard" pp. 593-602. Read also Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, "Let Not Your Heart be Troubled," pp. 662-680.

Think about all the truth that we know only because it has been revealed to us in the Bible. Think, for instance, about creation. What a contrast between what the Word of God teaches about how we were created and how humanity teaches we were created-that is, through the process of what is now called "the neo-Darwinian synthesis." Look at how wrong humans have it! Think, too, about the Second Coming of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead at the end of the age. These are truths that we could never learn on our own. They have to be revealed to us; and they are, in the Word of God, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit. In fact, the most important truth of all, that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and that we are saved through faith in Him and His works for us, is a truth that we could have never figured out on our own. We know it only because it has been revealed to us. Think about other truths that we know only because they have been told to us through the Word of God. What should the fact that such crucial truths are found only in the Bible tell us about how central the Word of God needs to be in our lives?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is the Bible a safer guide in spiritual questions than are subjective impressions? What are the consequences when we do not accept the Bible as the standard by which we test all teachings and even our spiritual experiences?
  2. We often hear the word "truth" used in a variety of contexts. In class, talk about the concept of "truth," not just what is true or what is not true but about what it means when we say that something is "true." What does it mean for something to be "true"?
  3. How should your church react if someone claims to have "new light"?
  4. Flesh out the radical difference between how the Bible teaches we were created and what human wisdom teaches. What human wisdom teaches, that is, the latest understanding of evolutionary theory, is completely contrary to the Bible message. What should that tell us about why we must trust the Bible above everything else?

Inside Story~  Inter-European Division

A Gift in the Forest, Part 1

Situated in Europe, Poland emerged as a nation in the tenth century A.D. During the next millennium two of Poland's neighbors, the Kingdom of Prussia (modern-day Germany) and the Russian Empire, became powerful. In 1795 these two countries divided Poland between themselves and removed it from the world map. Following World War I, Poland regained its independence.

Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union both invaded Poland during World War II. Some 6 million Poles-half of whom were Jewish-died during the war. At the close of the war, a Communist government was installed in Poland behind the Soviet iron curtain. In 1989 free elections ushered in a new government, which began the fall of Communism in Europe.

More than half of Poland is agricultural or woodlands. It's a haven for many animals including the wisent (European bison), brown bear, gray wolf, and moose. Some 25 percent of European migratory birds breed each summer in Poland's wetlands.

The first king of Poland, Mieszko I, became a Christian in A.D. 966 and formed Poland as a sovereign Christian state. The Roman Catholic Church is still a powerful force in Poland.

During World War II, Germany and the Soviet Union outlawed the Seventh-day Adventist Church. All church properties were taken away and some members were sent to Siberia. After the war, the Adventist Church was reestablished and started to grow again.

In 1990 Ryszard Jankowski [ree-SHARD Yahn-kow-skee], the Polish Union youth leader at the time, had a dream. He wanted a youth camp where young people could be trained for service. The church had no land, no money, and no idea where they would get either. But Ryszard sensed that God was in the dream, so he began searching.

"We wanted a place where children and youth could spend time in nature and learn about God, a place where they could see the Creator and learn to love Him," Ryszard said. They wanted the camp to have electricity and water, be on a lake, and have some basic buildings.

One day, Ryszard found a place called Zatonie [zah-TOH-nee], a government-owned camp on a lake in western Poland. The buildings on the campground were in poor condition, but they could be made useful.

"I believed that God wanted us to have Zatonie," Ryszard said. The campsite was worth $200,000, but the union didn't have money to buy the land, the buildings, or furniture. "But as our committee discussed the possibilities, the telephone rang. Someone in Denmark was offering us free furniture-they would even deliver it!" Ryszard knew that God would provide the rest if this was His will.

To be continued.

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Lesson 14      December 24–30

Some Lessons From Job

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: 2 Cor. 5:7, Job 1–Job 2:8Matt. 4:10Matt. 13:39John 8:1–11Heb. 11:10Heb. 4:15.

Memory Text: “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11, NKJV).

We’ve come to the end of this quarter’s study on Job. Though we might have covered much in the book, we must admit that there’s still so much more to cover, so much more to learn. Of course, even in the secular world, everything we learn and discover simply leads to more things to learn and to discover. And if it’s like that with atoms, stars, jellyfish, and math equations, how much more so with the Word of God?

“We have no reason to doubt God’s word because we cannot understand the mysteries of His providence. In the natural world we are constantly surrounded with wonders beyond our comprehension. Should we then be surprised to find in the spiritual world also mysteries that we cannot fathom? The difficulty lies solely in the weakness and narrowness of the human mind.” — Ellen G. White, Education, p. 170.

Yes, mysteries remain, especially in a book like Job, where many of life’s most difficult questions are raised. Nevertheless, we will look at some lessons we can take away from this story that can help us, like Job, to be faithful to the Lord amid a world of troubles.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 31.

SundayDecember 25

By Faith and Not by Sight

Read 2 Corinthians 5:7 and 2 Corinthians 4:18. What crucial truths are revealed in these texts? How can these truths help us as we seek to be faithful followers of the Lord?

The immediate context of 2 Corinthians 4:18 is eschatological, talking about the end times, when we are clothed in immortality, a great promise that we don’t yet see fulfilled. That’s a promise we have to take by faith and not by sight, because it hasn’t come to pass yet.

Likewise, the book of Job shows us that there’s so much more to reality than what we can see. This should not, though, be so difficult a concept for people living in our day and age to grasp, not when science has revealed the existence of unseen forces all around us.

A preacher stood before a church in a large city. He asked the congregation to be quiet. For a few seconds there was no sound. He then pulled out a radio and turned it on, running the dial across the channels. All sorts of sounds came out of the radio.

“Let me ask,” the preacher said. “Where did these sounds come from? Did they originate in the radio itself? No, these sounds were in the air all around us, as radio waves, waves just as real as my voice is now. But the way we are wired, we don’t have access to them. But the fact that we can’t see or feel or hear them doesn’t mean that they don’t exist, right?”

What other real things that we can’t see (such as radiation or gravity) exist around us? What spiritual lessons can we draw from the fact that these unseen forces not only exist but can impact our lives?

As the book of Job showed, none of the people involved really grasped what was going on. They believed in God and even had some understanding about God and His character and creative power. But outside the bare facts of reality that they could see—i.e., Job’s calamity—they didn’t have a clue as to what was happening behind the scenes. In the same way, might we not at times be as clueless as to the unseen realities around us? The book of Job, then, teaches us that we need to learn to live by faith, realizing our weakness and just how little we really see and know.

MondayDecember 26

Evil Being

One of the great questions that has challenged human thinking deals with evil. Though some philosophers and even religionists have denied the existence of evil or think we should at least abandon the term, most people would disagree. Evil is real; it’s a part of this world. Though we can argue over what is or is not evil, most of us (to paraphrase a U.S. Supreme Court justice in another context) “know it when we see it.”

Evil is sometimes put into two broad classes: natural and moral. Natural evil is defined as the kind that arises from natural disasters, such as when earthquakes or floods or pestilences bring suffering. Moral evil results from deliberate actions of other human beings, such as murder or robbery.

All sorts of theories, ancient and modern, attempt to account for the existence of evil. As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe that the Bible teaches that evil originated in the fall of a created being, Satan. The popular culture, aided by materialistic philosophical speculations, has denied the idea of Satan. But one can do so only by rejecting the clear testimony of Scripture, which depicts Satan as a real being out to do humans as much harm as possible.

This is a truth especially revealed in the book of Job.

Read Job 1:1 to Job 2:8. How do these two chapters help us understand the role of Satan in the evil that’s so prevalent in the world?

In Job’s case, Satan was directly responsible for the evil, both moral and natural, that fell upon this man. But what we see in the book of Job doesn’t necessarily mean that every example of evil or suffering is directly related to demonic activity. The fact is, as with the characters in the book of Job, we just don’t know all the reasons for the terrible things that happen. In fact, the name of “Satan” never even came up in the dialogues regarding Job’s misfortunes. The speakers blamed God, they blamed Job, but never Satan himself. Nevertheless, the book of Job should show us who is responsible in the end for the evil on the earth.

What do these following texts tell us about the reality of Satan? Rev. 12:12Matt. 4:10Matt. 13:39Luke 8:12Luke 13:16Luke 22:331Acts 5:31 Pet. 5:8. More important, what examples do you have of Satan’s influence in your life? How can you be protected against him?

TuesdayDecember 27

With Friends Like These . . .

All through the book of Job, the three (and then four) men who came to speak to Job did so with good motives. They had heard what had happened to him, and they came “to mourn with him and to comfort him” (Job 2:11). However, after Job first started speaking, bemoaning the tragedies that befell him, they apparently felt it was more important for them to put Job in his place and set his theology straight than it was to encourage and uplift the spirits of their suffering friend.

Time after time, they got it all wrong. But suppose they had got it all right? Suppose all these things came upon Job because he had deserved them? They might have been theologically correct, but so what? Did Job need correct theology? Or did he need something else entirely?

Read John 8:1–11. What did Jesus reveal here that these men were greatly lacking?

In this story, there is a major difference between the woman taken in adultery and her accusers on the one hand and Job and his accusers on the other. The woman was guilty. Though she might have been less guilty of sin than those accusing her, there was never a question of her guilt, whatever the mitigating circumstances. In contrast, Job was not guilty, at least in the sense of guilt that his accusers had claimed for him. But even if he had been guilty like this woman, what Job needed from these men was what this woman needed, and what all suffering people need: grace and forgiveness.

“In His act of pardoning this woman and encouraging her to live a better life, the character of Jesus shines forth in the beauty of perfect righteousness. While He does not palliate sin, nor lessen the sense of guilt, He seeks not to condemn, but to save. The world had for this erring woman only contempt and scorn; but Jesus speaks words of comfort and hope.” — Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 462.

What the book of Job should teach us is that we need to give others what we would like were we in their shoes. There is surely a time and place for rebuke, for confrontation, but before we consider taking on that role, we need to remember humbly and meekly that we are sinners ourselves.

How can we learn more compassion for those who are suffering, even suffering from their own wrong courses of action?

WednesdayDecember 28

More Than Thorns and Thistles

As we all know, and some know too well, life is hard. Right at Eden, after the Fall, we were given some hints of how hard it would be, when the Lord let our first parents know what some of the results of their transgression would be (see Gen. 3:16–24). These were just hints though. After all, if the only challenges we faced in life were “thorns and thistles,” human existence would be radically different from how it is today.

We look around, and what do we see but suffering, sickness, poverty, war, crime, depression, pollution, and injustice? The historian of antiquity Herodotus wrote about a culture in which people mourned—yes, mourned when a baby was born, because they knew the inevitable sorrow and suffering that the child would face were he or she to reach adulthood. Seems morbid, but who can refute the logic?

In the book of Job, though, there is a message for us about the human condition. As we saw, Job could be deemed a symbol of all humanity, in that all of us suffer—often in ways that just don’t seem fair, that don’t seem appropriate to whatever sins we have all inevitably committed. It wasn’t fair to Job, and it’s not fair to us.

And yet, in all of this what the book of Job can say to us is that God is there, God knows, and God promises that it doesn’t all have to be for nothing.

Secular writers, atheistic writers, struggle to come to terms with the meaninglessness of a life that ends forever in death. They struggle and struggle for answers and yet come up with nothing, because this life, in and of itself, offers nothing. There’s an atheistic philosophy called “nihilism,” from a Latin word, nihil, that means “nothing.” Nihilism teaches that our world and our lives in the world mean nothing.

The book of Job, though, points us to a transcendent reality beyond the nihil that our mortal lives threaten us with. It points us to God and to a realm of existence from which we can draw hope. It tells us that all that happens to us does not happen in a vacuum but that there is a God who knows all about what is happening, a God who promises to make it all right one day. Whatever grand questions the book of Job leaves unanswered, it doesn’t leave us with nothing in our hands but the ashes of our lives (see Gen. 3:19Job 2:8). Instead, it leaves us with the hope of hopes, the hope of something beyond what’s presented to our immediate senses.

What Bible texts explicitly say that we have a great hope that transcends anything this world offers? (See, for instance, Heb. 11:10Rev. 21:2.)

ThursdayDecember 29

Jesus and Job

Bible students through the ages have sought to find parallels between the story of Job and the story of Jesus. And though Job is not exactly a “type” of Jesus (as were the animals in the sacrificial system), some parallels do exist. In these parallels we can find another lesson from Job: that of what our salvation cost the Lord.

Compare Job 1:1 with 1 John 2:1James 5:6, and Acts 3:14. What parallels are there?

Read Matthew 4:1–11. What parallels exist here between Jesus and Job?

Read Matthew 26:61Luke 11:1516; and John 18:30. How do these texts parallel the experience of Job?

Compare Job 1:22 with Hebrews 4:15. What parallel exists?

These texts do reveal interesting parallels between the experiences of Job and Jesus. Job, of course, was not sinless, as was Jesus; nevertheless, he was a faithful and righteous man whose life brought glory to the Father. Job was sorely tested by the devil, as was Jesus. All through the book of Job, Job was falsely accused; Jesus, too, faced false accusations.

Finally, and perhaps most important, despite all that happened, Job stayed faithful to the Lord. Much more consequently for us all, Jesus stayed faithful, as well. Despite everything that happened to Him, Jesus lived a sinless life, one that perfectly embodied the character of God. Jesus was the “express image of His [God’s] person” (Heb. 1:3, NKJV), and thus alone had the righteousness needed for salvation, “even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” (Rom. 3:22).

As great as it all was, Job, his suffering, and his faithfulness amid the suffering was a small and imperfect reflection of what Jesus, his Redeemer, would face in Job’s behalf and in ours, when He will indeed come and “stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

FridayDecember 30

Further Thought: Through the centuries, the book of Job has thrilled, enlightened, and challenged readers in Judaism, Christianity, and even Islam (which has its own variant of the biblical account). We say challenged because, as we have seen, in and of itself the book leaves many questions unanswered. On one level, this shouldn’t be so surprising. After all, from Genesis to Revelation, what book of the Bible doesn’t leave questions unanswered? Even taken as a whole, the Bible doesn’t answer every issue that it raises. If the topics it covers, the fall of humanity and the plan of salvation, are subjects that we will be studying throughout eternity (see The Great Controversy, p. 678), how could one finite book of it, even one inspired by the Lord (2 Tim. 3:16), answer everything for us now?

The book of Job, though, doesn’t stand alone. It’s part of a much greater picture revealed in the Word of God. And, as part of a grand spiritual and theological mosaic, it presents us with a powerful message, one with universal appeal, at least for all the followers of God. And that message is: faithfulness amid adversity. Job is a living example of Jesus’ own words: “ ‘He who endures to the end shall be saved’ ” (Matt. 24:13, NKJV). What believer in Jesus, seeking to do right, hasn’t at times faced inexplicable wrong? What believer in Jesus, seeking to be faithful, hasn’t faced challenges to faith? What believer in Jesus, seeking comfort, hasn’t faced accusations instead? And yet, the book of Job presents us with an example of someone who, facing all this and more, maintained his faith and integrity. And as by faith and by grace we trust in the One who died on the cross for Job, and for us, the message to us is, “ ‘Go and do likewise’ ” (Luke 10:37, NKJV).

Discussion Questions:

  1. Place yourself in the mind of a Jew who, knowing the book of Job, lived before the coming of Jesus. What questions do you think that person might have that we today, living after Jesus, don’t have? That is, how does the story of Jesus and what He has done for us help us better understand the book of Job?
  2. When you get to meet Job, what might be the first question you ask him, and why?
  3. What are some questions and issues that the book of Job touched on that we didn’t cover in this quarter?
  4. What was the main spiritual concept that you got from this study on Job? Share your answers with your class.

Inside Story~ 

Finding Spiritual Meaning

Vojtech Pekarik

I grew up in Kosice, Slovakia, a city in the easternmost part of the former Czechoslovakia. When I was 15 my parents divorced. My mother moved to Prague, while I remained with my father.

I wanted to be considered "cool" in high school, so at age 16 I began to smoke and drink. Soon I realized that these drugs left me emptier than before, and I began looking around for something that would really satisfy me.

Our neighbors were quite religious, and when my mother came to visit us, she stayed with this family. They invited us to go to some of their meetings. I began to realize that God does exist, and that He loves and cares about me.

When my father realized that I was seriously interested in religion, he directed me to the family's traditional belief in Catholicism. He arranged for me to take classes from the priest and I began attending mass every Sunday.

A few weeks later I noticed a poster advertising a Bible study group that was forming in our neighborhood. For several months I attended both the Bible studies in my neighborhood and the doctrinal classes at the Catholic Church. The priest heard about the Bible studies and forbade his parishioners to attend. He threatened that anyone who attended the Bible studies would be excommunicated.

But I liked the interesting Bible study sessions. We were encouraged to follow the Bible rather than the teachings of a church-any church. The pastor spoke of the true biblical church. I didn't know such a church existed and asked the pastor to tell us which church believed these principles. He told us it was the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I had heard the name. In the previous meeting we had discussed the Sabbath, and I went home and looked "Sabbath" up in the dictionary--a Communist, atheistic dictionary, and it actually named Seventh-day Adventists as Sabbathkeepers!

The Bible studies were followed by an evangelistic campaign. Soon I was convinced that the Adventist Church was the true church. When I saw how many young people gave their hearts to Jesus, my heart was touched too, and I decided to start a new life with Jesus. Eight months after my first Bible study with the Adventists, I was baptized.

Young-and not so young-people are still searching for meaning in life. Your mission offerings help provide ways for them to find answers. Thank you for giving.

This testimony was adapted from a longer story written by Vojtech Pekarik, who studied at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary near Prague, Czech Republic.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  website:

All Rights Reserved. No part of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide may be edited, altered, modified, adapted, translated, reproduced, or published by any person or entity without prior written authorization from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Lesson 13       December 17–23

The Character of Job

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Job 1:18Job 29:8–17Job 31:1–23Exod. 20:17Matt. 7:22–27Matt. 5:16Eph. 3:10.

Memory Text: “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 2:22, NKJV).

In the midst of all the major issues touched on in the book of Job, we mustn’t lose sight of another crucial theme: that of Job himself. Who was this man whom the Lord trusted so much that He challenged the devil over his faithfulness and integrity? Who was this man who did not understand why all this was happening to him, who knew that what was happening to him wasn’t fair, who expressed anger and frustration over it all, and yet stayed faithful right through to the end?

While the essence of the book of Job dealt with Job after the calamities struck, from this story we can pick up information about Job’s earlier life. And what we learn about Job’s past and the kind of man he was gives us a greater understanding of why Job stayed faithful to the Lord, even amid all the terrible suffering, even amid everything Satan did to try to turn him away from God.

What was Job like, and what can we learn about how he lived that can help make us be more faithful followers of the Lord as we live our own lives?

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 24.

SundayDecember 18

The Man From Uz

Read Job 1:1 and Job 1:8. What does this tell us about the character of Job?

Though Job had been told all through the dialogues that he must have done something wrong in order for all this evil to come upon him, the opposite appears to be the case. It was his goodness, his faithfulness, that made him the special target of Satan.

How good and how faithful was he? First, the text tells us that he was “perfect.” This word does not have to mean “sinless,” as was Jesus. It comes, instead, with the idea of completeness, integrity, sincerity, but in a relative sense. The person who is “perfect” in the sight of God is the person who has reached the degree of development that Heaven expects of him or her at any given time. The Hebrew word for “perfect,” tam, “is equivalent to the Greek word teleios, which is often translated ‘perfect’ in the [New Testament] but which is better translated ‘full grown’ or ‘mature.’ ”—The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 499. Job’s later experiences revealed that he had not reached the ultimate perfection of character. Though faithful and upright, he was still growing.

Second, the text says he was “upright.” The word means “straight,” “level,” “just,” “right.” Job lived in a way that he could be called “a good citizen.”

Third, the text says he “feared God.” Though the Old Testament portrays the idea of “fearing” God as part of what being a faithful Israelite was all about, the phrase was also used in the New Testament for Gentiles who faithfully served the God of Israel (see Acts 10:222).

Finally, Job “eschewed,” or shunned, evil. This characterization of Job was affirmed by the Lord Himself, when He said to 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).

In the end, Job was a man of God whose faith was revealed by the kind of life he lived; and thus, he truly bore witness “to angels, and to men” (1 Cor. 4:9) about what a person can be in Christ.

If the book of Job were about you, how would the opening line read? “There was a ____ in the land of ____ who was _____ and _____ and who _____ God and _____ evil.”

MondayDecember 19

Steps Bathed in Cream

As Job struggled to come to terms with the calamity that befell him, he did think about his past life and how good it had been for him and how he had lived. Talking about the earlier days, Job said that in this time “ ‘my steps were bathed with cream’ ” (Job 29:6, NKJV).

For instance, in Job 29:2, Job talked about the time that “ ‘God [has] watched over me.’ ” (NKJV). The Hebrew word for “watched over” comes from a common word used all through the Old Testament to talk about God’s watchcare for His people (see Ps. 91:11Num. 6:24). Beyond question, Job had the good life. The important thing, too, was that he knew that he had the good life.

Read Job 29:8–17. What do these verses tell us about how others had viewed Job and how he treated those who were struggling?

We can see here just how much Job was respected. The phrase about his taking his “ ‘seat in the open square’ ” (Job 29:7, NKJV) brings in the idea of some sort of local governance, of which Job was obviously a part. Such seats would usually be given to the senior and respected members of the society, and among them Job was highly esteemed.

But we can see that even the “lowest” members of the society loved and respected him. The poor, the perishing, the blind, the widow, the fatherless, the lame, and the blind—those who had not been blessed as Job had been blessed were the very ones to whom he gave aid and comfort.

“God has given in His word a picture of a prosperous man—one whose life was in the truest sense a success, a man whom both heaven and earth delighted to honor.” — Ellen G. White, Education, p. 142.

Verses like these and others (as we will see) show us why Job had been a very successful person in every way, both in the sight of men and of God.

It’s easy to be kind and respectful to the rich and the powerful and the famous. How, though, do you treat those who have nothing to offer you at all?

TuesdayDecember 20

Heart and Eyes

At first glance, in the texts below, it could sound as if Job were bragging, as if Job were parading his holiness and virtue and good conduct before others. This attitude, of course, is precisely the kind that the Bible condemns (see Matthew 23). But that’s not what was happening here with Job. Again, it is crucial to remember the context: he’s being told that his past life, a life assumed to have been pretty evil, is the cause of his suffering. Job, meanwhile, knows that this simply cannot be true and that nothing he had done made him deserve what had come upon him. So, he spends this time recounting the kind of life he lived and the kind of person he was.

Read Job 31:1–23. What else does Job say about how he lived before the calamities?

Notice, too, that Job wasn’t dealing only with his outward actions. The text “ ‘my heart followed my eyes’ ” (Job 31:7, NASB) shows that Job understood the deeper meaning of holiness, the deeper meaning of right and wrong and of God’s law. Job apparently knew that God cares about the heart, about our thoughts, as well as our actions (see 1 Sam. 16:7Exod. 20:17Matt. 5:28). Job knew that it was wrong to lust after a woman and not just to commit adultery with her. (Again, what powerful evidence for the fact that knowledge of the true God had existed even before the Lord called the nation of Israel to be His covenant people and a witness of Him.)

Read what Job said in Job 31:13–15. Why is this message so crucial?

Here Job shows an amazing understanding, especially for his time (any time, really) about the basic equality of all human beings. The ancient world was not a place where concepts of universal rights and universal laws were understood or followed. People groups thought of themselves as greater than and superior to others, and at times thought nothing of denying basic dignity and rights to others. Here, though, Job shows just how much he understands about human rights and that these rights originate in the God who made us. In some ways, Job was ahead of not only his time but ours, as well.

WednesdayDecember 21

A House on the Rock

Read Job 31:24–34. What else can we learn about Job?

No wonder the Lord said what He did about the life and character of Job. This is a man who clearly lived out his faith, a man whose works revealed the reality of his relationship with God. This, of course, made his complaint all the more bitter: Why was this happening to me? And, of course, it made the arguments of his friends as vain and hollow as they were.

But there’s a deeper and more important message that we can take from the reality of Job’s faithful and obedient life. Notice how closely the life he lived in the past was tied to how he responded to the tragedies that befell him later. It was not by chance, or luck, or sheer willpower that Job refused to “ ‘curse God, and die’ ” (Job 2:9). No, it was because all those years of faithfulness and obedience to God gave him the faith and character that enabled him to trust in the Lord, regardless of what happened to him.

Read Matthew 7:22–27. What is found in these verses that reveals the reason Job stayed faithful?

The key to Job’s major victory here was found in all the “smaller” victories he had before (see also Luke 16:10). It was his faithful adherence to right, without being willing to compromise, that made Job what he was. What we see in Job is an example of what the book of James says about the role of works in a life of faith: “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 2:22, NKJV). What an important principle of the Christian life is revealed in this text. In the story of Job we see this principle played out in a powerful way. Job was made of the same flesh and bone as all of us; yet, through the grace of God and his own diligent effort he lived a life of faithful obedience to God.

What choices do you need to make in order to live as faithfully as did Job?

ThursdayDecember 22

The Manifold Wisdom of God

Earlier in the book of Job, amid the back and forth between the characters, Eliphaz the Temanite said to Job: “ ‘Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that you are righteous? Or is it gain to Him that you make your ways blameless?’ ” (Job 22:3, NKJV). That’s a very ironic question, given what we know about what was happening behind the scenes in heaven. Yes, it is a pleasure to God if Job was righteous, and it was gain to Him if Job lived blamelessly. And this is true not just with Job—the same goes for all of those who claim to be followers of the Lord.

Read Matthew 5:16. How do those words help answer the question that Eliphaz threw at Job?

The immediate issue in the book of Job was, would Job be faithful? Satan said he wouldn’t; God said he would. Job’s faithfulness then was definitely to God’s advantage, at least in this specific battle with Satan.

This story, though, is just a microcosm of bigger issues. The first angel’s message tells us, in part, to “give glory” to God (Rev. 14:7), and Jesus explained in Matthew 5:16 that by our good works we can bring glory to God. This is what Job did; this is what we can do, too.

Read Ephesians 3:10. How was the principle expressed here revealed in the book of Job, but on a smaller scale?

What we see in this text, and in the book of Job, are expressions of the fact that God is working in the lives of His followers to change them, for His glory, into His own image. “The very image of God is to be reproduced in humanity. The honor of God, the honor of Christ, is involved in the perfection of the character of His people.” — Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 671. The life of Job was an example of how human beings may reveal this principle, even though Job lived many thousands of years ago. God’s people in every age have the privilege of living their lives in the same way, as well.

What in your life brings glory to God? What does your answer tell you about yourself and how you live and what you might need to change?

FridayDecember 23

Further Thought: The Protestant Reformation reclaimed the great truth of salvation by faith alone. This truth was first intimated in the Word back in Eden itself (see Gen. 3:15) and then given fuller expression in the life of Abraham (see Gen. 15:6Rom. 4:3) before being successively revealed in Scripture up through Paul. Yet, the truth of salvation by faith alone always included the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, not as the means of salvation but as the expression of it. In the life and character of Job we find a great example of what this work looks like. Theologians sometimes call this work “sanctification,” which means basically “holiness.” It is so significant in Scripture that we are told to strive “for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14, ESV). The basic meaning of sanctification is “set apart for holy use,” an idea seen, for example, when the Lord said to His covenant people, “ ‘ “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” ’ ” (Lev. 19:2, NKJV). Though the word and concept appears in various ways in both the Old and New Testament, it deals with what God does in us. It can be seen as a moral growth in goodness and toward goodness. It is “a progressive process of moral change by the power of the Holy Spirit in cooperation with the human will.”—Handbook of SDA Theology, p. 296. Though this work is something that only God can accomplish in us, we are not forced into sanctification any more than we are forced into justification. We give ourselves to the Lord, and the same Lord who justifies us by faith will also sanctify us as well, molding us, as He did with Job, into the image of God, at least to whatever degree is possible this side of eternity. So, Paul writes: “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19, NKJV), and Ellen G. White writes: “Christ is our pattern, the perfect and holy example that has been given us to follow. We can never equal the Pattern, but we may imitate and resemble it according to our ability.” — That I May Know Him, p. 265.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What choices can we make that will influence the degree to which the Lord can work in us? We know that only God can change the heart, but we must cooperate. What does that cooperation look like? How is it manifested?
  2. Colossians 2:6 reads: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (NKJV). How do these words help us understand what it means to live in faith and obedience?
  3. How can we as a church, not just as individuals, bring glory to the Lord before humans and before angels?

Inside Story~ 

Waking Up My Heart, Part 2

About six months after my first visit to Kveto's home, he invited me to attend church with him. I'd been reading the Bible and was interested in what kind of church would teach these things, so decided to go. I was interested but careful, for I didn't want to be seduced into something irrational.

The church building was unimpressive, but when we entered, everyone wanted to shake my hand. Kveto knew I was a reserved person, so he had warned me that the people were friendly. I felt a different atmosphere in this place, one filled with peace, order, and love.

I really enjoyed the church service and the warmth of the people, and began going to church every Sabbath. Now I know that the Holy Spirit was awakening my heart and mind so I could understand the truth. I recognized my own spiritual poverty. God gave me faith and changed my heart.

My family noticed the changes in my life. They questioned me, fearing that I was being deceived by some sect. They saw that my religious conviction was strong, and never forbade me to visit the church or read the Bible.

As Kveto and I studied together, we dealt with other aspects of faith in God and doctrines. I regularly attended public meetings on the topics found in the books of Daniel and Revelation. Repetition helped me to understand those things and answered questions that I wasn't sure how to ask.

One year after I first met Kveto on the street, I committed my life to God. On a Friday night, under the canopy of heaven, I was baptized. I felt as though heaven was near as I answered the pastor's questions and affirmed my faith. On Sabbath I was officially received by the church. I was 20 years old.

How patient and caring is our mighty God! It amazes me to know that He who controls the whole universe would stoop down to free me from the errors of this world! He saved me and He leads me daily toward a greater understanding of salvation! And He caught me when I was trying to decide what I would do with my life. After my baptism, I studied at the Adventist Theological Seminary in Prague so that I could be an instrument in God's hand to lead other searching souls to Him.

I praise God and thank Him for Kveto, who never gave up on me when I did not believe.

Jozef Plachy is now an ordained Seventh-day Adventist minister and serves as the director of Children's Ministries, Children's Sabbath School, and Pathfinders in the Slovakian Conference.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  website:

All Rights Reserved. No part of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide may be edited, altered, modified, adapted, translated, reproduced, or published by any person or entity without prior written authorization from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Lesson 12      
December 10–16

Job’s Redeemer

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Job 19:25–27John 1:1–14Job 10:45Luke 2:11Gal. 4:19Luke 9:22Isa. 53:1–6.

Memory Text: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4, NKJV).

With the sudden appearance of the Lord Himself, beginning in chapter 38, the book of Job reached its climax. God revealed Himself to Job in a powerful and miraculous way, and this resulted in Job’s confession and contrition. The Lord then rebuked Job’s three friends for their wrong words, and Job prayed for them. “And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10, NKJV), and Job lived a long and full life afterward.

There is, however, something unsettling, something unsatisfactory about the story and how it ends. God and Satan, arguing in heaven, battle it out here on earth in the life and flesh of poor Job? It just doesn’t seem fair, doesn’t seem right, that Job would have to bear the terrible brunt of this conflict between God and Satan, while the Lord remained in heaven and simply watched it.

There must be more to the story. And there is. It is revealed many centuries later, in Jesus and His death on the cross. In Jesus alone we find amazing and comforting answers to the questions that the book of Job didn’t fully answer.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 17.

SundayDecember 11

My Redeemer Liveth

When God appeared to Job in chapter 38, He revealed Himself to Job as the Creator, who “ ‘divided a channel for the overflowing water,’ ” the One who made “ ‘a path for the thunderbolt, to cause it to rain on a land where there is no one’ ” (Job 38:2526, NKJV). Our Lord, though, isn’t only the Creator. He has another crucial title and role, as well.

Read Job 19:25–27. What do these words reveal about Job’s hope of salvation?

With these famous verses, Job shows that he had some knowledge of the Redeemer, some knowledge that, though people died, there was hope beyond the grave, and this hope was found in the Redeemer, who was to come to the earth one day.

These words of Job point to what is the most crucial and important truth in the Bible: God as our Redeemer. Yes, God is our Creator. But in a fallen world, in a world of sinners doomed to die eternally in their sins, we need more than a Creator. We need a Redeemer, as well. And that’s precisely who our God is: both our Creator and our Redeemer (see Isa. 48:13–17), and it’s from Him in both those roles that we have the great hope of eternal life.

Read John 1:1–14. In this passage, how does John tie together Jesus as Creator with Jesus as our Redeemer?

The allusion to Genesis 1:1, God as Creator, is obvious in John 1:1. And if that weren’t enough, these words—“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him. . . . But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:10–12; NKJV)—make the link between Jesus as Creator and Redeemer inseparable. Indeed, it’s only because He is the Creator that He can be our Redeemer, as well.

If we had only a Creator but no Redeemer, what hope would we have? What does your answer say about why Jesus as Redeemer is so important to us?

MondayDecember 12

The Son of Man

In the earliest chapters of Job, we were given a glimpse into the reality of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. As we know, it was a battle that started in heaven but eventually came to the earth (see Rev. 12:7–12). In the book of Job we saw that same dynamic: a conflict in heaven that comes to earth. Unfortunately for Job, that particular conflict on earth centered on him.

Read Job 10:45. What was Job’s complaint, and did he not have a point?

Job’s point was simple. You are God, the Sovereign of the universe, the Creator. How can you know what it is like to be a human, to suffer the things that we suffer?

How do the following texts answer Job’s complaint? Luke 2:11John 1:14Luke 19:10Matt. 4:21 Tim. 2:5Heb. 4:15.

Job’s complaint, that God wasn’t a human and therefore couldn’t know human woe, was answered fully and completely by the coming of Jesus into humanity. Though never losing His divinity, Jesus was also fully human, and in that humanity He knew what it was like to suffer and struggle, just as Job and all humans do. In fact, all through the Gospels, we see the reality of Christ’s humanity and the sufferings that He went through in our humanity. Jesus answered Job’s complaint.

“It was not a make-believe humanity that Christ took upon Himself. He took human nature and lived human nature. . . . He was not only made flesh, but He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh.” — Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1124.

Think what it means that Jesus took humanity. What should this tell you about how closely He can relate to you in any of the struggles that you are facing right now?

TuesdayDecember 13

The Death of Christ

What do the following texts tell us about Jesus and how we are to view Him?

1 John 2:6

Gal. 4:19

Without question, Jesus is the model man. His life—His character—is the example that all who follow Him should seek by God’s grace to emulate. Jesus is the only perfect example we have in terms of how to live the kind of life to which God calls us.

Still, Jesus didn’t come to this earth merely to give us an example. Our situation as sinners called for more than just character development, as if reforming our characters and molding us into His image is all that His work as Redeemer required. We need more than that; we need a Substitute, Someone to pay the penalty for our sins. He came not just to live a perfect life as an example to us all; He came also to die the death that we deserve so that His perfect life can be credited to us as our own.

What do the following texts teach about the necessity of Christ’s death for us? Mark 8:31Luke 9:22Luke 24:7Gal. 2:21.

Jesus had to die for us because obedience to the law, though central to the Christian life, is not what saves the fallen. “Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law” (Gal. 3:21, NKJV). If any law could save a sinner, it would be God’s, but even that law can’t save us. Only the perfect life of our perfect Example, Jesus, could save us, and so Christ came to offer Himself as “one sacrifice for sins forever” (Heb. 10:12, NKJV).

How does your own record of law-keeping show you your need of a Substitute?

WednesdayDecember 14

The Sufferings of the Son of Man

Read Isaiah 53:1–6. What does this tell us about the sufferings of the Lord on the cross?

Isaiah 53:4 said that Jesus bore our griefs and sorrows. That must include Job’s griefs and sorrows, as well. And not just Job’s but the whole world’s. It was for the sin of all humans who ever lived that Jesus died on the cross.

So, only at the cross can the book of Job be put in proper perspective. Here we have the same God who revealed Himself to Job—the God who teaches the eagle to fly, the God who binds the quarks—suffering more than any human being, even Job, ever suffered or could suffer. The grief and sorrows that we know individually, He assumed corporately; no one, then, can lecture God on suffering, not when He in humanity bore in Himself the full brunt of all the suffering that sin has spread around the globe. We know only our own griefs, only our own sorrows; at the cross, Jesus experienced them all.

The God who asked Job, “ ‘Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you set their dominion over the earth?’ ” (Job 38:33, NKJV) becomes more incredible when we realize that though He created the “ ‘ordinances of heaven,’ ” He also took upon Himself earthly flesh and in that flesh died so that He “might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14, NKJV).

Viewed through the Cross, the book of Job makes more sense than it does without it, because the Cross answers many questions that the book leaves unanswered. And the biggest question of all deals with how fair it is for God to be up in heaven while Job on earth is forced to suffer as he does, all in order to help refute Satan’s charges. The Cross shows that no matter how badly Job or any human being suffers in this world, our Lord voluntarily suffered so much worse than any of us could, all in order to give us the hope and promise of salvation.

Job saw God as Creator; after the cross, we see Him as Creator and Redeemer, or particularly, the Creator who became our Redeemer (Phil. 2:6–8). And to do that, He had to suffer from sin in ways that no human being, Job included, would or could ever suffer. Thus, like Job, only more so, what can we do before such a sight but exclaim: “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6, NKJV)?

ThursdayDecember 15

Satan Unmasked

Read John 12:30–32. What is Jesus saying about Satan in the context of the Cross and the great controversy?

After talking about the death of Jesus on the cross, Ellen G. White wrote about the powerful impact it had in heaven and for the onlooking universe. “Satan’s lying charges against the divine character and government appeared in their true light. He had accused God of seeking merely the exaltation of Himself in requiring submission and obedience from His creatures, and had declared that, while the Creator exacted self-denial from all others, He Himself practiced no self-denial and made no sacrifice. Now it was seen that for the salvation of a fallen and sinful race, the Ruler of the universe had made the greatest sacrifice which love could make; for ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.’ 2 Corinthians 5:19. It was seen, also, that while Lucifer had opened the door for the entrance of sin by his desire for honor and supremacy, Christ had, in order to destroy sin, humbled Himself and become obedient unto death.” — The Great Controversy, p. 502.

Read 2 Corinthians 5:19. How did Christ’s death reconcile the fallen world to God?

The world had fallen into sin, into rebellion; it had left itself open to the schemes of Satan as so clearly seen, for example, in the book of Job. Jesus, though, by His taking hold of humanity in Himself while never losing His divinity, formed an unbreakable bond between heaven and earth and, with His death, guaranteed the final demise of sin and Satan. At the cross, Jesus paid the legal penalty for sin, thus reconciling the fallen world to God. Though we are sinners condemned to death, by faith we can have the promise of eternal life in Jesus.

Whatever sins you have committed, Jesus paid the full penalty for them at the cross. Why should this amazing truth change your life and cause you to want to live in obedience to Him?

FridayDecember 16

Further Thought: “‘Now is the judgment of this world,’ Christ continued; ‘now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto Me. This He said, signifying what death He should die.’ This is the crisis of the world. If I become the propitiation for the sins of men, the world will be lighted up. Satan’s hold upon the souls of men will be broken. The defaced image of God will be restored in humanity, and a family of believing saints will finally inherit the heavenly home. This is the result of Christ’s death. The Saviour is lost in contemplation of the scene of triumph called up before Him. He sees the cross, the cruel, ignominious cross, with all its attending horrors, blazing with glory.

“But the work of human redemption is not all that is accomplished by the cross. The love of God is manifested to the universe. The prince of this world is cast out. The accusations which Satan has brought against God are refuted. The reproach which he has cast upon heaven is forever removed. Angels as well as men are drawn to the Redeemer.” — Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 625, 626.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are other ways that you can think of regarding how the life and death of Jesus answered questions that the book of Job left unanswered?
  2. Think over what the cross reveals to us about the character of God, especially when we realize that the One who created us was the One who died for us on the cross. Why should this reality give us so much hope and comfort, regardless of whatever trials we are facing? How can this amazing truth teach us to trust in God and in His goodness? (See Rom. 8:32.)
  3. As we saw, the book of Job showed, among other things, that the great controversy is a cosmic issue and that the conflict between Christ and Satan has a dimension that goes beyond the earth itself. Imagine what it must have been like for heavenly creatures, who knew Jesus only in His heavenly glory, to see Him go through what He did on the cross. How can dwelling on this amazing idea help us come to a great appreciation of what we have been given in Jesus?

Inside Story~ 

Waking Up My Heart, Part 1

I grew up in a caring, intellectually stimulating home. My parents treated my brother and me with respect. We were never hungry and always had what we needed. But religion wasn't part of our home. I never considered that anything or Anyone might actually exist somewhere beyond my tangible world. I never dreamed God could speak to me.

My parents quarreled a lot, and when I was 10 years old, they divorced. My father had a top-secret job in the army, and Mother was a clerk at the town-hall. After the divorce, my brother and I lived with our mother. There I finished high school and planned for my future.

One day I met a former schoolmate on the street in our town. We weren't close friends, but we shared a similar philosophy of life, so I was surprised when he started talking about religion. Right there in the street Kveto began telling me about Jesus Christ, about God's love for me, and about the Bible and prophecy. He spoke enthusiastically and I became embarrassed as passersby stared at us. Soon, I had heard enough. I excused myself and walked on, wondering what had changed Kveto so radically.

I met Kveto on the street several times soon after that. Each time we met he turned the topic of our conversation to religion. He spoke, I listened, and from time to time I tried to outwit him with a question I didn't think he could answer. But my lack of religious training and knowledge of the Bible was no match for Kveto's newfound Christian zeal.

Each time we met, Kveto invited me to his house to study prophecy. Finally I agreed to go. While Kveto wanted to prove that God exists, I was more interested in proving that He didn't. I told him I thought the Bible could have been written by anybody, and that it certainly wasn't true. I wanted to set Kveto straight.

Kveto always prayed before we opened the Bible, and later he admitted that he prayed after I left his house. As we began studying the prophecies I felt a growing curiosity about what the Bible had to say about the future. We studied the books of Daniel and Revelation, and some writings of Ellen G. White.

Then something strange happened. I came home from a Bible study and began to pray--by myself, alone, for the first time in my life. I didn't have anything special to say in my prayer; I simply found myself reaching out to make contact with the Power of the universe.

To be continued.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  website:

All Rights Reserved. No part of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide may be edited, altered, modified, adapted, translated, reproduced, or published by any person or entity without prior written authorization from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Lesson 11       December 3–9

Out of the Whirlwind

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Job 38–39, John 1:29Matt. 16:131 Cor. 1:18–27Job 40:1–442:1–6Luke 5:1–8.

Memory Text: “ ‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding’ ” (Job 38:4, NKJV).

Whatever their differences, the characters in the book

of Job had one thing in common: each had a lot to say about God, or at least about his understanding of God. And, as we have seen, much of what they said we could agree on. After all, who would argue with this: “ ‘But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?’ ” (Job 12:7–10, NKJV)? Or with this: “ ‘Does God subvert judgment? Or does the Almighty pervert justice?’ ” (Job 8:3, NKJV)?

And while the context was Job’s suffering, the main focus of discussion was God. With the exception of the first two chapters, though, the Lord remained hidden, in the background, as the book progressed.

All that, however, was about to change. God Himself—the subject of so much discussion and debate in the book of Job—will now speak for Himself.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 10.

SundayDecember 4

Out of the Whirlwind

Read Job 38:1. What happens here that is different from everything else in all the other dialogues?

Suddenly and unexpectedly, the Lord now appears in the book of Job, the first time since Job 2:6—“And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life’ ” (NKJV).

Nothing really prepares the reader for this sudden appearance of God. Job 37 ends with Elihu’s speech, and the next thing we know, “the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1). Instantly it is just God and Job, as if the other men are irrelevant, at least for now.

The word whirlwind comes from a Hebrew word that means “storm” or “tempest,” and it has been used in connection with the appearance of God to humans (see Isa. 29:6Zech. 9:14). It was also the word used in the context of Elijah’s being taken to heaven: “When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal” (2 Kings 2:1, NIV).

Though we are not given any physical details about this “theophany” (a visible manifestation of God to humanity), it is clear that God isn’t speaking to Job in a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). Instead, the Lord manifested Himself in a very powerful way, one that certainly got Job’s attention.

Of course, this isn’t the only time God had revealed Himself to fallen humans. Again and again, the Scriptures show us the closeness of God to humanity.

What do these texts teach us about how near God can be to us? Gen. 15:1–6Gen 32:24–32John 1:29.

The Bible teaches us the great and important truth that our God is not a distant God who created our world and then left us to ourselves. Instead, He is a God who closely interacts with us. No matter our sorrows, our troubles, or whatever we face in this life, we can have the assurance that God is near and that we can trust Him.

It’s one thing to believe intellectually in the nearness of God to us; it’s quite another to experience that nearness. How can you learn to draw close to God and to derive hope and comfort from this relationship?

MondayDecember 5

God’s Question

After what must have seemed to Job like a very long silence, God finally speaks to him, even if what He first said might not have been what Job wanted to hear.

What was the first question that God asked Job, and what was implied in that question? Job 38:2.

All through the Bible we find God asking humans questions. This is not because He doesn’t know the answers already. Instead, as a good teacher often does, God asks questions because they are an effective way to get us to think about our situation, to make us confront ourselves, to help us work through issues and come to the proper conclusions. The questions, then, that God asks are not to teach the Lord something that He didn’t already understand. Rather, they are often asked in order to help people learn things that perhaps they needed to understand better. God’s questions are a rhetorical device to help reach people with truth.

Read the following questions from God. What do you think God’s purpose was in asking those questions? What point was He making?

Gen. 3:11

Gen. 4:9

1 Kings 19:9

Acts 9:4

Matt. 16:13

Job had a lot to say about God, and the Lord obviously wanted him to see that, in fact, there was a lot he didn’t know or understand about his Creator. In many ways, God’s opening question to Job parallels some of the words that these men had said to him, as well (see Job 8:1211:1–315:1–3).

If God were to ask you a question about the state of your life right now, what do you think He would ask, and what would you answer? What do the question and the answer teach you about yourself?

TuesdayDecember 6

The Lord as Creator

Read Job 38:4–41. What questions does God ask Job, and what is the purpose of those questions?

If Job expected some detailed explanation about why all these calamities happened to him, he didn’t get it. Instead, what he got was a flow of rhetorical questions contrasting the Lord in His creative might to the transience and ignorance of poor Job.

“ ‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?’ ” the Lord begins (Job 38:4, NKJV). After echoing some of the earliest images in Genesis—for example, the origins of the earth, the sea, light, and darkness—God says to Job (basically) that, of course you know all these things “because you were born then, or because the number of your days is great” (see Job 38:21, NKJV).

The Lord then points to wonders and mysteries of Creation, again with a series of rhetorical questions that cover not just the foundations of the earth but also the mysteries of the weather and even of the stars themselves. “ ‘Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the belt of Orion?’ ” (Job 38:31, NKJV). He then points Job back to the earth, to everything from human insight (Job 38:36) to the lives of wild animals (Job 38:39–41)—a theme that is fleshed out in much more detail all through Job 39, as well. Had the book been written today, the Lord might have asked, “Who binds the quarks in protons and neutrons?” “Where were you when I first measured out a Planck mass?” “Is it by your wisdom that gravity bends space and time?”

The answer to all these questions is the same: of course not. Job wasn’t there for any of those events, and he had little knowledge about any of the phenomena the Lord referred to. God’s point was to show Job that even with all his wisdom and knowledge and even though he spoke “right” (Job 42:7) about God in contrast to these other men, Job still knew so little. And his lack of knowledge was best revealed by how great Job’s ignorance of the created world was.

If Job knew so little about the creation, how much could he understand about the Creator? What a powerful contrast between the Creator and the created, between God and humanity. Though God contrasted Himself to Job, any other human being (with the exception of Jesus) would have sufficed, as well. What are we in contrast to God? And yet, look at what this God has done to save us and to offer us the hope of eternal fellowship with Him.

WednesdayDecember 7

The Wisdom of the Wise

From our perspective today, it’s easy to look at the questions that God had asked Job and realize how little a man like Job, living thousands of years ago, could understand about the created world. It wasn’t until the A.D. 1500s, for instance, that humans (at least some of them) finally understood that the motion of the sun in the sky was the result of the rotation of the earth on its axis, and the reverse of the orbit of the sun around the earth—a truth that most of us take for granted now.

Thanks mostly to modern science, we live today with knowledge of the natural world that people in Bible times couldn’t begin to comprehend. And yet, even with all this acquired knowledge, we humans are still so limited in our understanding of the natural world and its origins.

Read over the questions God asked Job in chapters 38 and 39. How much better could people answer them today?

There is no question that science has revealed to us facets of reality that were previously hidden. However, so much still remains for us to learn. In many ways, far from removing the majesty and the mystery of God’s creation, science has made it even more fascinating, revealing a depth and complexity of the natural world that previous generations knew nothing about.

“ ‘The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever.’ Deuteronomy 29:29. Just how God accomplished the work of creation He has never revealed to men; human science cannot search out the secrets of the Most High. His creative power is as incomprehensible as His existence.” — Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 113.

What warning, however, should we take from the following texts in regard to the great limits of human knowledge? 1 Cor. 3:191 Cor. 1:18–27.

Even with all the knowledge humans have accumulated in the past few hundred years, the Creation remains full of wonders and mysteries that we can barely fathom. The more we learn about the created world, the more amazing and mysterious it appears to us. In what ways does the created world cause you to marvel before the power of our God?

ThursdayDecember 8

Repenting in Dust and Ashes

Read Job 40:1–4 and Job 42:1–6. What was Job’s response to God’s revelation of Himself?

Obviously Job was overwhelmed by what God had shown him. In fact, in Job 42:3, when he says, “ ‘ “Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?” ’ ” (NKJV), he was simply repeating God’s first question to him. Job knew the answer now: it was Job himself who spoke about what he really didn’t know.

Notice, too, what Job said in Job 42:5. Though he had only heard about God, now that he saw God—that is, now that he got a better view of God—he saw himself for what he really was. That’s why he reacted as he did, abhorring himself and repenting in dust and ashes.

Read Isaiah 6:1–5 and Luke 5:1–8. How do the reactions described there parallel that of Job?

What we see in all these cases are manifestations of a key Bible truth, and that is the sinfulness of humanity. Job was “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1, NKJV). And despite Satan’s best attempts to turn him against God, Job stayed faithful through it all. We are dealing here with a solid, faithful believer in the Lord.

And yet—what? As with Isaiah and Peter, a glimpse of the holiness and power of God was enough to make Job cringe with a sense of his own sinfulness and smallness. That’s because we are all fallen, sin-damaged beings whose very nature itself brings us in to conflict with God. That’s why, in the end, no one can save himself; no one can do enough good works to merit any favor before God. That’s why we all—even the “best” among us, those who like Job are upright and blameless and who fear God and shun evil—need grace, need a Savior, need Someone to do for us what we can never do for ourselves. Fortunately we have all that, and more, in Jesus.

Imagine yourself, right now, standing face to face before God. What do you think your reaction would be?

FridayDecember 9

Further Thought: “God has permitted a flood of light to be poured upon the world in both science and art; but when professedly scientific men treat upon these subjects from a merely human point of view, they will assuredly come to wrong conclusions. It may be innocent to speculate beyond what God’s word has revealed, if our theories do not contradict facts found in the Scriptures; but those who leave the word of God, and seek to account for His created works upon scientific principles, are drifting without chart or compass upon an unknown ocean. The greatest minds, if not guided by the word of God in their research, become bewildered in their attempts to trace the relations of science and revelation. Because the Creator and His works are so far beyond their comprehension that they are unable to explain them by natural laws, they regard Bible history as unreliable. Those who doubt the reliability of the records of the Old and New Testaments, will be led to go a step further, and doubt the existence of God; and then, having lost their anchor, they are left to beat about upon the rocks of infidelity.” — Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 113.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Look at the Ellen G. White statement in Friday’s study. What evidence do we see that what she warned about is actually happening, especially in the area of science? What are some things that science, at least as now practiced, teaches that are in blatant contradiction to God’s Word?
  2. Alfred North Whitehead, an influential mathematician and author who lived in the previous century, said the following: “Fifty-seven years ago it was when I was a young man in the University of Cambridge. I was taught science and mathematics by brilliant men and I did well in them; since the turn of the century I have lived to see every one of the basic assumptions of both set aside. . . . And yet, in the face of that, the discoverers of the new hypotheses in science are declaring, ‘Now at last, we have certitude.’ ”—A. N. Whitehead, Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead. What should this tell us about how careful we need to be in accepting what the world’s “great men” teach us, especially when what they teach blatantly contradicts God’s Word?
  3. What are some of the marvels of Creation that modern science has revealed to us that people in the time of Job (or even just two hundred years ago) couldn’t possibly have understood? How do these things reveal to us even more the amazing creative power of our Lord?

Inside Story~ 

Doing God's Business, Part 2

I met with church leaders in the project's region, and we laid plans to train and equip 1,000 laypersons to share the gospel in their homeland. Although evangelism in this country is technically illegal, God opened doors. When we arrived we thought that some of the 1,000 people who had signed up wouldn't come. But 1,300 people came! Some knew that they wouldn't receive the materials, but they wanted to come and learn anyway. What an amazing bunch of laypersons we have there! We couldn't import evangelistic materials or DVD players for the lay evangelists, so we had to buy or produce these items within the country. Each person is allowed to buy only one DVD player, and we had to be sure that they didn't all go out to buy the DVD players at the same time or in the same place. We bought paper and printing materials on the black market to print the scripts that go with the DVDs we gave to the volunteers. All of this had to be done secretly, and we can't talk about how God made it happen-but He did! We trained and equipped the lay members and sent them back home to start working. One hundred of these lay members are now working full-time, like Global Mission pioneers, to teach and baptize and establish new church plants. They have been secretly moved to areas within the country where we have no churches. There they teach their new neighbors about God's love and plant new churches. In the first six months of the program the believers in this country have studied with thousands of eager people. More than 650 people have been baptized, and six new churches have been planted. And these dear people are just getting started! I'm amazed at what God is doing through my family and me and others who are dedicated to serving God however He leads. We are God's hands, stewards of His resources. He's using us to further His work in a place I never could have dreamed possible. Every believer is a steward of God's resources, and He will bless each of us as we turn our lives and resources over to Him. This testimony is from a Seventh-day Adventist businessman in Portugal.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  website:

All Rights Reserved. No part of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide may be edited, altered, modified, adapted, translated, reproduced, or published by any person or entity without prior written authorization from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Lesson 10        November 26–December 2

The Wrath of Elihu

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Job 13:28Job 28:28Job 32:1–5Job 34:10–15Ezek. 28:12–17, Job 1–2:10.

Memory Text: “ ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’ ” (Isaiah 55:9, NKJV).

And so it goes, the battle of words between Job and these three men, words that at times are profound, beautiful, deep, and true. How often people will quote from the book of Job, even quotes from Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar. And that’s because, as we have seen over and over, they did have a lot of good things to say. They just didn’t say them in the right place, at the right time, in the right circumstances. What this should teach us is the powerful truth of these texts in Proverbs 25:11–13:

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold
in settings of silver.

Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold
is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.

Like the cold of snow in time of harvest
is a faithful messenger to those who send him,
for he refreshes the soul of his masters (NKJV).

Unfortunately, those weren’t the words that Job was hearing from his friends. In fact, the problem was going to get worse because, instead of just three people telling him he’s wrong, a new one comes on the scene.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 3.

SundayNovember 27

Miserable Comforters

Even after Job’s powerful expression of faith (Job 13: 1516), the verbal sparring continued. Over the course of many chapters, the men go back and forth, arguing many deep and important questions about God, sin, death, justice, the wicked, wisdom, and the transient nature of humanity.

What truths are being expressed in the following texts?

Job 13:28

Job 15:14–16

Job 19:25–27

Job 28:28

Through all these chapters the arguments continued, neither side conceding its position. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar each in their own way, each with their own agenda, didn’t let up in their argument about how people get what they deserve in life; and thus, what came upon Job had to be just punishment for his sins. Job, meanwhile, continued to lament the cruel fate that had befallen him, certain that he did not deserve the suffering. Back and forth they sparred, each “comforter” accusing Job of uttering empty and vain words, and Job doing the same to them.

In the end, none of them, including Job, understood all that was going on. How could they? They were speaking from a very limited perspective, which all humans have. If we can get any lesson from the book of Job (one that should be obvious by now, especially after all the speeches of these men), it is that we as humans need humility when we profess to talk about God and the workings of God. We might know some truth, maybe even a lot of truth, but sometimes—as we can see with these three men—we might not necessarily know the best way to apply the truths that we know.

Look around at the natural world. Why does this alone show us how limited we are in what we know about even the simplest of things?

MondayNovember 28

The Entrance of Elihu

From Job 26 to 31, the tragic hero of this story, Job, gives his final speech to the three men. Though eloquent and passionate, he basically repeats the argument he has been making all along: I do not deserve what has been happening to me. Period.

Again, Job represents so much of humanity in that many people suffer things that they don’t deserve. And the question, in many ways the hardest question of all, is—why? In some cases, the answer to suffering is relatively easy. People clearly bring the trouble on themselves. But so often, and especially in the case of Job, that’s not what happened, and so the question of suffering remains.

As chapter 31 comes to a close, Job has been talking about the kind of life he led, a life in which nothing he had done justified what was happening to him now. Then the final verse of the chapter reads: “The words of Job are ended” (Job 31:40).

Read Job 32:1–5. What is happening here, and what is Elihu’s charge against Job and the other men?

Here is the first time that this man, Elihu, is mentioned in the book of Job. He obviously heard some of the long discussions, though we are not told just when he appeared on the scene. He must have come later, because he was not mentioned as being with the other three when they first came. What we do know, however, is that he wasn’t satisfied with the answers he had heard during whatever part of the dialogue he heard. In fact, we’re told four times in these five verses that his “wrath” had been kindled over what he had heard. For the next six chapters, then, this man Elihu seeks to give his understanding and explanation of the issues that all these men confronted because of the calamity that struck Job.

Job 32:2 said that Elihu was angry with Job because he “justified himself rather than God,” a distortion of Job’s true position. What should this tell us about how we need to be careful in the ways that we interpret the words of others? How can we learn to try to put the best construction rather than the worst on what people say?

TuesdayNovember 29

Elihu’s Defense of God

A lot of commentary has been written over the ages about Elihu and his speech, some seeing it a major turning point in the direction of the dialogue. Yet, it’s really not that easy to see where Elihu adds anything so new or so groundbreaking that it changes the dynamic of the dialogue. Instead, he seems largely to be giving the same arguments that the other three had done in their attempt to defend the character of God against the charge of unfairness in regard to the sufferings of Job.

Read Job 34:10–15. What truths is Elihu expressing here? How do they parallel what the other men have said before? And though his words were true, why were they inappropriate for the current situation?

Perhaps what we can see with Elihu, as with these other men, is fear—the fear that God is not what they think Him to be. They want to believe in the goodness and the justice and the power of God; and so, what does Elihu do but utter truths about the goodness, the justice, and the power of God?

“ ‘For His eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps. There is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves’ ” (Job 34:2122, NKJV).

“ ‘Behold, God is mighty, but despises no one; He is mighty in strength of understanding. He does not preserve the life of the wicked, but gives justice to the oppressed. He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous; but they are on the throne with kings, for He has seated them forever, and they are exalted’ ” (Job 36:5–7, NKJV).

“ ‘As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him; He is excellent in power, in judgment and abundant justice; He does not oppress. Therefore men fear Him; He shows no partiality to any who are wise of heart’ ” (Job 37:2324, NKJV).

If all this is true, then the only logical conclusion one must draw is that Job is getting what he deserves. What else could it be? Elihu, then, was trying to protect his own understanding of God in the face of such terrible evil befalling such a good man as Job.

Have you ever faced a time when something happened that made you fearful for your faith? How did you respond? Looking back, what might you have done differently?

WednesdayNovember 30

The Irrationality of Evil

All four of these men, believers in God, believers in a God of justice, found themselves in a dilemma: how to explain Job’s situation in a rational and logical manner that was consistent with their understanding of the character of God. Unfortunately, they ended up taking a position that turned out basically wrong in their attempt to understand evil, or at least the evil that befell Job.

Ellen G. White offers a powerful comment in this regard. “It is impossible to explain the origin of sin so as to give a reason for its existence. . . . Sin is an intruder, for whose presence no reason can be given. It is mysterious, unaccountable; to excuse it is to defend it. Could excuse for it be found, or cause be shown for its existence, it would cease to be sin.” — The Great Controversy, pp. 492,493.

Though she uses the word sin, suppose we replaced that word with another word, one that has a similar meaning: evil. Then the quote could read: It is impossible to explain the origin of evil so as to give a reason for its existence. . . . Evil is an intruder, for whose presence no reason can be given. It is mysterious, unaccountable; to excuse it is to defend it. Could excuse for it be found, or cause be shown for its existence, it would cease to be evil.

So often when tragedy strikes, people will say or think: “I don’t understand this.” Or “This doesn’t make sense.” This is precisely what Job’s complaint had been about all along.

There is a good reason that Job and his friends can’t make sense of it: evil itself doesn’t make sense. If we could understand it, if it made sense, if it fit into some logical and rational plan, then it wouldn’t be that evil, it wouldn’t be that tragic, because it would serve a rational purpose.

Look at these verses about the fall of Satan and the origin of evil. How much sense does his fall make? (Ezek. 28:12–17).

Here’s a perfect being, created by a perfect God, in a perfect environment. He’s exalted, full of wisdom, perfect in beauty, covered in precious stones, an “anointed cherub” who was in the “holy mountain of God.” And yet, even with all that and having been given so much, this being corrupted himself and allowed evil to take over. What could have been more irrational and illogical than the evil that came to infect the devil?

What is your own experience with how irrational and inexplicable evil is?

ThursdayDecember 1

The Challenge of Faith

Certainly the primary characters in the book of Job, as mere mortals seeing “through a glass darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12), were working from a very limited perspective, a very limited understanding of the nature of the physical world, much less the spiritual one. Interesting, too, that in all these debates about the evil that befell Job, none of the men, Job included, discussed the role of the devil—the direct and immediate cause of all of Job’s ills. And yet, despite their own confidence about how right they were, especially Elihu (see Job 36:1–4), their attempts to explain Job’s suffering rationally all fell short. And, of course, Job knew that their attempts failed.

Even with our understanding of the story’s cosmic background, how well are we able to rationalize and explain the evil that befell Job? Read Job 1–2:10 again. Even with all this revealed to us, what other questions remain?

With the opening chapters of Job before us, we have a view of things that none of these men did. Nevertheless, even now the issues remain hard to understand. As we saw, far from his evil bringing this suffering to him, it was precisely Job’s goodness that caused God to point him out to the devil. So, the man’s goodness and desire to be faithful to God led this to happen to him? How do we understand this? And even if Job had known what was going on, wouldn’t he have cried out, “Please, God, use someone else. Give me back my children, my health, my property!” Job didn’t volunteer to be the guinea pig. Who would? So, how fair was all this to Job and to his family? Meanwhile, even though God won His challenge with the devil, we know the devil has not conceded defeat (Rev. 12:12); so, what was the purpose? And also, whatever good ultimately came out of what happened to Job, was it worth the death of all these people and all the suffering that Job went through? If these questions remain for us (though more answers are coming), imagine all the questions that Job had!

And yet, here’s one of the most important lessons we can take from the book of Job: that of living by faith and not by sight; that of trusting in God and staying faithful to Him even when, like Job, we cannot rationalize or explain why things happen as they do. We don’t live by faith when everything is fully and rationally explained. We live by faith when, like Job, we trust and obey God even when we cannot make sense of what is happening around us.

What are the things you have to trust God for even though you don’t understand them? How can you continue to build that trust even when you don’t have answers?

FridayDecember 2

Further Thought: In a discussion concerning the question of faith and reason, author John Hedley Brooke wrote about the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) and his attempt to understand the limits of human knowledge, especially when it came to the working of God. For Kant, “the question of justifying the ways of God to man was one of faith, not of knowledge. As his example of an authentic stance in the face of adversity, Kant chose Job, who had been stripped of everything save a clear conscience. Submitting before a divine decree, he had been right to resist the advice of friends who had sought to rationalize his misfortune. The strength of Job’s position consisted in his knowing what he did not know: what God thought He was doing in piling misfortune upon him.”—Science and Religion (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 207, 208. These men in the book of Job, and now Elihu, thought they could explain what happened to Job in a simple cause-and-effect relationship. The cause was Job’s sin; the effect was his suffering. What could be more clear-cut, theologically sound, and rational than that? However, their reasoning was wrong, a powerful example of the fact that reality and the God who created and sustains that reality don’t necessarily follow our understanding of how God and the world He created work.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As we saw, in all the long speeches about poor Job’s situation and why it happened, the devil was not once mentioned. Why is that so? What does it tell us about how limited these men were in their understanding, despite all the truths that they had? What could their ignorance teach us about our own, despite all the truths that we have?
  2. “When we take into our hands the management of things with which we have to do, and depend upon our own wisdom for success, we are taking a burden which God has not given us, and are trying to bear it without His aid. . . . But when we really believe that God loves us and means to do us good we shall cease to worry about the future. We shall trust God as a child trusts a loving parent. Then our troubles and torments will disappear, for our will is swallowed up in the will of God.” — Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pp.100, 101. How can we learn this kind of trust and faith? That is, what choices are we making now that will make our faith either stronger or weaker?

Inside Story~ 

Doing God's Business, Part 1

This story is not about me. It's about what God is doing through me and what He can do through anyone who's willing to let Him use them.

I've always loved business. I founded my first company selling computers to schools when I was 21. From the beginning God was my partner, and He has blessed me so much.

Later I bought a software franchise that grew fast. In five years it grew from one employee to 50 and earned a lot of money. I gave a lot to missions, but I felt empty. Over time I realized that although I was supporting the church's mission, I wasn't personally involved in mission. My wife and I agreed that we needed to be a part of God's outreach to humanity.

Our business interests continued to grow, but I felt God leading me to sell the biggest company. I left the sale in God's hands, and the company sold quickly for more than I had expected.

I knew that God doesn't need my money, but I began to realize that what God wants from me is my time. Mission isn't something we do on Sabbath. It's something we do full-time. I wanted to be personally involved in mission. So I asked God what He wanted me to do for Him. One day as I was talking with a fellow Christian businessman, a member of Adventist-Laymen's Services and Industries (ASI), I told him about my burden to be personally involved in an evangelistic mission project. I didn't care where the project was, I just wanted to be God's hands. I asked him if he had any ideas for such a project. He said that he'd think about it. Just then his phone rang, and he excused himself to take the call. When he returned, he told me that the call was from a church leader who told him about a project that's in a country that isn't open to evangelism. As he told me about the project, I realized that God was answering my prayer! The project was in a country I was familiar with. I knew the language and the culture of the people in that country, and as a businessman I could help the church leaders make it happen. I knew that I could travel there, a place that many others wouldn't be able to enter. To be continued.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  website:

All Rights Reserved. No part of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide may be edited, altered, modified, adapted, translated, reproduced, or published by any person or entity without prior written authorization from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Lesson 9        November 19–25

Intimations of Hope

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Prov. 17:28Job 13:1–15James 2:20–221 Cor. 15:11–201 Pet. 1:18–20Gen. 22:8.

Memory Text: “ ‘He also shall be my salvation, for a hypocrite could not come before Him’ ” (Job 13:16, NKJV).

Man is the only animal,” wrote British essayist William Hazlitt, “that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.”

Things certainly aren’t what they ought to be. However, for a Christian who lives with the promise of the Second Coming, there is hope—a great hope of what things will become (2 Pet. 3:13). They will become something so wonderful that we, with sin-darkened minds (1 Cor. 13:12), can barely imagine it now. This is a hope that the secular mind, in all its narrowness and parochialism, has lost long ago.

This week, as we continue to explore the question of suffering in the book of Job, we will find that, even amid the unfair tragedy that befell him, that made no sense, and that was not justified, Job could still utter words of hope.

What was that hope, and what does it tell us that we can hope in, as well?

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 26.

SundayNovember 20

Forgers of Lies

“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Prov. 17:28, RSV).

Whatever one wants to say about the man Job, one can’t say that he was going to sit there amid his sorrow and quietly listen to what his friends were throwing at him. On the contrary, much of the book of Job consists of Job’s fighting back against what he knows is a mixture of truth and error. As we saw, these men were not showing much tact and sympathy; they were claiming to speak for God in justifying what had happened to Job; and basically they said he was getting what he deserved or that he deserved even worse! Any one of these lines of thought would have been bad enough; but all three (and others) were too much, and Job answered them back.

Read Job 13:1–14. What approach is Job taking here as he responds to what is being said to him?

We saw in chapter 2 that when these men first came and saw Job, they said nothing to him for seven days. Considering what eventually did start coming out of their mouths, this might have been the best approach. That’s certainly what Job thought.

Notice, too: Job says that not only are these men talking lies, they are talking lies about God. (That’s interesting in light of what happens toward the end of the book itself [See Job 42:7]). Surely it would be better not to speak than to say things that are wrong. (Who among us hasn’t experienced how true that is?) But it seems that to say things that are wrong about God is much worse. The irony, of course, was that these men actually thought they were defending God and His character against Job’s bitter complaints about what happened. Though Job remained at a loss to understand why all these things came upon him, he knew enough to recognize that what these men were saying made them “forgers of lies” (Job 13:4).

When was the last time you said things that were wrong and that shouldn’t have been said? How can you learn from that experience so that you do not make the same kind of mistake again?

MondayNovember 21

Though He Slay Me

When we started this quarter, we went right to the end of the book, and we saw how well things eventually turned out for Job. We saw that, even amid his terrible suffering, Job really had something to hope for. In fact, living when we do, and knowing the end of the whole book, i.e., the Bible, we can see that Job had a whole lot more to hope in than he could possibly have imagined at the time.

But when his children died, his property was taken, and his health was ruined, Job didn’t have the advantage of knowing how things would turn out. What he knew, instead, was that life had suddenly turned nasty.

At the same time, even amid his bitter laments about wishing he hadn’t been born or wishing that he had gone from the womb to the grave, Job still expressed hope, and this hope was in God—the same God who he thought was dealing so unfairly with him now.

Read Job 13:15. What hope is presented here in this verse? What is Job saying?

“Even if He will kill me, I will trust Him.” What a powerful affirmation of faith! With all that had happened to him, Job knew that very possibly the final thing, the only thing that hadn’t happened to him, death, could come—and God could cause it too. Yet, even if this happened, Job would die trusting in the Lord anyway.

“The riches of the grace of Christ must be kept before the mind. Treasure up the lessons that his love provides. Let your faith be like Job’s, that you may declare, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.’ Lay hold on the promises of your Heavenly Father, and remember his former dealings with you and with his servants; for ‘all things work together for good to them that love God.’ ” — Ellen G. White, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, October 20, 1910.

From a purely human perspective, Job had no reason to hope for anything. But the fact was, Job wasn’t looking from a purely human perspective. If he had done so, what hope could he possibly have? Instead, when he makes this amazing affirmation of faith and hope, he does it in the context of God and of trusting in Him.

A logical question could be: How did Job retain his faith in God amid all that happened to him? Read Job 1:1 andJames 2:20–22. How do they help answer this question, and what should the answer tell us about the importance of faithfulness and obedience in our Christian life? (See lesson 13.)

TuesdayNovember 22

Intimations of Hope

“ ‘He also shall be my salvation, for a hypocrite could not come before Him’ ” (Job 13:16, NKJV). This verse follows right after the one we read yesterday. How does it affirm even more the idea that, despite everything, Job had hope, and that his hope was in God?

What an interesting line to follow what came before. Even if Job were to die, even if God killed him, Job still trusted in his God for salvation. Though on one level it’s a strange contrast, on another it makes perfect sense. After all, what is salvation other than liberation from death? And what is death, at least for the saved, other than a quick moment of rest, an instant of sleep, followed by the resurrection to eternal life? Is not this hope of the resurrection to eternal life the great hope of all of God’s people through the millennia? This was Job’s hope, as well.

Read 1 Corinthians 15:11–20. What is the hope presented to us there? Without this hope, why would we have no hope at all?

Also, after this strong affirmation in salvation, Job says that the “hanef will not come before Him.” The root means “profane” or “godless,” a word with very negative connotations in Hebrew. Job knew that his salvation was to be found only in God, only in a life surrendered in faithful obedience to Him. That’s why the evil and godless man, the hanef, didn’t have that hope. Most likely Job was expressing what he understood as his “assurance of salvation.” Though Job faithfully offered animal sacrifices for sin, we don’t know how much he understood of their significance. Before the Cross, most faithful followers of the Lord such as Job surely didn’t have as full an understanding of salvation as we can have living after the Cross. Nevertheless, Job still knew enough to know that his hope of salvation was to be found only in the Lord and that those sacrifices were an expression of how this salvation was to be found.

WednesdayNovember 23

Hope Before the World Began

Who among us, having gone through what Job did, could utter such a powerful affirmation of hope? His words are an eternal testimony to the reality of his life of faith and obedience.

Job had hope, because he served a God of hope. Even amid all the sordid stories of human sinfulness, from the fall of Adam and Eve in Eden (Genesis 3) to the fall of Babylon at the end of time (Rev. 14:8), the Bible is a book brimming with hope, brimming with a vision of something beyond what this world itself offers.

“The world has been committed to Christ, and through Him has come every blessing from God to the fallen race. He was the Redeemer before as after His incarnation. As soon as there was sin, there was a Saviour.” — Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 210. And who is the Savior other than the great Source of our hope?

How do these texts affirm the wonderful hope expressed in the Ellen G. White statement found in today’s study? Eph. 1:4Titus 1:22 Tim. 1:891 Pet. 1:18–20.

These texts teach the amazing truth that, in His foreknowledge, God knew even before the Creation of the world that humanity would fall into sin. The Greek in

2 Timothy 1:9 says that we have been called by a grace given to us in Christ Jesus “before eternal time.” This is a grace given us, “not according to our works” (how could it have been “our works” if we didn’t even exist then?) but through Jesus. Even before we existed, God put a plan in place that offered humanity the hope of eternal life. The hope didn’t arise after we needed it; instead, it was already there, ready for us when we did need it.

As Christians, we have so much to hope for and to hope in. We exist in a universe created by a God who loves us (John 3:16), a God who redeemed us (Titus 2:14), a God who hears our prayers (Matt. 6:6), a God who intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25), a God who promises never to forsake us (Heb. 13:5), a God who promises to raise our bodies from death (Isa. 26:19), and to give us eternal life with Him (John 14:23).

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). How can you make this hope your own even amid whatever struggles you are facing now?

ThursdayNovember 24

Images of Hope

Read the following texts. What hope does each of them reveal?

Gen. 3:15

Gen. 22:8

Lev. 17:11

John 1:29

Gal. 2:16

Phil. 1:6

1 Cor. 10:13

Dan. 7:22

Dan. 12:12

Matt. 24:27

Dan. 2:44

Follow the progression of thought presented in these texts. Together, what do they tell us about the hope that we as Christians can have in Jesus?

FridayNovember 25

Further Thought: From cover to cover, the Bible is filled with wonderful words of hope. “ ‘These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world’ ” (John 16:33, NKJV). “ ‘I am with you always, even to the end of the age’ ” (Matt. 28:20, NKJV). “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13, NKJV). “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12, NKJV). “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:3839, NKJV). “ ‘The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth’ ” (Gen. 9:16, NKJV). “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him” (1 John 3:1, NKJV). “Know that the LORD, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Ps. 100:3, NKJV). These texts are just a small portion of what is revealed to us in the Word about what our God is like and what He offers us. What reasons would we have for hope at all, were it not from what is revealed to us in the Bible?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What other Bible texts speak to us of hope? Which ones are especially important to you, and why?
  2. Of all the specific doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which ones do you find especially hopeful?
  3. Amid the personal trials and sometimes tragedies and hardships of life, how can we learn to rejoice in the hope that is presented to us in the Bible? Why is it so easy to get discouraged by events, even with so much hope presented to us? What can we do, on a practical level, to keep this hope ever before us and to rejoice in it?
  4. “Talk hope and faith and thanksgiving to God. Be cheerful, hopeful in Christ. Educate yourself to praise Him. This is a great remedy for diseases of the soul and of the body.” — Ellen G. White, Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, p. 492. Why is praise so important in helping us stay hopeful in the Lord?

Inside Story~ 

The Devil's Lies, Part 2

Rui began reading the Bible on his own. In this way he discovered references to the Sabbath day.

Rui knew that the Sabbath was Saturday, for the words are the same in Portuguese. But he didn't know of a church that worshipped on Saturday. Then a few weeks later Rui heard a radio program during which the speaker offered free Bible studies. He enrolled and began studying the lessons.

Almost immediately Rui began finding answers to the questions that had troubled him for so many years. But before he made a decision about what he was learning, Rui's study was interrupted when he met a young woman. Rui put aside the Bible studies and spent his time with his beloved. Eventually the couple married. At last he felt fulfillment in his life.

But whenever the couple attended church, Rui felt the old conflicts arising in his heart. He no longer believed that Sunday was the biblical day of worship, and he now understood that the dead are asleep, not alive in some other place. These religious tensions spilled out into his family life, causing unrest and arguments. Rui feared that if he followed his convictions, his marriage might be over.

Rui learned that his wife's cousin was a Seventh-day Adventist and that the Bible studies he had taken were sponsored by Adventists. Suddenly the questions he had asked all his life had answers. Everything fell into place. But still he faced a dilemma: what would his wife say if she knew of his interest in this church?

Rui began watching an Adventist television network while his wife wasn't home. When she went to visit her parents for several weeks, Rui attended the Adventist church. He found a spiritual home and was convinced that this was where God wanted him to be.

Rui struggled to tell his wife, and when he finally told her, she didn't take his religious fervor seriously, for she had seen him struggle spiritually since they had met. But Rui knew that he had found what he was looking for. He studied further and then asked to be baptized. "I'm at peace," he says. "The devil's lies no longer plague me, for I have found the truth."

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  website:

All Rights Reserved. No part of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide may be edited, altered, modified, adapted, translated, reproduced, or published by any person or entity without prior written authorization from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Lesson 8       November 12–18

Innocent Blood

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Job 10, Isa. 53:6Rom. 3:10–20Job 15:14–16Job 1:18–20Matt. 6:34.

Memory Text: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Algerian–born writer Albert Camus struggled with the question of human suffering. In his book, The Plague, he used a plague as a metaphor for the ills that bring pain and suffering upon humanity. He depicted a scene in which a little boy, afflicted with the pestilence, dies a horrific death. Afterward a priest, who had been a witness to the tragedy, said to a doctor who had been there, too: “That sort of thing is revolting because it passes our human understanding. But perhaps we should love what we cannot understand.” The doctor, enraged, snapped back: “No, Father. I’ve a very different idea of love. And until my dying day, I shall refuse to love a scheme of things in which children are put to torture.”—Albert Camus, The Plague (New York: First Vintage International Edition, 1991), p. 218.

This scene reflects what we have seen in Job: pat and lame answers to what doesn’t have a simple solution. Job knew, as did the doctor here, that the answers given didn’t fit the reality at hand. Thus, that’s the challenge: How do we find answers that make sense of what so often seems without sense? This week we will continue the pursuit.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 19.

SundayNovember 13

Job’s Protest

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had a point: God does punish evil. Unfortunately, that point didn’t apply in Job’s situation. Job’s suffering was not a case of retributive punishment. God was not punishing him for his sins, as He would do with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Nor was Job reaping what he had sown, as can so often be the case. No, Job was a righteous man; God Himself says so (see Job 1:8), and so Job not only didn’t deserve what had happened to him, he knew that he didn’t deserve it. That’s what made his complaints so hard and bitter.

Read Job 10. What is he saying here to God, and why does it make so much sense, considering his circumstances?

At times of great tragedy, have not those who believe in God asked similar questions? Why, Lord, did You bother to create me at all? Or, Why are You doing this to me? Or, Would it not have been better that I had never been born than to have been created and face this?

Again, what makes it all harder for Job to comprehend is that he knows that he has been faithful to God. He cries out to Him: “‘Although You know that I am not wicked, and there is no one who can deliver from Your hand’” (Job 10:7, NKJV).

There’s a difficult irony here: in contrast to what his friends said, Job was not suffering because of his sin. The book itself teaches the opposite: Job was suffering here precisely because he was so faithful. The first two chapters of the book make that point. Job had no way of knowing that this was the cause, and even if he did, it probably would have made his bitterness and frustration worse.

However unique Job’s situation, it’s also universal in that it is dealing with the universal question of suffering, especially when the suffering seems so greatly out of proportion to whatever evil someone might have done. It’s one thing to go over the speed limit and get a speeding ticket; it’s another to do the same thing to kill someone in the process.

What can you say to someone who believes that he or she is suffering unjustly?

MondayNovember 14

Innocent Blood?

We often hear the question of “innocent” suffering. The Bible even uses the phrase “innocent blood” (Isa. 59:7Jer. 22:17Joel 3:19), usually in the context of assault, or even murder, of people who didn’t deserve what happened to them. If we use this understanding of “innocent blood,” then, as we all know, our world is filled with many examples of it.

On the other hand, the Bible does talk about the reality of human sinfulness and human corruption, which brings up a valid question about the meaning of “innocent.” If everyone has sinned, if everyone has violated God’s law, then who is truly innocent? As someone once said, “Your birth certificate is proof of your guilt.”

Though theologians and Bible scholars for centuries have debated the exact nature of the human relationship to sin, the Bible is clear that sin has impacted all humanity. The idea of human sinfulness is not found only in the New Testament. On the contrary, the New Testament exploration of the theme expands on what was written in the Old Testament.

What do the following texts teach about the reality of sin? 1 Kings 8:46Ps. 51:5Prov. 20:9Isa. 53:6Rom. 3:10–20.

Besides the clear testimony of Scripture, anyone who has ever known the Lord personally, who has seen a glimpse of God’s goodness and holiness, knows the reality of human sinfulness. In that sense, who among us (we’re going to skip, for now, the whole question of babies and young children) is truly “innocent”?

On the other hand, that’s not really the point. Job was a sinner; in that sense he wasn’t innocent, any more than his own children weren’t innocent. And yet, what had he done, or they done, to deserve the fate that befell them? Is this not, perhaps, the ultimate question for humanity in regard to suffering? Contrary to his friends’ “defenses of clay” (Job 13:12, NKJV), Job knew that what was happening to him was not something that he deserved.

How does the experience of knowing God and His holiness, which makes our own sinfulness painful, help us see our absolute need of the Cross?

TuesdayNovember 15

Unfair Fates

Read Job 15:14–16. What truth is Eliphaz presenting to Job?

Again, Eliphaz was speaking truth (as did the others), this time in regard to the sinfulness of all humanity. Sin is a universal fact of life on earth; so is suffering. And as we also know, all human suffering ultimately results from sin. And there’s no question that God can use suffering to teach us important lessons. “God has always tried His people in the furnace of affliction. It is in the heat of the furnace that the dross is separated from the true gold of the Christian character.” — Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 129.

There is, however, a deeper problem with suffering. What about the times we see no good come from it? What about the suffering of those who don’t have the dross separated from the gold in their character because they are killed instantly? What about those who suffer, never knowing the true God or anything about Him? What about those whose sufferings only made them bitter, angry, and hateful toward God? We can’t ignore these examples or try to put them in a simple formula; to do so would perhaps make us guilty of the same errors as Job’s accusers.

Also, what good arises from the fate of animals in a forest fire who are slowly burned alive in a horrible death? Or what about the thousands of people killed in a natural disaster? Or what about civilians in war? What possible lessons could they have learned, or their families, when their families were swept away with them? And one could reasonably ask questions not just about Job’s ten dead children but about his servants who were killed with “the edge of the sword” (Job 1:15) or those burned alive by “the fire of God” (Job 1:16) or the other servants killed “with the edge of the sword” (Job 1:17).

Whatever lesson Job and his accusers might learn, and whatever defeat Satan will face through Job’s faithfulness, the fate of these others certainly doesn’t seem fair. The fact is, these things are not fair, are not just, and not right.

We face similar challenges today. A six-year-old dies of cancer, and that’s fair? A 20-year-old college girl is pulled from her car and sexually assaulted, and that’s fair? A 35-year-old mother of three is killed in a car accident, and that’s fair? What about the 19,000 Japanese killed in the 2011 earthquake? Were all 19,000 guilty of something that made this a just punishment? If not, then their deaths were not fair either.

These are the hard questions.

WednesdayNovember 16

Sufficient for the Day . . .

Read the following verses and think about the immediate fate of those depicted in the texts. Then ask yourself the question: How fair was life treating them?

Job 1:18–20

Gen. 4:8

Exod. 12:2930

2 Sam. 11:17

Jer. 38:6

Matt. 14:10

Heb. 11:35–38

The Bible reflects a harsh fact about life in our fallen world: evil and suffering are real. It’s only a superficial reading of the Word of God, pulling a few texts out of the whole context, that could give anyone the idea that life here is fair, and just, and good, and that if only we remain faithful to God, suffering won’t come. Certainly faithfulness can reap great rewards now, but that doesn’t mean it provides an absolute barrier to suffering and pain. Just ask Job.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave a powerful homily on why we need to trust God and not to worry about what we will eat, or drink, or wear. And Jesus used examples from nature as object lessons on why we can trust in God’s goodness to meet our needs. He then included these famous words: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34).

Notice, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Jesus wasn’t denying the presence in our lives, even the daily presence, of evil (from a Greek word that can mean “badness,” “depravity,” and “malignity”). If anything, He was doing the opposite. He was acknowledging the prevalence and presence of evil in our daily lives. How could He not? As the Lord, He knew more about the evil in the world than any of us ever could, and all of us certainly know a lot about it already.

Who hasn’t tasted a bit (or maybe a lot) of just how unfair and bitter life can be? How can focusing on Jesus’ acknowledgment of this evil’s reality help give us comfort and strength amid it?

ThursdayNovember 17

Things Not Seen

Read Proverb 3:5. Though it is such a common text, what crucial message does it have for us, especially in the context of what we have been studying?

Though the case of Job is extreme, it does reflect the sad reality of human suffering in our fallen world. We don’t need the story of Job or even the other stories we can read in the Bible to see this reality. We see it all around us. Indeed, to some degree, we all live it.

“Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not” (Job 14:12).

So again, the question we struggle with is how do we account for suffering, the kind that seems to make no sense to us, that kind in which innocent blood is shed?

As the early chapters of Job have shown, and as the Bible elsewhere reveals, Satan is a real being and is the cause, directly or indirectly, of so much suffering. As we have seen early in this quarter (see lesson two), the great controversy template works so well in helping us deal with the reality of evil in our world.

Still, it’s hard to understand at times why the things that do take place happen. Sometimes—many times, actually— things just don’t make sense. It’s at times like these, when things happen that we don’t understand, that we need to learn to trust in the goodness of God. We need to learn to trust God even when answers are not readily apparent and when we can see nothing good coming from the evil and suffering around us.

Hebrews 11:1 reads: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” From the things that we do see, how can we learn to trust God about the things that we don’t see? From what we have read in the book of Job so far, in what sense has Job learned to do just that? How can we learn to do the same?

FridayNovember 18

Further Thought: Last Sabbath’s introduction began with Albert Camus, who wrote a lot about his struggle for answers, not just to the question of suffering but to the question of life’s meaning in general, which suffering made only more problematic. As with most atheists, he didn’t make much headway. His most famous quote shows how little: “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.”—The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays (New York: Vintage Books, 1955), p. 3. For sure, the question of human suffering is not an easy one to answer. The book of Job pulls back a veil and shows us a bigger picture than what we might have seen otherwise, but even when we read it all, the book still leaves many questions unanswered.

There is, however, a crucial difference between those who struggle for answers to the question of suffering without God and those who do so with God. Yes, the problem of pain and suffering becomes more difficult when you believe in the existence of God, because of the inevitable problems His existence in the face of evil and pain bring. On the other hand, we have what atheists such as Camus don’t have—and that is the prospect of answer and of resolution. (There is evidence that Camus later in life had wanted to be baptized but he was soon killed in a car accident.) We have the hope that “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4). Even if someone didn’t believe this promise or many of the others in the Bible, that person would have to admit, if nothing else, how much nicer life would be now to have at least that hope as opposed to the prospect of just living here amid our toils and struggles and then dying forever, with it all meaning nothing.

Discussion Question:

  1. One argument that people bring up in regard to the question of evil is the idea that, Well, yes, there is evil in the world, but there is also good, and the good outweighs the evil. The first question would be, How does one know that the good outweighs the evil? How does one make that comparison? The second question would be, Even if true, what good would that idea do for Job (or others) amid their suffering? 

  2. German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer used a powerful example to debunk that whole notion of some sort of balance between good and evil in this world now. “The pleasure in this world,” he wrote, “it has been said, outweighs the pain; or, at any rate, there is an even balance between the two. If the reader wishes to see shortly whether this statement is true, let him compare the respective feelings of two animals, one of which is engaged in eating the other.” How would you respond to the idea that good somehow balances out the evil?

Inside Story~  Inter-European Division

The Devil's Lies, Part 1

Rui lived with his grandparents in Portugal. But when he was 7 years old his grandparents died. Rui wanted to know what happened to people when they died, but his uncle, with whom he'd gone to live, didn't have the answers.

Rui began a long search for answers. He started by attending a Sunday School near his uncle's home. Hoping to find answers to his spiritual questions there, he often recited the prayers he had memorized, but he couldn't seem to bridge the gap between himself and God.

Rui bought a Bible, hoping it would help him understand God. But because he had been taught that common people can't understand it, he placed it on a shelf of honor and didn't read it.

Then one day he moved the Bible to clean the shelf. The Bible flipped open to Exodus 20. Rui noticed that the page heading said "The Ten Commandments." He sat down and read the chapter. He had memorized the Ten Commandments in church, but he was startled to find that the commandments in the Bible differed from those he had memorized.

That Sunday he asked the priest why the commandments he had learned in church differed from those in the Bible. He was disappointed when the priest simply told him to follow the commandments of the church and ignore the Bible version. Rui's frustration grew, and he stopped attending the church. But the emptiness in his life remained.

Rui remembered hearing his relatives say that his grandmother used to speak to spirits. Rui wondered whether he had the same ability. Feeling frustrated because he couldn't find the answers to his spiritual questions in church, he decided to seek the answers from the dead.

He went to meetings to call on the spirits and soon began to sense a spiritual presence with him. Soon he was deeply involved in the spirit world. He found a book on witchcraft and began studying it. But some of the instructions were so horrifying that he destroyed everything he had that related to the spirits. He kept only his Bible.

Rui again began searching for answers about God. He attended several churches and asked many questions. But what they told him left him confused and frustrated.

To be continued.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  website:

All Rights Reserved. No part of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide may be edited, altered, modified, adapted, translated, reproduced, or published by any person or entity without prior written authorization from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Lesson 7   
November 5–11

Retributive Punishment

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Job 8:1–22Job 11:1–20Isa. 40:12–14Gen. 6:5–82 Pet. 3:5–7.

Memory Text: “ ‘Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?’ ” (Job 11:7, NKJV).

The problem of human suffering surely continues to daunt humanity. We see “good” people suffer immense tragedy, while evil ones go unpunished in this life. A few years ago a book came out called Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? It was one of numerous attempts over the millennia to come to a satisfactory answer to that problem. It didn’t. Many other writers and thinkers have written of their struggle to come to terms with human suffering. They don’t seem to have found the right answers.

This theme, of course, is the theme of the book of Job, and in it we continue to explore why even “good” people, such as Job, suffer in this world. The crucial difference between the book of Job and the others, though, is that Job is not based on human perspectives of suffering (though we get plenty of that in the book); rather, because it’s the Bible, we get a look at God’s perspective on the problem.

This week we read more speeches from the men who came to Job in his misery. What can we learn from them, especially from their mistakes as they, as others have done, try to come to grips with the problem of pain?

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 12.

SundayNovember 6

More Accusations

As if getting a lecture from Eliphaz weren’t bad enough, Job then faced one from Bildad, who said something similar to what Eliphaz had said. Unfortunately, Bildad was cruder and harsher toward Job than even Eliphaz was. Imagine going up to someone whose children had died and saying to the person: “ ‘If your sons have sinned against Him, He has cast them away for their transgression’ ” (Job 8:4, NKJV).

This is ironic, because the first chapter of Job (Job 1:5) makes it clear that Job offered sacrifices on behalf of his children for that very reason, in case they had sinned. So, we see a contrast here between an understanding of grace (as seen in Job’s actions) and Bildad’s opening words, which reveal a harsh, retributive legalism. Even worse, though, is that Bildad speaks this way in his attempt to defend the character of God.

Read Job 8:1–22. What is Bildad’s argument, and how much truth is he speaking? That is, if you were to forget the immediate context and just look at the sentiments expressed, what fault, if any, could you find with his words?

Who can find fault with so much of what he is saying here? “ ‘For we were born yesterday, and know nothing, because our days on earth are a shadow’ ” (Job 8:9, NKJV). That’s powerful, true, and very biblical (James 4:14). Or what’s wrong with his warning that the godless man who puts his hope in earthly worldly things is really trusting in something no firmer than a “spider’s web” (Job 8:14)? That’s about as biblical a thought as one could get.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that Bildad is presenting just one aspect of God’s character. It’s an example of being in a ditch on one side of the road or the other. Neither place is where you really should be. Someone can, for instance, focus only on law and justice and obedience, while someone else can focus on grace and forgiveness and substitution. Either overemphasis usually leads to a distorted picture of God and of truth. We see a similar problem here.

As humans we should always strive for the right balance between law and grace in our theology and in our dealing with others. If, however, you were to err on one side or the other (and as humans we eventually do), which side would it be better to err on when dealing with the faults of others, and why?

MondayNovember 7

Less Than Your Iniquity Deserves

“ ‘Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea’ ” (Job 11:7–9, NKJVsee also Isa. 40:12–14). What truth is being expressed, and why is it important for us always to remember it?

The words here are beautiful expressions of the fact that there is so much about God we don’t know and that all our efforts to search Him out by ourselves will still leave us knowing so little. It’s interesting that one of the twentieth century’s most famous philosophers, the late Richard Rorty, basically argued that we are never going to understand reality and truth, and so we ought to give up the attempt. Instead of trying to understand reality, Rorty argued, all we can do is try to cope with it. How fascinating: 2600 years of the Western philosophical tradition culminates in this expression of defeat. If all our searching leaves us in the dark about the nature of the reality that we live in, then who “by searching” is going to understand the Creator—the one who made that reality to begin with, and so is even greater than it? Rorty essentially affirmed what we just read from the Bible.

Yet, these texts, profound as they are, were from a speech from Zophar, the third of Job’s acquaintances, and he used those words as part of a faulty argument against Job.

Read Job 11:1–20. What is right with what Zophar is saying, but what is wrong with his overall argument?

It’s so hard to understand how someone could come up to a man suffering as Job is and say to him, basically, you are getting what you deserve. No, in fact, you are getting less than you deserve. What’s even worse is that he is doing it, as were the two others, all in an attempt to vindicate the goodness and the character of God.

Sometimes, merely knowing truths about the character of God do not automatically make us reflect it. What more do we need in order to reflect God’s character?

TuesdayNovember 8

Divine Retribution

Job’s three friends undoubtedly had some knowledge about God. And they were earnest in their efforts to defend Him too. And, as we saw, as misguided as their words to Job were (especially given the context), these men were expressing some crucial truths.

And central to their arguments was the idea that God is a God of justice and that sin brings divine retributive punishment upon evil and special blessings upon goodness. Though we don’t know the exact time that the men lived, because we accept that Moses wrote the book of Job while he was in Midian, they lived some time before the Exodus. Most likely, too, they lived after the Flood.

Read Genesis 6:5–8. Though we don’t know how much these men (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) knew about the Flood, how might its story have influenced their theology?

Clearly the story of the Flood is an example of divine retribution for sin. In it God directly brings punishment upon those who specifically deserved it. Yet, even here the concept of grace is revealed as seen in Genesis 6:8. Ellen G. White wrote, too, of the fact that “every [hammer] blow struck upon the ark was preaching to the people.” — The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 70. Nevertheless, to some degree we can see in this story an example of what these men were preaching to Job.

How is this same idea of retributive judgment seen in Genesis 13:1318:20–3219:2425?

Whether or not Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar knew much about these incidents, they reveal the reality of God’s direct judgment upon evil. God wasn’t simply abandoning sinners to their sin and letting that sin itself destroy them. As with the Flood, God was the direct agent of their punishment. He functioned here as the judge and destroyer of wickedness and evil.

However much we want to (and should) focus on God’s character of love, grace, and forgiveness, why must we not forget the reality of His justice, as well? Think about all the evil that has yet gone unpunished. What should this tell us about the necessity of divine retribution, whenever and however it comes?

WednesdayNovember 9

If the Lord Creates a New Thing

Many instances of direct divine punishment upon evil, as well as blessing for faithfulness, are recorded in Scripture long after all the characters in the book of Job were dead.

What great promise is given here for obedience? Deut. 6:2425.

The Old Testament is filled with promise after promise of the blessings and prosperity that God would directly bring to His people were they to obey Him. So, we can see here examples of what these men had said to Job regarding God’s blessing the faithfulness of those who seek to obey Him and His commandments and to live a godly and upright life.

Of course, the Old Testament is also filled with warning after warning about direct divine punishment that would come for disobedience. In much of the Old Testament, especially after the covenant with Israel at Sinai, God is warning the Israelites about what their disobedience would bring upon them. “‘But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against [His] commands, [His] hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors’” (1 Sam. 12:15, NIV).

Read Numbers 16:1–33. What does this incident teach about the reality of divine retributive punishment?

Given the nature of how the rebels were destroyed, this incident cannot be chalked up to the idea of “sin bringing its own punishment.” These people faced divine and direct retribution from God for their sin and rebellion. In this case we see supernatural manifestations of God’s power; it seemed that the very laws of nature themselves were changed. “‘But if the LORD creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the LORD.’” (Num. 16:30, NKJV).

The verb “creates” here is from the same root used for “created” in Genesis 1:1. The Lord wanted everyone to know that it was He Himself who immediately and directly brought this punishment upon the rebels.

ThursdayNovember 10

The Second Death

Certainly the greatest and most powerful manifestation of retributive judgment will be at the end of time, with the destruction of the wicked, called in the Bible “the second death” (Rev. 20:14). This death, of course, must not be confused with the death common to all the descendants of Adam. This is the death from which the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, will spare the righteous at the end of time (1 Cor. 15:26). In contrast, the second death, like some of the other punishments seen in Old Testament times, is God’s direct punishment upon sinners who have not repented and received salvation in Jesus.

Read 2 Peter 3:5–7. What is the Word of God telling us about the fate of the lost?

“Fire comes down from God out of heaven. The earth is broken up. The weapons concealed in its depths are drawn forth. Devouring flames burst from every yawning chasm. The very rocks are on fire. The day has come that shall burn as an oven. The elements melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein are burned up. Malachi 4:12 Peter 3:10. The earth’s surface seems one molten mass—a vast, seething lake of fire. It is the time of the judgment and perdition of ungodly men—‘the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.’ Isaiah 34:8.” — Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 672, 673.

Though sin can bring its own punishment, there surely are times that God Himself does directly punish sin and sinners, as Job’s protagonists argued. It’s true that all suffering in this world has arisen from sin. But it’s not true that all suffering is God’s punishing of sin. That was certainly not the case with Job, nor in most other cases as well. The fact is that we are involved in the great controversy, and we have an enemy who is out to do us harm. The good news is that, amid it all, we can know that God is there for us. Whatever the reasons for the trials we face, whatever the present outcomes of those trials, we have the assurance of God’s love, a love revealed as so great that Jesus went to the cross for us, an act that alone promises to end all suffering.

How can we be sure that someone’s suffering is direct punishment from God? If we can’t be sure, then what’s the best approach for us to take with that suffering person? Or even with our own suffering?

FridayNovember 11

Further Thought: As said earlier in this quarter, it’s important to try to put ourselves in the place of the characters in the story, because doing so can help us understand their motives and actions. They didn’t see the battle going on behind the scenes as we do. If we put ourselves in their shoes, it shouldn’t be that hard for us to see the mistake that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar made in regard to Job’s suffering. They were making a judgment that they were really not qualified to make. “It is very natural for human beings to think that great calamities are a sure index of great crimes and enormous sins; but men often make a mistake in thus measuring character. We are not living in the time of retributive judgment. Good and evil are mingled, and calamities come upon all. Sometimes men do pass the boundary line beyond God’s protecting care, and then Satan exercises his power upon them, and God does not interpose. Job was sorely afflicted, and his friends sought to make him acknowledge that his suffering was the result of sin, and cause him to feel under condemnation. They represented his case as that of a great sinner; but the Lord rebuked them for their judgment of His faithful servant.” — Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary,vol. 3, p. 1140. We need to be careful in how we deal with the whole question of suffering. Sure, in some cases it seems easier to understand. Someone smokes cigarettes and gets lung cancer. How much simpler could it be? That’s fine, but what about those who smoke all their lives and never get it? Is God punishing the one but not the other? In the end, like Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, we don’t always know why suffering comes as it does. In one sense, it almost doesn’t matter if we know or not. What matters is what we do in response to the suffering that we see. Here’s where these three men were totally wrong.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the reality of retributive punishment teach us about how we can trust in the ultimate justice of God, even despite how things seem now?

  2. These three men really didn’t understand all that was happening to Job in his suffering. In a sense, isn’t that the case with us all? We don’t fully understand the reasons for human suffering. How, then, should this realization help us be more compassionate with those who are suffering? As stated above, how important is it that we even know the immediate causes?

Inside Story~  Inter-European Division

Beautiful in God's Time, Part 2

While Mihaela worked and kept house, her husband neither worked nor studied. One day he told her that he had received a visa to go to Spain, but hers hadn't yet come. So he went to Spain without her.

Mihaela lived with her in-laws after her husband left. She had plenty of time on her hands, so she began reading Adventist literature that her mother had given her. Finally her visa came, and she planned to join her husband. She promised God that if they could be reunited, she would be baptized at the first opportunity.

When Mihaela arrived in Spain she moved into the apartment she and her husband would share with two other families and a single woman. She was delighted to find that one of the families was Adventist, and they had been taking her husband to church. Joyfully the couple began attending church together.

Mihaela found work as a nanny, which required that she be away from home from Monday morning until Friday evening. She lived for the weekends when she could be with her husband.

Things seemed to be going well for the couple. Her husband had found work, and she looked forward to being able to afford their own apartment soon.

Then one by one people began telling Mihaela that her husband was spending too much time with the single woman who lived in the same apartment. Mihaela noticed that the two seemed quite friendly, but they denied any secret relationship.

Then her husband's interest in attending church waned. He began asking Mihaela to cook or go shopping with him on Sabbath. When she refused, he threatened to take the other woman instead. Finally she gave in and went shopping with her husband and the other woman. She was miserable and decided she wouldn't give in to his threats again.

The following week the Adventist pastor visited, and Mihaela told him she wanted to be baptized. Later that week her husband's boss confirmed that her husband and the other woman were more than just friends. Mihaela confronted the woman, who admitted it was true.

Mihaela couldn't return to the apartment, so asked her employers if she could stay in their home on the weekends as well.

In spite of losing her husband to another woman, Mihaela has found joy in her constant friend, Jesus, who has given her faith and the strength to deal with her broken marriage. She rejoices to see how God is working in her life, and her parents are happy that she has committed her life to Christ in baptism.

Mihaela Budau lives in Coslada, Spain,

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  website:

All Rights Reserved. No part of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide may be edited, altered, modified, adapted, translated, reproduced, or published by any person or entity without prior written authorization from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Lesson 6   October 29–November 4

The Curse Causeless?

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Ps. 119:65–72Job 2:11–13Job 4:1–21Rom. 3:19201 Cor. 3:19Heb. 12:5Matt. 7:1.

Memory Text: “ ‘“Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?”’ ” (Job 4:17, NKJV).

Last week we stressed the importance of putting ourselves in the position of Job, at least to whatever degree possible. In one sense, it shouldn’t have been that hard, because we’ve all been there; that is, to some degree we’ve all found ourselves immersed in suffering that so often seems to make no sense and certainly doesn’t seem fair.

While in the rest of the lesson we should try to keep that perspective, we also need to find the perspective of the other people in the story, the men who come to mourn and grieve with Job.

And that shouldn’t be so hard either. Who among us hasn’t seen the suffering of others? Who hasn’t sought to console others in their pain and loss? Who doesn’t know what it is like to try to find the right words to speak to those whose grief cuts at our own hearts, as well?

In fact, so much of the book of Job is really taken up with the dialogue between Job and these men, as they all try to make sense of what so often seems to make no sense: the endless parade of human suffering and tragedy in a world created by a loving, powerful, and caring God.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 5.

SundayOctober 30

The Big Questions

Most of the action in the book of Job takes place in the first two chapters. Here the veil between heaven and earth is lifted, and we are given a glimpse into a whole aspect of reality that otherwise would remain hidden from us. However far our telescopes can peer into the cosmos, they haven’t come anywhere near revealing to us what we have been shown in this book, written thousands of years ago in a desert that is most likely located in today’s Saudi Arabia. Job also shows just how closely connected the supernatural realm, the realm of God and angels, is with the natural world, the earth and those of us upon it.

After the first two chapters, much of Job consists of what is called in the TV business “talking heads;” that is, just dialogue. In this case, the talking heads are Job and the men who come to discuss the heavy issues of life: theology, pain, philosophy, faith, life, and death.

And why not, considering all that has happened to Job? It’s so easy to be caught up in the mundane things of life, the business of just living day by day, and to forget what the big and important questions are. There is nothing like a calamity, either our own or that of others, to shake us out of our spiritual lethargy and get us to start asking the important questions.

Read Psalm 119:65–72. What is the psalmist saying?

The psalmist was able to see the good that arose from the trials that afflicted him. At times, trials can certainly be blessings in disguise, in that they either lead us back to the Lord or bring us to Him in the first place. Who hasn’t heard stories of those whose lives came to a crisis point, and only then did the person either come back to God or surrender to Him for the first time? Sometimes trials, however horrific and tragic, can be used for a good that, over time, we can see. Other times they appear arbitrary and meaningless.

How have you been able to look back at former trials and seen the good that has come out of them? How do you deal with those trials that have brought nothing good?

MondayOctober 31

When Have the Innocent Perished?

Read Job 2:11–13. What does it tell us about how Job’s friends viewed his situation?

Having heard about what happened to Job, these men made “an appointment” (Job 2:11, NKJV); that is, they planned to come together and see their friend. The verses convey the idea that they were stunned at what they saw, and they began the process of mourning with him.

According to the text, they sat silently, never saying a word. After all, what do you say to someone in a position such as Job’s? However, once Job first spoke, uttering his complaints, these men had plenty to say.

Read Job 4:1–11. What is the gist of Eliphaz’s words to Job?

Perhaps a good opening for a book on grief counseling could feature Eliphaz here. The opening chapter could have been titled, “What Not to Say to a Grieving Soul.” Though obviously these men sympathized with Job, that sympathy went only so far. It seems that for Eliphaz, theological purity was more important than basic consolation. It’s hard to imagine someone coming up to a person going through all that Job was going through and saying, basically, Well, you must have deserved it, because God is just, and only the wicked suffer like this.

Even if one thought that this was the situation in Job’s case, what good did it do to say it to him? Suppose a speeding driver got into a car accident and lost his entire family. Can you imagine someone going up to him right away, amid his grief, and saying to him right away: God is punishing you for your speeding? The problem with Eliphaz’s word isn’t just the questionable theology; the bigger issue is his insensitivity to Job and all that he is going through.

Think about a time people comforted you amid loss and pain. What did they say? How did they say it? What did you learn from that experience that could help you when you are in the position of having to comfort someone else?

TuesdayNovember 1

A Man and His Maker

Eliphaz wouldn’t exactly win any awards for tact and sympathy with his opening lines. Basically he was saying that it was easy for Job to be a light and comfort to others when things were going well. But now that evil had befallen him, he’s “troubled.” Yet, shouldn’t he be? God is just, and so the evil that comes upon us is deserved.

Read Job 4:12–21. What other argument does Eliphaz present to Job?

There are many fascinating things one could look at here, including how these men understood the nature and character of the true God, even before the rise of the nation of Israel. This whole book shows us that, indeed, others besides the patriarchs and then eventually the Israelites knew something of the Lord. Here, in fact, we see Eliphaz seeking to defend the character of God.

What Eliphaz heard in “visions of the night” was in many ways very sound theology (see Ps. 103:14Isa. 64:7Rom. 3:1920). We as humans are clay, we are so temporary, and we can be crushed as easily as a moth. And, of course, what man or woman can be more righteous than God?

On the other hand, his words were trite and beside the point. The issue with Job wasn’t whether Job was better than God. That was not Job’s complaint. He mostly talked about just how miserable he was, how much he was suffering, not that he was somehow more righteous than God.

Eliphaz, however, seems to have read all this into what Job said. After all, if God is just, and evil comes only upon evil, then Job must have done something to deserve what he was going through. Therefore, Job’s complaints were unfair. Eager to defend God, Eliphaz starts to lecture Job. Even more than just whatever collective wisdom he believed he had about God, Eliphaz had something else, as well: a supernatural revelation of some kind to buttress his position. The only problem, however, is that the position he took misses the point.

What can we learn from this account about how, even if we are right on a position, we might not be expressing it in the most helpful and redeeming way?

WednesdayNovember 2

The Foolish Taking Root

In chapter 5, Eliphaz continues with his argument. It’s mostly the same as what he said in the previous chapter: evil happens only to evil people. Imagine how this must have felt to Job, who knew that it couldn’t be right and that he didn’t deserve his present situation.

However, there is a problem here: not all that Eliphaz is saying here is wrong. On the contrary, many of these same thoughts are echoed in other parts of the Bible.

How do the following texts reflect the sentiments expressed in Job 5?

Ps. 37:10

Prov. 26:2

Luke 1:52

1 Cor. 3:19

Ps. 34:6

Heb. 12:5

Hos. 6:1

Ps. 33:19

ThursdayNovember 3

Rush to Judgment

Much of what Eliphaz said to Job was correct. That is, he made many valid points, points that we found were expressed later in the Bible. And yet, something still was terribly wrong with his response to Job. The problem wasn’t so much with what he said; the problem was more the context in which he said it. What he was saying, the truths he was uttering, just didn’t apply to the specific situation. (See next week’s lesson.)

Our world is a complicated place. It’s easy to look at a situation and then toss out a few clichés or even a few Bible texts that you think apply. Maybe they do. But often they don’t. Look at this statement from Ellen G. White about how we often bring upon ourselves the things that happen to us. “No truth does the Bible more clearly teach than that what we do is the result of what we are. To a great degree the experiences of life are the fruition of our own thoughts and deeds.” — Education, p. 146.

This is a profound and important truth. But could you imagine some well-meaning saint going up to someone in a situation like Job’s and reading to that person the preceding Ellen G. White statement? (In some cases, unfortunately, we can imagine that.) How much better would it have been for the well-meaning saint to have followed this counsel instead? “Many think that they are representing the justice of God while they wholly fail of representing His tenderness and His great love. Often the ones whom they meet with sternness and severity are under the stress of temptation. Satan is wrestling with these souls, and harsh, unsympathetic words discourage them and cause them to fall a prey to the tempter’s power.” — Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 163.

The fact is, as is so often the case, there’s much more going on here than Eliphaz and all the others, including Job, knew. So, Eliphaz’s rush to judgment, even with all his correct theology, was hardly the right thing to do, given the circumstances.

Why should the following texts always be in the forefront of our minds when dealing with anyone, especially those whom we believe have sinned? Matt. 7:12Rom. 2:1–31 Cor. 4:5.

Even if Eliphaz had been right, and Job brought this suffering upon himself, his words were imprudent and ill–timed. Job stands as a symbol for all humanity, for we all have been caught up in the great controversy, and we all suffer in it. And we all, at some point, need compassion and sympathy, not sermonizing. Sure, there’s a time and place for getting lectured. But when a man is sitting on a pile of ashes, his life ruined, his children dead, and his body full of sores—that is not the time.

FridayNovember 4

Further Thought: As we have seen, Eliphaz was not without sympathy for Job. It’s just that his sympathy took second place to what he saw as his need to defend the character of God. After all, Job was suffering terribly, and God is just; therefore, Job must have done something to deserve what happened to him. That’s what God’s justice is all about, Eliphaz concluded. Therefore, Job was wrong in his complaining.

Of course, God is just. But that doesn’t automatically mean that we will see His justice made manifest in every situation that happens in this fallen world. The fact is, we don’t. Justice and judgment will come, but not necessarily now (Rev. 20:12). Part of what it means to live by faith is to trust God that the justice so lacking here will one day be revealed and made manifest.

What we see with Eliphaz also appears in the attitude of some of the scribes and Pharisees toward Jesus. These men were so caught up in their desire to be “faithful” and religious that their anger at the Lord’s Sabbath healings (see Matthew 12) trumped what should have been their happiness that the sick had been healed and had had their suffering relieved. No matter how specific Christ’s words were in the following text, the principle is one that we who love God and who are jealous for Him must always remember: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matt. 23:23).

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can we know the difference between the time someone needs compassion and sympathy and when a person needs lecturing and maybe even rebuke? Why would it generally be better to err on the side of compassion and sympathy when dealing with those who are suffering, even through their own sins and misdeeds?
  2. Read again Eliphaz’s words to Job in chapters 4 and 5. In what situation might those words have been more appropriate than they were here?
  3. Suppose you had been a friend of Job’s and had gone to see him as he sat on the pile of ashes. What would you have said to him, and why? If that had been you in his place, what would you want people to say to you?

Inside Story~ 

Beautiful in God's Time, Part 1

Mihaela Budau

Mihaela was the only child in her close-knit Romanian family. Her parents were teachers, and the family enjoyed spending time together.

When Mihaela's mother began attending the Adventist church, her father didn't object, but Mihaela did. She was 18 at the time and challenged her mother's new ideas. When her mother took off her jewelry, Mihaela told her that she looked naked. Nevertheless, Mihaela still loved her mother and wanted to please her.

When Mihaela entered the university, she often found her thoughts drifting toward God and religion. She thought about what her mother had told her about Adventist beliefs, and even defended those beliefs in debates with other students. But she resisted a deeper interest in religion. She reasoned that she was young and had a lifetime to think about God and religion.

While studying at the university Mihaela met a popular young man. It seemed that every girl on campus wanted to date him. He was handsome and charming, and his family was wealthy. But he chose to date Mihaela. When she was 21 the young couple married. Mihaela felt that God had showered her with approval by allowing her to marry such a desirable man.

The young couple often visited their families. While Mihaela's parents enjoyed a peaceful home filled with intellectual pursuits, her husband's family didn't enjoy close-knit family pleasures.

Mihaela's in-laws stopped supporting their son's studies when he married, so when Mihaela graduated, she took a job to help pay his tuition. She didn't have to work on Saturdays, and usually spent the day doing housework. But she often found herself wrestling with her conscience over what her mother had taught her about proper Sabbathkeeping.

As time passed and her husband still hadn't finished his studies, the young couple began having problems in their marriage. Often when a crisis came, she would pray that if God would help them resolve their problems, she would become an Adventist. But when the crisis passed, she forgot her promise.

When Mihaela's in-laws learned that her husband hadn't finished school when he said he had, they became angry with him and accused him of wasting his life and their money. Angry, he called Mihaela at work and told her that they were moving out of the apartment his parents had gotten them. "I'll quit school and provide for my family with my own hands!" he announced boldly.

Reluctantly Mihaela returned home and packed up their things. They moved in with his sister, who lived in the same town. Mihaela continued working while her husband worked on obtaining visas to leave the country.

To be continued.

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Lesson 5
October 22–28

Curse the Day

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Job 3:1–10John 11:11–14Job 6:1–37:1–11James 4:14Job 7:17–21Ps. 8:4–6.

Memory Text: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11, NKJV).

As we read the story of Job, we have two distinct advantages: first, knowing how it ends, and second, knowing the background, the cosmic conflict operating behind the scenes.

Job knew none of this. All he knew was that he was going along in his life just fine when suddenly one calamity after another, one tragedy after another, swooped down upon him. And next, this man, “the greatest of all the people of the East” (Job 1:3, NKJV), was reduced to mourning and grieving on a pile of ashes.

As we continue to study Job, let’s try to put ourselves in Job’s position, for this will help us better understand the confusion, the anger, the sorrow that he was going through. And in one sense this shouldn’t be very hard for us, should it? Not that we have experienced what Job did, but that who among us, born of human flesh in a fallen world, doesn’t know something of the perplexity that tragedy and suffering brings, especially when we seek to serve the Lord faithfully and do what is right in His sight?

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 29.

SundayOctober 23

Let the Day Perish

Imagine that you are Job. Inexplicably your life, all that you have worked for, all that you have accomplished, all that God has blessed you with, comes tumbling down. It just doesn’t make sense. There doesn’t seem to be any reason, good or bad, for it.

Years ago, a school bus went off the road, killing many of the children. In that context, one atheist said that this is the kind of thing you can expect in a world that has no meaning, no purpose, no direction. A tragedy like that has no meaning, because the world itself has no meaning.

As we have seen, though, this answer doesn’t work for the believer in God. And for Job, a faithful follower of the Lord, this answer didn’t work either. But what was the answer, what was the explanation? Job didn’t have one. All he had was his extreme grief and all the questions that inevitably accompanied it.

Read Job 3:1–10. How does Job first express his grief here? In what ways might any of us relate to what he is saying?

Life, of course, is a gift from God. We exist only because God has created us (Acts 17:28Rev. 4:11). Our very existence is a miracle, one that has stumped modern science. Indeed, scientists aren’t even in total agreement on what the definition of “life” is, much less how it came about, or even more important, why it did.

Who, though, in moments of despair, hasn’t wondered if life was worth it? We’re not talking about the unfortunate cases of suicide. Rather, what about the times when we might have, like Job, wished that we hadn’t been born to begin with?

An ancient Greek once said that the best thing that could happen to a person, outside of dying, is never to have been born at all. That is, life can be so miserable that we would have been better off not even existing, and thus be spared the inevitable anguish that comes with human life in this fallen world.

Have you ever felt the way Job felt here; that is, wishing you had never been born? Eventually, though, what happened? Of course, you felt better. How important it is for us to remember, then, even in our worst moments, that we have the hope, the prospect, of things improving.

MondayOctober 24

Rest in the Grave

Read Job 3:11–26. What is Job saying here? How is he continuing his lament? What does he say about death?

We can only imagine the terrible sorrow that poor Job was facing. However hard it must have been to have his possessions destroyed and his health taken away from him, Job lost all his children. All of them. It’s hard enough to imagine the pain of losing one child. Job lost them all. And he had ten! No wonder he wished that he were dead. And again, Job had no idea of the background behind it all, not that it would have made him feel better had he known, would it?

Notice, though, what Job says about death. If he had died, then what? The bliss of heaven? The joy of the presence of God? Playing a harp with the angels? There is nothing of that kind of theology there. Instead, what does Job say? “ ‘For now I would have lain still and been quiet, I would have been asleep; then I would have been at rest’ ” (Job 3:13, NKJV).

Read Ecclesiastes 9:5 and John 11:11–14. How does what Job says fit in with what the Bible teaches on what happens after death?

Here, in one of the oldest books of the Bible, we have what is perhaps one of the earliest expressions of what we call the “state of the dead.” All Job wanted, at this point, was to be “at rest.” Life suddenly had become so hard, so difficult, and so painful that he longed for what he knew death was, a peaceful rest in the tomb. He was so sad, so hurt, that, forgetting all the joy he had in life before the calamities came, he wished he had died even at his birth.

As Christians, we certainly have wonderful promises for the future. At the same time, amid present sufferings, how can we learn to remember the good times we had in the past and to draw comfort and solace from them?

TuesdayOctober 25

Other People’s Pain

Job finished his first lament, as recorded in chapter 3. For the next two chapters one of his friends, Eliphaz, gives Job a lecture (we will come back to that next week). In chapters 6 and 7, Job continues to speak about his suffering.

“‘Oh, that my grief were fully weighed, and my calamity laid with it on the scales! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea’” (Job 6:23, NKJV). How is Job expressing his pain here?

This image gives us an idea about how Job perceived his suffering. If all the sands of the sea were on one side of the balances and his “grief” and “calamity” on the other, his sufferings would outweigh all the sand.

That’s how real Job’s pain was to him. And this was Job’s pain alone, no one else’s. Sometimes we hear the idea of the “sum total of human suffering.” And yet, this does not really express truth. We don’t suffer in groups. We don’t suffer anyone’s pain but our own. We know only our own pain, only our own suffering. Job’s pain, however great, was no greater than what any one individual could ever know. Some well-intentioned people might say to someone else, “I feel your pain.” They don’t; they can’t. All they can feel is their own pain that might come in response to someone else’s suffering. But that’s always and only what it is, their own pain, not the other person’s.

We hear about disasters, human-made or otherwise, with large death tolls. The numbers of dead or injured stun us. We can hardly imagine such massive suffering. But as with Job, as with every case of fallen humanity from Adam and Eve in Eden to the end of this world, every fallen being who has ever lived can know only his or her own pain and no more.

Of course, we never want to downplay individual suffering, and as Christians we are called to seek to help alleviate hurt when and where we can (see James 1:27Matt. 25:34–40). Yet, no matter how much suffering exists in the world, how thankful we can be that not one fallen human suffers more than what one individual can. (There’s only one exception; see lesson 12.)

Dwell more on this idea that human suffering is limited only to each individual. How does this help you (if it does) to look at the troubling issue of human suffering in a somewhat different light?

WednesdayOctober 26

The Weaver’s Shuttle

Imagine the following conversation. Two people are bemoaning the fate of all humanity: death. That is, no matter how good the lives they live, no matter what they accomplish, it’s going to end in the grave.

“Yeah,” gripes Methuselah to a friend. “We live, what, 800, 900 years, and then we are gone. What is 800 or 900 years in contrast to eternity?” (See Genesis 5.)

Though it’s hard for us today to imagine what it would be like to live for hundreds of years (Methuselah was 187 years old when his son Lamech was born, and Methuselah lived 782 years after that); yet, even the antediluvians, facing the reality of death, must have bemoaned what could have seemed like to them the shortness of life.

Read Job 7:1–11. What is Job’s complaint? See also Ps. 39:511James 4:14.

We just saw Job seeking the rest and relief that would come from death. Now he’s lamenting how quickly life goes by. He is saying, basically, that life is hard, full of toil and pain, and then we die. Here’s a conundrum we often face: we bemoan how fast and fleeting life is, even when that life can be so sad and miserable.

A Seventh-day Adventist woman wrote an article about her struggle with depression and even thoughts of suicide. And yet, she wrote: “The worst part was that I was an Adventist who observed a lifestyle proven to help me live ‘six years longer.’” That didn’t make sense. Of course, at times of pain and suffering, so many things don’t seem to make sense. Sometimes, amid our pain, reason and rationality go by the wayside, and all we know is our hurt and fear, and we see no hope. Even Job, who really knew better (Job 19:25),cried out in his despair and hopelessness: “Oh, remember that my life is a breath! My eye will never again see good” (Job 7:7, NKJV).Job, for whom the prospect of death now seemed nearer than ever, still bemoaned how short that existence was, no matter how presently miserable it was at the time.

How should your understanding of the Fall, of death, and of the promise of the resurrection help you put into perspective the whole question of how fast life goes by?

ThursdayOctober 27

“Mah Enosh?” (What Is Man?)

Again, we must put ourselves in Job’s position. Why is God doing all this to me, or why is He allowing this to happen to me? Job hasn’t seen the big picture. How can he? He knows only what has happened around him and to him, and he doesn’t understand any of it.

Who hasn’t been in a similar situation?

Read Job 7:17–21. What is Job expressing here? What questions is he asking? Considering his situation, why do the questions make so much sense?

Some scholars have argued that Job was mocking Psalm 8:4–6, which reads: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (NKJV; see also Ps. 144:34). The problem, though, is that Job was written long before the Psalms. In that case, then, perhaps the psalmist wrote in response to Job’s lament.

Either way, the question “Mah enosh?” (What is man?) is one of the most important we could ask. Who are we? Why are we here? What is the meaning and purpose of our lives? In Job’s case, because he believes that God has “targeted” him, he is wondering why God bothers with him. God is so big, His creation so vast; why should He deal with Job at all? Why does God bother with any of us at all?

Read John 3:16 and 1 John 3:1. How do these texts help us understand why God interacts with humanity?

“As John beholds the height, the depth, and the breadth of the Father’s love toward our perishing race, he is filled with admiration and reverence. He cannot find suitable language to express this love, but he calls upon the world to behold it: ‘Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.’ What a value this places upon man! Through transgression the sons of men became subjects of Satan. Through the infinite sacrifice of Christ, and faith in His name, the sons of Adam become the sons of God. By assuming human nature, Christ elevates humanity.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 563.

FridayOctober 28

Further Thought: “In an era so unprecedentedly illuminated by science and reason, the ‘good news’ of Christianity became less and less convincing a metaphysical structure, less secure a foundation upon which to build one’s life, and less psychologically necessary. The sheer improbability of the whole nexus of events was becoming painfully obvious—that an infinite, eternal God would have suddenly become a particular human being in a specific historical time and place only to be ignominiously executed. That a single brief life taking place two millennia earlier in an obscure primitive nation, on a planet now known to be a relatively insignificant piece of matter revolving about one star among billions in an inconceivably vast and impersonal universe—that such an undistinguished event should have any overwhelming cosmic or eternal meaning could no longer be a compelling belief for reasonable men. It was starkly implausible that the universe as a whole would have any pressing interest in this minute part of its immensity—if it had any ‘interests’ at all. Under the spotlight of the modern demand for public, empirical, scientific corroboration of all statements of belief, the essence of Christianity withered.”—Richard Tarnas, Passion of the Western Mind (New York: Ballantine Books, 1991), p. 305. What is the problem with this thought? What is the author missing? What does this excerpt teach us about the limits of what “science and reason” can know of the reality of God and His love for us? What does this show us about the need for revealed truth, truth that human “science and reason” cannot reach in and of themselves?

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you, as a Christian, answer the question, “What is man?” How would your answer differ from that of people who don’t believe in the God of the Bible?

  2. “How surely are the dead beyond death,” wrote Cormac McCarthy. “Death is what the living carry with them.” Why should our understanding of what happens after death give us comfort regarding our beloved dead? Can we not draw some consolation, or any at all, knowing that they are at peace, at rest, free from so many of the toils and troubles of life?

  3. Why do you think that even in the most miserable of situations most people cling to life, regardless of how bad that life seems to be?

  4. Discuss what the Cross teaches us about the value of humanity, about the value of even a single life.

Inside Story~  Inter-European Division

Filling the Emptiness, Part 3

One Friday evening Elena cried throughout the church service. The visiting minister noticed and asked the pastor about her. When he learned that she had problems with her family, he offered her a job caring for his children. Elena knew that her father would never permit her to work for an Adventist, so she told the Adventist minister that she would let him know later whether or not she could accept his kind offer.

During the following week Elena asked her father several times for permission to work for this family, but his answer always was no. "Why won't you let me work for these people?" Elena finally asked him. "You have told me to look to Adventists for my food, but you won't let me work for Adventists."

Finally he gave permission for Elena to go work for the Adventist family. She was thrilled. She could live with an Adventist family, attend every worship service, enjoy family worship, and read her Bible and Adventist books without fear. She grew spiritually during the year she lived with this family. But then the pastor moved, and Elena faced returning to her father's home.

Her brother had moved to Spain, and Elena convinced her father to allow her to join her brother there. Her father allowed her to go, sure that his son would keep her from the Adventist church. But when her brother met her at the station, he astounded her with an invitation. "This Sabbath let's go to church." He had begun to attend the Adventist church! The two went to church together, and in a short time Elena was baptized.

As time went on, however, and Elena still hadn't been able to find work in Spain, she began to think about returning to Romania. But her brother challenged her. "Where is your faith? I thought you trusted God!" Elena realized that her brother was watching her, and that she must be strong. They prayed that she would find work, and soon she found work with a family that gave her Sabbaths off.

Elena's father now regrets the harsh words that he spoke to her, but he has told her that if she ever returns home, she must leave her religion behind. And that, she says, she will never do.

Elena Mocanu lives in Coslada, a suburb of Madrid, Spain.

Lesson 4 October 15–21

God and Human Suffering

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Rom. 1:18–20Job 12:7–10Rev. 4:11Col. 1:1617Matt. 6:34Job 10:8–12Rom. 3:1–4.

Memory Text: “‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble’” (Matthew 6:34, NKJV).

Unlike every other book of the Bible, the book of Job is completely removed from the context of the land and people of Israel. From Genesis, with the promise to Abram that the Lord will “make of thee a great nation” (Gen. 12:2), to Revelation, which describes “the holy city,” Jerusalem (Rev. 22:19), in some way, directly or indirectly, the context of Israel and its covenant relationship with God helps shape each book.

In Job there is nothing of that, not even the seminal event in ancient Israelite history, the Exodus. The most immediate reason is that Moses wrote Job in Midian, along with Genesis (see also The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 1140); the Exodus had not happened yet, which explains why it’s not mentioned.

But perhaps there’s another reason, even more important. One of the key themes of Job, human suffering, is universal. It’s not limited to any one people or time. Jew or Gentile, we all know something of Job’s woes, of the pain of existence in a fallen world. However unique his pain, Job represents us all in our sufferings.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 22.

SundayOctober 16

God in Nature

Read Romans 1:18–20. What is Paul saying here?

What a powerful few sentences. Enough of the reality and existence of God is revealed through “what has been made” (NASB), that is, through the created world, that people will be “without excuse” (NASB) for their unbelief. Paul is saying that from the creation alone humans can learn enough about the existence and nature of God that they can justly be condemned on the day of judgment.

No question, the natural world does reveal so much to us about the existence of God. Modern science, too, has revealed to us details about the marvels of Creation that our ancestors, even just 300 years ago, much less 3,000 years ago, could not even have begun to imagine. There’s an interesting irony here, as well: the more complexity science finds in life, the less likely becomes the means science claims for its origin, that of accident and chance. An iPhone, for instance, which looks designed, acts designed, reveals design both inside and out, and works only through design is, of course, designed. But a human being, which looks designed, acts designed, reveals design both inside and out, and works only through design is, we are assured, a product of pure chance alone. Sadly, many people are deceived into believing such claims.

Read Job 12:7–10. How do the words here reflect the idea presented in Romans 1:18–20?

Here, too, we are told that the reality of God is seen in the created world. Though especially in its fallen state, nature doesn’t reveal the full character of God, it certainly reveals His creative power and aspects of His goodness, as well.

What things in nature especially talk to you about the power and goodness of God? How can you learn to draw strength and encouragement from the message it gives you?

MondayOctober 17

Nothing Came From Itself

There are many good and powerful arguments in favor of God’s existence. Besides the testimony of the created world, there’s also what’s called the “cosmological” argument. Basically, it’s the idea that nothing came from itself and that nothing created itself. Instead, what was created was created by something else before it, and whatever created that had to be created by something else before it. And this goes on and on until we stop at something uncreated, something that had always existed, something that never was not in existence. And who else would that be but the God depicted in Scripture?

What do the following texts teach us about the origin of all things?

Rev. 4:11

Col. 1:1617

John 1:1–3

These texts teach what is really the most logical explanation for the Creation—an eternally existing God. Some thinkers, utterly opposed to the idea of God, have come up with an alternative suggestion. Instead of an all-powerful and eternal God creating the universe, we are told that “nothing” created it. Even such a famous scientist as Stephen Hawking, who now occupies the chair that Isaac Newton once held, argues that “nothing” created the universe.

“Because there is a law like gravity the universe can and will create itself from nothing.”—Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design (New York: Random House, 2010), p. 180.

Though Hawking surely has plenty of deep and complicated math to describe his idea, one has to wonder: here we are, a good 400 years since the beginning of the scientific revolution, and one of the world’s best scientists is arguing that the universe and all that’s in it came from nothing? Error is error, even when spoken by a great scientist.

In this context, read 1 Corinthians 3:19. Why is it always so important for Christians to keep this important truth before us?

TuesdayOctober 18

The Earliest of Books

Despite the hype of those who don’t believe in God, those who believe in God have many good reasons for their belief. However, there’s been one perennial problem that many have used through the ages to justify their disbelief, and that is the problem of human suffering and evil. How can God be all-good, all-loving, and all-powerful, and evil exist? This has been and remains a stumbling block to many. And also, if we are honest, what believer in God, what person who has tasted and experienced the reality of God and His love hasn’t struggled at times with that question?

How interesting, then, that Ellen G. White also taught what Jewish tradition teaches: that Moses wrote Job in Midian. “The long years amid desert solitudes were not lost. Not only was Moses gaining a preparation for the great work before him, but during this time, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote the book of Genesis and also the book of Job, which would be read with the deepest interest by the people of God until the close of time.”—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 1140.

What this tells us is that of the first two books of the Bible ever penned, one of them, Job, deals with the universal issue of human pain and suffering. That is, God knew that this would be a big question for humans, and thus, right from the start, in the Word, He had Moses pen the story of Job. God let us know, early on, that we are not left alone in our pain and suffering but that He is there, He knows all about it, and we can have the hope that He will make it right in the end.

What do the following texts teach us about the reality of evil? Matt. 6:34John 16:33Dan. 12:1Matt. 24:7.

However understandable the argument from evil against the existence of God, in light of the Scriptures, it makes no sense. Though the Bible teaches the reality of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God, it also teaches the reality of evil, of human suffering, and woe. Evil is not an excuse to disbelieve in God. In fact, a cursory reading of the book of Job shows that even amid his utter despondency, Job never questioned the existence of God. The question instead, and a valid one, is why are these things happening to him?

It’s only natural to have questions about the evil we see. How can we learn to trust in the goodness of God despite that evil?

WednesdayOctober 19

The Dilemma

Read the following texts in Job. What issue is Job wrestling with? What question does he not ask? Job 6:4–8Job 9:1–12.

As stated in yesterday’s study, the issue of God’s existence never came up in the book of Job. Instead, the question was why was Job going through these trials? And, considering all that happened to him, it certainly was a fair question, especially because he believed in God.

If, for example, someone was an atheist and trials were to come, the answer about why could be relatively simple and straightforward to him or her. We live in a meaningless and purposeless world that cares nothing about us. Thus, amid the harsh and cold and uncaring natural forces around us, we sometimes are the victims of trials that serve no purpose. How could they? If life itself serves no purpose, then the trials that accompany that life must be just as meaningless.

While many might find this answer unsatisfying and hopeless, it certainly makes sense given the premise, which is that there is no God. On the other hand, for someone like Job, the dilemma is different.

Read Job 10:8–12. How do these texts help us understand the terrible questions that Job is wrestling with?

Yes, the question that Job is wrestling with is the same one that most believers in God have wrestled with and still do wrestle with: If God exists, a good and loving God, why do humans suffer the things that they do? Why do even “good” people, such as Job, go through calamities and trials that so often seem to produce nothing of value? Again, if the universe were godless, the answer would be that this is simply what it means to live in a purely materialistic cosmos in which human beings are merely the accidental by-products of atoms and molecules.

Job knew better than that. We do too; hence, the dilemma.

ThursdayOctober 20


Read Romans 3:1–4. Though the immediate context is the unfaithfulness of some of God’s covenant people, what is the bigger issue that Paul is talking about here? What is Paul saying about God?

Quoting Psalm 51:4, Paul talks about how the Lord Himself will “be justified in your words and will prevail when you are judged” (Rom. 3:4, NET). The idea being presented is a motif that appears in various places in the Scriptures. It’s called theodicy, and it is the question of understanding the goodness of God in the face of evil. It’s the age-old question that we have been looking at all week. In fact, the whole great controversy itself is really a theodicy. Before humans, before angels, before the whole universe, the goodness of God will be revealed despite the evil that unfolds in the world.

“Every question of truth and error in the long-standing controversy has now been made plain. The results of rebellion, the fruits of setting aside the divine statutes, have been laid open to the view of all created intelligences. The working out of Satan's rule in contrast with the government of God has been presented to the whole universe. Satan’s own works have condemned him. God’s wisdom, His justice, and His goodness stand fully vindicated. It is seen that all His dealings in the great controversy have been conducted with respect to the eternal good of His people and the good of all the worlds that He has created.”—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 670, 671.

However hard it might be for us now to understand, immersed as we are in a world of sin and suffering (and if it’s hard for us, imagine what Job must have thought), when it is all over we will be able to see the goodness and justice and love and fairness of God in all His dealings with humanity, with Satan, and with sin. This doesn’t mean that everything that happens in the world is good; clearly it’s not. It means only that God is dealing with it in the best way possible, and then when this terrible experience with sin is over, we will be able to shout: “‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!’” (Rev. 15:3, NKJV).

Why is it so important to be praising God, even now, even amid the trials that seem so hard to bear?

FridayOctober 21

Further Thought: Christian writer and apologist C. S. Lewis wrote a book talking about the death of his wife and his struggle to come to terms with that death. In it he wrote:

“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’”—A Grief Observed (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), pp. 6, 7. This, too, is the question that Job himself struggled with. As we saw, he never doubted God’s existence; what he struggled with was the question of the character of God. Job had faithfully served the Lord. Job had been a “good” man. Therefore he knew that he did not deserve the things that were happening to him. Thus, he was asking the question that so many people who believe in God ask amid tragedies: What is God really like? And is this not what the great controversy is really about? The question is not about God’s existence but about His character. And though so much is involved in resolving the great controversy, there’s no question that the death of Jesus on the cross, where the Son of God had “given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:2, NKJV), more than anything else revealed to the cosmos the true character of our Creator. The Cross shows us that God is a God whom we can all trust.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Dwell on the question of suffering for those who don’t believe in God. As we saw, they don’t have to struggle with the same questions that believers in God do when facing tragedy. On the other hand, what hope can they have of ever getting answers, of ever finding resolution? Imagine going through all that we go through here in this world and then to believe that it all ends in the grave, with nothing beyond. No wonder so many unbelievers despair of life or of even finding any meaning to life. Secular literature is filled with their exclamations and protests about how meaningless it all is. How can we, then, even amid our sorrows here, draw hope from our faith, despite the difficult questions that remain?

  2. Why is it so important for us, right now, to dwell on the Cross, the most powerful revelation we have of God’s love and of what God is like? When we are engulfed by sorrow, by tragedy, by inexplicable evil, what does the Cross tell us about the character of God? When we keep the reality of the Cross always before us, what hope can we draw for ourselves for the ultimate outcome of whatever we face now?

Inside Story~  Inter-European Division

Filling the Emptiness, Part 2

After several weeks of deception, Elena realized that she was telling lies in order to worship God, and that wouldn't be acceptable to Him. She decided to be truthful and accept the consequences.

But her father already suspected what she was doing. He watched her enter the widow's house, then leave a half hour later. He went next door and asked for his daughter. The widow told him she had left, but she would return in a half hour. But that night Elena was so deeply touched as the speaker described how Jesus suffered for humanity that she couldn't tear herself away before the service ended.

On her way home she thought, If God suffered so much for me, maybe I will have to suffer for Him, too. I will be faithful and look to Jesus for strength. She had no idea how soon her suffering would begin.

She returned to the widow's home overjoyed by what she had heard. But the widow warned her, "Be careful; your father is angry."

She found her father waiting for her at home. He yelled at her, demanding to know where she had been.

"I've been at the church," she said. "I liked it very much."

"You won't go to that church again!" he yelled. "You will have nothing to do with Adventists ever again!" He went to her room and gathered all her religious books and tore them up. Then he threw them on a pile in the yard and burned them.

Her father tried every means he knew to convince Elena to stop this "nonsense." But Elena had seen God's better way and refused to disobey Him. When she told her father this, he shouted, "I would rather kill you than have a daughter who disobeys me! You are no longer my daughter!"

"OK," she said. "If you won't let me be your daughter, then I will be the daughter of God!"

One Sabbath Elena awoke and found everyone sleeping. She decided to go to church in spite of her father's threats to beat her. As she prepared to leave the house, he saw her. "Where are you going?" he asked.

"To the Adventist church," she answered.

"OK," he said calmly. "But don't stay long."

Later, Elena's father saw her come home and asked, "Who said you could go to the church?"

"You did," Elena said.

"When?" he asked, confused.

"This morning. Don't you remember?"

The tension between Elena and her father made it difficult for her to remain in the home. But Elena had nowhere else to go.

To be continued.

Lesson 3    October 8-14

"Doth Job Fear God for Nought?"

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week's Study: Job 1:1-22Job 2:1-131 Cor. 4:9Gen. 3:1-8Phil. 4:11-13Matt. 4:1-11Phil. 2:5-8.

Memory Text: "But he said to her, 'You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips" (Job 2:10, NKJV).

The book of Job opens up to us a whole new dimension of reality. It gives us a glimpse into the great controversy between Christ and Satan. And by doing so, it also provides us a template, a frame, an outline to help us better understand the world that we live in, a world that so often baffles, dazes, even frightens us with what it tosses our way. But the book of Job also shows that this great controversy is not merely someone else's fight, in that we have nothing to do with it. If only that were the case; unfortunately, it's not: " 'Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time' " (Rev. 12:12, NKJV). Satan has come down to the earth and to the sea, and we know for ourselves that his wrath is indeed great. Who among us, as flesh, hasn't felt that wrath?

This week we will continue to look at the first two chapters of Job as we seek to get a greater understanding of how we fit in as the great controversy continues to rage.

Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 15.

SundayOctober 9

God's Servant, Job

Read Job 1:1-22. Focus specifically on Satan's accusations against Job. What is Satan saying? What's implied in his attacks? Who, in the end, is Satan really attacking?

" 'Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land' " (Job 1:10, NKJV). The book of Job opens by referencing not only Job's righteousness and good character but also his material blessings and fruitful household. These were the specific things that helped make Job revered as "the greatest of all the men of the east" (Job 1:3, NASB). And these, too, are the specific things that Satan hurls in God's face, saying basically that only because You have done this for him does he serve You.

What, then, is implied in Satan's charge that if God were to take these things away from Job, Job would " 'surely curse You to Your face' " (Job 1:11, NKJV)? The attack, really, is an attack against God Himself. (This is what the whole great controversy is about anyway.) If God were so wonderful, so good, then Job would obey and fear and worship Him out of love and appreciation alone. After all, who wouldn't love a God who had done so much for him? In a sense, Satan was saying that God had all but bribed Job into being faithful to Him. Thus, he claimed, Job served God not out of love for God, but out of his own selfish motives.

Think about some of the most nasty and hateful political rulers who have faithful cronies loyal to the death because this ruler was good to them. If, in fact, the Lord really was the kind, loving, and caring God that He is portrayed to be, then even if Job lost all those good things, Job would still serve the Lord. By claiming, however, that Job wouldn't stay faithful, Satan insinuates that even Job doesn't fully trust Him and that Job is loyal only because of what God has given him. That is, in the end (according to Satan) Job's loyalty pretty much depends on whether it's a good business deal for him.

Why do you serve the Lord? Suppose your motives aren't perfect. If you had to wait until your motives were perfect (if they aren't), what might happen to you and your faith?

MondayOctober 10

Skin for Skin: The Battle Continues

Job 2:1-3 begins almost repeating some of Job 1:6-8. The big change is the last part of Job 2:3, where the Lord Himself talks about how faithful Job remained despite the calamities that befell him. Thus, by the time we get to Job 2:3, it looks as if Satan's accusations have been shown as false. Job stayed faithful to God and didn't curse Him, as Satan said he would.

Read Job 2:1-13. What happens in these texts? Also, what is the significance of the fact that in both Job 1 and 2 these "sons of God" are there to witness the dialogue between God and Satan?

The phrase "skin for skin" is an idiomatic expression that has baffled commentators. The idea, though, is this: let something happen to Job's own person, and that will cause him to show where his loyalty really is. Ruin Job's body, his health, and see what happens.

And interestingly enough, what happens does not happen in a vacuum either. Both instances of the controversy in heaven, as revealed here in the book of Job, take place in the context of some sort of meeting between these heavenly intelligences and God. Satan is making his accusations "publicly"; that is, he is doing it before these other beings. This idea fits in perfectly with what we know about the great controversy. It is something that is unfolding before the whole universe. (See 1 Cor. 4:9Dan. 7:10Rev. 12:7-9.)

"But the plan of redemption had a yet broader and deeper purpose than the salvation of man. It was not for this alone that Christ came to the earth; it was not merely that the inhabitants of this little world might regard the law of God as it should be regarded; but it was to vindicate the character of God before the universe. . . . The act of Christ in dying for the salvation of man would not only make heaven accessible to men, but before all the universe it would justify God and His Son in their dealing with the rebellion of Satan. It would establish the perpetuity of the law of God and would reveal the nature and the results of sin." - Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 68, 69.

TuesdayOctober 11

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

After Satan's first attack on Job, after the news came to him about all the calamities that befell him, how did Job respond? (See Job 1:20-22.) What is the significance of the fact that, even amid such tragedy, Job "sinned not, nor charged God foolishly"?

Central to God's government, a government based on love, is freedom of choice. God wants us to serve Him because we love Him, not because we are forced to serve Him. "Satan insinuated that Job served God from selfish motives. . . . He attempted to deny that true religion springs from love and an intelligent appreciation of God's character, that true worshipers love religion for its own sake-not for reward; that they serve God because such service is right in itself, and not merely because heaven is full of glory; and that they love God because He is worthy of their affection and confidence, and not merely because He blesses them."-The SDA Bible Commentary,vol. 3, p. 500.

In the book of Job, Job proved Satan's charges wrong. However, though God knew what would happen, Job still could have acted differently. He could have sinned, he could have "charged God foolishly." Job was not forced by God to act as he did. His steadfast faithfulness, considering the circumstances, was an amazing testimony before men and angels.

Compare what happened in Job 1 to what happened with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:1-8. How does the contrast make their sin appear so terrible?

Adam and Eve, sinless beings amid a true paradise, transgressed and fell into sin because of Satan's attack; Job, amid utter pain and tragedy and ruin, stayed faithful to the Lord despite Satan's attacks. In both cases, we have a powerful example of the great issues at stake in regard to free will.

How does Job's reaction here show us how cheap, easy, and false our excuses for sin can often be?

WednesdayOctober 12

Job's Wife

This is probably as good time as any to deal with another victim in the story of Job: his wife. She appears only in Job 2:910. After that, she vanishes from the story and from history. We are told nothing more about her. However, considering all that happened, who could imagine the grief that this unfortunate woman went through? Her tragedy, that of her children and that of the other victims in chapter 1, show the universality of suffering. We are all involved in the great controversy; no one escapes.

Compare Job 2:3 to Job 2:9. What similar phrase is used both by God and Job's wife, and what is the importance of how they both use it?

It's no coincidence that the same phrase about his holding fast his "integrity" appears in both texts. The word translated "integrity" comes from the same word used in Job 1:1 and Job 1:8, often translated "blameless." The root word itself gives the idea of "completeness" and "fullness."

How unfortunate that Job's wife becomes someone who challenges Job on the very thing for which God commends him. In her grief, in her sorrow, she's pushing Job to do precisely what God says he won't do. Though we certainly can't judge her, what a lesson to us all about how careful we have to be in order not to be a stumbling block to others. (See Luke 17:2.)

Read Job 2:10. What powerful testimony does Job give here as well? See also Phil. 4:11-13.

Job reveals the genuineness of his faith. He is going to serve the Lord both in the good times and in the bad. What's fascinating, though, is that Satan now disappears from the story and doesn't appear again. And though the text doesn't mention it, we can imagine Satan's frustration and anger at Job's response. After all, look at how easily he took down Adam and Eve and so many others. The "accuser of our brethren" (Rev. 12:10was going to have to find someone else other than Job to accuse.

How do we learn to be faithful to God, both in the good times and in the bad?

ThursdayOctober 13

Obedience Unto Death

Job 1:22 reads: "In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong" (NKJV)Job 2:10 reads: "In all this Job did not sin with his lips" (NKJV). In both cases, despite the attacks, Job stayed faithful to the Lord. Both texts stress the fact that Job did not sin, either with actions or with words.

Of course, the texts don't say that Job wasn't a sinner. They would never say that, because the Bible teaches that we are all sinners. "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (1 John 1:10, NKJV). Being "blameless and upright," fearing God and shunning evil (Job 1:1, NKJV), does not make a person sinless. Like everyone else, Job was born in sin and needed a Savior.

Nevertheless, despite all that came upon him, he remained faithful to the Lord. In this sense, in his own way Job could be seen as a kind of symbol, a faint example of Jesus (see lesson 14), who, amid terrible trials and temptations, didn't give up, didn't fall into sin, and thus refuted Satan's charges against God. Of course, what Christ did was so much bigger, grander, and more consequential than what Job did. Nevertheless, the simple parallel remains.

Read Matthew 4:1-11. How did Job's experience reflect what happened here?

Though in a terrible environment, His body weakened by lack of food, Jesus in His humanity, in "the likeness of sinful flesh" (Rom. 8:3), did not do what the devil wanted Him to do, just as Job didn't either. And also just as Satan disappeared from the scene after Job stayed faithful, after Jesus resisted Satan's last effort against Him, Scripture said that "the devil left Him" (Matt. 4:11, NKJV; see alsoJames 4:7).

Yet, what Jesus faced in the wilderness was only the start. His real test would come at the cross, and here, too, despite everything thrown at Him (even worse than what Job faced) Jesus stayed faithful, even unto death.

Read Philippians 2:5-8. What hope does Christ's "obedience unto death" offer us, and what does it tell us about how we should live in response to His obedience?

FridayOctober 14

Further Thought: Students of the book of Job who delve into the Hebrew come across an interesting phenomenon. Job's wife's words to him are translated, " 'Curse God and die' " (Job 2:9, NKJV)Job 1:5 is translated: " 'it may be that my sons have sinned andcursed God in their hearts' "(NKJV). And Job 1:11 is translated: " 'But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!' " (NKJV). In each case, however, the word translated "curse" comes from a word that means "bless." The word, from the root brk, is used all through the Bible for "bless." It's the same root used in Genesis 1:22, when God "blessed" the creatures He had made. The same root is used in Psalm 66:8, "Oh, bless our God, you peoples!" (NKJV).

Why, then, is the same verb, which means "bless," translated as "curse" in these few texts? First of all, if the idea of "blessed" were meant in those texts in Job, the texts would be nonsensical. In Job 1:5, why would Job want to offer sacrifices to God in case his sons had "blessed" God in their hearts? The context demands a different meaning. The same with Job 1:11 and Job 2:5. Why would Satan think that if calamity befell Job, he would bless God? The context demands that the meaning be "curse" instead. Also, why would Job rebuke his wife for telling him to bless God (Job 2:910)? Given the context, the text makes sense only if the idea of "curse" is meant.

Why, then, did not the author use one of the common words for "curse"? Scholars believe that it's a euphemism, because the idea of writing down the concept of cursing God was offensive to the author's religious sensibilities (we can see the same thing in 1 Kings 21:1013, where the word translated "blaspheme" is from brk, "bless"). So, Moses used the word "bless" instead of the actual word for "curse," even though it's obvious that the idea of curse was intended.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In times of crisis, why is it so natural for people to question the reality of God or to question what God is like? Amid the harsh reality of what it means to live in a fallen world, a world in which the great controversy is real, why must we keep the reality of the Cross always before us?
  2. Though we know the background to what was going on in the story of Job, as far as we can tell, Job didn't know it. All he knew were the calamities that befell him. He didn't know the bigger picture. What should this tell us about how, amid trials, we need to remember that there's a bigger picture that we often don't see or understand, and how can we learn to draw comfort from this realization?

Inside Story~  Inter-European Division

Filling the Emptiness, Part 1

As the youngest child in a Romanian family and the only daughter, Elena was showered with love. Yet she felt an emptiness deep inside, but she didn't know what it was. Her friends invited her to join them at the disco, where she could fill her emptiness with music and dancing, but her parents forbade her to go.

One of Elena's friends invited her to visit the Adventist church. Elena had heard that Adventists were good and honest people. But her grandmother warned her that faithful Orthodox members don't go inside Protestant churches. So Elena didn't go.

Then someone invited Elena to attend a Week of Prayer series. These meetings aren't regular worship services, she reasoned, so there can be no harm in going. Her father gave her permission to go, so she went, partly out of curiosity about what other churches teach. She attended every meeting, and for the first time in her life she learned that Jesus wants to be her personal friend, that He loves her, died for her, and is coming again. For the first time in her life Elena felt happiness. She wanted to hear more and decided to attend the church on Saturday.

When Elena's father realized that she now wanted to attend worship services on Sabbath, he was angry. But Elena had tasted the love of Christ and knew that she must learn more. However, when she tried to leave home to go to the church, her father stopped her. "This family has only one religion," he said. "No one in this house will bring in any other religion."

But as Elena read her Bible and learned other truths she hadn't known, she decided that Saturday is God's Sabbath. She wanted to attend church, but she knew her parents wouldn't allow her to go. So she told them that she was going to visit her grandmother. On her way to church she stopped in at her grandmother's for a few minutes then went on to church. Her grandmother knew what Elena was doing and warned her that it would bring sadness to the family.

A widow lived next door to Elena's family. She had heard of Elena's desire to attend church. She invited Elena to come to her house on Friday afternoons so she could slip off to church for the evening vespers program. Elena was careful to leave church early, so she wouldn't be seen walking with Adventists.

To be continued.

Lesson 2  October 1-7

The Great Controversy

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week's Study: Job 1:1-5Job 1:6-12Zech. 3:2Matt. 4:1Ezek. 28:12-16Rom. 3:26Heb. 2:14.

Memory Text: "And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" (Zechariah 3:2).

Scattered across the pages of both the [Old Testament] and the [New Testament] lie many references and allusions to an unrelenting war between God and Satan, between good and evil on both cosmic and personal levels. Comparing these passages, we inlay their individual insights to form a mosaic window of truth through which we can perceive the total message of Scripture with greater clarity than otherwise."-The Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2000), p. 969.

The great controversy theme forms a template that can help us better understand "the total message" of the Bible, especially the plan of salvation. Though the theme is much more apparent in the New Testament, it is found in the Old Testament, too. And perhaps nowhere in the Old Testament are we given a clearer glimpse of Satan and this conflict, and how they can powerfully affect life here, than in the book of Job.

This week we'll look at the broader reality behind this immediate reality that's the main focus of Job. And though our lives and stories are different from Job's, we have one thing in common: like Job, we are all involved in this controversy.

Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 8.

SundayOctober 2

A Little Heaven on Earth

The book of Job begins on a relatively positive note. From a worldly perspective at least, we see a man blessed in every way.

Read Job 1:1-4. What do the texts reveal about the kind of life that Job lived? What were the positive aspects of Job's existence?

Job certainly seems to have it all, including a righteous character. The word translated in Job 1:1 as "blameless" (NIV) comes from a word that can mean "complete" or "full of integrity." The word for "upright" means "straight," which can give the idea of walking on a straight path. In short, the book opens with an almost Eden-like scene depicting a wealthy man of faithfulness and integrity who has it all.

Nevertheless, he has it all in a fallen world.

Read Job 1:56. What do these texts reveal about the reality of the fallen world that Job inhabits?

"Amid the festivities of his sons and daughters, he trembled lest his children should displease God. As a faithful priest of the household, he offered sacrifices for them individually. He knew the offensive character of sin, and the thought that his children might forget the divine claims, led him to God as an intercessor in their behalf."-Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 1140.

Clearly Job had it good, about as good as it can get here. As Eden-like as the scene is presented-a man with a full life, big family, a great name, and many possessions-it's still a life lived on a fallen planet steeped in sin, and so, as Job will soon see, it comes with all the dangers that existence here brings.

What are the good things in your life right now? How can you learn to be always in an attitude of thankfulness for them?

MondayOctober 3

Cosmic Conflict

The book of Job begins on earth, in a place of peace and tranquility.

However, by the sixth verse of the first chapter, the venue changes. It instantly shifts to an entirely different aspect of reality, one that is not seen by humans unless through divine revelation. And interestingly enough, this other aspect of reality, heaven, doesn't seem to be as tranquil and peaceful as things are on earth, at least in what is first presented here.

Read Job 1:6-12. Though we will study these texts in more detail later in this quarter, what is happening here? How does it contrast to what we have just seen happening with Job on earth?

There's so much to explore in these few verses. They reveal aspects of our universe that all our space telescopes don't detect and that human science doesn't even begin to fathom. What's fascinating, though, is that they also reveal a cosmic conflict. It's not a calm, peaceful, and tranquil conversation that we access in this passage. God talks about Job with (to use a human idea) a sense of pride, like a father proud of his son. Satan, in contrast, mocks what God says about Job. "So Satan answered the LORD and said, 'Does Job fear God for nothing?' "(Job 1:9, NKJV). One could almost hear a sneering sarcasm, a mocking tone in what Satan says to God.

Though the text doesn't explicitly say that this confrontation was in heaven, that's surely where it was. And thus you have this created being, an angel, standing before God in heaven and challenging Him to His face, before other "sons of God." It's hard to imagine someone talking to a worldly leader like that, but here we have a being doing so to God Himself. How could this happen?

The answer is found in a theme that appears in various places and in different ways all through the Bible. It's called the great controversy, and it provides a powerful template to help us understand not just the book of Job but the entire Bible and its explanation of the whole sad story of sin and suffering on earth. And even more important, it helps us better understand just what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross in order to solve the problem of sin and suffering on the earth.

TuesdayOctober 4

The Conflict on Earth

The book of Job pulls back a veil and reveals a dimension of existence that our eyes and ears and worldly philosophies could never show us. (If anything, these verses should show us just how limited our eyes and ears and worldly philosophies are when it comes to understanding the big picture!) And what these few verses show, too, is a conflict between God and this other being, Satan. And though the controversy is first introduced in the book of Job as taking place in heaven, it quickly shifts to the earth. All through the Bible we find texts that point to this ongoing conflict, one that involves us, as well.

Read the following texts. How do they reveal the reality of a conflict being fought here on earth with evil supernatural powers?

Gen. 3:1-4

Zech. 3:2

Matt. 4:1

1 Pet. 5:8

1 John 3:8

Rev. 12:9

These texts are just a small sampling of numerous texts that point, either explicitly or implicitly, to a literal devil, a supernatural being with malicious intentions. Though many people view the idea of Satan as a primitive myth, with such clear Bible testimony we should not fall for this deception.

What are ways that, even now, you see the reality of Satan's work in our world? What is our only protection?

WednesdayOctober 5

Job as a Microcosm

The opening scenes of the book of Job show us a few crucial points. First, as we have stated, they reveal the reality of another dimension beyond what, of ourselves, we can now know-a heavenly dimension with heavenly beings other than God. Second, they also show just how interconnected our earthly life here is with the heavenly realm. What happens here on the earth is not disconnected from the heavenly beings in this realm. Third, they reveal a moral conflict in heaven that is indeed connected to what happens here on earth.

In short, these opening verses, and the ones that follow, are a kind of miniportrayal of the great controversy itself. The verses show one way in which the great controversy, though cosmic in scale, was manifested in the life of one man, Job. And as we will see, the issues involved encompass us all.

The book of Job shows Satan in confrontation with God. What it doesn't show is how it first started. How do the following verses help us get some understanding about the controversy? Isa. 14:12-14Ezek. 28:12-161 Tim. 3:6.

Ellen G. White talked about "the law of love" as the foundation of God's government. She noted that because God does not want "forced obedience," He therefore "grants freedom of will" to all His moral creatures. However, "there was one who perverted the freedom that God had granted to His creatures. Sin originated with him who, next to Christ, had been most honored of God and was highest in power and glory among the inhabitants of heaven." - Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 34, 35. She then quoted from the texts above in Isaiah and Ezekiel to describe the fall of Satan.

The crucial concept here is the "law of love" and the reality of free will. The Bible tells us that Satan became self-exalted and proud because of His own splendor and beauty. Why this happened we don't know; it must be part of what 2 Thessalonians 2:7 calls the "the mystery of lawlessness" (NKJV), a connection that makes perfect sense when we understand how closely tied God's law is to the foundation of His government. The point is that by the time Satan is introduced in Job, his fall was past, and the controversy it had started was well under way.

What are some important choices that you are facing right now, and what Bible promises can you claim to ensure that you make the right ones?

ThursdayOctober 6

Answers at the Cross

The book of Job brings up many important issues. But many of these same issues do not get answered there. We need the rest of the Bible. And even then we still "see through a glass, darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12).

As we saw yesterday, for example, the book of Job says nothing about how Satan's rebellion started. Also, it says nothing about how Satan is ultimately defeated in the great controversy. In fact, despite his major role in all that follows in the book-after appearing only twice in Job (Job 1:6-122:1-7)-Satan does not come into view again. He simply vanishes, even though the destruction that he caused remains. The rest of the book doesn't even mention him; instead, almost all that follows in the book is about God, not Satan. And that makes sense because, in the end, the book of Job is about God and what He is really like.

Nevertheless, the Bible doesn't leave us without answers to the question about the defeat of Satan in the great controversy. And central to that defeat is the death of Jesus on the cross.

How do the following texts help explain what Jesus did that will lead to the end of the great controversy? John 12:31,32Rev. 12:10-12Rom. 3:26Heb. 2:14.

At the cross, Satan was fully exposed to the universe for what he really was, a murderer. Those who knew Jesus when He reigned in heaven must have been astonished to see Him be so degraded by Satan's minions. That's the "judgment" on Satan that Jesus talked about in John 12. At the cross, when the Savior died for "the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2), only then could heaven proclaim that salvation has now come. Here and now the divine promise, made before the world began (2 Tim. 1:9), became a reality. Because of His death on our behalf, Christ could be "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26, NKJV). That is, at the cross He refuted the devil's charges that God could not uphold His law (be just) and still, at the same time, save those who have broken that law (the justifier). After Calvary, Satan's doom was assured.

How can we learn to rejoice in what Christ has done for us at the cross, even amid the trials we face in the great controversy now?

FridayOctober 7

Further Thought: The concept of a struggle, a controversy, between good and evil is found in many cultures. The idea has persisted through the millennia often expressed through myths. Today, because of the influence of higher criticism and modernist rationalism, many Christians deny the reality of a literal devil and evil angels. These were, the argument goes, just a primitive culture's symbols for human and natural evil. From our perspective as Adventists, it's hard to imagine how anyone makes sense of the Bible at all without belief in the reality of the devil and his angels.

Not all Christians have fallen for the deception that denies the reality of this cosmic conflict between supernatural forces of good and evil. An evangelical scholar named Gregory Boyd, for instance, has written extensively on the reality of the age-long (but not eternal) battle between God and Satan. In the introduction to his book God at War, after commenting on a few passages in Daniel 10, Boyd wrote: "The Bible from beginning to end presupposes spiritual beings who exist 'between' humanity and God and whose behavior significantly affects human existence, for better or for worse. Indeed, just such a conception, I argue in this work, lies at the center of the biblical world-view."-Gregory A. Boyd, God at War (Downer's Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997), p. 11. How correct he is.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What other texts talk about Satan and other demonic powers? What is lost if these are interpreted as merely symbols for the dark side of humanity?
  2. Niccolo Machiavelli, a Florentine writer of the sixteenth century, said that it was much better for a ruler to be feared by his subjects than to be loved by them. In contrast, Ellen G. White wrote: "Even when it was decided that he could no longer remain in heaven, Infinite Wisdom did not destroy Satan. Since the service of love can alone be acceptable to God, the allegiance of His creatures must rest upon a conviction of His justice and benevolence. The inhabitants of heaven and of other worlds, being unprepared to comprehend the nature or consequences of sin, could not then have seen the justice and mercy of God in the destruction of Satan. Had he been immediately blotted from existence, they would have served God from fear rather than from love." - The Great Controversy, pp. 498, 499. Why does God want us to serve Him from love, and not fear?

Inside Story~  Inter-European Division

The Conversion of a Convict, Part 2

Alexandru went to Norway, where he began drug dealing. Twice he nearly lost his life from gunshots and stabbings. Alexandru thought it was Satan's power that made him invincible.

Before long he was arrested for drug trafficking and sent back to Romania, where he bought and sold illegal guns. His father-in-law was so angry that he called the police.

Alexandru was imprisoned for two years. Prison officials were desperate to know what to do with this man. In one final attempt to reform him, they put Alexandru in charge of the prison's social activities room. He was to arrange chairs, provide items for the speaker, etc. As part of his job, Alexandru had to attend all meetings.

Church services were held in this room, including Adventist meetings conducted by lay evangelists. Alexandru enjoyed confounding the speakers with difficult questions. He even read the Bible to find questions to baffle these humble men.

But fighting against religion meant he heard a lot of sermons, and asking questions meant he received a lot of answers. Gradually Alexandru learned about God's love. During one meeting, the lay evangelist asked Alexandru to pray. His mind was in turmoil, and he found it difficult to pray.

After the meeting, the lay evangelist touched Alexandru and said, "You aren't far from the kingdom of God." Deeply moved, Alexandru began studying the Bible earnestly, looking for faith and comfort rather than for questions to confound the speaker. He realized that he now believed in God.

Prisoners and guards noticed the change in Alexandru. He started treating prisoners with kindness and the guards with respect. When his friends mentioned the change, Alexandru told them God made the difference.

Alexandru asked the lay evangelist to notify his family in Bucharest about the change in his life. His wife was astonished. She found it difficult to believe that her infamous husband could change so drastically. During the last months of his imprisonment, Alexandru became a teacher among fellow prisoners.

After Alexandru was released, he and his wife, Florentina, spent hours in serious discussion and Bible study. Step by step he showed her the beautiful message of God's love and salvation. Little by little she came to understand the power that had changed her husband from a hardened criminal to a gentle, kind, loving man of God.

The months following Alexandru's release from prison were difficult. His friends from the underground pressured him to re-enter the lucrative world of ill-gotten fortune. But he stood firm.

Later, Alexandru and Florentina were baptized together in the church near the prison where he was converted.

Adapted from a story written by Ion Buciuman, from Bucharest, Romania.

The Book of Job

by: Clifford Goldstein

The Perennial Question

Despite all the popular propaganda to the contrary, Christians have very logical and rational reasons to believe in God. Though assured by some of the "best and brightest" that the evolutionary concepts of "natural selection" and "random mutation" can explain the complexity, wonder, and beauty of life, many people don't buy it and logically so. And despite the latest "scientific" pronouncements that the universe arose from "nothing," most people find the idea of an eternally existing God, as opposed to "nothing," the more logically satisfying explanation for Creation.

And yet, even with logic and reason firmly on our side, there's still the ever-present problem of evil. And thus the perennial question: If God exists, and is so good, so loving, and so powerful, why so much suffering?

Hence, this quarter's study: the book of Job. How fascinating that Job, which deals with the perennial question, was one of the first books of the Bible written. God gave us, early on, some answers to the most difficult of all issues. Some answers, but not all. Probably no one book of the Bible could answer them all; even the Bible as a whole doesn't. Nevertheless, Job pulls back a veil and reveals to the reader the existence of a reality beyond what our senses, even those aided by scientific devices, could show us. It takes us to a realm that, while far removed from us in one sense, is incredibly close in another. The book of Job shows us what so much of the rest of the Bible does, too: the natural and supernatural are inseparably linked. Job is a portrayed drama of the principle and warning that Paul expressed ages later: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12, NKJV).

Though mostly about one man, the book of Job is the story of us all in that we all suffer in ways that often seem to make no sense. And even the story of the four men who come to him reflects our situation, too, for who among us hasn't tried to come to grips with the sufferings of others?

Yet, we'd miss a crucial point about the book of Job if we limited it only to suffering humanity's attempts to understand suffering humanity. The story appears in a context, that of the great controversy between Christ and Satan, which is portrayed here in the most literal of terms. And that's because it's the most literal of battles, one that began in heaven and is being played out here in the hearts, minds, and bodies of every human being.

This quarter's studies look at the story of Job, both close up, in the immediate drama of the narrative, and from a distance, in that we know not only how the book ends but also the bigger background in which it unfolds. As readers, then, with the knowledge not only of the book of Job but of the whole Bible, one crucial issue for us is to try and pull it all together. We try to understand as much as possible, not only why we live in a world of evil, but more important, how we are to live in such a world.

Of course, even after we study Job, even in the context of the rest of the Bible, the perennial question remains. We are assured, though, of the perennial answer: Jesus Christ, in whom "we have redemption through His blood" (Eph. 1:7, NKJV)-the One through whom all answers come.

Clifford Goldstein is the editor of the Adult Bible Study Guide. He has been at the General Conference since 1984.

Lesson 1September 24-30

The End

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week's Study: Job 42:10-17Gen. 4:8Matt. 14:101 Cor. 4:5Dan. 2:44Job 14:1415.

Memory Text: "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live' " (John 11:25, NKJV).

In writing classes, students are taught the importance of a good ending to their pieces. Particularly in fiction, where the whole thing is made up, the author needs to bring the end to a satisfactory close. But even in nonfiction, a good ending is important.

But what about reality? What about life itself, lived not in the pages of a book or in a film script but in flesh and blood? What about our own stories? What kind of endings do they have? How do they wind up? Are the loose ends tied together nicely, as in a good piece of writing?

This doesn't seem to be the case, does it? How could they end well, when our stories always end in death? In that sense, we never really have happy endings, do we, because when is death happy?

The same is true with the story of Job. Though its conclusion is often depicted as a happy ending, at least in contrast to all that Job had suffered, it's really not that happy, because this story, too, ends in death.

This week, as we begin the book of Job, we will start at its end, because it brings up questions about our ends as well, not just for now but for eternity.

Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 1.

SundaySeptember 25

Happily Ever After?

Oftentimes children's stories end with the line, "And they lived happily ever after." In some languages, it's almost a cliché. The whole idea is that whatever the drama-a kidnapped princess, a nasty wolf, an evil king-the hero and perhaps his new wife triumph in the end.

That's how the book of Job ends, at least at first glance. After all the trials and calamities that befell him, Job ends on what could be described only as a relatively positive note.

Read Job 42:10-17, the final verses of the entire book. What do they tell us about how Job ended his days?

No question: were you to ask someone about a book of the Bible that ended well for the main character, a book that had a "happily ever after" ending, many would name the book of Job.

After all, look at all that Job had as the story closes. Family and friends, who weren't around during the trials (with the exception of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, Elihu, and Job's wife), come, and they comfort him. They were generous, too, giving him money. As the story ended, Job had twice as much as he had at the beginning of the story, at least in terms of material wealth (compare Job 42:12 withJob 1:3). He had ten children, seven sons and three daughters, to replace the seven sons and three daughters who died (see Job 1:2,1819), and in all the land no women were "found so fair as the daughters of Job" (Job 42:15), something not said about his first ones. And this man who had been so sure that death was right before him, lived on another 140 years. "So Job died, being old and full of days" (Job 42:17). The phrase "full of days" in Hebrew (sometimes translated, interestingly enough, "full of years") is used to describe the last days of Abraham (Gen. 25:8), Isaac (Gen. 35:29), and David (1 Chron. 29:28). It gives the idea of someone in a relatively good and happy place at the time of a decidedly unhappy event: death.

We all like stories with happy endings, don't we? What are some stories with happy endings that you know of? What lessons can we take from them?

MondaySeptember 26

Unhappy Endings

The book of Job concluded with things going well for Job, who died "old and full of days." As we all know, and know all too well, that's not how the story ends for so many others. Even those who were faithful and honorable and virtuous didn't always wind up in a situation such as Job's.

How did the story end for the following Bible characters?

Abel (Gen. 4:8)

Uriah (2 Sam. 11:17)

Eli (1 Sam. 4:18)

King Josiah (2 Chron. 35:22-24)

John the Baptist (Matt. 14:10)

Stephen (Acts 7:5960)

As we can see, the Bible is full of stories that don't have happy endings. And that's because life itself is full of stories that don't have happy endings. Whether martyred for a good cause, or dying from a horrible disease, or having a life reduced to pain and misery, many people don't come through their trials as triumphant as Job did. In fact, to be honest, how often do things work out well, as they did for Job? And we don't need the Bible to know this terrible fact. Who among us doesn't know of unhappy endings?

What are some stories with unhappy endings that you know of? What have you learned from them?

TuesdaySeptember 27

The (Partial) Restoration

Yes, the story of Job ended on a positive note, in contrast to the story of other Bible characters and often of other people in general. Bible scholars sometimes talk about the "restoration" of Job. And indeed, to some degree, many things were restored to him.

But if that were the complete end of the story, then, in all fairness, would the story really be complete? Certainly things got better for Job, much better, but Job still died eventually. And all his children died. And all his children's children, and on and on, all died. And no doubt to some degree all of them faced many of the same traumas and trials of life that we all do, the traumas and trials that are simply the facts of life in a fallen world.

And, as far as we know, Job never learned of the reasons behind all the calamities that befell him. Yes, he got more children, but what about his sorrow and mourning for those whom he lost? What about the scars that, no doubt, he carried for the rest of his life? Job had a happy ending, but it's not a completely happy ending. Too many loose ends remain, too many unanswered questions.

The Bible says that the Lord "turned the captivity of Job" (Job 42:10), and indeed He did, especially when compared to all that came before. But much still remained incomplete, unanswered, and unfulfilled.

This shouldn't be surprising, should it? After all, in this world as it is now, regardless of our "end," whether good or bad, some things remain incomplete, unanswered, and unfulfilled.

That's why, in a sense, Job's ending could be seen as a symbol, however faint, of the true end of all human woe and suffering. It foreshadows the ultimate hope and promise that we have, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, of a full and complete restoration in ways that will make Job's restoration pale in comparison.

Read 1 Corinthians 4:5. What does this text tell us about how, for now, in this life, some things will still remain unanswered, unfulfilled, and incomplete? To what hope does it point us instead?

WednesdaySeptember 28

The Final Kingdom

Among other things, the Bible is a book about history. But it is not just a history book. It tells about events in the past, historical events, and uses them (among other things) to give us spiritual lessons. It uses events in the past to teach us truths about how we are to live in the here and now. (See 1 Cor. 10:11.)

But the Bible doesn't just talk about the past. It talks about the future, as well. It tells us not just about events that have happened but about events that will happen. It points us to the future, even to the end of time. The theological term for last-day events, about end times, is "eschatology," from a Greek word that means "last." Sometimes it is used to encompass belief about death, judgment, heaven, and hell, as well. It also deals with the promise of hope that we have of a new existence in a new world.

And the Bible does tell us many things about the end times. Yes, the book of Job ended with Job's death, and if this were the only book one had to read, one could believe that Job's story ended, as do all ours, with death-and that was it, period. There was nothing else to hope for, because, as far as we can tell and from all that we see, nothing comes after.

The Bible, though, teaches us something else. It teaches that at the end of time God's eternal kingdom will be established, it will exist forever, and it will be the eternal home of the redeemed. Unlike the worldly kingdoms that have come and gone, this one is everlasting.

Read Daniel 2:447:18. What hope do these verses point to about the end?

"The great plan of redemption results in fully bringing back the world into God's favor. All that was lost by sin is restored. Not only man but the earth is redeemed, to be the eternal abode of the obedient. For six thousand years Satan has struggled to maintain possession of the earth. Now God's original purpose in its creation is accomplished. 'The saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.' Daniel 7:18." - Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 342.

Indeed, the book of Job ended with his death. The good news for us, and for Job, is that the end of the book of Job is not the end of Job's story. And our death is not the end of ours, either.

ThursdaySeptember 29

The Resurrection and the Life

Read Job 14:1415. What question is Job asking, and how, in his own way, does he answer it?

One of the themes in the book of Job deals with the question of death. How could it not? Any book that looks at human suffering would, of course, have to look at death, the source of so much of our suffering. Job asks if the dead will live again, and then he says that he waits for his change to come. The Hebrew word for "wait" also implies the idea of hope. It's not just waiting for something, it ishoping for it.

And what he was hoping for was his "change." This word comes from a Hebrew term that can give the idea of "renewal" or "replacement." Often it is the changing of a garment. Though the word itself is broad, given the context-that of asking what "renewal" comes after death, a "renewal" that Job hopes for-what else could this change be but a change from death to life, the time God shall "desire the work of Your [God's] hands" (Job 14:15, NKJV)?

Of course, our great hope, the great promise that death will not be the end, comes to us from the life, death, and ministry of Jesus. "The [New Testament] teaches that Christ has defeated death, mankind's bitterest foe, and that God will raise the dead to a final judgment. But this doctrine becomes central to biblical faith . . . after the resurrection of Christ, for it gains its validation in Christ's triumph over death."-John E. Hartley, The Book of Job, NICOT, Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), p. 237.

"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live' " (John 11:25, NKJV). What is Jesus telling us here that gives us a hope and confidence about "the end"? That is, what do we know that Job didn't know?

FridaySeptember 30

Further Thought: Despite all the horrific calamities that befell Job, not only did he stay faithful to God, but he was given back so much of what he had lost. Yet even here, as with much of the book of Job, questions remain unanswered. Sure, Job is just one book of the Bible, and to build an entire theology on one book would be wrong. We have the rest of the Scriptures, which add so much more understanding regarding many of the difficult questions addressed in the book of Job. The New Testament especially brings to light so many things that couldn't have been fully understood in Old Testament times. Perhaps the greatest example of this would be the meaning of the sanctuary service. However much a faithful Israelite might have understood about the death of the animals and the entire sacrificial service, only through the revelation of Jesus and His death on the cross does the system come more fully to light. The book of Hebrews helps illuminate so much of the true meaning of the entire service. And though today we have the privilege of knowing "present truth" (2 Pet. 1:12) and certainly have been given more light on issues than Job had, we still have to learn to live with unanswered questions, too. The unfolding of truth is progressive, and despite the great light we have been given now, there's still so much more to learn. In fact, we've been told that "the redeemed throng will range from world to world, and much of their time will be employed in searching out the mysteries of redemption. And throughout the whole stretch of eternity, this subject will be continually opening to their minds."-Ellen G. White, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, March 9, 1886.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the idea of progressive revelation mean? What are other examples of how the idea works? For example, one begins arithmetic by learning the numbers, how to count. We then learn how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide those numbers. We then can move on to deeper things such as algebra, geometry, and calculus, all still working with those basic numbers. How does this analogy help us understand the idea of progressive revelation in theology, as well?
  2. Read Job 42:11. Commentators through the ages have asked the question about where Job's relatives and friends were during the times of his greatest need. That is, they came after his fortunes had turned around and things were going better for him. What's wrong with this picture?
  3. How many bad endings do you know of now, and what hope does the Cross give you that these bad endings do not truly end the story?

Inside Story~  Inter-European Division

The Conversion of a Convict, Part 1

Alexandru Marin was known among law enforcement officers in much of Romania. His name and picture appeared in police stations throughout the country. He spent more than a third of his life in prison.

Marin didn't fit the typical image of a hardened criminal. Well-educated, multilingual, a promising artist and designer, Alexandru's future was full of promise. His older brother was a national champion athlete before he committed suicide at age 18. Marin was only 15 at the time. His grieving parents showered all their love and hopes for the future on their younger son. But he made friends with the wrong young people.

His friends delighted in breaking the law. "We knew what would happen if we were caught," he said. Eventually Alexandru was captured and imprisoned. Prison was an excellent school for crime, and soon he was released, wiser in the ways of criminals. He indulged in more illegal activities, and eventually made connections with the Mafia.

Alexandru married a former schoolmate. She knew his past, but hoped to reform him. But Alexandru didn't want reform. He decided to escape to Yugoslavia and later send for his wife, who was expecting their child. He made it safely across the border, but had no money. "We had to steal to eat," he said. Again he was arrested and imprisoned.

The day before he was to be released, a woman who worked in the prison told him of plans to deport him to Romania. To be returned to Romania could well mean the death sentence. She gave him a metal file, and he and his cellmates began filing through the metal bars of the high security prison. They sang and made noise to conceal the sounds as they cut the steel bars on the window. The window was very small, and Alexandru had to remove his coat and shirt and put shaving cream on his body to help him slide through the tiny opening. He tells what happened next:

"Four of us tried to escape, and three made it out of the prison and into the neighboring cornfield. It was late autumn, and I had no shirt or coat. I shivered in the cold. We could hear the guards and police dogs searching for us. The dogs found my cellmate. I could tell by the cries. That's when I prayed my first prayer. 'Help me, God,' I prayed. 'If You will let me escape, I will change my life.' I meant that prayer, but after I escaped, I forgot my promise to God."

To be continued. 

Lesson 13
* September 17-23

How Shall We Wait?

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Matt. 24:35-25:462 Peter 3:1-18James 2:14-26John 4:35-381 Cor. 3:6-8Rev. 21:1-4.

Memory Text: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:11-13, NIV).

For several years preceding the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the Seventh-day Adventist churches in San Francisco and Oakland, California, were buzzing. Members were involved in visiting the sick and destitute. They found homes for orphans and work for the unemployed. They nursed the sick and taught the Bible from house to house. Members distributed Christian literature and gave classes on healthful living. The churches also conducted a school for the children in the basement of the Laguna Street meetinghouse. A workingmen’s home and medical mission were maintained. They had a health-food store along with a vegetarian café. The members had started ship mission work at the local port, and their ministers conducted meetings in large halls in the city from time to time.

Ellen G. White had called these churches the two “beehives” and was thrilled by their work (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald,July 5, 1906). What powerful examples of what we should and could be doing now as we await the Second Coming. Our Lord is coming back; that we know. The crucial issue for us is: What are we doing while we wait?

On that answer hangs the destiny of souls.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 24.

SundaySeptember 18

While We Wait for Jesus

The disciples had just been admiring the glorious scene as the sun’s rays glinted off the temple. Jesus, wanting to focus their attention on the realities facing the Christian church in the near future and the end of time, cryptically gave them a dose of reality by saying: “ 'Do you see all these things? . . . Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down’ ”(Matt. 24:2, NIV). Surprised by His comment, the disciples asked, “ 'when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ ” (Matt. 24:3, NIV). In Matthew 24:4-31, Jesus then tells them the things to expect to see unfold in the world before He returns.

In revealing the signs, Jesus warns, “ 'but the end is still to come’ ” (Matt. 24:6, NIV), and that “ 'All these are the beginning of birth pains’ ” (Matt. 24:8, NIV). The direct answer to the disciples’ question comes in verse 14. “ 'And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come’ ” (Matt. 24:14, NIV).

In this discourse, the first 35 verses in Matthew 24 motivate us to take the signs seriously, but Jesus also tells us how we are to waitfor “the end of the age” (Matt. 24:3, NIV). In other words, we just don’t sit there and wait for Him to come as we would sit at a bus stop and wait for the bus. No, we are given plenty to do as we wait for the Lord’s second advent.

Read Matthew 24:36-25:46. Each one of these parables talks about what God’s people should be doing as they await the second coming of Jesus. Summarize the essence of what the Lord is telling us here. Then we need to ask ourselves, both individually and as a church: How well are we following the Lord’s instructions for us in each of these parables?

Jesus here begins to exhort His disciples about the way His true followers will wait for Him to come again. During this period Jesus’ disciples will always be ready. They will show love, care, and respect to each other while waiting; they will stay alert, prepare ahead, and be responsible for their own spiritual condition. They will multiply the resources that God has placed in their hands, invest talents and money in God’s cause, respect the true character of their loving God, and care for “the least of these.”

MondaySeptember 19

Revival and Reformation While We Wait

Read 2 Peter 3:1-18. Summarize the teachings in this chapter that pertain to revival and reformation. How do these verses fit in with the topic we have been studying all quarter?

God’s desire is that “everyone” will “come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9, NIV). Though we cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to repentance, we are called to reach them with the message of salvation, which, if accepted, will lead to repentance.

We too, as church members, need to be in an attitude of repentance. Repentance is part of the process of revival and reformation. Revival means to come back to life, to be renewed, restored. Reformation means to be reshaped, reformed-to be a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). “A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work.” - Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 121.

The “how should we wait” passages in yesterday’s study illustrate conditions and outcomes of revival and reformation. For example, all 10 virgins needed to be revived, awakened out of sleep (Matt. 25:1-13). The foolish virgins needed to increase their capacity for the Holy Spirit in their lives. When we humble ourselves, die to self, unselfishly pray, study God’s Word, and lovingly share it with others in word and loving deeds, we increase our capacity for an infilling of the Holy Spirit in latter rain power. However, it is possible to study the Bible for hours and still be a selfish person. We could pray for revival and the latter rain, but selfishly want it only for ourselves.Revival always leads to unselfish concern for others.When we are filled with the Holy Spirit we will be reformed into passionate, mission and service-centered disciples.

We need revival and reformation in our prayers, in Bible study, and in our focus on asking for the Holy Spirit in latter rain abundance. But as a church we also need revival and reformation in our attitudes and methods. We need revival and reformation in our attitude and actions toward “the least of these.” All this has been the focus of this quarter’s lessons.

How can we guard ourselves against complacency in regard to the second coming of Jesus? That is, as the years go by, how can we always keep before ourselves the reality and urgency of the Lord’s return?

TuesdaySeptember 20

The Mission of the Church While We Wait

Read James 2:14-26. In what ways do these verses encapsulate who we are and why we are here?

In Sunday’s study, the disciples start out pointing to the beauty of the temple buildings. Jesus points their attention to the condition of the church within and its mission to an ending world. The fact is that the church exists because there is a mission, and not vice versa.

The mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as expressed in the General Conference Working Policy (A 05) is “to make disciples of all people, communicating the everlasting gospel [gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 24:14)] in the context of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6-12, leading them to accept Jesus as personal Savior and unite with His remnant church, discipling them to serve Him as Lord, and preparing them for His soon return.” Preaching, teaching, and healing are the suggested methods to pursue this mission. Under “Healing” the Working Policy says: “Affirming the biblical principles of the well-being of the whole person, we make the preservation of health and the healing of the sick a priority and through our ministry to the poor and oppressed, cooperate with the Creator in His compassionate work of restoration.”

This quarter began with the concept that Jesus wants to restore His image in humanity and empower us as His followers to be instruments of wholistic restoration in our communities. “The world needs today what it needed nineteen hundred years ago-a revelation of Christ. A great work of reform is demanded, and it is only through the grace of Christ that the work of restoration, physical, mental, and spiritual, can be accomplished.” - Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.

After hearing a seminar that presented the ministry of Jesus as a model and mission for His end-time church, a church member made this statement: “In our part of the world, we are not very open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. What we have heard this week about following the ministry method of Jesus actually is not new. It’s an old idea. We just forgot it.”

“Faith without works is dead.” How have you discovered the reality of how closely linked faith and works are? In what ways do works increase your faith?

WednesdaySeptember 21

Preparing for the Final Harvest While We Wait

Jesus used farming language in His teaching about the kingdom, as pointed out in lesson 5. As we have seen, farming is not merely an event; it is a patient process! It is a regularly repeated cycle with different stages and different jobs for different people at different times. We need to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and the providences of God in regard to how we can be used by the Lord in the process of preparing the ground, planting seeds, and reaping the harvest.

Read John 4:35-38. What kind of imagery is being used there, and what is the message to us in regard to how we should work for others?

The fact is, we don’t know people’s hearts. We don’t know how the Holy Spirit has been working in their lives. We might look at various people and think that they have a long way to go before being ready to be harvested when, in reality, all they need is someone to urge them to make a commitment to Jesus. There is a battle for the heart and mind of every human being, and God is calling us to help people choose Him.

Read 1 Corinthians 3:6-8. What is the message to us here in the context of outreach?

In his own way, Paul is saying here what Jesus said in the previous example. The work of outreach is like the work of a farmer. We might not all be doing the same tasks, but that work is still a crucial part of the process of reaching out and winning souls. And though we are to be used by God in various capacities, in the end it is God alone who can bring about the conversion of a soul.

How can we learn to be thankful and humbled by whatever role God has given us in the process of ministering to others? Why is it truly a privilege?

ThursdaySeptember 22

The Wait Is Over

Many years ago, English author Charles Dickens wrote a book called A Tale of Two Cities.Those two cities were London and Paris. In a sense, it could be said that the Bible is also a tale of two cities. In this case, the two cities are Babylon and Jerusalem.

In Revelation 14:8 and Revelation 18:1-24, the apostle John describes Babylon. She has been the home of demons and the haunt of evil spirits. She has caused every nation to commit spiritual adultery. Her doom has been pronounced, and she has been declared “fallen.” This city, a symbol of evil and apostasy and rebellion against God, will one day be defeated and destroyed.

Read Revelation 21:1-4. How does the New Jerusalem contrast with Babylon?

The second city is the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, described in Revelation 21:1-27 and 22:1-21. This city houses those who have chosen the Bridegroom and rejected the selfishness and spiritual adulteries of Satan and his followers. By God’s grace, the redeemed have obeyed His commandments and reflected the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12). Their patient endurance and their eagerness to embrace the ministry of Jesus provided a taste of the kingdom of heaven while on earth. They have been saved through faith in Jesus; His righteousness alone made them worthy of heaven. Their care for “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40) has been the outward manifestation of that saving faith.

By the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 5:1-14) the church’s role in compassionate restoration has changed to jubilant celebration (seeRev. 5:13-14). In that happy and Holy City, “ 'God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away’ ” (Rev. 21:4, NKJV). True peace has been restored. The full restoration of the image of God, mentally, spiritually, and physically, has taken place. The great controversy is over and from “the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.” - Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 678.

Read Revelation 22:21. In what way does that verse, the last one in the Bible, capture the essence of all that we believe?

FridaySeptember 23

Further Thought: Read Matthew 5:16Colossians 3:17Hebrews 13:15-16; read Ellen G. White, “On the Mount of Olives,” pp. 627-636, and reread “ 'The Least of These My Brethren,’ ” pp. 637-641, in The Desire of Ages.

Jesus told us what the signs of the end would be before He returned, and they are not pretty. Wars, rumors of wars, pestilence, et cetera. If people often use the excuse of evil to reject God, they certainly have plenty of excuses now, and they will have more excuses as we get nearer to the end. Thus, it becomes even more crucial for God’s people, those who claim to be His followers, to reflect His character to the world and to help people get a better view of what God is like. “If we would humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tenderhearted and pitiful, there would be one hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one.” - Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 189. What a simple yet powerful statement in regard to outreach and ministry to others. While we wait for Jesus’ second coming, He expects members of His church to preach and live the whole gospel; to invest ourselves and our resources in His work; to love, respect, and care for people; and to open our lives for the Holy Spirit in His fullness. That’s a witness that all the arguments in the world can’t nullify.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In class, talk about the difference between what it would be like living in “Babylon” as opposed to living in “Jerusalem.” What would be the major differences between the two cities? That is, where is the major difference to be found-in what the places look like, or in who lives in them?
  2. The great question for Christians is not “Do works have a role in the Christian faith?” Of course they do. Instead, the question is “If works cannot save us, then what is their role in the Christian faith?” How do we answer that question, especially in the context of reaching out and ministering to others in need?
  3. How are we waiting for Jesus to return? That is, what are we doing in our lives that reveals the reality of our belief in His return? Why should we be living differently from those who don’t believe in the Second Coming?

Inside Story~ 

A Changed Heart: Part 3

by Agnes Mukarwego and Alita Byrd, Rwanda

My husband invented other things for me to do to keep me away from church. I thought, he might keep me from attending church, but he cannot keep me from praying. I told God about my husband’s attempts to keep me from attending church, and asked God to make his heart softer toward religion.

A few weeks later I returned to the church, and this time my husband didn’t hit me. Then I went every Sabbath, and I began reading the Bible to our children, and my husband didn’t say anything. He began noticing that on Friday the house was neat and clean, the children were bathed, and food was prepared for the next day. He noticed that I was happier and that our home was happier. One Friday evening, he came home to find the Sabbath preparations complete, and the children gathered for worship. I invited him to sit down with us.

”I see that your life is different now, and you are happier,” he said. ”This way of living is better.” While he seldom joined us for prayers, he never again forbade us from worshiping.

I wanted my husband to witness my baptism, but he refused, saying, ”I don’t have time for such things.” I asked him again on the Sabbath I was baptized, but he still refused. However, he said I could invite my friends home afterward if I wished. ”I’ll stay home and welcome your friends when they come,” he said.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I brought friends home from church. My husband welcomed them, and I was amazed to hear what he told them: ”My wife has changed. I want to thank you who helped her find God, because I see the difference that God has made in her life and our home.”

I was thrilled with his words! I thank God for changing my husband’s heart and his attitude.

My husband never again forbade me to attend church, and sometimes he went with us. He died last year never having openly given his life to God. But I know that God sees what we cannot see, and I pray that one day I will meet him in heaven when Jesus comes. In the meantime, I thank God for lifting me up from despair and giving me hope and peace in my life.

Agnes Mukarwego is an active lay worker in Rwanda. She shares her faith with others wherever she goes and has led many to salvation in Jesus through her testimony. Alita Byrd is a writer living in London, England.


Lesson 12* September 10-16

Urban Ministry in the End Time

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Acts 18:1-28Exod. 2:23-25Matt. 13:3-918-23John 15:12-132 Pet. 3:9.

Memory Text: “ 'Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper’ ” (Jeremiah 29:7, NIV).

The three angels’ messages call for the gospel to be preached to “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6, NKJV). Thus, wherever people live the message must be brought to them. And because so many now live in cities, to cities we must go.

In fact, urgency for city work intensified in 2007, when the United Nations statistical experts declared that for the first time in recorded history, the majority of the world’s population was living in metropolitan areas. Today urban ministry has become the central issue for Seventh-day Adventist mission strategy.

In many nations, Adventist outreach has accomplished more in the small towns and rural areas outside the metropolitan regions than it has in the cities. Surveys have shown that in some major urban complexes the majority of people have never heard of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and thus know nothing of the “three angels’ messages.”

Hence, it’s clear that to reach out to the world, we must reach out to the cities.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 17.

SundaySeptember 11

The Nature of Cities

Cities bring together many different cultures, ethnic groups, languages, and religions. Traditionally, each group had its “quarter,” or defined territory. Increasingly, all kinds of people live next door to one another throughout metropolitan regions. This multicultural reality creates risk and complexity, but it also provides great opportunity for the gospel. There is greater tolerance for new ideas, a greater willingness to listen to new religions, than often exists in the more traditional cultural settings outside the cities. The city could provide access to many people who otherwise might never come near the Seventh-day Adventist message.

Read Acts 18:1-28 to see one example of how Paul pursued church planting in cities. What points can we learn from what he did there?

In these urban centers, there was a mosaic of many languages, cultures, and ethnic groups, just as cities have today. Paul found specific types of people with whom he connected. He found people who shared his connections to the Jewish faith, to Roman citizenship, and to the tentmaking business in which he was trained. He used these skills to support himself. He lived in the household of a couple who became believers and evangelists themselves. He taught in the synagogue until he was kicked out, and then he started a house church in the home of a believer. He trained and mentored enough new believers so that when he moved on, he could appoint people to lead the group.

Clearly, Paul understood and was comfortable working in the multicultural, multifaith context of the city (see also 1 Cor. 9:20-23). He knew how to adapt to the environment that he was in, and he learned how to present the truth in order to best meet the needs of those he was trying to reach.

How can we as individuals, and our local church as a whole, be better equipped to mingle with our communities so that we can reach them?

MondaySeptember 12

The Hurting Place

As Christ made His way through Jerusalem, Capernaum, and other cities of His time, the sick, disabled, and poor crowded around Him, the Healer. His heart went out to suffering humanity.

In the city, there is more of everything-more people, more buildings, more traffic, and more problems. This presents a real challenge for churches. Those sharing the gospel cannot simply ignore the massive human needs around them and concentrate on the message alone, because to do so discredits the message. If our actions do not demonstrate the compassion, grace, and hope of which we speak, then what we speak will be powerless. It will be heard as just another one of the many voices competing for ears of the masses.

Read Exodus 2:23-256:5Psalm 12:5Romans 8:22, and Job 24:12. What’s the message found in these texts for us?

Our world is a hurting place. It groans under the weight and suffering of sin. None of us, no matter who we are, escapes that reality.

This pain also offers us powerful opportunities for witness. But we also need to be careful here. When it comes to how a church is perceived by nonmembers in terms of its neighborliness, it is important to understand the difference between community events and an ongoing service that actually meets needs. There is a difference in the minds of a community between a church that delivers food to families once a year during a holiday and one like a particular Adventist church plant in a large city.

What does this church do? It meets in a community center that operates on a daily basis. People can go there any morning and get a hot breakfast! And it is not even that large of a church. It has only about seventy-five members, but they are fully committed to meeting the needs of their neighbors in an urban neighborhood. This is a great work but one that takes dedication and a sense of obligation to help those in need.

Imagine the impact on our communities if all our churches were doing something to help to respond to the groans that are surely rising up in our neighborhoods.

TuesdaySeptember 13

Sowing and Reaping in Cities

Read Matthew 13:3-918-23. Though this is a familiar story, how can we take what it teaches in order to help us better understand how to minister and to witness to our communities, including the cities?

Though set in a rural context, this parable is, in fact, more important in urban ministry than in small towns and rural areas, because urban areas have a greater variety of “soils.” This explains why it is more challenging to conduct evangelistic campaigns in cities than in more rural areas.

Different soil conditions produce different kinds of results, suggesting the need to study the soil conditions before investing in evangelism activities. If after studying the community “soil” your church discovers that it has limited “good ground” in its territory, you must plan to improve that soil by softening the hard pathways, removing the rocks, and pulling up the thorns. That is, for evangelism to be successful, the church must work ahead of time, preparing the soil. This can make a great deal of difference in how effective an evangelistic campaign can be.

In 1 Corinthians 12:1-31Romans 12:1-21, and Ephesians 4:1-32, the Scriptures teach about spiritual gifts. They say that there are a multiplicity of different gifts but only one mission. The types of soil mentioned in the parable show the need for many different gifts to be included in reaching the cities. In the large cities, “men of varied gifts are to be brought in,” Ellen G. White has written. “New methods must be introduced. God’s people must awake to the necessities of the time in which they are living.” - Ellen G. White,Evangelism, p. 70. Through the gift of divine insight, she saw what is necessary to be effective in urban ministry. It is even more necessary today to have a wide variety of approaches and gifts working within a large, multifaceted strategy. A single campaign or one major project will not achieve much in the long term. The massive scale and complex structure of the city simply swallows such programs, and within a few weeks there is no trace of an impact. More needs to be done beforehand.

Think about those you are trying to witness to. What kind of ground are they in? What can you do to help prepare the soil better?

WednesdaySeptember 14

Make It Personal

Read John 15:12-13James 1:27; and Galatians 6:2. Together, what are they saying to us that is so crucial for any serious outreach?

Because of the massive size of urban populations, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that faith is personal. The bottom line in reaching the cities, or any other place, is individuals finding a personal relationship with Christ. Research has shown that the vast majority of converts to the Seventh-day Adventist Church say that they joined because of a relationship with an Adventist acquaintance. And oftentimes friendships, especially in the case of outreach, involve death to self and a willingness to work for the good of others.

Plowing the ground, planting seeds, nurturing the sprouts to harvest, and preserving the harvest-all of these things work best if there is a strong relational element. We need to learn how to be friends with people; we need to learn how to listen to them; we need to learn how to love them. If these are essential elements for any outreach, how much more so in urban ministry, in which individuals can, at times, feel lost and uncared for amid the vast and teeming population?

The vital element of urban small group ministries might take the form of the “house church” as it existed in the New Testament (Acts 2:46), or it may simply be small groups within a larger congregation. Wherever there is an urban neighborhood or suburban town that does not have a local church, but where there are three or more Seventh-day Adventists, some kind of small group should be organized and begin to function in that community. (See Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, pp. 21, 22.)

This approach is essential to urban ministry for several reasons. One is the complex mosaic of cultural, ethnic, language, and socioeconomic groups to be reached within the hundreds of communities and subcultures in even medium-sized cities. Unless there are small groups targeting each of these segments, Christ’s mission will not be completed.

Small group ministries also are needed because of how difficult it is for believers to follow Jesus in the city. There are many pressures, temptations, and encounters with alternative faiths and ideologies. Some believers simply give in to the pressures and drop out of church, while others develop a hard shell to protect their feelings and become insensitive to the people around them who need a loving representation of Jesus.

ThursdaySeptember 15

Reaching Out to the Cities

No one is saying that outreach and ministry are easy. The fact is, they are not. Humans are fallen, corrupt, and not naturally spiritual. As Paul said about himself: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14, NKJV). If Paul says that, what about those who don’t know the Lord or who have never had a life-changing experience with Jesus?

And if our natural fallen natures weren’t bad enough, cities have always been known for their notoriously bad influence on people. People face so many temptations that the enemy of souls uses to ensnare them and keep them bonded to sin and the world. Thus, no wonder that outreach to cities especially is not a simple task; it is, though, a task that must be done, and we as a church, to be faithful to our calling, must be doing it.

What do these verses say to us about the importance of outreach in general?

2 Pet. 3:9

1 Tim. 2:4

According to the Word, Christ’s death was universal: it encompassed all humanity, from Adam and Eve down and all who follow. This would, of course, include the endless masses living in the great metropolitan centers of the world. They too need to hear the great truths that are so dear and precious to us.

“There is no change in the messages that God has sent in the past. The work in the cities is the essential work for this time. When the cities are worked as God would have them, the result will be the setting in operation of a mighty movement such as we have not yet witnessed.” - Ellen G. White, Medical Ministry, p. 304.

The call to reach the cities is personal. It is a call to a deeper experience with Christ ourselves and a call to earnest intercession as well as comprehensive planning and implementation. It is built completely on the foundation of revival and reformation, for it is going to be accomplished only by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Read Romans 10:14-15. What is being said there that, in principle, applies to all of us who claim to be followers of Christ? How can we all be more active in outreach and ministry, regardless of where we live?

FridaySeptember 16

Further Thought: Read Ministry to the Cities(Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald® Publishing Association, 2012). It is a collection from the Ellen G. White Estate of most of the Ellen G. White materials on urban ministry.

A Seventh-day Adventist expert in urban ministries did a study in the Ellen G. White periodical index regarding her counsel on moving in or out of the cities. Out of 107 articles, 24 articles gave instruction on moving out or establishing institutions outside cities. But 75 articles gave specific instruction to move into the cities to reach the cities. The other eight articles were neutral. A church historian summarized Ellen G. White’s counsel on city work, showing that relating to institutions, she advocated working from outpost centers outside the city, and when dealing with local church work, she advocated working from within the city.

What are the plans in your church to reach the cities? Where is your local church located in relationship to the nearest major metropolitan area? No church should think that reaching the cities is irrelevant to them. Every Adventist congregation needs to make some contribution toward this most important missionary goal. Ignoring the cities and focusing only on reaching the areas outside the metropolitan regions is not a faithful response to the mission that Jesus has given us.

“Why should not families who know the present truth settle in these cities? . . . There will be laymen who will move into . . . cities . . ., that they may let the light which God has given them shine forth to others.” - Ellen G. White in Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, September 29, 1891.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Think about the wonderful message that we have been given. Think about the hope that we have, the promise of a better life now, and the great hope of eternity. What are some of your favorite texts, texts that especially reveal the hope that we have in Jesus? Why are they so meaningful to you? Share them together in class on Sabbath.
  2. Try to imagine what it must be like not having any hope, just thinking that this life is it, with all its struggles and toils and hurt, and then you die and just rot in the grave. This is what many, especially the vast masses in the cities, believe. How then can we learn to have a great love for souls and a willingness to reach out to them, wherever they live?

Inside Story~ 

A Changed Heart: Part 2

by Agnes Mukarwego and Alita Byrd, Rwanda

At church the people greeted me and made me feel that I was part of their loving family. It seemed as though the sermon was preached just to comfort me. I returned the next Saturday and attended the midweek service, too.

But a few weeks later, my husband woke up early and stopped me from going to the church. ”You have been wandering around on Saturday wasting your time,” he told me. ”Today I will be home at noon to eat lunch. Go to the market to buy food; have it ready as soon as I get back,” he demanded.

Reluctantly, I stayed home and cooked lunch for my husband. But he did not come home to eat. The next Sabbath the same thing happened.

The third week when my husband ordered me to have lunch ready for him at noon, I thought, The devil is trying to keep me away from church. I will not let him! I decided to go to church first, then cook when I returned.

After church, I went to the market to buy the fish my husband wanted for lunch. That is when my husband’s friend saw me dressed in my best clothes.

I bought the fish and hurried home to cook them just the way my husband liked them. But again he did not come home. I waited for him all day, but he did not return until late that night. He knocked on the door, and I opened it. He stumbled in, drunk, and began hitting me. I tried to get away from his blows, but he followed me into the bedroom and dragged me back to the front room. Then he left me there, closed the door of the bedroom, and went to bed, leaving me alone in the sitting room.

In the morning when he awoke, I took him some water to wash with, for I did not want him to be angry.

”Why did you hit me last night when I let you in?” I asked him.

”Because you do not respect me!” he shouted. ”I told you to go to the market in the morning and buy the fish, but my friend told me that you were at the market late and had been to church. You are not an obedient wife, and this will not continue any longer!” he yelled.

To be continued in next week’s Inside Story.

Lesson 11* September 3-9

Jesus Bade Them, “Follow Me”

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: John 10:1-516Luke 9:2Rev. 14:6-7Luke 19:1-10Acts 26:11-27Rev. 3:20.

Memory Text: “ 'But they [the sheep] will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice’ ” (John 10:5, NIV).

In A.D. 362 Roman emperor Julian launched a campaign to revive paganism. Christianity was taking over the Roman Empire, and he and the pagan leaders were worried. Julian’s advice to a prominent pagan priest expresses his concern, and gives a clue as to why Christianity was growing so rapidly: “ 'I think that when the poor happened to be neglected and overlooked by the [pagan] priests, the impious Galileans [Christians] observed this and devoted themselves to benevolence. . . . [They] support not only their poor, but ours as well, everyone can see that our people lack aid from us.’ ”-Quoted in Rodney Stark, Cities of God (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006), p. 31.

The Romans had counted on Christianity’s fading away when their leader, Jesus Christ, died. Instead, record numbers of Roman citizens were following Jesus. How did they explain this “problem”? Jesus’ followers were demonstrating His love through meeting the basic needs of those around them. That’s what Jesus did when He was here, and that’s what His followers are to do as well.

No wonder, then, that when given the offer to follow Jesus, so many did.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 10.

SundaySeptember 4

They Know His Voice

Read John 10:1-516. How do these texts illustrate the importance of why we, as Jesus’ representatives, must form positive and loving relationships with people in our communities as we seek to lead them to Jesus? How can we help them learn to hear His voice?

The whisper of a friend is more powerful in drawing people to Jesus than is the shout of a stranger. When we make friends who learn to trust us, the Good Shepherd (John 10:1114) can work through us to help these people hear, know, and follow His voice.

It is, of course, important that we know Jesus’ voice ourselves before we can help others know it as well. We need divinely given discernment to distinguish between the cunning voice of Satan and Jesus’ voice. Indeed, we must never forget the reality of the great controversy and that we have an enemy that works with great stealth to keep people from coming to a saving relationship with Jesus.

Nevertheless, we can be powerful conduits who help people know the voice of Jesus. He speaks through nature (even despite the ravages of the Fall), providential circumstantial workings, the influence of the Holy Spirit, godly people, and His Word. (See Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, pp. 85-91.) As we ourselves come to know and obey that voice, we can be guides to others as well. The last thing we want to be is, as Jesus once warned, the blind leading the blind (see Matt. 15:14).

Why did Jesus have such compelling power to draw people to Him? It is because His example of unselfish giving of Himself is hard to resist. When we, His body, set selfishness aside and take on the nature of a servant, letting Him live out His life within us, others will be drawn to the call of the Christ in us.

As the Good Shepherd’s representatives, we must reflect the characteristics of His ministry when we bid people to follow Him. Authenticity in word as well as genuine service that reflects Jesus’ sacrificial love opens the ears of those whom we serve and breaks down barriers between the community and the church.

What are concrete ways that you can help others hear the voice of the Shepherd?

MondaySeptember 5

We Are to Seek

Read Luke 19:10Mark 1:17Luke 9:2, and Revelation 14:6-7. What is one key point that all these texts have in common? That is, what are they telling us to do?

For years a Seventh-day Adventist congregation prayed, “Lord, please draw the people in our community to our church and to You”-as if our church is a giant magnet that will magically draw people in. Yes, sometimes people do walk into our churches, searching for God, all with no apparent effort on our part.

But what is your church to do when years go by and no one from the community walks through your doors? If you merely focus on praying for people to come, you are not following Jesus’ method for winning souls. He mingled, socialized, and sought out people to save. “We are not to wait for souls to come to us; we must seek them out where they are. . . . There are multitudes who will never be reached by the gospel unless it is carried to them.” - Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 229.

Various metaphors illustrate this idea of seeking:

1. The shepherd leaves the 99 sheep that are in the fold to seek for the one who has wandered away (see Matt. 18:10-14). Jesus is telling this story in the context of His admonition to nurture and protect “little ones” from sinning. The “little ones” could be literal children or immature Christians. If they wander back into the world, we, like Jesus, are to seek for them and lovingly bring them back to Him. 

The point here, as in the texts above, is similar: we are to be proactive in seeking the lost. We need to make an effort to reach out to them. Though, on occasion, it happens that someone walks in off the street and says, “Teach me about God, about salvation, about truth,” that’s generally not the norm, is it? 

2. “Christ’s method” of reaching the lost “will not, cannot, be without fruit.” - Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 144. Are we, however, focusing only on the “low-hanging fruit”-people who already share our Christian worldview, such as Christians of other denominations? What are we doing about reaching the “hard-to-reach fruit”-secular people, atheists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, et cetera? Historically, people with Christian worldviews find Adventism relevant, but we must do a much better job of sharing Jesus with faith groups that have other worldviews.

TuesdaySeptember 6

The Bridge

Sometimes a church will have community service outreach programs in areas of health, family, personal finance, conflict management, et cetera, and might ask: What is the bridge to bring them to the “Follow Me” stage? We rather should ask, Who is the bridge? Answer: You are! “The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian.” - Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 470. Churches that are successful in keeping inquiring visitors engaged from event to event and program to program are blessed with members who genuinely love God and are eager to nurture lasting friendships.

On the flip side, church members who are careless in their approach to visitors, or even lethargic toward them, can have a very negative impact on your church’s outreach. “The Lord does not now work to bring many souls into the truth, because of the church members who have never been converted and those who were once converted but who have backslidden. What influence would these unconsecrated members have on new converts? Would they not make of no effect the God-given message which His people are to bear?” - Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 371.

Read Luke 19:1-10. Why did Zacchaeus find it necessary to climb a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus? What spiritual lessons should we take from this story?

Imagine what might have happened if those who were blocking access to Jesus there in Jericho had paid attention to Zacchaeus’s keen interest in coming close to Jesus and had lovingly invited this “sinner” to the feet of the Savior.

Those of us who are part of the “crowd” around Jesus must be so “infected” with His love for struggling, sinful humanity that we become “contagious” Christians. If we are deeply aware of God’s love and grace for sinners like us, we will passionately seek those outside of the crowd who are short in spiritual stature and caringly usher them to Christ.

How do you act toward new faces in your church? Do you make an intentional effort to talk to them? Or do you ignore these people, thinking that someone else can minister to them? What does your answer say about yourself and what might need to be changed?

WednesdaySeptember 7

The Bidding

Jesus and His disciples healed people and then turned their minds to eternal issues. (See Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 20.) Evangelist Mark Finley reminds us that not to introduce God to people is spiritual malpractice. Jesus’ method of evangelism was to touch people at their points of greatest need. This is medical missionary work. Christ was not content only to heal them physically and do nothing else. The goal is eternal life in Jesus. Medical missionary work may not start with bidding those whom we know to follow Jesus, but it should get there eventually. Out of our love for people, we will long to offer them everything that Jesus offers.

But you may say, “I will take care of the first part of Jesus’ method, but I don’t do the bidding 'follow Me’ part. That’s not my gift.” If you do the first part, you may surprise yourself by automatically sharing Jesus-and it will be so natural, so much easier, because you did the “groundwork” in the soil of their hearts.

As you become better acquainted with the people you serve, be alert for opportunities to talk about faith and about what the Lord means to you. Seek for opportunities to bring up spiritual topics. Ask your new friends about their family, their occupation, and their religion, which opens the way to share your personal testimony.

In fact, personal testimonies can be the most powerful way to witness, because they can also be the least threatening. You aren’t overtly preaching; you are simply telling a story, and we all should have our own personal story about what Jesus has done in our lives.

Read Acts 26:11-27, the apostle Paul’s telling of his personal testimony to King Agrippa. What can we learn from this for ourselves in seeking to witness to others about Jesus?

Notice the various stages. Paul told about what he was like before he knew the Lord. He then told about his actual conversion experience. And Paul then told about what God had done in his life since then. Then he made an appeal.

Though our stories might not be as dramatic as Paul’s, what is your own story with Jesus, and how can you learn to share it with others when the time is right?

ThursdaySeptember 8

Seek and You Shall Find

Read Revelation 3:20Matthew 7:7-8, and John 1:12. In what ways are these three passages related, and what are they saying to us about what it means to seek and to find the Lord?

These texts together show that people must ask and seek and be open to receive Jesus. At the same time, Revelation 3:20 depicts Jesus as standing at the door and knocking so that a person will open the door and let Him in.

These ideas are not contradictory. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord is working on the hearts of people, drawing them to Him, even if people aren’t necessarily aware that this is what is happening. They are often seeking for something that life itself doesn’t offer them. What a privilege to be there to point them in the right direction and to help them better understand just what it is that they are looking for.

The fact is that, through you, Jesus can knock at the “door” of the lives of the people in your community, and anyone who willingly “opens the door” and receives Him will receive the blessings that come with Him (Rev. 3:20John 1:12). Also, He invites His followers to ask, seek, and knock at His door and receive the “good gifts” of His kingdom (Matt. 7:7-811).

When the Holy Spirit impresses you that someone is ready to “open the door” to Christ, ask, “Would you like to pray with me to receive Jesus Christ and become a member of His family?” The following is a sample prayer that he/she can pray:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and need Your forgiveness. I believe that you died for my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I now invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

We need spiritual discernment to know when the right time is to make an appeal. While there’s always the danger of being too aggressive, there’s always the danger, perhaps worse, of not being aggressive enough. Sometimes people need a firm and loving push to make a choice for the Lord. Who knows who might be teetering on the edge between two choices: eternal life in Christ or eternal loss?

We do, for sure, have a sacred responsibility.

FridaySeptember 9

Further Thought: Read Psalm 77:20Hosea 11:42 Corinthians 5:11-21. Read Ellen G. White, “Teaching and Healing,” pp. 139-146, and “Help in Daily Living,” pp. 469, 470, in The Ministry of Healing; “ 'This Man Receiveth Sinners,’ ” pp. 185-197, and “ 'Go Into the Highways and Hedges,’ ” pp. 219-237, in Christ’s Object Lessons. There was a young man who loved the Lord and who wanted to tell others about Jesus. Articulate, charismatic, he was a powerful witness. People loved to hear him speak. Yet, there was a constant problem: he was always afraid to ask people to make a commitment to Jesus. This surprised other church members, because in every other way he seemed so bold for the Lord, so willing to speak openly about his faith. Eventually, when asked about it, he gave the argument that we saw in Wednesday’s study that this was not his gift. He liked to sow seeds; he would leave it to others to reap the harvest. After a while, though, he confessed that, more than anything else, he was afraid of being rejected. He always felt a bit inadequate as a witness for the Lord (which is a good thing), and thus he was afraid that people would not make commitments to Jesus after he had asked them to do so. Others in the church explained to him that witnessing isn’t about us, but about Jesus. We are always going to be imperfect witnesses. Though we can prayerfully and lovingly point them to Jesus, we cannot play the role of the Holy Spirit, who alone can bring conviction and conversion. We, though, are to be the human conduits of the love of Christ to others.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What would you say to someone who said that he or she was afraid to ask others to make a commitment to Jesus?
  2. John 1:9 reads: “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (NKJV). How does this verse help us to understand that the Lord is seeking to reach every person with salvation?
  3. How friendly is your church to visitors? What could you do better in regard to how you deal with strangers who walk in the door?
  4. When was the last time someone off the street simply walked into your church? How did the church respond?
  5. In class, talk about your own conversion stories. How have you used them, or how could you use them to be a witness to others?

Inside Story~ 

A Changed Heart: Part 1

by Agnes Mukarwego and Alita Byrd, Rwanda

”Why are you all dressed up?” the fish seller in the marketplace asked me.

I looked at my good clothes-not what one normally wore to the market-and wondered what to tell this man who was a friend of my husband’s. If my husband knew that I had gone to church, he would be angry. But I could not lie. Finally I told the man, ”I came from church to buy my husband’s favorite fish for dinner.”

My home was not a happy one. My husband drank heavily and paid little attention to the children or me. We were poor because he did not work regularly. These problems left me discouraged and searching for anything that would bring me hope. So when I met my neighbor and her friends on the road one day and they began to tell me that God is the answer to all my problems, big and small, I was eager to hear more. But when they invited me to their church on Saturday, I told them I could not go. Saturday was market day, the busiest day of the week.

Before my neighbor and her friends parted, they gave me a Bible. I opened it and began reading as I walked home. I continued reading the Bible at home, and soon I found some precious verses that seemed to speak just to me. I read them over and over.

”Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:25-27, NIV).

God knows about my worries! I thought. If God cares that much about me, He can certainly help me with my problems.

I decided that I would make time to go to the Seventh-day Adventist church the next Saturday to learn more about the God who did not want me to worry about anything. I got up and dressed before my husband awoke and slipped out of the house.

To be continued in next week’s Inside Story.



Lesson 10* August 27-September 2

Jesus Won Their Confidence

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Gen. 15:6Num. 14:111 Cor. 3:1-9Dan. 6:1-3Neh. 2:1-9Deut. 4:1-9Acts 2:42-47.

Memory Text: “But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities” (Luke 5:15, ESV).

For several years, a Seventh-day Adventist church has provided breakfast five days a week for a local public elementary school. Though the nation itself was very secular, it just had passed a law providing enough money for each public school to have a chaplain, and the school and community wanted the Seventh-day Adventist church to provide one (it is rare to ask only one church to do that). The chaplain’s role is to help look after the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the students and even the wider school community. The opportunities are amazing.

“I enjoy the unique and special relationship we have with your church,” the school principal had said to the church pastor, who was visiting the school, “and just wish other churches could be involved the way you are.” When the pastor was leaving the grounds, the school’s community liaison officer thanked him for what the church was doing and asked if she could attend one Sabbath.

This week we will explore the issue of winning the confidence of people whom we aim to serve and win for Christ.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 3.

SundayAugust 28

Winning Confidence

After desiring their good, showing sympathy, and ministering to their needs, Jesus “won their confidence.” Confidence in Latin is composed of the words con,meaning “with,” and fides meaning “faith.” Throughout the Bible several words are employed to get across the meaning of the word faith.

In Hebrew the main root for “faith” is amn, from which we get the word amen.The basic idea is that of constancy, continuity, and reliability. It gives the idea of something solid, firm, in which one can trust and believe. It is often translated as “believe” in the context of a saving faith in God, and in another form it means “truth.” In the context of Christ’s example of winning people’s confidence, the implication would be that of evoking the kind of trust that comes from seeing unwavering and solid commitment, which in the case of Jesus came through mingling with, sympathizing with, and serving the people.

Read the following texts, all of which have a word based on the root amn (Gen. 15:6Num. 14:11Isa. 7:9Hab. 2:4). How is it used in the text, and how does it convey the idea of confidence and trust?

In the Greek of the New Testament the root word that is used to convey the Hebrew amn (faith, belief) is “pistis.” This Greek word for faith implies belief, trust, absolute certainty, reliability, and assurance. In the context of Christ’s example of winning people’s confidence, the implication would be that of evoking absolute certainty, assurance, trust, and belief in response to His unselfish commitment to mingling, sympathizing, and serving.

It is important to note that in Scripture, whenever this concept of confidence is attributed to humans-as in self-confidence or confidence in a person-it can often have a negative connotation (see Mic. 7:5 and Ps. 118:9). It is positive when this confidence is attributed to God. This calls for a word of caution. As followers of Jesus, we are called to live out His pattern of mingling, sympathizing, and ministering to people’s needs. Yet, when those we serve show confidence in us, we must point them to Jesus and what He has done for them.

If someone were to ask you, “What does true faith in God look like?” what would you answer, and why? Bring your answer to class on Sabbath.

MondayAugust 29

A Careful Balance

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in an African country is growing rapidly. What is the secret? Church leaders have stated that there is a strong connection between this growth and the unselfish and unconditional service of the church members to people in communities throughout the country. The widespread confidence in the Seventh-day Adventist Church came to the attention of the country’s president. He attended a large Adventist Community Services rally and thanked Seventh-day Adventist Church members personally for their service.

At the same time, as representatives of Christ we need to walk a fine line. We need to, as Jesus did, win the trust and the confidence of the people. But their confidence in and trust in us needs to be directed toward Jesus. We are mere conduits. They see something of Christ in us-be it selflessness, love, caring, self-denial for the good of others-and they are drawn to us. As always, though, if they look at us too carefully, because we are all sinners, they might not like all that they see. Hence, we must always point them to Jesus, in whom alone they can put their full confidence. The rest of us are, sooner or later, bound to disappoint.

Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-95:1. What is Paul dealing with in the church? What kind of witness would result if these people were inviting others to their church and the visitors saw what Paul was talking about?

Of course, we don’t have to be perfect or have a perfect church before we can seek to minister to the needs of others. At the same time, we must seek to be the kind of people whom, to some degree, others can learn to count on and trust. And we can do that only to the degree that we faithfully and diligently care for people as Jesus did. Indeed, there’s no question that many of the quarrels and struggles within a church would quickly dissipate were the members focused solely on ministering to the needs of the community and revealing to them the love of Christ.

If some visitors started attending your church regularly, what would they see, and what kind of witness would it present to them?

TuesdayAugust 30

Social Capital

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Prov. 22:1, NIV)

How does the concept expressed here relate to our community witness and outreach?

What is “social capital”? When you make investments in a bank account, its value grows. Social capital consists of positive, productive relationships that are just as valuable as money in the bank. When you nurture rapport with community leaders, asking them what are the community’s needs, seeking their advice on meeting these needs, and then following up with action, you are building relationships with them. This is social capital. Each positive experience with them is like an investment in your relationship. Your social capital continues to grow, and you increase in value in their eyes.

The Church Manual reminds us that Seventh-day Adventists “should be recognized as outstanding citizens. . . in working for the common good.” We “should support by our service and our means, as far as possible and consistent with our beliefs, efforts for social order and betterment,” “maintaining an uncompromising stand for justice and right in civic affairs.”-“Standards of Christian Living,”  in the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual (Hagerstownk Md.: Review and Herald® Publishing Association, 2010, pp. 137, 138.

In addition to Jesus’ earthly ministry, Scripture gives other examples of what can happen when God’s people have acquired “social capital.” Read the following passages and describe the positive relationships these Bible characters experienced with “outsiders” and what happened as a result:

Acts 7:9-10Gen. 41:38-45

Dan. 2:46-496:1-3

Of course, we might not have the kind of dramatic rescues and stories that are seen here. But that’s not the crucial point. These men displayed strength of character that impressed those around them. Ellen G. White states in Patriarchs and Prophets (pp. 217, 218, 221) and in Prophets and Kings (p. 628) that the following qualities among these godly men won the confidence and favor of the “heathens” around them: gentleness, fidelity, wisdom, sound judgment, abilities, noble dignity, and unswerving integrity.

WednesdayAugust 31

The Value of Social Capital

Churches are largely volunteer groups, which operate on limited budgets. Social capital helps improve the chance that your church can reach significant goals. The old tradition in some countries of farmers helping other farmers bring in their harvest is an example of social capital. That is, though we need to look at each situation on its own, when it is feasible and practical we can cooperate with others in order to reach our goals.

Read Nehemiah 2:1-9. What was the result of the heaven-sent confidence that King Artaxerxes had in Nehemiah?

“The means that he [Nehemiah] lacked he solicited from those who were able to bestow. And the Lord is still willing to move upon the hearts of those in possession of His goods, in behalf of the cause of truth. Those who labor for Him are to avail themselves of the help that He prompts men to give. . . . The donors may have no faith in Christ, no acquaintance with His word; but their gifts are not on this account to be refused.” - Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 634.

How fascinating that in this case God moved upon the hearts of pagans to help with the advancement of His own work. This should teach us an important lesson. To whatever degree we can, we should be willing to work with others, even those not of our faith, or even of any faith, if it will advance the cause of Christ. Though, of course, we always have to be careful about any kind of alliance we engage in with others, we can carefully and prayerfully work with others whose input can greatly aid in what we want to do for the good of the community as a whole. Oftentimes governments or even private businesses or individuals, impressed by our humanitarian work, will offer their support. This support shouldn’t be automatically accepted or automatically rejected. Instead, it should be prayerfully looked at on a case-to-case basis, with input and counsel, before a decision is made.

What are some ways you can build some “social capital” in your community that could later result in positive benefits, not for yourself, but for others?

ThursdaySeptember 1

Favor With All People

There’s no question that we, as a people, have been blessed with so much light from the Lord. This light isn’t just in theology, such as understanding the Cross, the sanctuary, the state of the dead, the Sabbath, and the great controversy, which are great blessings in and of themselves. When we think about the light given us in regard to health and healing as well, we surely have so much to offer those around us.

In fact, the health message can be a powerful point of contact to help us reach out to our communities. After all, even those who might not (at least at first) have any interest in our beliefs care about having good health. What an opportunity for us to share what we have been given. As we have already seen, Jesus said: “ 'For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more’ ” (Luke 12:48, NKJV). And there’s no question: to us much has been given.

Read Deuteronomy 4:1-9. What is the Lord saying to His people at that time, and in what ways does the principle expressed here apply to us, including the Lord telling them that they must be sure to obey all that He has commanded them?

A few years ago a Seventh-day Adventist congregation was thinking about this question: Would our community miss us if somehow our congregation disappeared overnight? The answer was simple. No, they wouldn’t be missed. Their community had no confidence in them.

Not liking the answer, they decided to move from building walls to building bridges. Careful not to compromise what they knew to be truth, they worked in partnership with organizations that are already doing the work of God. They became engaged with these organizations on an ongoing basis, not simply doing one-time projects but maintaining an ongoing program that greatly benefited their communities. No question: attitudes toward the church soon changed.

Read Acts 2:42-47. What connection was there in the early church between “enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:47, NIV) and church growth? Compare the values mentioned in this passage with your church’s values.

FridaySeptember 2

Further Thought: Read Mark 5:18-20Luke 8:38-39Acts 5:12-16. Read Ellen G. White, “Our Example,” pp. 17-28, in The Ministry of Healing; “The Grace of Courtesy,” pp. 236-240, in Selected Messages, book 3 (especially pp. 238, 239); “Blessing the Children,” pp. 511-517, in The Desire of Ages; “Relieve the Oppressed,” p. 242, in My Life Today.

There are, no doubt, numerous ways in which you and your church can cooperate with other churches and organizations for the good of the community. It’s crucial for your local church to know what the community needs are and then, to whatever degree possible, work in harmony with others to meet those needs. What better way to build confidence among the community and even with other churches? When mutual confidence and trust are established between your church and its target community, groundwork is laid for them to move toward following Jesus, for “this work will not, cannot, be without fruit.” - Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 144. God alone knows how many people have been, or will be, won through the simple act of reaching out and seeking to do good to others who are in need.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do we reconcile this idea of building good ties and getting a good name in the community with Jesus’ warning in Matthew 10:22: “ 'And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved’ ” (NKJV)? How do we work through what appears to be a strong contradiction?
  2. In class, discuss your answer to the question: What does true faith look like? That is, if we truly have a saving faith in Jesus, what will be different about us from those who don’t?
  3. The question of gifts from others not of our faith is one that we need to think about carefully. As we saw in Wednesday’s study, Ellen G. White talked favorably about receiving gifts from those who weren’t even believers in Jesus. In The Ministry of Healing (p. 340), however, she spoke very sharply against churches that took money from those in the liquor business (even its own members “in good and regular standing”). She said that money from these people “is stained with blood. A curse is on it.” How can we know right from wrong in regard to whom we take gifts from or cooperate with in general, even for a good cause?

Inside Story~ 

Meeting People’s Needs

Zephyrin, 29, is a Global Mission pioneer in the hills of northern Rwanda. When he came to this district two years earlier, he found just three Seventh-day Adventists.

Most people worshiped traditional gods.

Zephyrin studied the people’s needs, searching for a way to make friends for Jesus. He asked the chief for permission to teach adults to read and write. The chief agreed and gave him three rooms to use.

Zephyrin was surprised when 126 people showed up for class. He had received some training in adult literacy, but he had no books. So armed with only a blackboard and chalk, he began teaching. Eight months later, most could read and write at least a little. He formed new groups to study advanced reading and writing. When these groups graduated, they could read the Bible in their own language.

Zephyrin started and ended class with prayer, and bit by bit he told his students about God and explained Bible truths to them. As interest increased, Zephyrin arranged to hold evangelistic meetings.

About 500 people came to the meetings. Zephyrin taught them for two weeks, and then followed up with visits for a month. He held another two-week series of meetings and a one-month follow-up. He repeated this six times, all the while continuing to teach literacy classes. With each series of meetings, the attendance grew.

Almost 200 were baptized in the first baptism. One man was a fortune-teller who earned a living consulting the traditional gods. Another man was a religious teacher in another church. Most of the members of his former church followed him.

Rosette, the wife of the local school headmaster, was baptized. Zephyrin was concerned that her baptism would make her husband angry. But the headmaster attended the baptism and said, ”Who knows? Maybe I’ll be baptized too.” He was baptized during the next series of meetings and hopes to start a new group of believers near his school.

Zephyrin continued teaching literacy classes, holding evangelistic meetings, visiting families, and conducting early-morning worship and Sabbath services. And God continued to bless. Within a year, the number of believers grew from three to 300!

The church’s mission office purchased land and provided cement for the foundation and metal sheets for the roof of a church to seat 500. The believers bought bricks to build the walls.

Today the church has more than 400 members plus many children and visitors. Several smaller groups have formed in neighboring locations, resulting in more baptisms. Your regular mission offerings help support Global Mission and other church planting efforts. Thank you for giving.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  website:

Lesson 9* August 20-26

Jesus Ministered to Their Needs

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Mark 5:22-4310:46-52John 5:1-9Ps. 139:1-13Mark 2:1-12Acts 9:36-42.

Memory Text: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35, NIV).

A retired Seventh-day Adventist woman in an African country did not wish to stop ministering in retirement. Her community needed healing because of the ravages of HIV/AIDS. The most urgent need was that AIDS orphans didn’t have adequate nutrition. In 2002, she and her church started feeding the children in the community a solid meal six days a week. They started with 50 children and, as of 2012, were serving 300 children per day. That led them to start a preschool, and now 45 of those children are attending. Other services include distributing clothing from ADRA, sharing vegetables and maize from a garden that they maintain, and taking care of the sick. They started a skills-development program for women, who teach one another skills that helped them earn a living. This demonstration of the love of Jesus spawned a new church. There were five members in the beginning and, as of 2012, 160 were attending. God provided means for building an orphanage and a new church building in 2012.What a powerful and practical example of how meeting the needs of the community is so important for Christians.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 27.

SundayAugust 21

Interruption for Ministry

Jesus steps off the boat on the shore near Capernaum. (See Mark 5:1-43.) His disciples are still reeling from the harrowing encounter with the demon-possessed man in Decapolis. As usual, a crowd is there to meet Him. Eager to get His attention, individuals in the throng jostle to be near Jesus. Immediately He is asked for help, this time by a ruler of a synagogue.

Read Mark 5:22-43. While Jesus was on His way to minister to the needs of this ruler of a synagogue, what interrupted Him, and how did He respond to the interruption? More important, what lessons should we take from the story for ourselves about how we react when interrupted for ministry?

Let’s face it, none of us likes interruptions, do we? We are busy, we have things to do, places to go, jobs to get done. We set goals for ourselves and want to meet those goals, sometimes within a certain time frame as well. Interruptions can get in the way.

That’s why, if someone comes with a need or with a request for help, it can be annoying if the time isn’t convenient. Sometimes you just can’t drop whatever you are doing. At the same time, how often could we drop what we are doing and help but don’t because we simply don’t want to?

Yet often the greatest opportunities to minister to people’s needs come through interruptions. Most of us try to avoid interruptions, and get upset when our plans are derailed. As we look at the ministry of Jesus, we notice that some of the needs that He cared for came as interruptions, to which He lovingly responded. If we think about it, many opportunities we get for ministry come in the form of interruptions. We have already looked at the story of the good Samaritan. Who knows where he was going and what he was going to do when he got there? But he stopped anyway to minister.

Talk about an interruption!

When was the last time someone interrupted you with a need and a request for help? How did you respond?

MondayAugust 22

How Can I Help You?

Read Mark 10:46-52 and John 5:1-9. In both cases, Jesus asked questions. Why would He do that?

Notice, in both cases, that Jesus asked what they wanted, even though it was obvious what they wanted. And even if it weren’t, Jesus would have known what those needs were anyway.

However, by asking these questions, Jesus showed the men respect. He showed that He was listening to them and by listening that He cared about what they were struggling with. In how many cases do people, perhaps more than anything else, simply want someone just to talk to, someone who will listen to them. Sometimes just being able to talk about one’s struggles can help a person feel better.

Consider for a moment how you would feel if you entered a doctor’s office and the doctor took one glance at you, wrote out a prescription, and sent you on your way. Surely you would doubt whether this person really knew what you needed. You might say, “The doctor didn’t ask me how I feel or listen to my heart or check my blood pressure or . . .” One of the cardinal rules of medical practice is “Diagnose before you treat.”

The same concept applies to medical missionary work, which is focused on the well-being of people and meeting their wholistic needs. Too many churches think they already know, or they guess at what needs to be done to serve others in their community. When we put forth the effort of talking to people about their needs or the needs of the community, it lets them know we care, and it informs us how we can serve in ways that will be appreciated. Also, we will make new friends.

“ 'Remember that you can break down the severest opposition by taking a personal interest in the people whom you meet. Christ took a personal interest in men and women while He lived on this earth. Wherever He went He was a medical missionary. We are to go about doing good, even as He did. We are instructed to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the sorrowing.’ ” - Ellen G. White,Welfare Ministry, p. 162.

Most of us have no problem expressing our opinions. How can we learn to be better listeners?

TuesdayAugust 23

The Deeper Needs

Jesus, as the Lord, knew more about the people than they knew about themselves. There are many accounts in the Gospels where Jesus showed that He not only knew what people were thinking at the present (see Mark 2:8)-He knew their histories as well (John 4:18).

Read Psalm 139:1-13. What is the Word of God telling us here?

As we saw yesterday, Jesus knew the needs of the people, and it was to those needs that He ministered. In fact, He knew even needs that went below the surface. This reality is seen in the story of the paralytic. Though it was obvious, on the surface, that he needed physical healing, there was something deeper there, which is why even before telling him to take up his bed and walk, Jesus said, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee” (Mark 2:5).

Read Mark 2:1-12. What was going on below the surface in regard to this man? In what ways might this deeper need be a problem for all whom we seek to minister to?

Jesus knew the issue here was more than physical. “Yet it was not physical restoration he desired so much as relief from the burden of sin. If he could see Jesus, and receive the assurance of forgiveness and peace with Heaven, he would be content to live or die, according to God's will.” - Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 267.

Of course we are not going to be able to get below the surface as Jesus did. Yet we can be sure that whomever we are ministering to, they are sin-damaged creatures. That is, whatever the other surface needs, they are also in need of grace, of assurance, of the knowledge that there is a God who loves them, who died for them, and who wants only the best for them.

Think about how much you crave the assurance of salvation and of the knowledge that God loves you. How can you help others experience that same assurance and love?

WednesdayAugust 24

Dorcas in Joppa

Read Acts 9:36-42. What did Dorcas do in Joppa when she discovered the needs around her? In Acts 9:41 what does the phrase “the believers, especially the widows” (NIV) imply?

Dorcas was a disciple of action. “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha” (Acts 9:36, NIV). Can it be said, “In [the name of your city] there are disciples named [name of your congregation]” who are “full of good works and charitable deeds” (Acts 9:36, NKJV)?

The “believers” are Christian church members; “the widows” may include church members as well as those who were not members. Dorcas likely served both. Your “Joppa” should be outside and inside your church. Consistent caring for those inside your church is also a powerful evangelistic strategy (see Acts 2:42-47). People outside can then say, “See how those Seventh-day Adventists love and care for one another!”

Read John 13:34-35 and John 15:12. What is the same message in all three texts, and why is that so important for us as a church to follow? Why, though, can it sometimes be so hard to follow?

When planning to serve people outside your church, you should consider what style, or approach, you will use.

Amy Sherman describes three styles a church can use in serving its community: (1) Settler style focuses on meeting the needs of the community around your church. The woman with the HIV/AIDS ministry chose her nearby community as her “Joppa.” (2) The gardenerstyle means developing ministry ties with neighborhoods outside your church’s immediate area, as gardeners view their gardens as an extension of their homes. Sometimes several churches partner to operate a community service center outside of each of their communities. In one city, several churches ran a health food store-out of which a new church started. (3) The shepherd style is serving one targeted population rather than a specific geographic neighborhood.-Adapted from Ronald J. Sider et al., Churches That Make a Difference: Reaching Your Community with Good News and Good Works (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2002), p. 146.

ThursdayAugust 25

The Church at Work

“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Prov. 16:3, NIV).

Once your church has a clear vision of how it can minister to the community, it is important to develop a plan whereby all church departments can work together in order to make this vision a reality. Even though you may not consider yourself a “leader” in your church, you can contribute. Also, it is good for all church members to understand this process, for this is about your church’s mission to your community.

Ideally, a church strategic plan should be based on input from at least three sources: (1) input from biblical and Spirit of Prophecy principles; (2) knowledge of community needs; and (3) input from the congregation. Some churches have collected input from the congregation by holding brainstorming sessions during which all church members are invited to share their ideas and dreams for outreach and for improving their church within.

Read Luke 14:25-35. What does this passage have to do with commitment and the planning it takes to fulfill your church’s mission?

As you think about the process required to meet your community’s needs effectively, you might think: this takes too much commitment and time.We’d prefer to take shortcuts. The two parables warn us against taking the responsibilities of mission and discipleship lightly. They remind us that analysis and planning for our mission are essential. It’s a matter of good stewardship. The flavor of the salt in Luke 14:34 represents devotion. Without this our service, our discipleship, is useless and meaningless. We need fervent and faithful devotion to our Lord, and if we have that, fervent and faithful devotion to ministry will follow.

What are ways that you can do more to work with your church in organizing and planning beforehand how you can reach out to your community?

FridayAugust 26

Further Thought: Read Deuteronomy 15:11Job 29:11-17Proverbs 14:3119:17Acts 3:6James 1:27-2:5; Ellen G. White, “Pioneering in Australia,” pp. 327-338, in Welfare Ministry. Paul, like Jesus, was involved in meeting the expressed needs of people. We can see this, for example, in the famous story of Paul at Mars Hill in Athens. In Acts 17:23, Paul, provoked by the idolatry that he saw in the city, engaged in lively discussions with the local intelligentsia and anyone in the marketplace who would talk with him. He became aware of their needs and issues. He discovered that they had an unknown-God-shaped hole in their lives and that they needed to know the true God and to stop worshiping useless idols. He then began to preach in the synagogue, where both Jews and “Gentile worshipers” (Acts 17:17, NKJV) were. In other words, he took advantage of the opportunity he had and reached out with the gospel. Paul sought to meet them where they were, as we can see by how he talked to the people when at the synagogue and in the street. The masses believed in some kind of deity, because they had built an altar to “the unknown God” (Acts 17:23). Working from that premise, Paul sought to point them to the God “ 'whom you worship without knowing’ ” (Acts 17:23, NKJV). He even later quoted one of their own poets, who happened to have written something true: “ ' “We are also His offspring” ’ ” (Acts 17:28, NKJV). Starting from where the people were, he wanted to lead them away from their idols to the living God and Jesus, raised from the dead. In short, assessing the needs of those whom he wanted to reach, Paul then tried to help fulfill those needs.

Discussion Questions:

  1. “He who taught the people the way to secure peace and happiness was just as thoughtful of their temporal necessities as of their spiritual need.” - Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 365. What important message is given to us here in regard to why we should minister to the needs of others?
  2. Why do we, when thinking about outreach, have to be careful not to forget what our ultimate goal is? What is that ultimate goal? Give reasons for your answer.
  3. How can we learn to view some interruptions not as annoyances but as sacred opportunities for ministry? How does Galatians 2:20 help us in this area?

Inside Story~ 

”Remember Your Faith” : Part 2

Pierre refused to be swayed by his friends urging him to study at the national university. He wanted to study at the Adventist university instead, even if it meant losing a full scholarship. ”God will provide,” he told them. When Esdras and Deo realized how determined Pierre was to enroll in the Adventist university, they applied to study there as well. They were, after all, brothers.

The boys were accepted at the Adventist university. They shared a small room in a house near the university. They pooled their money, but often didn’t have enough for proper food. Even so, sometimes they shared their meager food with others who had even less.

Esdras and Deo noticed differences between their former teachers and the staff and students at the Adventist university. The teachers at the university were personally interested in the students’ needs and shared their concerns. They counseled them and prayed with them. Prayer was not just a formality; it was the lifeblood of the school.

Pierre invited Esdras and Deo to join him at worship services on Sabbath and during the week. Larger worship services were held in an open stadium on the campus. There was no church building in which to worship, but they still went. Before long the boys began to understand why God was so important in Pierre’s life.

During a Week of Prayer at the school, Esdras and Deo gave their lives to God and were baptized. Pierre rejoices that the brothers once bound by tragedy are now brothers bound by a faith in God that is stronger than death.

Like Pierre and his friends and thousands of others who survived the genocide in Rwanda, the Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA) has risen from the destruction as well. The government took over the original university campus, which was located in a still unstable region of Rwanda. They gave the church land on a hilltop in Kigali, the capital city, and funds to help rebuild the campus. Today 2,200 students are studying at the university. More than half of these students are not Adventists.

The campus of AUCA continues to grow. In 2010, the first quarter Thirteenth Sabbath Offering helped to complete a church-multipurpose building on the campus. This quarter we have the opportunity to provide funding to build a dormitory for students attending the new AUCA medical school, and an on-campus cafeteria. Thank you for your generous support of mission!

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  website:

Lesson 8* August 13-19

Jesus Showed Sympathy

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: 2 Kings 13:23Exod. 2:23-25Luke 7:11-161 John 3:17John 11:35Rom. 12:152 Cor. 1:3-4.

Memory Text: “And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14, NKJV).

How much more tragic could it be? A 17-year-old girl, struggling with what most 17-year-old girls struggle with, except with so much more, took her own life. Who could imagine the parents’ devastation?

Their pastor came over to the house. He sat down in the living room next to them and for a long time said nothing. He just immersed himself in their grief. Then he, the pastor, started sobbing. He sobbed until his tears ran dry. Then, without saying a word, he got up and left.

Sometime later, the father told him how much he appreciated what the pastor had done. He and his wife, at that time, didn’t need words, didn’t need promises, didn’t need counseling. All they needed, right then and there, was raw sympathy.

“I can’t tell you,” he said to the minister, “how much your sympathy meant to us.”

Sympathy means “with pathos,” and “pathos” is related to pity, tenderness, or sorrow. It means being “with” someone but in a profound way. Showing sympathy toward the sorrows of others takes the question of “mingling” with others to a whole new level.

Showing sympathy was also a crucial way that Jesus reached people.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 20.

SundayAugust 14

Hearing the Groans

The universe can seem like a very scary place: vast, cold, and so big we sense our own insignificance and meaninglessness amid it. This fear has become even more prevalent with the advent of modern science, whose giant telescopes have revealed a cosmos much larger and vaster than our imaginations can readily grasp. Add to that the extravagant claims of Darwinism, which in most popular versions dismisses the idea of a Creator, and people can, understandably, struggle with a sense of hopelessness amid a vast creation that seems to care nothing about us.

Of course, the Bible gives us a different view of our place in the creation.

What do the following texts teach about God’s compassion toward His fallen and broken creation here on earth?

Judg. 2:16-18

2 Kings 13:23

Isa. 54:7-810

Contrary to the popular notion of the God of the Old Testament as stern, mean, unforgiving, and uncompassionate, especially in contrast to Jesus and how He is represented in the New Testament, these texts are just a few of many in the Old Testament that reveal God’s compassion for humanity.

What does Exodus 2:23-25 teach us about how God deals with suffering?

God deeply cares about people (see James 5:11). This is a theme that is seen all through the Bible.

“His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. . . . Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. . . . No calamity can befall the least of His children . . . of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest.” - Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 100.

What kind of collective groans are going up toward heaven in your community, and how can God use you to sympathize with and to help those who are suffering?

MondayAugust 15

Our Sympathetic Savior

As Jesus mingled with people during His earthly ministry, He encountered situations that revealed His sympathy and compassion for them. “He came forth, and saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick” (Matt. 14:14, ASV).

Read Matthew 9:35-36 and Luke 7:11-16. What do they teach us about how true sympathy and compassion are made manifest?

The word sympathy also brings to mind other related words, such as empathy and pity.According to various dictionaries, compassionis pity, sympathy, empathy. Pity is sympathetic sorrow for one’s suffering. Empathy is the ability to understand or share the feelings of others.

Compassion and sympathy show that we not only understand what others are suffering but that we want to help alleviate and remedy the suffering.

When you hear about the sad things that have happened to people in your community, such as their house burning down or a death in the family, what is your reaction? Do you just mutter, “That’s so sad,” and then move on, which is so easy to do? Or are your sympathies aroused, moving you with compassion for them? True compassion will lead you toward comforting and actively helping friends as well as strangers in practical ways. Whether it is sending a sympathy card or showing even deeper sympathy by visiting and assisting with immediate needs, loving action is the clear result of true sympathy.

Fortunately, people and aid organizations tend to compassionately respond to big disasters. However, sometimes we may not pay as much attention to the “smaller” misfortunes and disasters that deeply affect someone.

Jesus didn’t just show sympathy but took that sympathy to the next level: compassionate action. We, of course, are called to do the same. Anyone can feel sorrow or sympathy for someone’s misfortune. The question is, What action does that sympathy lead us to perform?

While eating breakfast, a man was listening to his wife read from the news about a tragedy in another country that had left thousands dead. After talking for a few moments about how terrible it was, he then changed the subject and asked if the local soccer team had won the match the night before. In what ways are we all somewhat guilty of the same thing, and what, if anything, can we do about it?

TuesdayAugust 16

Walking in Their Shoes

Read Colossians 3:121 Peter 3:8, and 1 John 3:17. What are these verses saying to us, and how can we reveal this compassion in our lives?

Compassion comes from the Latin word compati,which means “to suffer with.” As we ourselves have suffered, we can also understand the sufferings of others; and, no doubt, just as we often crave compassion and sympathy in our suffering, we should be willing to do the same for others in their need as well.

We saw in an earlier lesson the story of the good Samaritan. As He highlights the example of the Samaritan, Jesus says, “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him” (Luke 10:33, NIV). This pity or compassion drove the Samaritan traveler to act on behalf of the injured victim. The priest and the Levite likely asked themselves, “If I help this man, what will happen to me?” The Samaritan might have asked himself, “If I don’t help this man, what will happen to him?” In this story the Samaritan unselfishly takes the perspective of the victim and takes action. He risked his safety and his wealth for a stranger. In other words, sometimes being a Christian involves risks and can be, potentially, very costly.

Look at the story of the prodigal son from this perspective as well (Luke 15:20-32). What does the prodigal’s father do that makes him vulnerable to criticism and family strife? The compassionate embrace, the robe of belonging, the ring of trust, the sandals of freedom, and the call for celebration reflect the selfless joy of a father who is willing to sacrifice all for the sake of his prodigal son’s restoration. Prodigal means wasteful, reckless, extravagant, and uncontrolled. This kind of behavior certainly describes the path of the son in this story. But stop for a moment and consider that, in response to the return of the prodigal, one could justly claim that the father in this story puts all dignity aside and recklessly bestows everything he has on his disheveled son. In the eyes of the older sibling, the father is wasteful, extravagant, and uncontrolled. The father becomes prodigal at the sight of his repentant son, and his heart of compassion triggers the emptying of all resources necessary to restore him.

This level of sympathy and compassion involves setting self aside, and it can make us vulnerable to whatever comes as we suffer with someone and endeavor to move him or her toward restoration. In short, true compassion and sympathy might come with a cost.

WednesdayAugust 17

Jesus Wept

Jesus wept” (John 11:35, NIV)

What does this verse tell us, not just about the humanity of Jesus, but how in that humanity He related to the suffering of others? See also Rom. 12:15.

In John 11:35 Jesus demonstrated sympathy, empathy, and pity from His core. Even though He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, the grief of a family with whom He was very close affected Him physically and emotionally.

However, Jesus was weeping not only over the death of a dear friend. He was looking at a much bigger picture, that of the suffering of all humanity because of the ravages of sin.

“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.” - Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 534.

Think about her words: Jesus, in ways that none of us ever could, saw the “pain of the human family in all ages and in all lands.”

We ourselves can barely stand to think about the pain of those whom we know or with whom we are close. Then add to that the pain of others that we read about in the news. And yet, we have here the Lord, who knows things in ways that we don’t, weeping over the collective grief of humanity. God alone knows the full extent of human woe and sorrow. How thankful we should be that we get only faint glimpses of that sorrow, and sometimes even that seems too much for us. Try to imagine what must have been stirring the heart of Jesus at that time.

General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, said, “‘If you can’t cry over the city, we can’t use you.’”-Roger S. Greenway and Timothy M. Monsma, Cities: Missions’ New Frontier (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Pub. Group, 2000) p. 246. What should those words say to each of us?

ThursdayAugust 18

Another Kind of Comforter

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4, NKJV)

What is Paul telling us here about how our own suffering can help us be more effective in showing sympathy and comfort to those around us? How have you experienced (if you have) the reality of these words in your own life?

The word comfort comes from the Latin com (together, with) plus fortis (strong). As Christ strengthens us in our suffering, we can pass this strength to others. As we have learned from our own sorrows, we can more effectively minister to others in theirs.

Churches generally have members who suffer and members who comfort. This combination can transform your church into a “safe house”-a “city of refuge” (see Numbers 35:1-34) as well as a river of healing (see Ezek. 47:1-12) that flows to the community.

Showing sympathy and comfort is an art. Here are some suggestions:

  • Be authentic. Listen more than you speak. Be sure your body language reinforces your attempt to sympathize and comfort.
  • Show sympathy out of your individual personality. Some people give sympathy by quietly crying with the troubled person. Others don’t cry but show sympathy by organizing something that is a comfort to the bereaved.
  • Being a presence is often more important than speaking or doing.
  • Allow people to grieve in their own way.
  • Become acquainted with the stages of processing grief that people often go through.
  • Be careful about saying “I know how you feel.” Chances are that you don’t.
  • There is a place for professional counseling.
  • Don’t say “I’ll pray for you” unless you really intend to do so. When possible, pray with, unhurriedly visit with, and share encouraging Bible promises with suffering ones.
  • Organize support groups (if available) at your church or in your community.

FridayAugust 19

Further Thought: Read Deuteronomy 24:10-22Jonah 3:1-10Malachi 3:17Matthew 15:32-38Mark 6:34-44Galatians 6:2,Hebrews 10:32-34. Read Ellen G. White, “Be Sympathetic to All Men,” p. 189, and “Thoughtful of Others,” p. 193, in My Life Today; “The Privilege of Prayer,” p. 100, in Steps to Christ; “This Is Pure Religion” and “The Parable of the Good Samaritan,” chapters 4 and 5, in Welfare Ministry.

A few families got together with their small children during a holiday and made packages of food and toiletries to give out to the many homeless in their city. After working for a few hours, they got into their cars, went to the city center, and, in about a half hour, distributed the goods. They then went off to a museum and, afterward, out to dinner. As they were walking back to the cars, one of them said, “I’m glad we did this. But do you realize that by now most of those whom we fed are probably hungry again?” No question, there are so many people out there who need comfort, sympathy, and help that it can seem overwhelming, almost to the point where one could think: What’s the sense of doing anything? We can barely make a dent! Numerous problems exist with that line of thinking, however. First, if everyone thought that way, no one would help anyone and the needs, as terrible as they are, would be even worse. On the other hand, if everyone who could help others would, then the needs, as terrible as they are, wouldn’t be as bad. Second, we have never been told in the Bible that human pain, suffering, and evil would be eliminated this side of heaven. In fact, we have been told the opposite. Even Jesus, when here, didn’t end all human suffering. He did what He could. We too are to do the same: bring comfort, sympathy, and help to those whom we can.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can your church be made into a safe, healing place for the brokenhearted?
  2. Discuss in class the following quote: “Many wonder why God doesn’t act. God wonders why so many of His people don’t care.”-Dwight Nelson, Pursuing the Passion of Jesus (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2005). Do you even agree with the premise of the challenge? If so, what can we do to change?
  3. Look at this quote from Ellen G. White: “Kindly words simply spoken, little attentions simply bestowed, will sweep away the clouds of temptation and doubt that gather over the soul. The true heart expression of Christlike sympathy, given in simplicity, has power to open the door of hearts that need the simple, delicate touch of the Spirit of Christ.” - Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 30. What should this tell us about the incredible power for good that kindness and sympathy can have as we reach out to help the grieving?

Inside Story~ 

”Remember Your Faith” :Part 1

Pierre stumbled down the red-dirt road, following others who walked in front of him. He didn’t know where he was going, but he knew that he had to get away from the death that pursued him.

Pierre was nine years old when the Rwandan genocide took the lives of 800,000 Rwandans and destroyed the life he had known. Pierre’s father, a pastor, had gathered his nine children together and told them solemnly, ”I don’t know what will happen. If you live, you must remain faithful to God. Remember the Sabbath. Remember your faith.”

When soldiers came, the family fled to the church for refuge. But the soldiers set fire to the church. Pierre could still smell the smoke, and could still hear the screams of those dying around him. Somehow he had managed to escape the building and flee without being shot. But what had happened to his family? He didn’t know.

Pierre followed others who fled to neighboring Burundi. He survived in a refugee camp until he was told that it was safe to return to Rwanda. Once again, he walked the dusty road, this time toward his home.

He found his town. He found a pile of ashes where his church had been. He found bones. Somehow he knew that only he had survived. He was alone. His father’s words rang in his heart. ”Stay faithful to God, no matter what.”

Pierre’s aunt, who lived in neighboring Uganda, came searching for his family. She took Pierre home to live with her. Together they built a new life. Over time, the sharp pain of his loss became a dull ache. His faith in God grew stronger. Then, without warning, his aunt died in an accident. Once more, Pierre was alone. He was 14 and didn’t know what to do or where to turn. All he had was his faith.

The Rwandan government provided free education to genocide survivors, and someone helped Pierre enroll in high school. He shared a room with two other boys, Esdras and Deo, who had lost their families in the genocide, too. The three boys became as brothers, bound together by loss and tragedy.

Pierre finished high school and was awarded a full scholarship to study at a national university in Rwanda. But he turned down the offer. He wanted to study at the Adventist university in Kigali, even though his genocide survivor benefits wouldn’t pay all his costs. ”You’re crazy!” his friends told him. ”Take the scholarship!”

To be continued in next week’s Inside Story.

Lesson 7* August 6-12

Jesus Desired Their Good

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Jon. 3:4-4:6Luke 19:38-42Matt. 5:43-471 Corinthians 13:1-13Mark 8:22-25Phil. 2:3-5,James 2:14-17.

Memory Text: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37).

On Sabbath morning, during Sabbath School and worship service, skateboarders can often be seen rolling past the main doors of a local Seventh-day Adventist church.

Why? Because this church meets in a community youth center facility right next to a skateboard park. And if you thought these skateboarders were an unexpected annoyance, think again.

Instead, in an effort to curb the rising youth crime rate, the government in their city built the park to provide a place for its youth to engage in wholesome recreation. When the youth center and skateboard park were finished, the government wanted a church congregation to hold its worship services in the community youth center facility. The community leaders felt that the presence of a church would have a positive moral influence on the youth who used the park. They invited several churches of various Christian denominations, but only one accepted, the church that had Sabbath School and worship on Saturday morning.

These Adventist church members were excited about moving into the center, for the skateboarders were part of the group they wanted to reach.

The local church’s definition of “church” is: a community that does not exist for itself. This should be the definition for all our churches as well.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 13.

SundayAugust 7

Jonah in Nineveh

Read Jonah 3:4-4:6. What serious attitude problem does this prophet have?

In Jonah 4:1-11, the prophet Jonah sits down east of the great city of Nineveh. He has delivered the message of doom that God has entrusted to him. He reflects on his journey, his reluctance to come to Nineveh, his runaway tactics, God’s insistence in getting Jonah back on mission, the three-day episode in the fish, and the long journey inland from the coast. And for what? For God to turn around and show His grace on these despicable people? The people repented, but Jonah now feels betrayed. He feels dishonored and used. His hope had been that the destruction of this heathen city of 120,000 inhabitants would show God’s preference for His chosen people and vindicate Jonah’s hatred for the Ninevites.

Read Luke 19:38-42. What is happening here, and what is Jesus’ attitude toward the city of Jerusalem?

Eight hundred years after Jonah, Jesus rides on a donkey over the crest of a hill overlooking Jerusalem. Shouts of praise to the “King who comes in the name of the Lord” are heard, along with echoes of hope declaring “ 'peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ ”(Luke 19:38, NIV). In the midst of this triumphal entry Jesus, as He approaches the city, stops and weeps, saying, “ 'If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace’ ” (Luke 19:42, NIV).

Note the contrast. Jonah reluctantly obeyed the command of God, caring little for the good of the inhabitants of Nineveh. Jesus approaches Jerusalem with one burden on His heart: that they might have the salvation He offers, and at such a high cost.

Two cities: Nineveh and Jerusalem. Two messengers: Jonah and Jesus. The difference is obvious. Jesus exemplifies the selfless, caring attitude that desires the good of the people. May we, through God’s grace, reveal that same attitude as Jesus did toward the lost.

How might selfishness play into the attitude that leaves someone unconcerned about the salvation of others?

MondayAugust 8

The “Anyway” Principle

A leper approaches Jesus and begs for healing. Conventional wisdom says that this man should be isolated. Jesus, the clean One, touches him and heals him anyway (Matt. 8:1-4). Peter denies Jesus three times during His trial (John 18:1-40). After the resurrection, having searched Peter’s heart, Jesus reinstates him into His service anyway (John 21:1-25). God’s church in Corinth is unappreciative of Paul’s authority and influence. Paul serves them anyway (2 Cor. 12:14-15).

This principle of “anyway” or “in spite of” is essential for revealing the character of the One who desires their good.

“Millions upon millions of human souls ready to perish, bound in chains of ignorance and sin, have never so much as heard of Christ’s love for them. Were our condition and theirs to be reversed, what would we desire them to do for us? All this, so far as lies in our power, we are under the most solemn obligation to do for them. Christ’s rule of life, by which every one of us must stand or fall in the judgment, is, 'Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.’ Matthew 7:12.” - Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 640.

This “golden rule” is foundational to a mind-set of ministry that thinks first of what is good for the ones we are serving instead of what benefits us.

Read Matthew 5:43-47Luke 6:273523:34. What crucial point here has Jesus revealed to us in regard to our attitude toward a certain class of people?

Jesus is calling us to show love and be kind to people “in spite of” the fact that they hate you or are your enemies. Notice, too, that Jesus links these acts and this attitude with the character of God Himself. “ 'But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked’ ” (Luke 6:35, NIV).

How do we understand the idea that God is “kind to the ungrateful and wicked”? (How does this answer, for example, the question “Why do the wicked sometimes prosper”?) How does Romans 2:4 play into the picture as well?

TuesdayAugust 9

Love Never Fails

According to Jesus, the two greatest commandments are love to God and love to neighbor (Luke 10:27-28). He also showed us who our neighbors are (Luke 10:29-37). No question, too, that Jesus’ life, from beginning to end, was an expression of the pure love of God, who Himself is love (1 John 4:16). Thus, if we are to reflect the character of God, if we are to help reveal to others the reality of God and what He is like, we are to love.

Think about it another way. One of the greatest “excuses” that people have used to reject Jesus and Christianity as a whole has been professed Christians themselves.

What are some examples you can find in history, or even today, of how “Christians,” or at least people bearing the name “Christian,” have done some terrible deeds, sometimes even in the name of Jesus? Does not even the book of Daniel (seeDan. 7:24-25 or Rom. 2:24) warn about this?

It’s no wonder that many people, through the ages and even today, have been turned off by Christianity as a whole. Thus, the imperative to reveal Christ to others through our own lives should be stronger than ever. And nothing can do this more powerfully than the kind of love expressed by Jesus Himself being expressed in our own lives as well.

Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. What does Paul say love is? What does he say love isn’t? What does he say love does? What does he say love doesn’t do? In short, how is love to be expressed in our lives as Christians, and how does love fit in with how we are to be witnesses to our community? More important, what changes do you need to make in order to reveal this kind of love?

WednesdayAugust 10

The Second Touch

Read Mark 8:22-25. What spiritual lesson can we learn from the fact that Jesus’ first healing touch didn’t fully heal the blind man?

After Jesus “spat” on the man’s eyes, He touched him and asked, “ 'Do you see anything?’ ” (Mark 8:23, NIV). Why did Jesus “spit” on his eyes? Ancient literature indicates examples of the use of saliva by physicians. This miracle resembles somewhat the healing of the deaf and mute man in Decapolis not long before that. (Read Mark 7:31-37.) However, unlike all His other recorded healing miracles, the cure for the blind man was performed in two stages.

Reread Mark 8:23-24. How do you understand the man’s answer to the question “ 'Do you see anything?’ ”

“ 'I see people; they look like trees walking around’ ” (Mark 8:24, NIV). That is, he could distinguish them from trees only by their motion. In a spiritual sense, how could we apply this incident to our own lives? It might be that after Jesus gives us spiritual sight, we are not totally restored. We might see people as “trees,” as objects. This could mean that we are still blind to them as real people with real needs. They are items, numbers, objects that we want to join the church, maybe to boost our baptism count, or to make us look good. With such a self-serving attitude around them, many people are likely not to stay in such a church.

Reread Mark 8:25. In this case, why might Jesus have deliberately healed the man in two stages?

The context of this story is that just before this healing miracle Jesus was dealing with another kind of blindness: His disciples didn’t understand the meaning of His statement to “ 'watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod’ ” (Mark 8:15, NIV). They thought it was because they didn’t have enough bread for their boat ride. Jesus called them blind: “ 'Do you have eyes but fail to see?’ ” (Mark 8:18, NIV).

Not only people outside the church need Jesus’ healing touch. Inside the church there is blindness. Partially sighted church members who see people as statistics and objects will not care or notice that many new babes in Christ slip out the back door of the church. They need Jesus’ second touch so they will see everything more clearly and will come to love others as Jesus did.

ThursdayAugust 11

The Other-centered Church

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:3-5, NIV)

In what ways should the principles expressed here rule our lives and impact how we relate, not just to church members, but to our community?

When He was on earth, Jesus wasn’t thinking about Himself. His agenda was about desiring the good of others. Much of His ministry consisted of responding to interruptions, such as when Jairus interrupted Him with a request to rush to his house to heal his dying daughter. This interruption was then interrupted by a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. (Read Mark 5:21-43.)

Christ’s church is His heart and hands on earth. Jesus loved people more than anything else, and a church that is truly His will do the same.

Churches have agendas and goals, and that’s good. An unconditional love for human beings will sometimes lead us to get out of our preconceived agendas, especially if those agendas distract from expressing God’s love to others. For many churches, baptisms are high on the agenda. Baptisms are wonderful. Baptisms fulfill Matthew 28:19. But what is your church’s motivation for baptisms? Is it self-serving? Is it to make the church look good and bring accolades to its pastor? Or is it because your church genuinely wants people in your community to enjoy the abundant life found by accepting Christ (John 10:10) and to accept everything that He offers because you wish the best for them?

One church was running a much-needed soup kitchen in a depressed area of town. The pastor was heard saying, “We must close this soup kitchen, because no baptisms are coming from it.” Another congregation had just built a new church building. They were very proud of it. When the pastor suggested inviting the community to come inside the church for such events as Vacation Bible School or health screenings, to expose people to the environment of the church, the first consideration was fear that the new carpet would get dirty and worn. And the new bathrooms might get defaced. Contrast these two churches with the church that was meeting in the skateboard park.

Read over the verses for today. How well do they reflect your own attitude toward others? How can we learn to experience the death to self that is needed to reveal these characteristics in our lives?

FridayAugust 12

Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Our Example,” pp. 17-28, in The Ministry of Healing; “ 'One Thing Thou Lackest,’ ” pp. 518-523, in The Desire of Ages; “A Social Life,” pp. 186-188, 190-192, 194-196, in My Life Today.

“In order to reach all classes, we must meet them where they are; for they will seldom seek us of their own accord. Not alone from the pulpit are the hearts of men and women touched by divine truth. Christ awakened their interest by going among them as one who desired their good. He sought them at their daily avocations and manifested an unfeigned interest in their temporal affairs.” - Ellen G. White, My Life Today, p. 186. How true that many people today, for various reasons, will “seldom seek us of their own accord.” Just as Jesus came down and reached us where we are, we need to do the same for others. On one level, this shouldn’t be so hard. There are so many people out there with so many needs. The world is a hurt and broken place with hurt and broken people who, in some cases, simply crave someone to listen to them, someone to talk to, someone who cares. And of course, as a church body, we should be able to give them to some degree the physical help that they need. We need to be careful not to be guilty of what James warned about: having faith but not the deeds to reveal it. How interesting, too, that he expressed that warning, not in the context of diet or dress or personal behavior, but in the context of helping the needy. (See James 2:14-17.) Anyone can say that they have faith. How we respond to our “neighbor” is the true measure of that faith.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read James 2:14-17. How can you help your church make sure that it is not guilty of doing what James warns about here?
  2. Think about some people in the Bible who demonstrated unselfish and caring service. For example: “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36, NIV). What is your church doing to help others in modern “Joppa”?
  3. It’s easy to do good things when you are lauded and praised and held up as an example of “good works” or the like. But what about doing things for others that no one knows about, that no one hears about, and that no one (other than perhaps the persons helped) even cares about?
  4. Someone asked a Christian, “What is the purpose of your life?” He responded, “To give, and ask nothing in return.” How well does this answer encapsulate what our attitude as Christians should be?

Inside Story~ 

Lost and Found: Part 2

At last Denise arrived in northwestern Rwanda. There she met a kind man and his wife who befriended her. When she told them her story, they urged her to stop wandering and stay with them. They invited her into their home and shared their food. They treated her well and spoke to her with love. They told her about Jesus and how much He loves her. She learned that they were Seventh-day Adventists.

Denise loved these people who wanted to help find her family. But when they found no living relative, they asked Denise’s permission to adopt her. She agreed. Finally, she had a home again and someone to care for her.

The couple often talked to Denise about God. They introduced her to Jesus, and soon she accepted Him as her Savior.

But often at night Denise wondered about her birth family. Her adoptive father took Denise to Kigali, the capital city. He introduced her to the manager of the Adventist radio station, the Voice of Hope Radio, and there she told her story. The announcer invited anyone who knew anything about Denise’s family to call in.

Denise learned that her father had died in a refugee camp. But she never learned what had happened to her mother. She found out that she has other relatives in Rwanda, and one day she would like to meet them. But she is torn. She loves her adoptive parents and the God they taught her to love. ”They have given me spiritual roots and a hope for the future,” she says.

Although her earthly father is dead, Denise knows that her heavenly Father loves her unconditionally. It is He who kept her alive as she wandered across several countries in search of a home and a family. ”So many people perished during the genocide, and yet God preserved me,” she says. ”He saved me when I didn’t even know Him, and He brought me from death to new life in Jesus.”

The country of Rwanda has recovered significantly since the genocide. A new School of Medicine at the Adventist University of Central Africa, located in Kigali, will train qualified health professionals to serve in a comprehensive health ministry in a region of the world where the doctor to patient ratio fluctuates between 1 to 16,000 to 1 to 24,200. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help to build dormitories and a cafeteria for the medical students. Thank you for giving.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  website:

Lesson 6* July 30-August 5

Jesus Mingled With People

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Matt. 1:22-23John 1:14Luke 15:3-24Matt. 9:10-13Ps. 51:171 John 2:16Phil. 2:13-15.

Memory Text: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them’” (Luke 15:1-2, NIV).

A deacon in a local church drove a van that took the youth to an old-age home to hold a worship service every month. In the first week, while the youth were leading out, an old man in a wheelchair grabbed the deacon’s hand and held it during the service. This happened month after month. One time, when the youth group came, the man in the wheelchair was not there. The staff said that he would not likely live through the night. The deacon went to his room, and he was lying there, obviously unconscious. Taking the old man’s hand, the deacon prayed that the Lord would grant him eternal life. The seemingly unconscious man squeezed the deacon’s hand tightly, and the deacon knew that his prayer had been heard. With tears in his eyes, he stumbled out of the room, bumping into a woman who said, “I’m his daughter. He’s been waiting for you. My father said, 'Once a month Jesus comes and holds my hand. And I don’t want to die until I have a chance to hold the hand of Jesus one more time.’”-Adapted from The Least of These, a video produced by Old Fashioned Pictures (2004). Used by permission.

Christianity is about becoming “Jesus” for somebody. The next several lessons will focus on aspects of Jesus’ ministry method and how His church can live out His ministry.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 6.

SundayJuly 31

Christ’s Method Alone

Ellen G. White, in an often-quoted paragraph, summarizes what Jesus did in order to reach out and bring the people to salvation.(See also Matt. 9:35-36.)

“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, 'Follow Me.’” - Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.

Let’s analyze this a bit.

  1. Jesus mingled with people as One who desired their good. (He opened networks.)
  2. Jesus sympathized with people. (He formed attachments.)
  3. Jesus ministered to their needs. (This also formed attachments.)
  4. When He combined the first, second, and third elements, He won people’s confidence.
  5. “Then He bade them, 'Follow Me’” (to become disciples).

What we see here is a wholistic model of the gospel. This ministry method will guide us in proclaiming the gospel more fully. Jesus did not separate the social aspects (numbers 1-4) from giving the invitation to follow Him (number 5), and so neither should we. All of the steps working together will give “ true success.” This lesson will focus on the first step of Jesus’ method. Lessons 7-11 will focus on the others.

What do the following verses say about God the Son mingling with us? Matt. 1:22-23John 1:14.

We are all deeply hurt and damaged by sin. But everything that has gone wrong in the world because of sin is addressed by God’s reconciliation with humanity through Jesus’ wholistic incarnational ministry. He mingled with and desired the good of the whole person and the whole human race, even ministering to those who in that culture were deemed “the worst.”

Dwell on this amazing truth that the One who made all created things (see John 1:3), Jesus, took upon Himself human flesh and in the flesh mingled with and ministered to fallen humanity as He did. How should this amazing truth, so full of hope, impact how we mingle with and minister to others?

MondayAugust 1

Lost and Found

Jesus tells three parables in Luke 15:1-32, in direct response to the accusation of the Pharisees and teachers of the law that Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2, NIV).

Read the following passages and note the essence of Jesus’ answer to these accusations.

Luke 15:3-7

Luke 15:8-10

Luke 15:11-24

Each parable begins with something lost and ends with a celebration, an expression of God’s love for us and His profound interest in our salvation.

A pastor was following up a Voice of Prophecy interest and discovered that the whole family was interested in Bible studies, except one. The mother, father, and younger daughter had accepted Christ and were eager to receive the pastor in their home on a regular basis. The older son had rebelled against Christianity and wanted nothing to do with it. Every evening that the pastor visited, the young man left the room and would not participate in the lesson studies. After six weeks of cordial and productive Bible study, the young pastor began to challenge the three who were studying with him to consider baptism. Each had his or her own reason why he or she should wait a few months before deciding. Unexpectedly the young man entered the dining room where the study was in session and announced that he wanted to be baptized as soon as the pastor felt he was ready. He had been sitting in his room following along in a Bible he had purchased at a used bookstore after the first lesson, and all along was growing in conviction that he needed to make a public confession of his faith. Two weeks later the young man was baptized, and one month after that the rest of the family took their stand as well. Considering what we just read in the parables, we can imagine that there was joy in heaven over these decisions.

Jesus purposely placed Himself in contact with such people as the Samaritan woman at the well, a Roman centurion, a “sinful” woman who poured a year’s salary worth of nard on His feet, and countless unrecorded individuals “unworthy” of those who considered themselves too holy to be in their presence.

Have you ever avoided witnessing to a person who would likely not fit well in your church? What would it take for you and your church to find sufficient grace to embrace those “sinners”?

TuesdayAugust 2

Eating With Sinners

Read Matthew 9:10-13. What crucial message should we as individuals take away from Jesus’ response to His critics? ReadHos. 6:6.

Jesus is reclining at the dinner table, where He is fellowshiping and eating with what this society would deem “undesirables.”

What kind of people does your culture deem “undesirables”?

Interrupted by the Pharisees’ question of the appropriateness of Jesus’ mingling with such despicable people, Jesus challenges them to learn the meaning of mercy in contrast to sacrifice. “ 'But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance’ ” (Matt. 9:13, NKJV). How sad that Jesus has to tell religious leaders to learn one of the most crucial truths of their own faith.

Here again we are seeing the same problem that we saw occurring in Old Testament times, that of religious forms and ceremonies becoming more important in the minds of people than the question of how they treated others. How interesting that He quoted the Old Testament here (Hos. 6:6) to make His point.

“Thousands are making the same mistake as did the Pharisees whom Christ reproved at Matthew’s feast. Rather than give up some cherished idea, or discard some idol of opinion, many refuse the truth which comes down from the Father of light. They trust in self, and depend upon their own wisdom, and do not realize their spiritual poverty. . . .

“Fasting or prayer that is actuated by a self-justifying spirit is an abomination in the sight of God.” - Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 280.

It is easy to judge the actions of others by using our own preferences as the standard. We must learn to humbly put self aside and allow the Holy Spirit to translate mercy into conviction.

What does Psalm 51:17 say to us all? How should the knowledge of our own sinfulness help us to understand better the meaning of this text?

WednesdayAugust 3

Mingling Wisely

A speaker asked a group to tell how many “non-Adventist friends” they had. One man in the back of the room stood up and triumphantly proclaimed, “I’m proud to say none!” That man might have meant well, but his words said a lot about what kind of light to the world he was.

As we saw already, Matthew 5:13 says we are the salt of the earth, but this salt can lose its savor. A merchant in Sidon had stored much salt in sheds with a bare earth floor. Because the salt was in direct contact with the earth, it lost its savor. This salt was thrown out and used to pave roads. In the same way, we need to be careful as we mingle with the world: Are we letting the world rob us of our unique savor? Are our values the same as the world’s?

What can we learn from these stories about how not to mingle with the world? Gen. 13:5-1319:12-26Num. 25:1-3; see also 1 John 2:16.

These biblical examples illustrate the need for caution in mingling with people who live by the worldly values listed in 1 John 2:16. We fool ourselves if we think that we must not use caution or that there’s no danger of getting caught up in the fallen principles of the world. At the same time, what good are we going to be to others if we hide ourselves from others in order not to be negatively impacted by their ways?

Note this wise and balanced counsel: “Now, shall professed Christians refuse to associate with the unconverted, and seek to have no communication with them? No, they are to be with them, in the world and not of the world, but not to partake of their ways, not to be impressed by them, not to have a heart open to their customs and practices. Their associations are to be for the purpose of drawing others to Christ.” - Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 3, p. 231.

How many non-Adventist friends do you have? What is the nature of your relationship? Who is influencing whom more, you them or they you?

ThursdayAugust 4

In the Midst of a Crooked Generation

No question, the world needs what we have been given in Christ. It’s nothing in us, ourselves, that makes what we have so important. Rather, it is only by virtue of what we have received from Christ that gives us our imperative to reach others. And it’s precisely because we have been given so much that we are called to reach out to those who don’t have it. “ 'Freely you have received, freely give’ ”(Matt. 10:8, NKJV).

Read Philippians 2:13-15. What are we being told here, and how does it fit in with our calling to reach out to others without falling away ourselves?

We have to be careful about so seeking to protect ourselves from the world that we never come in contact with the souls in it. It’s very easy to stay in our own spiritual and theological comfort zone and to become spiritual introverts. Such introversion can turn into self-centered religion. How often do local churches, for instance, spend more energy battling over worship styles or doctrine than they spend in outreach to a dying world?

Robert Linthicum, in his book Empowering the Poor (pp. 21-30), describes three kinds of churches.

First, the church in the city (community). This church has virtually no contact with the community. The bulk of the church’s emphasis is serving its members’ needs.

Then, there is the church to the city (community). This church knows that it must get involved in ministry to the community. It guesses what the community needs without consulting the community it serves. Then it presents programs to the community. Its ministry risks being irrelevant, with no community ownership.

Last, Linthicum speaks of the church with the city (community). This church does a demographic analysis to understand those whom it serves. Members mingle with leaders and residents of the community, asking them what their real needs are. Their service to the community is more likely to be relevant and well-received because the community has already given input and trusts the process. This church joins the community in their struggle to decide what kind of community they want and is a partner with the community toward realizing that goal. Such a church gets involved with community organizations and may help the community to add lacking services, if needed. There is a mutual ownership and buy-in of this partnership to meet real needs.

FridayAugust 5

Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Our Example,” pp. 17-28, in The Ministry of Healing; “Levi-Matthew,” pp. 272-280, inThe Desire of Ages.

The church’s mission is to the world, not only unto itself. It was organized for service to others. A church of another faith community has a sign at the end of the driveway, just before the driveway enters the road into the community in front of the church. The sign says: “Servant’s Entrance.” That says it all, doesn’t it?

Jesus was a great mingler, and Ellen White indicates that so must be God’s church today. The members are salt and must permeate the community.

“There is no call here to hibernate in the wilderness evangelizing jack rabbits. Here is an awesome invitation given by the prophet of the Lord to mingle, like Jesus, with the unlovely, the poor, and the lost. Jesus was friends with sinners. He attended their parties-met them where they were. Jesus never compromised His faith, but He loved to go where there were sinners. The people most comfortable around Jesus were sinners, while the ones most uncomfortable were the so-called saints. But Jesus didn’t pay attention to that, because He had His priorities straight. He came to save sinners. That was His mission, and it should be our mission, even if we make some saints upset. . . .

“For too long Adventists have isolated themselves in safe havens and ghettos, as if the rest of the world did not exist. That time has ended. We cannot, we dare not, live in apostasy any longer. It is time to enter the community as individuals and as a church.”-Russell Burrill, How to Grow an Adventist Church (Fallbrook, Calif.: Hart Books, 2009), p. 50.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the idea expressed above that by isolating ourselves we are “in apostasy.” Do you think that’s too strong, or is the point valid? If so, what biblical justification can you find to back up your answer?
  2. Though we need to mingle in order to minister, why is the support from, and accountability to, the church family an important factor that we mustn’t neglect? How can we as a church body help one another as we seek to minster to the world but not get pulled into it?
  3. Discuss this idea of churches spending more energy bickering over internal issues than they spend on outreach. How can we avoid this deadly trap?

Inside Story~ 

Lost and Found: Part 1

”Denise!” her mother called. ”Come!” Her mother grabbed the little girl’s hand.

”What’s wrong?” the four-year-old asked as she ran to keep pace with her mother.

”Soldiers! They’re coming! We must hide!” Denise didn’t understand her mother’s words, but she felt her mother’s fear. As they approached their little home in Rwanda, Denise saw her father tying a bundle.

Together the little family ran down the dusty trail that headed east. Other people joined them, and soon the path became crowded with people running and crying. It was 1994, and millions were fleeing for their lives.

They walked for hours, hiding in the tall grass or the small forests when someone thought soldiers were nearby. At last, the family reached the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo where they could rest.

The family settled into a refugee camp made of lean-tos and plastic tarps that offered a little shelter from the hot sun and the pounding rain. But at least they were safe-they thought.

Then men with knives and guns entered the camp, and people screamed and fled. Denise ran, too. But where were Mama and Papa? Denise followed the crowd, calling for her parents. But no one answered.

Weary, Denise sat down to rest. A man offered to carry her on his shoulders. She felt safe. But then he became tired and put her down. Suddenly the sound of gunfire and screams tore the air. Denise scampered off the road and hid until the shooting stopped. Then she joined others seeking safety. She saw people lying on the road. Then she saw the man who had carried her. He was lying so still. Somehow Denise understood that he was dead.

Denise walked on, blindly following the other people. Sometimes she called out, ”Mama, Papa,” but she never heard an answer. Denise found a family who allowed her to stay with them in exchange for work. She suffered their abuse. She fled the home and found an orphanage where she could stay.

When Denise heard that the fighting was over, she wanted to go home and find her parents. But where was home?

Denise remained in the orphanage until she was old enough to leave. Then she began the long walk back to Rwanda. She slept in the bush at night. As she walked, she often asked God why she had to suffer so much. She didn’t hear God answer, but when she grew discouraged and hungry, people shared their food with her and gave her hope to keep walking.

To be continued in next week’s Inside Story.

Lesson 5* July 23-29

Jesus on Community Outreach

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Luke 4:16-1910:25-37Matt. 5:13Isa. 2:8John 4:35-38Matt. 13:3-9.

Memory Text: “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:23, NKJV).

Robert Louis Stevenson, best known for his adventure story Treasure Island, had been a sickly boy who couldn’t go to school regularly. Finally his parents hired a teacher to teach him and a nanny to help with his personal needs. One night when his nanny came to check on him before he went to bed, he was out of bed, and his hands and nose were pressed against the window. His nanny firmly told him to get back in bed before he got a chill.

Robert said to her, “Come to the window, and see what I’m seeing.”

The nanny came to see. Down below, on the street, there was a lamplighter lighting the streetlights. “Look,” said Robert, “a man is poking holes in the darkness!”-Margaret Davis, Fear Not! Is There Anything Too Hard for God? (Aspect Books, 2011), p. 332.

We’ve seen a bit of what the Old Testament said about helping those in need. We are now going to look at what the New Testament says, and what better place to start than with Jesus? And one of Jesus’ well-known teachings is that we are to be “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). In so doing, we reflect Jesus, the True Light of the world (John 8:12). Jesus’ teachings, which He modeled in His own earthly ministry, provide powerful instructions concerning how we, through Him, can poke holes in the darkness.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 30.

SundayJuly 24

Jesus’ Mission Statement

Jesus, the young rabbi from Nazareth, had become very popular in the region of Galilee (Luke 4:15). When He spoke, “the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:28-29, NKJV). One Sabbath, when handed the scroll of Isaiah, Jesus read the first two verses of Isaiah 61, stopping in midsentence just before the phrase “and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isa. 61:2, NIV).

Read Luke 4:16-19. Where have we heard these words before? (See Isa. 61:1-2.) What was Jesus proclaiming by reading those texts?

As we already saw, the phrase “the year of the LORD’s favor” is identified as the year of jubilee (see Leviticus 25:1-55). In this visit to Nazareth, Jesus quotes a messianic passage from Scripture and assures His hearers that “ 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’ ” (Luke 4:21, NIV). In this sermon He reveals Himself as the Anointed One who preaches good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, sight for the blind, release for the oppressed, and jubilee restoration. This list well describes His earthly ministry, which was focused on teaching, healing, and ministering, especially to those in need.

Why would Jesus stop short of completing the sentence in Isaiah 61:2?

Perhaps Jesus stopped short of the phrase “the day of vengeance of our God” because Jesus did not want His ministry to be associated with the prevailing concept that the Messiah would come to lead armies to vanquish the oppressors of Israel and bring them under Israel’s power. That was a false conception that would, unfortunately, keep many of His fellow countrymen from seeing Him and His ministry for what it really was. Instead, He focused on what He would do for those who needed what He had to offer right then and there, regardless of the political situation of the time.

What should it say to us that Jesus announces His ministry in this way; that is, what should we take away for ourselves by His emphasizing here the practical work that we would be doing?

MondayJuly 25

Loving Your Neighbor

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke 10:27).

Read Luke 10:25-37. What message is given here to us in regard to the whole question of helping those in need?

The expert in the law understood that all the commandments revolve around loving God with all you have and loving your neighbor as yourself. The question that remained to be answered was “Who is my neighbor?”

Given that the prevailing thought among the people of Israel in Christ’s time was to favor their own kind as neighbors and relegate all others as outsiders, this expert in the law sought to have Jesus clarify the issue. The parable that Jesus tells reveals a totally different perspective. Our neighbor is anyone we encounter who is in need. Being a neighbor is meeting the needs of a neighbor. The priest and the Levite were more concerned about defiling themselves and protecting their godly duties from contamination. What a convenient way to use their religion as an excuse not to have to die to self in order to help someone who, most likely, could never pay them back.

In contrast, the Samaritan saw this wounded “outsider” and “enemy” as his neighbor, mercifully meeting his needs rather than his own. The point is that instead of asking “Who is my neighbor?” we need to be asking, “Who will be a neighbor to the downtrodden and oppressed?” It doesn’t matter who a person is: The one in need is the one whom we should help-period.

“No distinction on account of nationality, race, or caste, is recognized by God. He is the Maker of all mankind. All men are of one family by creation, and all are one through redemption. Christ came to demolish every wall of partition, to throw open every compartment of the temple, that every soul may have free access to God. His love is so broad, so deep, so full, that it penetrates everywhere.” - Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 386.

What prejudices might be hindering you from being the neighbor you must be?

TuesdayJuly 26

The Whole Recipe

“ 'You are the salt of the earth’ ” (Matt. 5:13, NIV).

In this passage, Jesus is calling His followers to be “salt,” which is a transforming agent. The church is a “saltshaker,” which contains the “salt of the earth.” With what or whom should we, this “salt,” mix? Only with ourselves, or with ingredients different from us?

You can better understand the answer to this question if you fill one loaf pan with only salt and another loaf pan with bread that has salt as one of its ingredients. In the first pan, salt is the whole recipe; it would hardly be tasty, much less edible. In the second pan, salt is part of the recipe and is mixed with ingredients different from itself. And, as such, it transforms a loaf of bread from bland to delicious. Salt does more good when it mixes with elements unlike itself. The same is true of Christians. This won’t happen if we stay comfortably in the church “saltshaker.”

Thus, there’s a point here we shouldn’t miss. We can, in every which way, be moral in that we don’t smoke or drink or carouse or gamble or engage in crime. All that is important. But the question isn’t just what we don’t do. Rather, it is What do we do?That is, what do we do to help our community and those who are in need?

Read Matthew 5:13 again, concentrating on the rest of the verse. How can the salt lose its savor?

“But if the salt has lost its savor; if there is only a profession of godliness, without the love of Christ, there is no power for good. The life can exert no saving influence upon the world.” - Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 439.

Go back to the recipe symbol. As we saw, if all we have is salt, it is no good. In fact, too much salt in the diet can be toxic. Salt has to be mixed with what is different from it. Thus, if we are just like the world, we won’t make a difference in it. We will have nothing to offer. The salt becomes good for nothing. And what does Jesus say happens to it then?

However, permeated with the savor of the love of Christ, we will desire to become “insiders” with the “outsiders,” mixing with others in order to be a transforming agent, to be something that will make a positive difference in their lives and, by extension, leading others to what really matters in life: salvation in Jesus.

Read Deuteronomy 12:3031:20Isaiah 2:8. What danger do these texts warn about, and how can we be careful not to fall into that trap?

WednesdayJuly 27

On Being a Farmer

Read John 4:35-38. What is Jesus telling us here about the different steps needed in reaching souls?

The work of a farmer is multifaceted. Other types of farming work must be done before a harvest can be plentiful (Matt. 9:35-38). Not only reapers are needed in the Lord’s harvest field. Can you imagine a farmer at harvesttime saying to his farmhands, “Harvesttime is here, so we must start planting seeds”? Reaping is best done after you have been farming all along.

Farming includes preparing the soil, for not all ground is good ground at first. (Read Matt. 13:3-9.) What can your church do in your community to soften “hard ground” and remove “rocks” and “thorns”?

Workers have done the hard farming work before the harvest, and other workers reap the benefits of their labor. Sometimes evangelistic outreach strategies have emphasized reaping more than they do the preparatory farming. This is not how it should be done. The soil should be prepared long before the evangelist just shows up and starts preaching in hopes of reaping a harvest.

We should look at working in the harvest field as a process: testing the soil, preparing/cultivating the soil, planting, watering, fertilizing, fighting pests, waiting, reaping, and preserving the harvest.

Reaping the harvest is only one part of the process. In the church, the “farming” process could include soil-testing activities, such as community needs assessment surveys, demographics, and interviews with community leaders. There can be soil preparing/cultivating activities, such as meeting needs in the community which are revealed by the community assessment; seed-planting activities, such as seminars, Bible studies, and small groups; and praying for the rain-the Holy Spirit. Few people are won to Christ with only one exposure. We need to nurture them with a process of multiple exposures, increasing the likelihood that they will be ready for harvesting. If we rely only on scattered events, it is unlikely that the new plants will survive until the harvest.

What role should you be playing in the whole process of winning souls, as opposed to the role, if any, that you are now in?

ThursdayJuly 28

Church Planting

Read Matthew 10:5-10. Why would Jesus send His disciples out into the surrounding towns and villages without any resources?

It seems strange that Jesus’ disciples would have direct orders to enter their ministry territory with little to sustain themselves. Apparently, Jesus placed His disciples in this situation to teach them dependence on God and also the importance of creating friendships through service to the local residents. These local residents would then value their service enough to provide support for the ministry.

Pastor Frank’s local conference asked him to plant a church in a section of a large city that had virtually no Adventist presence. Initially, he had no budget to do so. He consulted a map and determined the boundaries of that section of the city and studied the demographics of the people there. Then he parked his car in the busiest part of the neighborhood and began going from business to business asking questions about life in that area. He visited with political, business, and social agency leaders, asking questions about the greatest needs in that community. He made friends with some of the local residents, who invited him to join a local civic club. In that setting he discovered other leaders who opened the way to rent the annex of a local Presbyterian church. The civic club members provided seed money to buy paint and cleaning supplies to refurbish the annex to use for community services. Interviews with community leaders indicated that health care was an important felt need in the community. Therefore, Pastor Frank brought together a team of volunteers who ran various health-screening programs and follow-up meetings in the annex for community residents. Those who benefited from the screenings and programs paid a modest fee, which helped pay the expenses. Soon a branch Sabbath School was started, and some of the residents began to attend.

Pastor Frank soon learned that one of the best ways to plant a church is to first plant a ministry that meets the needs of the community-and then grow a church through that ministry. This community-based ministry spawned a Seventh-day Adventist church of more than 140 members.

Pastor Frank’s story illustrates what can happen when we follow Jesus’ teachings about reaching our community. How did Jesus live out His own teachings about ministry? Next week we will begin exploring Christ’s ministry method, which “will give true success in reaching the people.” - Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.

FridayJuly 29

Further Thought: Read other teachings of Jesus that inform you and your church’s role in the community: Matthew 7:1223:23,25:31-46Mark 4:1-346:1-13Luke 6:3611:4212:13-2114:16-2416:1318:18-2719:1-10John 10:1012:817:13-18. Read Ellen G. White, “ 'The Least of These My Brethren,’ ” pp. 637-641, in The Desire of Ages; “The Missionary’s Pattern,” in Signs of the Times, March 19, 1894.

“Unless the church is the light of the world, it is darkness.” - Ellen G. White, in Signs of the Times, September 11, 1893. That’s a powerful thought. It reminds us of Jesus’ words, “ 'He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad’ ” (Matt. 12:30, NKJV). Jesus is making it plain: there is no neutral territory in the great controversy. We are on Christ’s side or the devil’s. To have been given great light and to do nothing with it is, really, to be working against it. We have been called to be lights in the world; if we aren’t light, then we are darkness. Though the immediate context is different, the principle is the same: “ 'If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!’ ” (Matt. 6:23, NIV). Perhaps all this could be summed up with the words: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).

Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss how we are to mingle with the world in order to reach out to others. How do we strike the right balance here; that is, how do we mingle with the world in a way that we can do others some good, while at the same time not getting so caught up in it that we become part of the problem, not the solution?
  2. So often, if we are involved in our community, the question of politics arises. After all, many of the issues that we want to help with-poverty, education, health care, and so on-are part of the political debate. How can we be careful that we don’t allow the inevitable polarization of politics to contaminate what we want to do? Some political involvement seems unavoidable, so how can we position ourselves in a way to keep out of the political fray as much as possible?
  3. Or, on the other hand, are there situations in which we need to be in the political arena in order to best minister to the community? If so, what are they, and how do we operate in ways so that we don’t compromise our gospel commission?

Inside Story~ 

The Unseen Companion

Global Mission Pioneers have been called by God to live in areas where there are no organized churches. They make friends, lead people to Christ, strengthen and nurture believers, and provide leadership to the churches. These pioneers remain in their assigned region as long as they are needed, establishing a central congregation and then satellite congregations in neighboring villages.

In South Sudan, they labor under difficult circumstances-without electricity, decent roads, running water, or many of the other conveniences most of us take for granted. Here is an amazing story that took place in southern Sudan some years ago.

William and Charles had built a church in one village and asked two more Global Mission Pioneers to join them in holding evangelistic meetings in a nearby unentered village. They invited everyone to the meetings, and many came. Night after night, the people listened to the gospel message, but not one person took a stand for the truth.

William and his fellow mission pioneers were puzzled. The people had been kind, had offered them a place to stay and food to eat. Night after night they had listened to the messages. Why was there no response?

The pioneers went from home to home asking the people to accept Jesus, but nobody wanted to join the church. The four were saddened by the lack of results, but they encouraged each other that they had sown seeds of faith.

It was time for two of the Global Mission Pioneers to return to their own area. Before they left, Charles wanted to take a picture of the group. The four climbed a hill where they had often prayed. The three stood together as Charles snapped the picture.

When Charles developed the film, he found not three, but four men standing on the hillside. The man standing beside William was dressed in white and held a Bible in his hand. The faithful pioneers knew that God had sent an angel to encourage them in their work.

”We knew from that picture that the gospel work is God’s work,” William said. ”He sent his angels to help us and to confirm our beliefs. We knew God was pleased with our work, even though we hadn’t seen results. It’s sure to bear fruit in the end.”

Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help build a children’s discipleship center at the Juba Adventist Central Church in the capital city of South Sudan. The children, who make up approximately 45 percent of the church membership, currently meet under a tree for Sabbath School and other children’s meetings. Thank you for your generous support.

Lesson 4
* July 16-22

Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 2

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Ezek. 37:1-14Eph. 2:10Ezek. 47:1-8Matt. 5:16Rev. 22:1-2Isa. 61:1-11.

Memory Text: “ 'Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live’ ” (Ezekiel 47:9, NIV).

A neighborhood that had flourished in the 1950s and early 1960s had become like a war zone in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The majority of the families moved away, leaving behind a trail of abandoned, run-down, and burned-out tenements. Businesses moved out and drugs and crime moved in, further making the neighborhood very undesirable.

In 1986 a Christian family left their comfortable home in suburbia and moved into this depressed urban community. A pastor from another city joined them. They rebuilt two burned-out buildings and made them their homes. The two families spent time in the streets, meeting with community groups and mingling with those who remained in the area. These two families were the catalyst that God used to begin a church that brought healing and transformation to this dead community. Their work and impact continues today, having made a big difference in many lives there.

God has something to say about the role of His church in “hopeless” situations such as this. This week’s lesson continues “listening” to the chorus of Old Testament voices that call upon God’s people to reveal His character of benevolence to the world.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 23.

SundayJuly 17

Alive in Christ

The grace of God that brings revival to those who are dead in transgression and sin is graphically revealed in Ezekiel 37. In vision, the prophet Ezekiel is transported by the Spirit to a valley full of dead, dry, and scattered bones. These bones represent the whole house of Israel. God asks, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezek. 37:3).

The answer to this question unfolds as the prophet prophesies to the bones.

Read Ezekiel 37:1-14. What was God going to do for His people?

The results of the message delivered to the dry bones are that (1) they “came to life and stood up on their feet-a vast army” (Ezek. 37:10, NIV); (2) God will settle His people in their own land (Ezek. 37:14); (3) and they will know that it was God who did it (Ezek. 37:14).

But being revived is not enough. God’s people are revived for a mission, for a purpose. Israel was to be a light to the nations.

Read Ephesians 2:10. Why are we made alive-spiritually re-created-in Christ?

“Our acceptance with God is sure only through His beloved Son, and good works are but the result of the working of His sin-pardoning love. They are no credit to us, and we have nothing accorded to us for our good works by which we may claim a part in the salvation of our souls. Salvation is God’s free gift to the believer, given to him for Christ’s sake alone. The troubled soul may find peace through faith in Christ, and his peace will be in proportion to his faith and trust. He cannot present his good works as a plea for the salvation of his soul.

“But are good works of no real value? Is the sinner who commits sin every day with impunity, regarded of God with the same favor as the one who through faith in

Christ tries to work in his integrity? The Scripture answers, 'We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.’

“In His divine arrangement, through His unmerited favor, the Lord has ordained that good works shall be rewarded. We are accepted through Christ’s merit alone; and the acts of mercy, the deeds of charity, which we perform, are the fruits of faith.” - Ellen G. White,Selected Messages, book 3, pp. 199, 200.

MondayJuly 18

A Flowing River

Read Ezekiel 47:1-8. What’s going on with the temple that Ezekiel saw in vision?

The temple appears to have sprung a leak. You may wonder, did a pipe break, or what? In this case, the leak was a good thing.

This water leaking out of the temple was going “toward the east.” East of Jerusalem is the Salt Sea (also known as the Dead Sea), the lowest body of water on earth. Between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea is approximately 21 miles (about 34 kilometers) of largely desert country, which includes the Arabah, also known as the depression of the Jordan and the Dead Sea. That sea itself is so salty that nothing can live there.

However, when the water from the temple reaches it, the dead waters of the sea are “healed.” This can be understood symbolically as God’s church, the temple (1 Pet. 2:4-5), reaching out and being a source of health and healing to those dead in trespasses and in sin.

Read Matthew 5:16. What is Jesus saying to us here in regard to how we are to represent Him to the world?

The Zambezi River in Zambia, Africa, starts as a shallow brook that comes from under a tree. As it flows toward Victoria Falls it grows from a brook (ankle-deep) to knee-deep, to waist-deep, and then to a river that is deep enough to swim in. Likewise, though small at the beginning, the river from the temple increased in momentum and impact, and became a river “deep enough to swim in-a river that no one could cross” (Ezek. 47:5, NIV).

Your church’s healing influence may start small, but it can grow until it transforms your community! “Our work has been presented to me as, in its beginning, a small, very small, rivulet.” - Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p. 171.

Light, water-both of these are images used to talk about what God can do through us to help others. How can we become better conduits for ministering to those in need?

TuesdayJuly 19

The Church: A Source of Life

“Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish . . .; where the river flows everything will live” (Ezek. 47:9, NIV).

Ezekiel’s prophecy illustrates that where the river that comes from God’s church flows, there is life. Ezekiel 47:10 adds to the amazement of it all. What a strange sight that would be: a body of water known as being without fish because nothing can live there suddenly becomes a place where fishermen will be casting their nets and catching many fish.

The whole point is that through the power of God working in His people, life can exist where before there was none.

“Where God is at work there is no hopeless situation, no group of people who are beyond redemption, no heritage from an unhappy past which need condemn us to a future delivered over to despair.”-The Interpreter’s Bible, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1956), vol. 6, p. 328.

God’s amazing grace does amazing things-for anyone who will accept it. Here again, we have the message of the gospel. God, through us, can give hope to those who are discouraged, despondent, dry, and dying, both spiritually and physically.

Compare Ezekiel 47:12 with Revelation 22:1-2. What do these two passages tell you about the ultimate destiny of those who are healed and made alive by Jesus through His church?

Someday God’s people-including community members God has healed and made alive through the selflessness of church members-will be in the new earth, where there is another river, one flowing from the throne of God. There will be no deserts, dryness, or death there.

In the meantime-while we wait for that blessed reality-God wants His churches to be places from which flow healing and abundant life to the community. He wants to work through us to revitalize and transform the deserts, depressions, and Dead Seas in our territory, bringing them abundant life in Jesus (John 10:10), which is the wholistic Adventist message in a nutshell.

The prophet Amos presents a similar picture to Ezekiel 47:1-23. Read Amos 5:24. How does this picture compare with the role of your church in your community? In what tangible ways is your church a healing river there?

WednesdayJuly 20

Jubilee Promises

The Old Testament is filled with the idea that those who have been blessed materially and spiritually will reach out to those who have not.

Read Isaiah 61:1-11. What is God saying to His people here, and how can we apply what’s said here to ourselves and to our calling before the Lord? See also Luke 4:18.

Isaiah 61:1-11 begins with a declaration that the Spirit of the Lord works through the Anointed One to preach good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness and despair for the prisoners (Isa. 61:1). All of the elements of this promise have their fulfillment in the “year of the LORD’s favor.” The “year of the LORD’s favor” is a reference to the year of jubilee, which we already saw was filled with implications for the necessity of ministering to the needs of the poor.

Thus, the mourners who are comforted, the grieving ones in Zion who are provided for, those who receive “beauty instead of ashes” and “the oil of joy instead of mourning,” and those who wear “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isa. 61:3, NIV) are the very ones who will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated. Those blessed by the Messianic jubilee become transformers of society, renewing the ruined cities (Isa. 61:4). God’s servants are called priests and ministers and are supported by the wealth of the surrounding nations (Isa. 61:5-6).

The images that we find in Isaiah 61 of God’s Anointed One transforming the surrounding peoples through the prosperity of those who are in covenant with Him (Isa. 61: 8-9) apply to those who, in the present day, have been called to be ministers and missionaries in communities around the world. Shouldn’t the same transforming influence of this prophecy be felt when we delight greatly in the Lord, rejoice in our God, and stand clothed in garments of salvation and righteousness in the midst of our community (Isa. 61:10-11)?

Read Isaiah 61:9. What a powerful testimony to what God could do in His people. Could the same thing be said about us today? Why, or why not?

ThursdayJuly 21

The Church-A Change Agent

Read Micah 6:1-16. What is the Lord speaking out against here?

Micah joins the other Old Testament prophets who emphasize that external forms of religion that lack a humble and intentional manifestation of justice and mercy are never acceptable to a just and merciful God.

What is the crucial message of Micah 6:8?

“True religion is practical. To be sure, it includes the rites and ceremonies of the church, but . . . it is not so much a matter of abstaining from food as it is of sharing food with the hungry. Practical godliness is the only kind of religion recognized at the judgment bar of God (Matt. 25:34-46).” - Ellen G. White, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 306.

Today God continues to reject the apostasy of an external religion that excludes the practical godliness expressed in Micah 6:8. Our religious forms are not an end in and of themselves; they are a means to an end, and that end is Christ, who is to be revealed in us.

In the introduction to this week’s lesson we met two families who moved into a “hopeless” community in order to minister to their needs. The two families formed a small group in one of their living rooms with new friends from the neighborhood. The members of this growing small group earnestly prayed that God would show them how to revive their community. They partnered with a Christian development agency and began recruiting volunteers to join them in rebuilding the run-down tenements around them.

If you visited this community today, you would see a thriving new community doing so much better than before. This became a reality because a small church was intent on demonstrating Jesus’ love in a practical way, which transformed their community. What this work reveals is one very practical and powerful way in which Christ was able to work through His people to reach out and minister to others.

Though God was speaking to His people as a whole, in verse 8 the “you” was in the singular. God was talking to each one personally. How well do you, personally, reveal what the Lord says here “is good”?

FridayJuly 22

Further Thought: Read Jeremiah 22:1-16Ezekiel 16:49Zechariah 7:9-10. Read Ellen G. White Comments, pp. 1165, 1166, in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4; “God’s Design in Our Sanitariums,” pp. 227, 228, in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8, NIV). How much clearer could the Lord be in regard to what He asks of His people? God has shown us what is “good,” and this “good” is the same word used again and again in Genesis 1:1-31, referring to the pre-Fall Creation. Thus, implicitly we are pointed back to the ideal, to what God originally had for us and, ultimately, what He will restore to us after Jesus returns. The phrase translated “require of you” could also be (and perhaps more accurately) translated as “seek from you.” That is, what does God “seek from” us, we, His redeemed people covered by the grace of Christ? The answer is shown in how we are to relate to others and to God. First, we are to act justly. This is so appropriate given the topic of this quarter, which is on how we can help those who are often helpless victims of injustice. Second, we are to love mercy. We live in a world that, at times, can be so unmerciful. What a powerful witness we could be were we to love mercy and show that love by revealing mercy in our lives toward others. Third, we are to walk humbly before God.If the Lord in Micah 6:4 referred them back to their deliverance from Egypt as a reason for them to be humble and faithful before Him, how much more so should that apply to us, we who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus? The reality of the Cross, and what it cost to redeem us, should always keep us humble before our God.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What other Old Testament texts can you find that talk about our obligation to the needy?
  2. In Amos 5:1-27, especially  Amos 5:21-24, we find strong words about the religious people in the time of Amos, about God’s showing more interest in how others are treated than in the religious rituals that He Himself instituted. What should this be saying to us about where we should have our emphasis?
  3. How can we guard against the danger of getting so caught up in reaching out to people’s material needs that we neglect their spiritual ones? How can we strike the right balance in our desire to minster to the less fortunate and needy among us?

Inside Story~ 

Baxter’s Bible Studies

Due to the civil war in Sudan, Baxter had to leave his home for a long time. While away, he met some Seventh-day Adventists and studied the Bible with them. He joined the Adventist church and was eager to share his new faith with his family. When he was finally able to return home he learned to his dismay that his family wasn’t interested in hearing anything about Seventh-day Adventists.

”What’s wrong with the church we already go to?” Baxter’s brother asked. ”Why do you have to stir everything up?”

Then Baxter’s nephew died. At the funeral, Baxter shared his hope that they would all see his nephew again when Jesus comes. After the funeral, the local priest confronted him.

”Who gave you permission to preach here?” the priest demanded.

Baxter responded, ”My permission comes from Jesus Christ, who said to go into all the world and preach the gospel.”

The priest became angrier and threatened to hit Baxter, but another man stepped between the two. ”We can’t fight at a funeral,” the man said. ”Let’s sit down and discuss this matter carefully.”

After the funeral, Baxter and the priest sat under a mango tree to talk while about 200 people gathered to listen. The two men talked for several hours. The priest would state a traditional belief, and Baxter would show him what the Bible said on the subject. Little by little the people gathered around began to understand the differences between what they had been taught all their lives and what the Bible taught.

Some were unhappy that Baxter would discredit their church, but others wanted to know more about this new faith.

Baxter began visiting every home in the village. The people’s culture considered it rude to not sit and listen to a visitor who comes to their homes, so again and again Baxter was invited to share his faith with the villagers. Even those who didn’t want to hear what he had to say would listen to him just to be polite. One family, afraid to offend their visitor, invited him to sit down. Then they left their own home so they wouldn’t have to listen to him!

But Baxter didn’t give up. He kept returning until some members of the family would listen to him. After five months of study, this family was among the first to take their stand for the Bible and join the Seventh-day Adventist church.

Baxter taught the new believers to give Bible studies, and soon the little group doubled to 32 members. They built a small church and school of local materials, and the congregation continues to grow.

Lesson 3
* July 9-15

Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 1

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Exod. 22:21-2323:2-9Amos 8:4-7Isa. 1:13-1758:1-14Acts 20:35.

Memory Text: “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow”(Psalm 146:7-9, NIV).

Years ago, on a cold day in New York City, a 10-year-old boy, barefoot and shivering, peered in the window of a shoe store. A woman came to the boy and asked why he was looking so earnestly in the window; he said that he was asking God to give him a pair of shoes. The woman took him by the hand into the store. She asked the clerk to bring six pairs of socks; she also requested a basin of water and a towel. Taking the lad to the back of the store, she removed her gloves, washed his feet, and dried them with the towel. The clerk returned with the socks. The woman placed a pair on the boy’s feet and then bought him a pair of shoes. She patted his head and asked him if he felt more comfortable now. As she turned to go, the astonished lad took her hand and tearfully asked, “Are you God’s wife?”.

That little boy spoke more truth than he realized. God’s church is His bride, His wife. His character is expressed in the memory verse. As transformed members of His church, we must reflect that character. If we are truly His, we will passionately care about and provide for the poor and the powerless.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 16.

SundayJuly 10

Mercy and Justice: Earmarks of God’s People

Even in early Israel, social justice was very much a part of God’s laws and His ideal for His people. Social justice is God’s original intention for human society: a world in which basic needs are met, people flourish, and peace reigns.

Read the following verses and summarize what they say about mercy and justice, or what is sometimes called “social justice.” Exod. 22:21-2323:2-9Lev. 19:10Prov. 14:3129:7.

Mercy and justice are also highlighted in the Sabbath laws given to ancient Israel. God outlined three types of Sabbaths.

How is the idea of mercy and justice reflected in each of these Sabbaths? Exod. 20:8-1023:10-11Lev. 25:8-55.

  1. Instructions in keeping the seventh-day Sabbath included providing equal opportunity for everyone to rest, including servants, animals, and foreigners.
  2. Every seven years, the Sabbath year was a time for canceling debts, for showing concern for the poor, and for freeing slaves. God instructed His people to include the animals in the benefits of the Sabbath year (see Lev. 25:6-7).
  3. The year of jubilee came on the fiftieth year, after seven Sabbath years. Property that was sold was restored to the original owner; debts were forgiven; and prisoners and slaves were set free. Jubilee was an equalizer of society, a reboot to give everyone an opportunity to begin anew. It was a “safeguard . . . against the extremes of either wealth or want.” - Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 185.

Here, in the very fabric of Hebrew society, we can see how justice and mercy worked together in favor of the less fortunate in society.

MondayJuly 11

Universal Concerns

Read Genesis 2:1-3. What does this tell us about the universality of the Sabbath?

If we truly observe the Sabbath, we will not remain satisfied with only our own rest (Exod. 23:12), redemption (Deut. 5:12-15), and ultimate restoration in the new earth (Isa. 66:22-23). Indeed, the seventh-day Sabbath tells us that God is the Creator and Rest Provider of all who live on this earth. The universality of the Sabbath rest implies a commonality among all of us, rich or poor. The common Fatherhood of God means a common equality and concern among human beings.

Also, as we saw yesterday, the concern for social justice extends from weekly Sabbaths to sabbatical years and to the year of jubilee. The principles behind the three Sabbaths portrayed in Leviticus 23:1-44 and 25:1-55 extend to Christians as well. The seventh-day Sabbath will forever point back to Creation, as well as forward to the Cross and new earth. It will strengthen our relationship with our compassionate Creator and Savior, thus bringing us closer to the ones He deeply loves-people who have deep needs, who are poor or suffering.

Please note, however, that the Sabbath year and the year of jubilee illustrate eternal principles, but this doesn’t mean that we are to literally observe these festivals now. We aren’t. Unlike the seventh-day Sabbath, which was instituted at the Creation in a pre-Fall world, these are among the ceremonial Sabbaths that were a “shadow of things to come” (Col. 2:16-17), pointing forward to the ministry and sacrifice of Jesus and then ending with His death on the cross. Instead, these ceremonial Sabbaths point to a principle in regard to how we should treat others, especially those in need. As a redeemed people, Israel had an obligation to be a light to the world, showing forth God’s mercy to others with no partiality. With thanksgiving they were to represent God’s character to those who didn’t know Him.

Read Amos 8:4-7. What was going on here, and how can we make sure that we, in our dealings with others, aren’t guilty of doing the same thing? What significance, too, do you find, given the context, in the words “ 'Surely I will never forget any of their works’ ”?

TuesdayJuly 12

Prophetic Voice: Part 1

“ 'Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy’ ” (Prov. 31:8-9, NIV)

How do we take the principles here and apply them for today?

So far this week we have noted that God wants His people to express His characteristics of mercy and justice as part of the ideal behavior of His people. The Hebrew prophets often spoke up on behalf of the needy, calling God’s people to repentance for misrepresenting His concern for the marginalized and oppressed. In fact, God equates selfless redemptive behavior with true worship.

Read Isaiah 1:13-17. What does this pronouncement say about God’s definition of true worship? How can we take what is said here, in this immediate context, and apply it to ourselves today? That is, what should these verses say to us now?

Though, of course, many of the Old Testament prophets pointed to future events beyond their lifetimes, they also heavily focused on spiritual and moral reform and unselfish service in the present. The prophetic voice of God’s servants rang loudest when His people made extravagant efforts to worship but did not reflect God’s compassion for the suffering of those around them. One can’t imagine a worse witness than those who are too busy “worshiping” God that they don’t have time to help those in need. Might not a form of “worship” be revealed by those who are serving the Lord by ministering to the needs of others?

WednesdayJuly 13

Prophetic Voice: Part 2

Isaiah 58:1-14 provides a special prophetic message of rebuke and hope for God’s people in Isaiah’s time and for us today.

After an announcement that He is upset with His people (see Isa. 58:1), what is God’s description of those He is addressing? Read Isaiah 58:2.

Though we don’t know the exact “tone of voice” expressed here, it is clear that the Lord is condemning their outward shows of piety and faith because He knows how false it all is. The NIV translates it like this: “ 'For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God’ ” (Isa. 58:2, NIV).

Read Isaiah 58:3-14. What else is the Lord saying to these people about what’s wrong with their religious forms (in this case fasting)? What’s the bigger issue here?

Notice something crucial here: so often worship can be self-centered: Lord, do this for me and do that for me. And, of course, there’s a time and place for seeking the Lord for our own personal needs. But what the Lord is saying here is that true worship will include reaching out to “the hungry,” to “the afflicted,” and to the “poor.” But the amazing thing is that this ministry to others blesses not only the recipients of the help but those giving the help. Read what the texts say about what happens to those who reach out and help those who are in need. In ministering to others, in giving to others, we get blessed ourselves. Who hasn’t, at some point, experienced to some degree the reality of these promises from God? Who hasn’t seen what joy and satisfaction and hope come to those who help others who can’t help themselves? It’s hard to imagine a better way to reflect the character of Christ to the world.

Read Acts 20:35. How have you experienced the reality of these words in your own ministry to others?

ThursdayJuly 14

A Force for Good

Having the truth, however wonderful, is not enough. In Isaiah 58:1-14, God’s people were passionate about their religious forms and practices and yet weak in applying their faith in a practical manner. God is calling His church today to be a force for good, echoing the call of the Old Testament prophets to demonstrate the truth about His character.

Read the following texts. How can we, as a local church and as a world church, seek to do what we have been called by God to do in this area? 

Ps. 82:3

Isa. 1:17

One urban church is in a community plagued by gun violence. In 2011 the clear prophetic voice of its pastor rang out during an urban ministry congress in a large city. Here are sample thoughts from his speech: “Christians must stop the death march!” Referring to the biblical story of when Jesus stopped the funeral train for the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-17), he explained how the church could not sit idly by while street violence escalated in their community. He asked his audience, “Are we simply a church that stands up to do eulogies?” Instead, we need to ask ourselves if we are a church that works to relieve suffering.

This church is also very active in community development. For seven years the church choir went to the streets of their community. They sang, passed out flyers, and offered the services of the church to those who had needs. From this contact with their community, the church helped their neighborhood in numerous ways that greatly benefited those in need. Through various and numerous programs the church made a big difference in the community.

This church is just one example of the many ways that we, as a church body, can be a ministering and healing force in our communities.

What can your church do to help the needy in your community?

FridayJuly 15

Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “The Law Given to Israel,” pp. 307-314; “God’s Care for the Poor,” pp. 530-536, inPatriarchs and Prophets.

The concepts of justice and mercy are seen all through the Old Testament. Look at, for instance, Deuteronomy 24:10-22. Look at the specific instructions given in these cases. We can see, so clearly, the Lord’s concern for the poor, for the workers, for those in debt. This concern is expressed, not merely in abstract and lofty language about care for the less fortunate; instead, at least here, it is also expressed in concrete and practical instructions on what to do and what not to do in specific instances, such as with someone in debt or with a poor worker. These concepts were too important to be left totally to one’s own personal notions of what justice and benevolence were. Notice, too, how the Lord referred them back to where they had once been, to when they certainly were among the less fortunate. “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this” (Deut. 24:22, NIV). As Christians, we must, regardless of our financial situation, always remember the grace and unmerited favor God has bestowed upon us. Thus, we need, out of the richness and fullness of what we have in Christ (Eph. 3:19Col. 2:10), to be ready to serve and help those who need our service and help.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does the fourth commandment’s saying that servants should rest on the Sabbath help reveal the idea of the equality of all humanity before the Lord? How, too, should that help us to understand in general how we should justly treat those who work for us, or those who are under, to some degree, our control? Also, how does the universality of what Christ did on the cross reveal even much more greatly the equality of all human beings before God?
  2. “When the mind of Christ becomes our mind, and His works our works, we shall be able to keep the fast described by the prophet Isaiah: 'Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens?’ [Isa. 58:6]. Find out what the poor and suffering are in need of, and then, in love and tenderness, help them to courage and hope and confidence by sharing with them the good things that God has given you.” - Ellen G. White, in Pacific Union Recorder, July 21, 1904. How do we do this-that is, how do we share what we have been given in Christ but do so in tangible ways that can truly help those in need?

Inside Story~

Dismissed But Determined: Part 3

by Isaiah Malek Garang, South Sudan

The night before my baptism I had a dream. I saw myself standing on an Earth that was clean and bright. I looked up and saw a ladder reaching from the ground to the sky. People were running from all directions and climbing the ladder. They were singing, ”We can never stop following Jesus, for we are marching to heaven.” The ladder was full of people singing this song. Then I watched myself climb the ladder. I awoke suddenly and sat up, wondering if I was still alive. Then I knelt to thank God for the wonderful lesson and courage He had given me.

I was baptized in a river near the pastor’s home. Shortly afterward, I was invited to work as a volunteer with Global Mission. I enjoyed this work for three months, but I realized that I needed to return to my wife and the small congregations I had left behind. I told my team leader of my decision and expressed my hope that God would bring these new believers into the church as He had me.

I returned home and visited the eight groups that were meeting in my former pastoral district. They had continued worshiping on Sabbath and were eager to hear what I’d learned during my absence. Most of them accepted the Adventist message and were baptized. My wife was one of the first to be baptized. How thrilled I am to have her stand by me in this new ministry. Even the priest who was dismissed with me so many months earlier took his stand and asked to join the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

As a result of my being dismissed from my former church, today we have about 355 members in 13 Adventist churches, companies, and groups in my region of South Sudan. I minister to the very people I had ministered to as a priest in my former church.

Our work is not easy. Some of our churches have been torn down during the night, with only piles of materials left in their place. But even these setbacks have been a blessing, as we simply rebuild and invite the destroyers to join us for worship. It is difficult to make inroads in new areas, but we work hard, and God is blessing.

Thank you for partnering with us in southern Sudan to finish the work God has for us here.

Isaiah Malek Garang now serves in the Greater Equatoria Field as an associate secretary of the Ministerial Association, and as associate director in the Family Ministries and Sabbath School and Personal Ministries departments.



The Role of the Church in the Community

Restoring Dominion

Lesson 2* July 2-8

Restoring Dominion

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Gen. 1:26-28Ps. 8:3-8Gen. 2:15Rom. 8:20-22Exod. 20:1-17Rom. 1:252 Thess. 3:10.

Memory Text: “Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’”(Genesis 1:26, NKJV).

At the Fall our first parents lost more than just their original image of God.

“Not only man but the earth also had by sin come under the control of the wicked one, and was to be restored by the plan of Redemption. At his creation, Adam was placed in dominion over the earth. But by yielding to temptation, he was brought under the power of Satan, and the dominion which he held passed to his conqueror. Thus Satan became 'the god of this world.’ He had usurped that dominion over the earth which had been originally given to Adam. But Christ, by His sacrifice paying the penalty of sin, would not only redeem man, but recover the dominion which he had forfeited. All that was lost by the first Adam will be restored by the second.” - Ellen G. White, in Signs of the Times, November 4, 1908.

No question, after the Fall, human beings lost so much, including the “dominion” that we originally had been given.

What was this lost dominion? Though the idea of “dominion” often has negative connotations today, it certainly didn’t back in Eden. What did it mean when humans were first given dominion over the earth? And what can the church do to help people regain some of what was lost after the tragic fall of our first parents in Eden?

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 9.

SundayJuly 3

Created for Dominion

Someone recently wrote the following about a friend, an avowed atheist who said that she sometimes “wakes in the middle of the night, stressing over a bunch of deep questions: 'Is this world truly the result of an accidental cosmic big bang? How could there be no design, no grand purpose to our existence and to the universe as a whole? Can it be that every life-including my own, my husband’s, my two children’s-is totally irrelevant and meaningless? Does my life have no meaning and purpose?’ ”

After the Fall humanity lost so much. We became, as the story of the Fall showed, alienated, not only from God but from each other. Even our relationship toward the earth itself changed. And, as the questions asked by the woman above show, we also struggle with knowing who we are and what the purposes of our lives are, problems that for many are made much worse by the prevailing idea that our existence resulted only from chance, with no foresight or purpose built in by a Creator God.

What do the following texts teach about the purposes for humanity’s creation? Gen. 1:26-28Ps. 8:3-8Isa. 43:6-7? What does “created for My glory” (Isa. 43:7, NKJV) mean? How does “My [God’s] glory” relate to dominion?

As we can see in the verses in Genesis, whatever other reasons God had for creating Adam and Eve, they were also created in order to have dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). Together, reflecting God’s glory and character, the first couple were to be channels through whom He, the One with ultimate glory and dominion (Rev. 1:5-6), would nurture, care for, and administer the rest of His earthly creation. Who knows how God’s glory would have been revealed through them and their dominion over the world were it not for the rise of sin?

Now, though, through faith in Jesus, through surrendering our lives to Him in faith and obedience and cooperation, we can say with David: “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me” (Ps. 138:8, ESV). Knowing that God has a purpose for each of us is a cause for confidence and rejoicing, especially when we are surrendered to Him so that His will can be fulfilled in us.

If someone were to ask you, “OK, so what do you, as a Christian, say that the purpose of your life is?” what would you respond, and why?

MondayJuly 4

The Privilege of Dominion

What is the “dominion” that humans were to have over the earth, as expressed in Genesis 1:26-28?

The biblical word dominion comes from the Hebrew verb radah. This word indicates a right and responsibility to rule. It implies, in this context, a hierarchy of power and authority in which the human race is positioned above the rest of the natural world. While the verb radah, as used in the rest of the Old Testament, does not itself define how this dominion is to be exercised, whether benevolently or malevolently, the context of a sinless and unfallen creation shows that the intent must have been benevolent in nature.

Similar conclusions may be drawn about subduing the earth in Genesis 1:28. The verb subdue,from the Hebrew kavash, also depicts a hierarchical relationship in which humans are positioned above the earth and are granted power and control over it. Elsewhere in the Old Testament the verb kavash is even more forceful than radah, describing the actual act of subjugation, of forcing another into a subordinate position (Num. 32:2229Jer. 34:1116Esther 7:8Neh. 5:5). In many of these cases, the abuse of power is obvious and God’s displeasure expressed. But again, taking into consideration the context, within the Creation story, of a sinless couple created in the image of God to administer the earth, this subduing of the earth can be characterized only as benevolent service to creation on behalf of the Creator. It certainly was not exploitation.

We find an additional dimension to this concept of dominion in Genesis 2:15, where God places Adam in the garden to dress (abad - to work, to serve, to till) and to keep (shamar - to hedge about, guard, protect, attend to, look narrowly, observe, preserve, regard, reserve).

Keeping this in mind, we discover that dominion is caring and loving stewardship or management. Within their relationship with God our first parents were to have all the resources and authority that they needed to execute their dominion, which would have reflected God’s divine love of His creation.

Though the word dominion today can, and often does, have negative connotations, it certainly didn’t when first expressed in the Bible. What are some principles that we can take from this pre-Fall use of the term and apply to how we relate to whatever or whomever we have “dominion” over?

TuesdayJuly 5


Does humanity’s dominion over “all the earth” (Gen. 1:26) indicate that there are no boundaries to our dominion? Biblical history indicates that dominion (which can also be understood as “stewardship”) must have boundaries.

For example, God told Adam that the tree of knowledge of good and evil was off-limits (see Gen. 2:15-17). The first sin was, then, in the context of stewardship. Adam and Eve overstepped the boundaries that God had set on their dominion. Creation is still suffering from that overstepping of boundaries (see Rom. 8:20-22).

Read Exodus 20:1-17. What kinds of “boundaries” are set there for us in God’s law? What does the law tell us about the limits of human dominion?

Throughout human history (for example, Pharaoh in Exodus 1-14; Herod in Matthew 2:1-23), to the end of time (see Revelation 13:1-18), domineering people controlled by Satan are notorious for attempting to dominate that over which they have no rightful control. They imitate Satan, who seized power and made himself “the prince of this world” (John 12:31). Dominion gone awry becomes domination.

On the other hand, there are those who refuse to accept control over that which they need to have dominion (see Matt. 25:14-30,Luke 19:12-27).

Even though sin caused humanity to lose the level of dominion given at Creation, our original dominion was not entirely lost because of sin. There is plenty that is within our current boundaries of responsibility: for example, Christ-enabled self-mastery in our personal lives (see 1 Cor. 9:25-27Gal. 5:22-23), and the care of the earth and its creatures, and of all that has been given to us by God (seeJames 1:17Matt. 25:14-30). We need, as Christians, to understand what our boundaries are and then work to be faithful stewards within those boundaries.

What are some specific boundaries that you need to respect in regard to others, such as family, friends, coworkers? What principles can we use to help us know what those boundaries are (see, for instance, Matt. 7:112)?

WednesdayJuly 6

Care of the Earth

“Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Gen. 2:15, NKJV)

What principles, if any, can we take from this text that should influence how we relate to our planet in terms of taking care of it?

Before sin, Adam and Eve had been delegated stewardship over all that God had entrusted to them. They had mastery over plant and animal life. Yet, after sin, all of nature seemed to rebel against them to the same extent that they had rebelled against God. Human beings began to see themselves powerless in the face of the elements (weather, agriculture, the animal kingdom).

“Among the lower creatures Adam had stood as king, and so long as he remained loyal to God, all nature acknowledged his rule; but when he transgressed, this dominion was forfeited. The spirit of rebellion, to which he himself had given entrance, extended throughout the animal creation. Thus not only the life of man, but the nature of the beasts, the trees of the forest, the grass of the field, the very air he breathed, all told the sad lesson of the knowledge of evil.” - Ellen G. White, Education, pp. 26, 27.

Today we are still ravaged by natural disasters and our deteriorating ecosystem, at least in some places. Thus, we make great efforts to use technology and industry to protect ourselves. However, though technology and industry may help us protect ourselves, sometimes the same technology can damage our planet. Ecology is a moral, ethical, and theological issue, especially when exploitation of the earth can lead to great hardship for others.

“Seventh-day Adventists advocate a simple, wholesome lifestyle, where people do not step on the treadmill of unbridled consumerism, goods-getting, and production of waste. We call for respect of creation, restraint in the use of the world’s resources, reevaluation of one’s needs, and reaffirmation of the dignity of created life.”-In “Official Statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Environment,” 1995.

How do we strike the right balance in our attitude toward the earth: being good stewards of the home we have been given while at the same time avoiding the danger of making the earth and the environment gods whom we all but worship? What warning might Romans 1:25 have for us here?

ThursdayJuly 7

Restoring “Dominion”

Through the Fall we as humans have lost so much, including the kind of dominion that our first parents were privileged to have in Eden. Christ came in order to restore to us what we lost.

And because of what Christ has done for us, we, too, have been called by God to reach out to others, helping them regain in Christ the salvation and dominion lost at the Fall that He has given back to us. Though this process will not be complete until the second coming of Jesus and beyond, there’s much that we can do now in reaching out to those who are needy, lost, and overwhelmed by the world. We can be used by God to help start that restoration even now, as we reach out and help those in need.

What do the following texts each say that can be applied to helping others regain some of the “dominion” lost through sin?

Deut. 15:7-12

Luke 14:12-14

1 Pet. 3:15

James 1:27

Isa. 58:7

2 Thess. 3:10

As a church body there’s much that we can do, that we must do, that we have been called to do, to reach out to those in need. Sometimes it’s as basic as providing food, clothes, or shelter to someone in urgent need. Even though giving relief is necessary, something beyond giving relief is needed to help people restore dominion in their lives.

Though we must always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, we must when and where we can meet their physical needs and point them to a better way of life.

Though each situation is different, and the needs are different, we have been called by God to be a light and a source of healing and hope in our communities. This is an essential part of what it means to be a witness to the world of the loving and saving God whom we serve. We must do all that we can, in the Lord’s strength, to be a beacon of light and hope to those in need. As Christians, we can’t do less. As we fulfill this role of service, we are helping them learn what God is like. And, too, by ministering to their physical needs, we are paving the way for their hearts to be reached by the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus did, and this is what we are called to do as well.

FridayJuly 8

Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Temperance and Dietetics,” pp. 202-206; “Discipline,” pp. 287-290, in Education; “Need for Self-Mastery,” pp. 73, 74, in Counsels on Diet and Foods; “The Principles of Stewardship,” pp. 111-113; “Sharing in the Joys of the Redeemed,” pp. 348-350, in Counsels on Stewardship.

It’s so hard from our perspective today, immersed as we are in a greatly fallen world, to imagine what we have lost through the Fall. This evil world is all that we know and, were it not for the Word of God and how it reveals to us our origins and the origins of sin and death and evil, we’d simply take them for granted, as just part of life itself. Yet the story of the Fall shows us that, indeed, this is not how things were to be. Genesis said that Adam and Eve were to have dominion over the world; then, right after they had sinned, suddenly their relationship to the world changed because they changed, and the physical world itself changed as well. Suddenly the dominion they had enjoyed was lost, and the consequences became enormous. “The thorn and the thistle (Gen. 3:17-18), the aftermath of the Flood (Gen. 7:12), the desert and the wilderness, the groaning of the earth for deliverance (Rom. 8:19-22) are some of the word pictures the Bible uses to describe the effect of sin upon the world.”-Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald® Pub. Assn.), vol. 12, p. 254. How thankful we should be for the plan of salvation, which will restore all that was lost and which offers us the promise of a future so much better than the past or the present.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Though the immediate context of these texts (Exod. 23:10-12Deut. 11:11-1220:19-20) doesn’t have to do with ecology as understood today, what principles could one take from them that could help us understand our need to be good stewards of the environment? Also, how do we know if and when we have crossed the line from being a steward of the environment to being a worshiper of it?
  2. Think about the natural world as we know it now. Is it a friend or a foe, and how can you justify your answer?
  3. Discuss the question asked at the end of Sunday’s study about the meaning and purpose of human life. What answer would you give to someone who asked you that question? How should our answers differ from those who don’t believe in God or salvation?
  4. How can we reclaim the word dominion in a way that helps restore its original meaning? That is, how was dominion at first a good thing? How can it be today as well?

Inside Story~ 

Dismissed But Determined: Part 2

by Isaiah Malek Garang, South Sudan

The question about the Sabbath and Sunday came up again. Was the Sabbath still valid? If so, why did most of Christianity worship on Sunday instead?

I was not allowed to enter the church I had once pastored, so on Sundays I prayed at home. Others-some who had been dismissed and some who thought the church had made a grave mistake-joined me for worship. Eight other groups began meeting in homes throughout my former district.

The Sabbath question was constantly on my mind. I knew that some people worshiped on Friday, some on Saturday, and others on Sunday. As I studied the Bible, I found many references to Sabbath, but no mention of Friday or Sunday as a day of worship. I asked our small group members to study and pray about this issue. Eventually, we agreed that God had never changed the day of worship from Saturday to another day. We immediately began meeting on Saturday instead of Sunday. We also found the admonition to avoid eating unclean meat. Some people outside of our small groups who learned of our decisions labeled us ”Jews.”

Solomon saw the changes in my life and invited me to study the doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist faith. I wondered what difference there might be between what we had discovered and what the Adventists teach. I set out to find some Adventist leaders to learn more about what they believe. I found an Adventist church in a village some distance from my home. I introduced myself to the pastor and explained that I wanted to know what his denomination taught.

I stayed in that village for three months studying the Bible, the writings of Ellen G. White, and understanding the church’s fundamental beliefs. What I learned was so amazing! It became clear that I’d found what my soul was looking for. I asked to be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

During the week before my baptism, I continually reconsidered my decision. My brother urged me to leave the country. I was invited to join a non-denominational church, and my former church sent a message requesting that I return to my priestly position.

To be continued in next week’s Inside Story.


The Role of the Church in the Community

Role of the Church in the Community Lesson Cover

Introduction: The Whole Gospel

A pastor held up his Bible before the congregation. It was in tatters, full of holes. In seminary he and some classmates had gone through his Bible and underlined every passage that dealt with justice, poverty, wealth, and oppression. Then, with a pair of scissors, they cut out every verse dealing with those topics. When they finished, his Bible was in shambles. Throughout Scripture these themes are so central that there is a lot missing from the Bible when they are removed. The tattered Bible speaks powerfully and loudly about the things that God cares about.

What should this story say to us as Seventh-day Adventists? It should say a lot. Research shows that approximately 30 percent of Seventh-day Adventists are involved in meeting the needs of the community outside the church. What about the remaining 70 percent? Jesus calls His entire end-time church to proclaim and live the whole “everlasting gospel” (Rev. 14:6).

What is the whole gospel? Jesus’ mission and ministry depicted in Luke 4:16-21 portray the whole gospel as more than preaching the truth of salvation by faith, however foundational that is to all that we do. Jesus shows us that preaching the gospel also means tangible expressions of love and compassion for the poor, hungry, sick, brokenhearted, oppressed, outcast, and imprisoned. It’s about biblical justice and undoing what the devil has done, at least to whatever degree we now can as we look forward to Jesus’ ultimate triumph over evil at the end of the age.

This quarter we will explore this wholistic version of the “everlasting gospel” and will examine the role of the church in impacting their communities with this gospel. We define the “church” as a community of people who, together, do not exist for themselves but who are called out to live and to preach the everlasting gospel as expressed in the ministry of Jesus. This means not only preaching the gospel but living it in our lives through ministering to the needs of those in our local communities.

Organizationally, how does your local church serve those in need? All ministries of the church (for example, health, family, youth, Sabbath School, deacons/deaconesses, etc.) exist to work together for serving the community as well as church members. Adventist Community Services (ACS) units or centers work from the church to demonstrate the gospel and prepare the way for hearing the Word of God. In some parts of the world ACS is called Dorcas, Adventist Men, or some other name. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s humanitarian agency with a nongovernmental organization status, though it does not operate from the local church, is another important part of reaching those in need.

How do you personally express your appreciation for what Godhas done for you in Christ? One church member put it this way:

On the street I saw a small girl,
  cold, shivering in a thin dress,
with little hope of a decent meal.
 &nbspI became angry and said to God:
“Why did You permit this?
 &nbspWhy don’t You do something about it?”
For a while God said nothing. 
 &nbspThen that night He replied quite suddenly:
“I certainly did something about it.
I made you.”

-In Dwight Nelson, Pursuing the Passion of Jesus (Nampa,Idaho: Pacific Press® Publishing Association, 2005), p. 78.

At the time of writing this Adult SabbathSchool Bible Study Guide,Gaspar Colón was chair of the Department of Religion at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland, USA. May-Ellen Colón is an assistant director of the General Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department and director of Adventist Community Services International. They served as missionaries in Africa and the former Soviet Union for nine years, and have two grown children and two grandchildren.

Lesson 1* June 25-July 1

“The Restoration of All Things”

Sabbath Afternoon

Readfor This Week’s Study: Gen. 1:26-27Deut. 6:5Gen. 3:8-19James 4:4Gal. 4:19Mark2:1-12John 10:10.

MemoryText: “SoGod created mankind in his own image, in theimage of God he created them; male and female he created them"(Genesis1:27, NIV).

All one has to do is look around, at the world, at the neighborhood, at oneself, to see the point. And the point is? Something is terribly wrong.

It’s called the Fall, it’s called sin, it’s called rebellion, and it’s called the great controversy.

And yet, the good news is that it’s not permanent. It’s not going to last forever. Jesus came, died for the sins of the world, and promised to come again. And when He does, nothing of this world will remain. Instead, a new kingdom, His eternal kingdom, will begin. “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Dan. 2:44, NKJV).

What a restoration!

But we don’t have to wait until the Second Coming for the restoration to begin. Those who are in Christ are a new creation now (2 Cor. 5:17); and we are predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus now (Rom. 8:29). Also, He calls us and empowers us, as His church, so that we can work toward the restoration of others as well.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare forSabbath, July 2.

SundayJune 26

The Image of God

The Bible says that humanity was originally created in the “image” (Gen. 1:27) of God. An image may be either two-dimensional, such as a mirror reflection or photograph, or three-dimensional, such as a statue or hologram. An image can also be intangible, such as a mental image, an idea that we have in our heads. What does the Bible mean?

Read Genesis 1:26-27. How does Scripture explain what being made in God’s “image” means? See also Gen. 1:31Deut. 6:5, and 1 Thess. 5:23.

With the creation of our first parents, God set a new standard for life on earth: man and woman. They alone, among all the other creatures made during that time, were in God’s image. They were not evolved apes. As human beings, they and we are radically different from all of the other life forms on earth, and any theology that lessens this difference degrades humanity.

God “called their name Adam” (Gen. 5:2). That is, both of them, male and female, though different and distinct beings, were still one. Together, in their fullness and completeness, they represented the image of God.

The nature of God’s image is wholistic: “When Adam came from the Creator’s hand, he bore, in his physical, mental, and spiritual nature, likeness to his Maker.” - Ellen G. White, Education, p. 15. (Italics supplied.)

The word for “image” in Hebrew is tselem; the word for “likeness” is demuth. These words can connote the physical (tselem) and the inward (demuth), which includes the spiritual and mental aspects of humanity. Ellen G. White recognizes this when she says man was made in God’s image, “both in outward resemblance and in character.”-Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 45.

Deuteronomy 6:5 mentions the various dimensions of the human being: soul (spiritual), heart (mind, mental), and strength (physical body). There is a similar pattern in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. A human being made in God’s image would naturally include all of these dimensions.

Though there’s much more to this idea of being made in “the image of God,” the Bible is clear: human beings are a distinct and unique creation here on earth. No other creature comes close. Why is it important for us to always keep this distinction in mind?

MondayJune 27

The Fall and Its Aftermath

The Bible does not say how long a period of time existed between the finished Creation and the Fall. Days, weeks, years, we just don’t know.

What we do know, however, was that there was a Fall, and the consequences were immediate and apparent.

The first mentioned result of Adam and Eve eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was their sudden realization of their nakedness (Gen. 3:7). They sought to cover themselves from the presence of God. Their robes of light now disappeared. (See Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 57.) Their intimacy with God was disrupted because of their newly discovered intimacy with the self-centeredness of evil. God then sought to educate the first couple in regard to the consequences that their sin had created for them.

Read the following texts and identify the immediate consequences of Adam’s and Eve’s sin as seen in each passage. Also, how are these same consequences manifested today?

Gen. 3:8-10





No question, the Fall was real, the Fall was hard, and the Fall was terribly consequential for the race. The long, sad story of human history, right up to current events, reveals the tragic consequences of sin.

How thankful we can be, then, for the promise that one day the tragedy of sin is going to be over and done and never repeated.

What are ways that we, every day, live with the consequences of our own sins?

TuesdayJune 28

Enmity and Atonement

Read Genesis 3:14-15. What does God mean when He says to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers” (Gen. 3:15, NIV)? What hope can we find here for ourselves?

The word enmity in Hebrew shares its root with the Hebrew word hate and the word enemy.By eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the couple placed themselves and all humanity at enmity with God (see Rom. 5:10Col. 1:21James 4:4). God’s promise here implies that God would set in motion His plan to draw humanity back to Himself, thus shifting their enmity to Satan. Thus, by shifting the enmity from Himself to Satan, God would establish an avenue through which He could save humanity while, at the same time, not violating the principles of His divine government. This is what is known in the original sense as “atonement,” what God has done and is doing in order to ultimately restore what had been lost in the Fall.

What do the following texts reveal about atonement? Lev. 1:3-41 Cor. 5:71 John 1:9.

Theologians sometimes use the word expiation to talk about how this atonement works. The Latin root, expiare , means “to atone for,” and the idea involves reparation for a wrong deed. Someone did something wrong, he or she violated a law, and justice demands a penalty to pay for that wrong. In English, it is sometimes said that the guilty person owes a “debt to society” because of what he or she did.

In our situation we sinned, but in the plan of salvation, the atonement, Christ’s sacrificial death relieves us from the legalconsequences of that wrongdoing. Instead, Christ Himself paid the penalty for us. The punishment that legally (yes, God’s government has laws) should have been ours was given to Jesus instead. That way, the demands of justice were met, but they were met in Jesus instead of us. Though sinners, though we have done wrong, we are pardoned, forgiven, and justified in His sight. This is the crucial and foundational step in “ 'the restoration of all things’ ” (Acts 3:21, NKJV).

WednesdayJune 29

Restoration in Jesus

“My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19, NKJV).

We were originally created as perfect and complete beings in a perfect and complete world. Unfortunately, this pre-Fall paradise was lost through sin, and the world as we know it is filled with death, violence, suffering, fear, and ignorance. The plan of salvation was created in order to bring this world back to its original perfection. Christ came in order to regain what was lost in the Fall.

“In the beginning God created man in His own likeness. He endowed him with noble qualities. His mind was well balanced, and all the powers of his being were harmonious. But the Fall and its effects have perverted these gifts. Sin has marred and well-nigh obliterated the image of God in man. It was to restore this that the plan of salvation was devised, and a life of probation was granted to man. To bring him back to the perfection in which he was first created is the great object of life-the object that underlies every other.” - Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 595. Though this restoration won’t be completed until the new heavens and the new earth, the process has already begun in us now!

Read Galatians 4:19. Whatever his immediate concerns, what important spiritual point is Paul making here?

In Hebrews 1:3 Christ Himself is presented as the image of God-“the express image of His person” (NKJV)(Compare with John 14:9,2 Cor. 4:4Col. 1:15.) He desires to unite with us in order to restore God’s image in us. If we consent, Christ, the image of God, can be in us: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27, NKJV).

The ultimate experience of being restored in His image will occur at Jesus’ second coming (see 1 Cor. 15:491 John 3:2). However, when Christ is in us, and we in Christ, the process of being restored in God’s image begins on this side of heaven. When that happens, we will long to bring those in our community to the One who can restore them as well.

Though the work begins now in us, to restore us, why must we always remember that restoration won’t be totally complete until the second coming of Jesus?

ThursdayJune 30

The Restoring Role of the Church

As we have seen, our world, though created perfect, had fallen, with devastating results. But God had not abandoned us to what would have been our fate, eternal destruction (the fate that science says awaits us). Instead, even before the world began, the plan of salvation was formulated (see 1 Pet. 1:2) and, at great personal cost to Himself, Jesus came to this world, suffered on the cross, and promises to return. And by the time everything is over and sin is destroyed, the world that had been lost will be fully restored.

What’s amazing, though, is that God calls us, His church, even now, to have a part to play working toward this restoration.

Read in Mark 2:1-12 the story of how some friends persistently worked together to bring a paralytic to Jesus. How does this story illustrate the role of the church in healing and restoring people?

The house was crowded because Jesus was there. His love for people drew crowds. The four men made a very large hole in the roof in order to bring the spiritually, mentally, and physically sick man to Jesus. Then Jesus restored him by forgiving his sins, giving him peace of mind, and commanding him to get up and walk. Jesus demonstrated that no one is really healed unless he or she is wholistically restored.

How did the apostle John describe the reason Christ appeared on this earth? What hope can we draw from these promises? Read John 10:101 John 3:8.

It has been said that John 10:10 is the Seventh-day Adventist message in a nutshell. It was clearly Christ’s mission statement. A major role for Christ’s body, His church, is to follow in His footsteps and undo the work of the devil by replacing death with abundant life (see Acts 10:381 John 2:6). The church is called to partner with Christ in moving people toward being restored in God’s image-physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Who are people in need of your help right now, help that you are especially equipped to give?

FridayJuly 1

Further Thought: See other passages on restoring God’s image: Romans 8:29Colossians 1:153:9-112 Corinthians 3:185:17. Read Ellen G. White, “The Creation,” “The Temptation and Fall,” and “The Plan of Redemption,” pp. 44-70, in Patriarchs and Prophets. As a people, we have been called by God to work for others, for the good of others, to seek to point others to the promises of hope and restoration that we have been given in Jesus. There are different ways the Lord can work through us to do this. Some churches provide physical restoration to the people in their community with health programs and services. Also, the church’s system of hospitals and clinics works toward this same goal. Mental restoration and enrichment can take place through classes that equip community members to meet their life needs. Churches may also establish or improve local schools, teach job skills, provide literacy education, tutoring, mentoring, and psychological counseling, et cetera. As they continue their quest for restoration and an abundant life, many people in the community will realize that they need spiritual and moral restoration, too, even though they didn’t originally think so. In fact, this is a key facet of restoration to God’s image (see Eph. 4:22-24). The church is uniquely positioned and equipped to meet these spiritual needs, better than any secular social or health organization.

Discussion Questions:

  • Give examples of what your church is already doing toward the physical, mental, and spiritual restoration of the people in your community. What is your church doing in this area? Share with your class your ideas for expanding your church’s restorative ministries in your community.
  • How do we understand this idea of physical restoration? After all, no matter what we do to help others regain their health, unless the Lord comes back in their lifetime most will eventually succumb to disease and the ravages of old age. Why is this more proof that full restoration can come only after Jesus returns?
  • Discuss the idea of what it means to start being restored into God’s image now. How does that work? How can we know if we are making progress? Why must we have a clear picture of God in order for that restoration to happen? How can we learn not to give up in discouragement if we don’t see the progress that we think we ought to have?

Inside Story~ 

Dismissed But Determined: Part 1

by Isaiah Malek Garang, South Sudan

The visiting Anglican archbishop barely looked at the priest kneeling before him as he dipped his finger into a bowl of ash and painted a small cross on the priest’s forehead. It was Ash Wednesday, and we felt honored to have such a high church official visiting southern Sudan. But when my turn came to step forward and kneel, I did not go forward. My fellow priests urged me to kneel and receive the cross, but I refused. In all my years as a priest in Sudan, I had never found a reference to such a service in the Bible. And if it was not in the Bible, I felt I should not take part.

The archbishop reported my actions to the church, which took swift action. Within two days, another priest and I were dismissed from our positions for refusing the ashen cross. Ten years of dedicated service to the church were as dust beneath our feet. The elders of the 17 churches I had overseen were called in and questioned. Any of them deemed loyal to me were relieved of their church duties. Before the dust settled, 82 people-from church leaders to innocent members-had been dismissed from church office or membership.

I was deeply shaken. What did I do that was such a threat to my church? I wondered. I was forbidden even to enter the church I had so recently led. Some church members feared that if they were seen speaking to me, they too would be dismissed. But in time, I heard that others were unhappy about what had happened.

I needed to know the truth about God, the truth that had resulted in my dismissal. I spent hours a day studying the Bible, searching to know God’s truth. Sometime later Solomon, a distant cousin, came to visit my family. Conversation turned to spiritual matters, and I asked him about his beliefs. Solomon told me that he was a Seventh-day Adventist. Later, I mulled over what Solomon had said about the Sabbath.

I had heard of Sabbath keepers before, but I thought that they were like Jews and did not believe in Jesus. I remembered that while studying in the seminary I had asked the priest why the holy day had been changed from Saturday to Sunday. But he could not give me a satisfactory answer. Some said Jesus had made the change; others said that it was changed to honor Jesus, who rose from the dead on Sunday. These answers left me unsatisfied.

To be continued in next week’s Inside Story.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  website:

Lesson 13       June 18-24

Crucified and Risen

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Matt. 27:11-26John 3:19Isa. 59:2Matt. 27:454649-54Heb. 8:1-6Matt. 28:1-20.

Memory Text:“‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’” (Matthew 28:18, NKJV).

An ad in a British magazine asked if someone would donate his or her body to science. It said that scientists had been studying Egyptian mummification and were looking for a volunteer with a terminal illness who is prepared to donate their body after death. These scientists believed, the ad claimed, that they had cracked the secret of how the Egyptians did it, and that the body “would be preserved—potentially for hundreds or even thousands of years”—(

As Christians, we don’t need to worry about having our corpses preserved. God has promised us something so much better than that. The death of Jesus, where He paid in Himself the penalty for our sins, and then His resurrection, when He was the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20, NKJV)—have paved the way for our corpses, not to be “preserved” like some ancient pharaoh (besides, if you have ever seen some of those corpses, they aren’t too pretty, anyway) but to be transformed into incorruptible bodies that will live forever.

This week, the final chapters in Matthew, we study the inexhaustible truths regarding our Lord’s death and resurrection and the hope that these two events offer us.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 25.

SundayJune 19

Jesus or Barabbas

Read Matthew 27:11-26. What are some of the deeper implications of the choice given to the people and the choice that they made?

It was Barabbas the murderer who was supposed to be crucified on the middle cross. The criminals on either side were possibly his associates. Barabbas was not a first name but a last one. Bar means “son of,” just as Simon bar Jonah meant “son of Jonah” or Bartholomew meant “son of Tolomeo.” Barabbas meant “son of abbas”—meaning “son of the father.” Many early manuscripts record Barabbas’s first name as Yeshua (Jesus). Yeshua was a common name at the time, meaning “Yahweh saves.” So, Barabbas’s name was along the lines of “Yahweh saves, son of the father.”

Talk about a farce!

“This man had claimed to be the Messiah. He claimed authority to establish a different order of things, to set the world right. Under satanic delusion he claimed that whatever he could obtain by theft and robbery was his own. He had done wonderful things through satanic agencies, he had gained a following among the people, and had excited sedition against the Roman government. Under cover of religious enthusiasm he was a hardened and desperate villain, bent on rebellion and cruelty. By giving the people a choice between this man and the innocent Saviour, Pilate thought to arouse them to a sense of justice. He hoped to gain their sympathy for Jesus in opposition to the priests and rulers.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 733.

Pilate was wrong. Unless under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, people will inevitably make the wrong spiritual choice, as did the mob here. In the end, we all have to choose between Christ or Barabbas, Christ or the fallen corrupted world, between life or death. “‘And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil’” (John 3:19, NKJV).

Why do people tend to prefer darkness over light? How can you see even in yourself this inherent tendency? What should that tell you about the reality of our fallen nature, and even more important about our need to surrender ourselves totally to the Lord?

MondayJune 20

Our Crucified Substitute

“Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Matt. 27:4546, NKJV). What is the meaning of this cry? How do we understand its implications in terms of the plan of salvation?

Matthew records what has been called by theologians “the cry of dereliction.” Dereliction brings in the idea of abandonment, of something to be left alone and in need. In this case we can see Jesus’ sense of abandonment by the Father. The darkness that surrounded the land at that time symbolized divine judgment (Isa. 13:9-16Amos 5:18-20Jer. 13:16); Jesus was experiencing in Himself the horrific consequences of sin, of the complete separation from the Father. In our behalf, He was bearing, in Himself the divine judgment against sin that should have been ours. “So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Heb. 9:28, NKJV, see also 2 Cor. 5:21). On the cross Jesus appropriates the language of Psalm 22:1 because in a unique way He was experiencing what humans experience, the separation from God due to sin. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:2, NKJV).

This wasn’t pretend. Jesus truly bore the wrath of God against sin; the penalty for our transgressions fell upon Him, and thus filled His soul with consternation and dread as He bore the weight of guilt, our guilt, upon Himself. How bad sin must be in the sight of God that it took one member of the Godhead to suffer the guilt and punishment of sin in order for us to be forgiven it!

And yet, even amid this horror, Jesus could cry out, “My God, My God!” Despite all that was happening to Him, His faith remained intact. He would stay faithful to the end, regardless of the suffering, regardless of the sense of being forsaken by the Father.

What is it like to feel separation from God due to sin? Why is claiming the righteousness of Christ our only way back, a claim accompanied by repentance, confession, and a resolve to forsake that sin?

TuesdayJune 21

Torn Veil and Rent Rocks

Each Gospel writer told the story of Jesus from various perspectives, but all focused on His death. Matthew alone, though, records the opening of the graves after the temple veil was torn.

Read Matthew 27:49-54. What is the meaning of these events? What hope do they point to for us?

Jesus died right after the mob, in ignorance of Jesus’ real words, mocked Him about having Elijah come to save Him. Their mockery was another powerful but sad example of how Jesus has been misunderstood by many of His own people.

Matthew then records that the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. The symbolism is unmistakable: a new era in salvation history had begun. The sacrificial services, for so long pointing to Jesus, were no longer necessary. The old earthly type was now replaced by something so much better.

Read Hebrews 8:1-6. What do these texts say that help us to understand what happened to the earthly sanctuary system and what has replaced it?

Matthew records not only the tearing of the veil but the rocks splitting, the graves opening, and some of the dead being raised—events that could happen only because of what Jesus had accomplished by dying as our Substitute for sin. So here in Matthew, we can see things happening that the old system itself could never have caused. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Heb. 10:4, NKJV). Of course, only Jesus could take away sins, and for us the great result, the great promise, of Jesus’ taking away our sins is the resurrection from death. Without that promise, we have nothing (see 1 Cor. 15:131419). In these early resurrections (we don’t know how many), we can see the hope and promise of our resurrection at the end of this age.

WednesdayJune 22

The Risen Christ

The Christian faith centers not only on the cross but on the empty tomb. The truth is, the majority of people in the world, including non-Christians, believe that a man named Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross. Not long after Jesus lived we find historical references such as this one from Tacitus, a Roman historian: “Nero … inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians … by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.”—Tacitus, A.D. 57-117 (

There’s little debate, then or now, about whether a historical figure named Jesus was condemned and crucified.

The hard part is the Resurrection: the idea that Jesus of Nazareth, who was dead on a Friday afternoon, became alive again on a Sunday morning. That is what many people struggle with. After all, a Jew crucified by the Romans in Judea was a fairly common occurrence. But a Jew raised from the dead after being crucified? That’s another matter entirely.

Yet, without this belief in a risen Jesus, we simply do not have a Christian faith. Paul wrote: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith … If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:1419, NIV). Jesus’ death itself had to be followed by His resurrection, because in His resurrection we have the surety of our own.

When we come to the story of the resurrection of Jesus, we have two options. The first option is to view this story as sentimental propaganda written by a few lonely followers of Jesus to keep His memory alive, the way we try to keep the memory alive when a well-known figure dies today. The second option when we come to the story of the Resurrection is to take it literally, a firsthand account of an extraordinary event, an event later interpreted to have implications for every human being who ever lived.

Read Matthew 28:1-15. Why does Jesus tell the women (in verse 9) to “rejoice” (NKJV)? Of course, they can be glad that He was resurrected, that their Master came back. But what is the real reason to rejoice at the resurrection of Jesus?

ThursdayJune 23

The Great Commission

For many people, one of the most hard-to-understand things Jesus did was to return to heaven and entrust the gospel ministry to humans. How often we disappoint Him and ourselves, and as the Gospels show, His early followers were no exception. Yet, it’s by entrusting us with ministry that Christ shows His love for us and our need of Him.

Read Matthew 28:16-18. Compare Jesus’ words, “‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’” (vs. 18, NKJV) with Daniel 7:1314. How do these texts relate to each other?

Read Matthew 28:1920-the final verses of this Gospel. What does Jesus say, and what is the relevance of His words to us?

Ellen G. White suggests that nearly 500 believers had assembled on a mountain in Galilee after the Resurrection. (See 1 Cor. 15:6.) His gospel commission was not just for the disciples but for all believers. “It is a fatal mistake,” she writes, “to suppose that the work of saving souls depends alone on the ordained minister. All to whom the heavenly inspiration has come are put in trust with the gospel. All who receive the life of Christ are ordained to work for the salvation of their fellow men. For this work the church was established, and all who take upon themselves its sacred vows are thereby pledged to be co-workers with Christ.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 822.

Have you often thought of yourself as a coworker with Christ? In what specific ways can you be more active in taking the gospel to your world?

FridayJune 24

Further Thought: As did all the other Gospel writers, Matthew wrote about the resurrection of Jesus. Also, as did his fellow writers, he wrote next to nothing about what the meaning of the Resurrection itself was. Though they depicted the story of the Resurrection, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John gave us no real theological explanation of it, even though it’s so central to the Christian faith. It’s in Paul’s writings that we get the most detailed explanation about the meaning of the cross. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:20-22, NKJV). Paul also wrote that we have been “buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12, NKJV). Peter, too, has something to say on this crucial topic: “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21, NKJV). Though we don’t know why the Gospel writers didn’t go into any detailed explanation, some scholars have seen this as more evidence of the truthfulness of their accounts. After all, writing many years after the events, why didn’t they use this opportunity to give a detailed explanation of what they wanted people to believe about the Resurrection? If it were a fraud or a con, why not take the opportunity to make it mean whatever they wanted it to mean? Instead, they simply tell the story, making no attempt to embellish it with any theological explanations as to what it all was supposed to mean.

Discussion Questions:

  1. At the moment of Jesus’ death, the temple curtain from the Old Covenant was torn from top to bottom, and a New Covenant was ushered in, presided over by a new High Priest, Jesus Christ. “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God,” (Heb. 10:19-21, NKJV). How does it make you feel to realize that Christ Himself now serves as our High Priest?
  2. Matthew’s Gospel covered so many subjects, so many topics. What things in particular struck you regarding how Jesus was presented here? How can studying this Gospel help you better to understand what it means to be a Christian and to follow the teachings of Jesus?

Inside Story~ 

Try Jesus-Part 3

When Gayle saw how interested Neal and I were in what the children were learning, she gave us a video series to watch. The videos presented Bible truths such as the Sabbath in a way that we did not feel threatened. As we watched the videos we realized that for the first time Christianity was making sense to us. Neal had never wanted to go to church before, but suddenly he was spending all his free time learning more about God. On the other hand, I had been trying for years to figure out what really happens to people when they die. Little by little we realized that Christianity held far more for us than we had ever thought. It was definitely not a dull religion filled with meaningless traditions. We found it a vibrant, living faith, a faith we could really hold onto!

Our new friends invited us to a series of Bible studies on the book of Revelation. We invited another family with whom we had become friends, and they enjoyed the studies as much as we did. Then Gayle invited us to an evangelistic series at her church. Our friends went with us to every meeting. Even our children found plenty to hold their attention. Every night after the meetings, we discussed what we had seen and heard. Some of our discussions lasted far into the night. When the speaker asked for those to stand who wanted to dedicate their lives to God, our whole family-and our friends-stood up together.

As I look back on what happened, I realize that God did, indeed, have a plan for our lives when we moved from South Africa to a new home in Australia. In just one year we had moved from one continent to another, received an invitation to "Try Jesus," and made the decision to follow Jesus and be baptized. What a life-changing year that was!

One day at church we were introduced to two young boys, cousins, who, the pastor told us, had been responsible for putting the "Try Jesus" card into our letter box. We are so grateful to those two young people-as well as to Gayle-for the part they all played in leading us to the Lord. We are forever changed, and I continue to be overwhelmed when I think of how much God loves us-so much that He will bring together a series of miracles to lead us to Him.

Cally Moore and her family live in Sydney, Australia.


Lesson 12  June 11-17

Jesus’ Last Days

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Matt. 26:1-16Luke 12:48Matt. 26:17-191 Cor. 5:7Matt. 26:36-46Matt. 26:51-75.

Memory Text:“‘This very night you will all fall away on account of me … ’” (Matthew 26:31, NIV).

In this lesson, Jesus is now entering the final moments before the cross. The world, even the universe, begins to face the most crucial moment in the history of creation.

So many lessons can be derived from the events that we will look at this week, but as we read, let’s focus on one—and that is freedom and free will. Look at how the various characters used the great and costly gift of freedom. Look at the powerful and even eternal consequences that arose from the use, one way or another, of this gift.

Peter, Judas, and the woman with the alabaster box all had to make choices. But most important of all, Jesus, too, had to make choices, and the greatest one was to go to the cross, even though His human nature had cried out against it: “‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will’” (Matt. 26:39, NKJV).

The irony is incredible: the gift of free will that we had abused brought Jesus to this very moment, where Jesus—using His own free will—had to choose whether or not to save us from the destruction that our abuse of free will would otherwise have brought us.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 18.

SundayJune 12

A Beautiful Work

We are now entering the last days of Jesus’ life on earth. He has yet to go to the cross, has yet to be resurrected, and has yet to reveal Himself fully as the crucified and risen Savior of the world. However much those who followed Jesus loved Him and appreciated Him, they still had so much to learn about who He was and all that He would do for them. Looking back, with the writing of the whole Bible, and especially Paul’s powerful explanations of the atoning death of Jesus, we know so much more about what Jesus was going to do for us than His followers did at the time of this story.

With this background in mind, read Matthew 26:1-16. What is the significance of this expensive gift, and what should it teach us about how we should relate to Jesus?

Notice how Matthew places the story of Jesus’ head being anointed (which probably happened prior to the triumphal entry) within the growing plot to kill Him. While some of His own people were planning to do Him harm, this woman poured out unrestrained love and devotion upon Him, with her “alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil” (vs. 7, NKJV).

While the disciples were lamenting the waste, Jesus called what she did “a beautiful” work. By this action, very extravagant outwardly, the woman was revealing the true depth of emotion in her heart toward Jesus. Though she surely didn’t know all that was to come or what it would mean, she understood enough to know that she owed so much to Jesus; and thus, she wanted to give back so much, as well. Perhaps she had heard His words, “‘For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required’” (Luke 12:48, NKJV). Meanwhile the disciples, who had surely seen more of what Jesus had done than had that woman, still missed the point entirely.

“That ointment was a symbol of the overflowing heart of the giver. It was an outward demonstration of a love fed by heavenly streams until it overflowed. And that ointment of Mary, which the disciples called waste, is repeating itself a thousand times in the susceptible hearts of others.”—Ellen G. White, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1101.

What should this story tell us about how we should be responding to what we have been given in Jesus? Using our free will, what “beautiful” work can we perform for Him in response to what we have been given in Him?

MondayJune 13

The New Covenant

Read Matthew 26:17-19. Why is it so significant that this was the time of the Passover? See also Exod. 12:1-171 Cor. 5:7.

The story of the Exodus is, of course, a story of Redemption, of deliverance—a work that God does for those who could not do it for themselves. What an appropriate symbol for what Jesus was soon to do for us all!

Read Matthew 26:26-29. What is Jesus saying to His disciples? What do His words mean for us, now?

Jesus was pointing them to the deeper meaning of the Passover. Deliverance from Egypt was a wonderful manifestation of the Lordship and power of God, but in the end it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t the Redemption that the Hebrews, or any of us, really needed. We need the Redemption that is in Jesus: eternal life. “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15, NKJV). Jesus points them to the real meaning of the wine, the real meaning of the bread; they were all pointing to His death on the cross.

Thus, unlike the animal sacrifices that pointed forward to the death of Jesus, partaking in the Communion service points us back to it. In each case, the emblems point us to Jesus on the cross.

And yet, the Cross doesn’t end the story. When Jesus says to the disciples that He won’t drink of the fruit of the vine until that day “‘when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom’” (Matt. 26:29, NKJV). He’s pointing them to the future, to the Second Coming and beyond.

Think about Jesus’ words that He won’t drink of the fruit of the vine until we are with Him in His Father’s kingdom. What does this say about the kind of intimacy He will have with us? How can we learn to experience that intimacy with Him now?

TuesdayJune 14


During Passover week, the priests sacrificed thousands and thousands of lambs at the temple just up the hill from the Kidron Valley. The blood from the lambs was poured onto the altar and then flowed down a channel to a brook that ran through the Kidron Valley. The brook may have actually turned red from the blood of the lambs. Jesus and His disciples would have crossed over the red waters of this brook on their way to the Garden of Gethsemane.

Read Matthew 26:36-46. Why was the Gethsemane experience so difficult for Jesus? What was really happening there?

It wasn’t physical death that Jesus was afraid of when He prayed that the cup would pass from Him. The cup Jesus dreaded was separation from God. Jesus knew that to become sin for us, to die in our stead, to bear in Himself the wrath of God against sin, He would have to be separated from His Father. Violation of God’s holy law was so serious that it demanded the death of the perpetrator. Jesus came precisely because He was going to take that death upon Himself in order to spare us from it. This is what was at stake for Jesus, and for us.

“With the issues of the conflict before Him, Christ’s soul was filled with dread of separation from God. Satan told Him that if He became the surety for a sinful world, the separation would be eternal. He would be identified with Satan’s kingdom, and would nevermore be one with God … The awful moment had come—that moment which was to decide the destiny of the world. The fate of humanity trembled in the balance. Christ might even now refuse to drink the cup apportioned to guilty man. It was not yet too late. He might wipe the bloody sweat from His brow, and leave man to perish in his iniquity. He might say, Let the transgressor receive the penalty of his sin, and I will go back to My Father. Will the Son of God drink the bitter cup of humiliation and agony? Will the innocent suffer the consequences of the curse of sin, to save the guilty?”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 687, 690.

How should Jesus’ willingness to do what He did for us impact every aspect of our lives, especially when it comes to helping others? How can we learn to model better the character of Jesus in our lives?

WednesdayJune 15

Judas Sells His Soul

How sad the story of Judas! Had he died before his last journey to Jerusalem, he might have been among sacred history’s most venerated heroes. Church buildings could have been named after him. Instead, his name is forever linked to betrayal and treachery.

Read John 6:70 and Luke 22:3. How do they help to explain the actions of Judas?

Of course, blaming Satan for what Judas did is fine, but it begs the question. What was it about Judas that enabled the devil to lead him to such treachery? After all, it was even said that Satan wanted to get Peter, as well (see Luke 22:31). The difference, however, must be that Judas refused to give himself fully to the Lord; he must have hung onto some sin, some character defect that enabled Satan to come in and lead him to do what he did. Again, we see another powerful consequence of free choice.

Read Matthew 26:47-50 and 27:1-10. What lessons should we take from the sad story of Judas?

In Matthew 26:47-50 we see Judas’ guiding a detachment of soldiers (about 600 soldiers), as well as chief priests and elders. What a tremendous moment of power for Judas! When you’ve got something that people really want, you possess tremendous power, as Judas does here. That’s fine, at least for as long as you have what they want. But if they care about you only because of what you have and then eventually they get from you what they want, they finally no longer need you. Within hours, Judas will be alone, and with nothing.

Another important lesson focuses on what Judas lost his soul over. Thirty pieces of silver? In today’s terms, the amount has been said to equal between one and four months’ wages, depending upon which silver coin is meant. Even if it were ten or a hundred times that amount, look at what it cost him! And as the story shows, he lost even that. He didn’t get to enjoy any of it; instead, he threw it all back at the feet of the ones who first gave it to him. What a powerful example of how, in the end, anything that causes us to turn away from Jesus, anything that causes us to lose our soul, is as useless as was that money to Judas. Judas was so close to eternal life; and yet, he chose to throw it away for nothing.

ThursdayJune 16

Peter’s Denial

Jesus knew beforehand about Judas’s freewill decision to betray Him, one of many instances in the Bible showing that God’s foreknowledge of our free choices in no way infringes upon the freedom of those choices. And He knew not only of Judas’s betrayal, but also that Peter, despite all his bravado, would at the crucial moment flee and then deny Him.

Read Matthew 26:51-75. Why do you think Peter denied Jesus?

Often we have the idea that Peter denied Jesus simply because he was afraid. Yet, it was Peter (according to John 18:10) who had the courage to pull his sword against Roman soldiers! Peter was willing to go out in a blaze of glory—until Jesus stopped him.

So, what changed in Peter from the moment he’s brandishing a sword to just a little while later, when he’s denying he knows Jesus? Why did he say that he wasn’t a disciple? Why does Peter say, “‘I do not know the Man!’” (Matt. 26:72, NKJV)?

Maybe because Peter realized that he didn’t know the Man, didn’t know what His coming was for and didn’t know what His arrest meant. So, in a moment of panic, he denied he ever knew Him. Perhaps Peter denied Jesus when he realized that he didn’t understand what Jesus was doing. He gave up when he saw what he thought was Jesus giving up. Peter was still putting too much faith in his own understanding rather than putting his full faith in Jesus, even despite all the incredible signs he had seen and even despite his bold confession of faith in Jesus as the Christ (Matt. 16:16). Peter’s denial should tell us that all the miracles and signs in the world won’t keep us faithful to God until our hearts are fully surrendered to Him.

In Luke’s account, the third time Peter denied that he was a disciple of Jesus, Jesus Himself “turned and looked straight at Peter” (Luke 22:61, NIV). This is the word, emblepo, used to describe the way Jesus looked deep into Peter’s soul when they first met (see John 1:42). What hope can we draw from this for ourselves regarding God’s love for us even when we fail, as Peter did here?

FridayJune 17

Further Thought: In 1959, two hoodlums entered a home in Kansas and murdered two teenage children and their parents. Before the killers were found, the brother of the murdered father wrote this letter to the local paper. “‘There is much resentment in this community. I have even heard on more than one occasion that the man, when found, should be hanged from the nearest tree. Let us not feel this way. The deed is done and taking another life cannot change it. Instead, let us forgive as God would have us do. It is not right that we should hold a grudge in our hearts. The doer of this act is going to find it very difficult indeed to live with himself. His only peace of mind will be when he goes to God for forgiveness. Let us not stand in the way but instead give prayers that he may find his peace.’”—Truman Capote, In Cold Blood (New York: Modern Library, 2013) p. 124.

Putting aside questions about capital punishment, we can see here a powerful expression of the kind of grace that Christ offers to us all. Even after Peter’s inexcusable denial, Christ forgave him and entrusted him with the work of winning souls. “Peter had just declared that he knew not Jesus, but he now realized with bitter grief how well his Lord knew him, and how accurately He had read his heart, the falseness of which was unknown even to himself.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 713. He knew what was in Peter even before Peter knew; and He knew what Peter would do even before Peter knew. And yet, His love and grace remained constant, despite Peter’s having no one to blame but himself for his actions. As we deal with people who make similar mistakes, how crucial that we learn to extend grace to them just as we would wish it for ourselves.

Discussion Questions:

  1. “Every story of conversion,” wrote C. S. Lewis, “is the story of a blessed defeat.” What does that mean? How have you experienced what this “defeat” is? What is defeated, and what wins?
  2. In the story of Jesus in Gethsemane, Jesus asks that the cup pass from Him but only if “it is possible.” What does this imply other than that if humanity were to be saved, Jesus would have to give up His life? Why? Why was the death of Jesus, the sin-bearer, absolutely essential? Why couldn’t there have been another way for God to solve the problem of sin in the light of the great controversy?

Inside Story~ 

Try Jesus-Part 2

One Saturday afternoon a few weeks later, the family was busy running errands and cleaning the house when someone knocked at the door. I opened it to find a woman and two men whom I had never seen before. They were smiling and said that they had brought a Bible for Lauren Moore. "Are you Lauren?" they asked.

Soon I was smiling too as I explained that Lauren was my daughter. I called Lauren, and enjoyed the surprised looks on my guests' face when a 7-year-old girl bounded down the stairs and introduced herself as Lauren Moore. The strangers smiled warmly and gave Lauren her new Bible. Lauren was so excited that she jumped around, hugging the Bible to her.

A few weeks later the friendly woman who had given Lauren the Bible returned and introduced herself as Gayle. She asked whether Lauren had read her Bible yet and would she like some Bible study lessons to help her understand what she was reading. Lauren enthusiastically said yes to the lessons. When Gayle learned that our son, Dane, did not have a Bible, she promised to bring him one too.

The next Saturday afternoon Gayle arrived with Dane's Bible. The trio sat down at our kitchen table while Gayle patiently helped them take the first baby steps into God's Word, using Bible study lessons she had brought for them. The children enjoyed the lessons so much that Gayle promised to come back again every week to help them.

At first we were a little doubtful about what the Bible lessons might try to teach our children, but we decided that it would be good for the children to learn some Bible principles. I listened in on the Bible studies as I went about my housework. It was so interesting that Neal and I sometimes left our tasks and listened more carefully. After the lessons, as I walked Gayle to her car, I sometimes asked her to explain certain points more carefully. I had never met a Christian like Gayle before. She always seemed so happy and she listened very patiently to all of our questions. Her answers were simple yet deep, and she was so humble that my respect for her grew and grew.

To be continued.

Lesson 11  June 4-10

Last Day Events

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Exod. 19:56; Matthew 23; John 12:20-26; Matthew 24; 1 Thess. 4:16.

Memory Text:“‘And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted’” (Matthew 23:12, NKJV).

The second coming of Jesus is the climax of the Christian faith. The First Advent of Jesus and His death on the cross are the crucial precursors for the Second Coming. The Second Advent couldn’t happen without the First, and the First is fruitless without the Second. Both are inseparably linked, if not in time yet in purpose, which is the redemption of humanity and the end of the great controversy. The first coming is over and done, complete and finished; we now longingly and eagerly await the Second.

This week we will look at what is recorded in Matthew 23, with Jesus’ final appeal to some of the Jewish leaders to repent and accept Him, their only hope of salvation. Next, in Matthew 24, Jesus responded to questions about what events will unfold prior to His second coming. Here Jesus presents a rather solemn picture, linking the destruction of Jerusalem with what will precede His return.

And yet, no matter how hard things become, i.e. war, famine, betrayal, we are left with the promise of “‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory’” (Matt. 24:30, NKJV). In other words, despite the toils and sorrow, we do have every reason to rejoice.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 11.

SundayJune 5

Blind Guides

It was Jesus Himself who had led the children of Israel into Jerusalem, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. On eagle’s wings He had carried them out of Egypt and brought them to Himself. “‘Out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’” (Exod. 19:56, NIV).

In a sense, Jesus had proposed to Israel on a beautiful mountain called Sinai. Exodus 24 says that leaders and elders “went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky … They saw God, and they ate and drank” (Exod. 24:9-11, NIV). Christ offered the cup of His covenant to Israel, like a man offering a cup to the woman whom He desires to marry and to give a wonderful future. Israel received the cup and said, Yes, we want to live forever with You in the land of promise.

With this background in mind, read Matthew 23. What is Jesus saying to the leaders of Israel? What warning is being given? More important, what lessons can we draw for ourselves regarding the things He has specifically chided them for? How can we make sure that we don’t become guilty of the same?

Matthew 23 was Jesus’ final desperate plea for reconciliation with His beloved. But His beloved left Him. He accepted her decision, and for the final time He walked out of their house—the temple. “‘Look,’” He said, “‘your house is left to you desolate’” (Matt. 23:38, NIV). As Jesus left the temple, it became desolate, empty, abandoned, like the wilderness from which the Lord had first rescued them.

A great transition in salvation history was about to take place, and these leaders, and those they would lead into deception, would miss it. Meanwhile, many others, Jews and soon Gentiles, open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, would continue the great work and calling of Israel. They would become Abraham’s true seed “and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). We, too, today, are part of the same people, with the same divine calling.

MondayJune 6

Signs of the End

After Jesus rebuked the specific Jewish leaders who rejected Him, John 12:20-26 records a fascinating request. Christ is told about Gentiles who wanted “to see Jesus” (NKJV). Yet, these Gentiles first make their request to Jews who are faithful to Jesus. Before long, something similar would happen on a much larger scale: while some Jews would reject Jesus, others would be the primary means through which many Gentiles would come to the knowledge of Him. How fascinating that this request would come right after Jesus told the leaders that their house would be left desolate. Truly, the old would soon give way to the new, and to that which had always been God’s intention: the salvation of the Gentiles, as well as the Jews.

In Matthew 24:1-14, what kind of picture does Jesus present both for the faithful believers, and for the world in general?

Jesus gives this answer in response to the questions about the sign of His coming and the end of the world. “Jesus did not answer His disciples by taking up separately the destruction of Jerusalem and the great day of His coming. He mingled the description of these two events. Had He opened to His disciples future events as He beheld them, they would have been unable to endure the sight. In mercy to them He blended the description of the two great crises, leaving the disciples to study out the meaning for themselves … This entire discourse was given, not for the disciples only, but for those who should live in the last scenes of this earth’s history.”—Ellen G. White,The Desire of Ages, p. 628.

One thing is very clear in Jesus’ answer: the events leading up to His return are not pretty. Jesus doesn’t predict any earthly utopia or earthly millennial reign of peace. War, betrayal, natural disasters, a church facing persecution, false christs, and even false brethren. The most positive thing depicted here is the promise that the “‘kingdom shall be preached in all the world’” (vs. 14).

In Matthew 24:13, Jesus says that “‘he who endures to the end shall be saved’” (NKJV). What can you do to keep yourself spiritually strong amid trials that could easily wear you down and cause you to give up? We have seen this happen in others; why must we not be foolish enough to think it couldn’t happen to us, as well?

TuesdayJune 7

The Demise of Jerusalem

Read Matthew 24:15-22. What is Jesus talking about here? Again, what kind of picture does He present in response to the questions asked Him?

“The abomination of desolation” is generally understood as some kind of sacrilege or desecration of what is holy. Jesus is obviously talking about the destruction of Jerusalem, which would come in A.D. 70. As we saw yesterday, Jesus mingled His depiction of this event with those surrounding the state of the world before His second coming. “Christ saw in Jerusalem a symbol of the world hardened in unbelief and rebellion, and hastening on to meet the retributive judgments of God.”—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 22.

Yet even amid the desolation, the Lord seeks to save all who will be saved. In Luke, Jesus actually tells the disciples to flee beforethe abomination is set up: “‘When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written’” (Luke 21:20-22, NIV).

When Christians in Jerusalem saw this happen, they fled out of the city as Jesus instructed, whereas most of the Jews were left behind and perished. It is estimated that more than one million Jews perished during the siege of Jerusalem, with 97,000 more taken captive. “However, during a temporary respite, when the Romans unexpectedly raised their siege of Jerusalem, all the Christians fled, and it is said that not one of them lost his life. Their place of retreat was Pella, a city in the foothills east of the Jordan River, about 17 mi. (c. 27 km.) south of the Lake of Galilee.”—The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 499.

Think of a time when someone warned you about something and, to your own later dismay, you didn’t listen. Why is it so crucial that, besides listening to the wonderful promises in God’s Word, we also listen to its warnings?

WednesdayJune 8

The Second Coming of Jesus

Jesus’ response here in Matthew 24 was in regard to “the sign of Your coming” (vs. 3, NKJV); that is, of Christ’s coming to reign.

What other warning does Jesus give in the context of events before His return, and how has this been seen through history? Matt. 24:23-26.

Here’s Jesus, from a worldly perspective nothing but an itinerant Galilean preacher with a small following, yet He predicts that many will come in His name, claiming to be Him? Of course, that’s exactly what has happened through the centuries and even into our day, a fact that gives us more powerful evidence for the truth of God’s Word.

Read Matthew 24:27-31. How is the Second Coming described? What happens when He comes?

After warning that many will come claiming to be the Christ, Jesus then describes what His return will really be like.

First, the second coming of Jesus is personal, and literal. It is Jesus Himself who is coming back to the earth. “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven” (1 Thess. 4:16, NKJV) is a blatant refutation of those who claim that Christ’s return is an ideal or simply a new era in human history. His return is going to be visible, like lightning across the sky. “Every eye shall see him” (Rev. 1:7). The trumpet imagery reveals that it’s going to be loud, loud enough even to wake the dead! And most important, if the First Coming was one of humiliation, at the Second, Jesus will come as a triumphant King (Rev. 19:16) victorious over all of His (and our) enemies (1 Cor. 15:25).

At a time of so much turmoil and uncertainty in our world about the future, how can we learn to draw personal strength and hope from the promise of the Second Coming?

ThursdayJune 9

Keeping Watch

The second coming of Jesus is the culmination of all Christian hopes; it is the fulfillment of all that we have been promised. Without it—what? We would rot in the ground after death just as everyone else does. Without the Second Coming and all that it entails, everything else about our faith becomes a lie, a farce, everything that the critics and opponents have claimed against it.

No wonder, then, that in eager anticipation of His return, some Christians have set dates for His return. After all, so much hinges on that return. Of course, as we know, every past date set for the return of Christ has been wrong.

How does Matthew 24:3642 explain why date setters get it wrong?

Precisely because we don’t know when Christ will return, we are told that we must be ready and that we must “keep watch.”

Read Matthew 24:42-51. What is Jesus saying here about what it means to keep watch and to be ready for the Second Advent?

Jesus is clear: we do not know when He is going to come back. In fact, He’s coming when we don’t expect Him. So we need always to be ready for Him when He does come back. We need to live as if He could come back anytime, even if we don’t know when. The thinking that, Well, He isn’t coming back for a long time; so, I can do as my heart desires is precisely the attitude that Jesus is warning against. We should seek to be faithful because we love the Lord and want to do what is right by Him, regardless of when He returns. Besides, too, with all the texts that warn about judgment, especially against those who treat others badly, the timing of the Second Coming doesn’t really matter. Sooner or later, judgment will come.

As Seventh-day Adventists who have long believed in Christ’s return, how can we make sure we don’t make the mistake, even if only in a subtle way, of this “evil servant”?

FridayJune 10

Further Thought: In the context of the events depicted in Matthew 24, Jesus also said, “‘Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place’” (vs. 34, NKJV). This text has led to confusion because, obviously, all these things didn’t take place in a single temporal generation. Dr. Richard Lehmann, writing in The Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, says that the Greek word translated “generation” corresponds to the Hebrew word dôr, which is often used to designate a group or class of people, such as a “stubborn and rebellious generation” (Ps. 78:8). Thus, Jesus was not using the word to depict time or dates but to depict the class of evil people whom He had been referring to. “In harmony with this OT usage, Jesus would have used the term ‘this generation’ without a temporal meaning, to refer to a class of people. The evil generation would include all who share evil characteristics (Matt. 12:3916:4Mark 8:38).”—Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology (Hagerstown: Review and Herald®Publishing Association, 2000), p. 904. In other words, evil will remain until the end of time, until Jesus comes back.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As Seventh-day Adventists, how do we deal with what seems like an apparent delay? Haven’t previous generations of Adventists believed that Jesus would come back in their lifetimes? And don’t many of us expect it in ours? At the same time, isn’t expecting Him to return during any given period a form of date setting? How do we find the right balance in how we deal with the Second Coming? How do we avoid the attitude of the “evil servant” while at the same time avoiding that of those who see in every headline a sign of the immediate end? What should the attitude be among those of us who are awaiting the Second Coming?
  2. Read again Jesus’ description of what the Second Coming will be like. How does it differ from some of the popular conceptions of the Second Coming? Considering how clear the texts are, why do so many believe what is so contrary to Scripture? What arguments do they bring up to defend their views, and how should we respond?
  3. How do we learn to live with delay? What Bible characters had to live with delay, and what can we learn from them? For example, Joseph, Abraham and Sarah, Caleb and Joshua? Also, what does Revelation 6:910 say about delay?

Inside Story~ 

Try Jesus-Part 1

It was time for my children to arrive home from school, and I went to wait for them on the veranda of our house in Sydney. I smiled when I saw Lauren, my seven-year-old daughter, standing on her tiptoes to lift the mail out of the mailbox as she did every day before coming up the driveway.

A few seconds later she was charging toward me, waving a small piece of paper above her head.

"Mummy, mummy, this card says I can have a free Bible. May I fill it in, please, please?"

I met the children at the door, and we walked into the house as Lauren excitedly read out loud what the card said. "See, Mummy," she said, proudly reciting the words. "It says 'Try Jesus' on the front, and on the back there is a place to fill in our name and address."

I was skeptical. Our family had never belonged to a church, and I was not sure if I wanted to give our address to some strangers. But when I saw how eager Lauren was to have the free Bible, I decided to let her send in the card.

We had only lived in Sydney for a few weeks and we hardly knew anyone in Australia. Our family had lived in South Africa until just a few months earlier. But when we saw the crime spiraling out of control, we agreed that we needed to start a new life somewhere else.

We tried England, but it did not work out, so we turned our hopes to Australia. My husband, Neal, applied for work at several places. Finally we located a job in Sydney, so we packed all of our things, exchanged heart-wrenching goodbyes with our families and friends in South Africa, and started out on a new journey, a new life, on a new continent.

Although we were not Christians, I remember that when both our house and business in South Africa sold quickly in an otherwise poor market, that Someone or some power was directing our lives. We found a house in Sydney and enrolled the children in school. Everything seemed to be falling into place. But after the excitement of moving began to wear off and the pressures of everyday life in a new place surfaced, we felt homesick, sad, and a little depressed.

That was when Lauren found the "Try Jesus" card in the mailbox. She was so excited and eager to fill in our address on the card. How could I deny her wish?

I wrote our address on a piece of paper, and she carefully copied it onto the spaces on the card.

To be continued.

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Lesson 9 May 21-27

Idolsof theSoul(andOther Lessons From Jesus)

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Eccles. 9:10Matt. 18:1-4Matt. 18:21-3519:16-30Gal. 3:2122Matt. 19:27.

Memory Text:“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’” (Matthew 18:1, NIV).

As human beings, we are products of our environment, of our culture. These greatly shape our values, beliefs, and attitudes. Whether you were raised in a big metropolitan area or in a village with no clean water, it makes no difference: the culture, the environment that you grew up in has greatly made you what you are. And even if you are able to go to a new environment, the one you have been raised in will leave its mark on you until the grave.

Unfortunately, to some degree, most of our environments and cultures work against the principles of God’s kingdom. The world, after all, is a fallen world, and its values, morals, and customs often reflect that fallen state. What else would they reflect? It’s just so hard for us to see because we are so immersed in our culture and environment.

The work of God in our hearts is, among other things, to point us to the values, morals, and standards of God’s kingdom. As we will see this week, those values, morals, and standards often greatly differ from what we have been born into and reared in. The disciples had to learn these lessons; we do too.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, May 28.

SundayMay 22

The Greatness of Humility

Who doesn’t aspire to greatness? That is, who doesn’t want to be great or do great things? This desire doesn’t always have to arise from selfishness or from ego or arrogance. It could simply be doing the very best that you can at whatever you do, hoping perhaps that what you do could even bring blessings upon others. (See also Eccles. 9:10.)

The problem, however, comes in defining “greatness.” How easy for our fallen human minds to understand the concept in a way that vastly differs from God’s view.

Read Matthew 18:1-4. According to Jesus, what is true greatness, and how are we to understand it in a way that we can apply it to our own lives?

To define true greatness, Jesus called a child to stand before Him and said, “‘Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (vs. 4, NKJV). Jesus didn’t talk about being a great preacher, or a great businessman, or even a great philanthropist. Greatness, in the sight of God, is what we are inside, not what we do externally, though no doubt what’s inside will impact what we do externally.

Notice, Jesus defines greatness in a way that most people in the world don’t. After all, who wakes up one day and decides that the greatness he or she wants in life is to be as humble as a little child? It seems strange to us, to aspire to something like that, but this is only because we are so tainted by the world’s principles, ideas, and concepts.

What does it mean to be humble like a little child? One of the indicators of humility is obedience, putting God’s Word ahead of our own will. If you are on the wrong path in your life, then that’s because you’re on your own path. The solution is simple: humble yourself and get back on God’s path through obedience to His Word. If Adam and Eve had stayed humble, they would not have sinned. It’s interesting to consider that the tree of life and the tree of knowledge were both located in the middle of the garden. Often life and destruction aren’t far apart. The difference is humility.

What are some other attitudes and ideas we hold only because of our contact with the world, attitudes and ideas that are in conflict with the Word of God? Bring your answer to class on Sabbath.

MondayMay 23

The Greatness of Forgiveness

One of the worst consequences of the Fall is seen in interpersonal relationships. From Adam trying to blame Eve for his sin (Gen. 3:12) to this moment on earth today, our race has been ravaged and degraded by conflict between individuals. Unfortunately, conflicts are not just in the world but in the church, as well.

Read Matthew 18:15-35. What does Jesus tell us here? Why, though, do we often not follow His words to us?

Let’s face it: it’s easier to go behind someone’s back to complain about him or her than to go directly to the person and deal with the issue. And that is precisely why we don’t want to do it, despite being told to do it by the Lord. Yet, Jesus teaches us to go directly to someone who has hurt us and to attempt to restore the relationship. If the person is not receptive, then there are additional instructions.

“‘For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them’” (Matt. 18:20, NKJV). Look at the context here; it is about the discipline and restoration of another person. (We tend to apply this verse more broadly.)

Jesus says that the Holy Spirit is present when a small group is attempting to restore a believer. This is the beautiful work of Redemption. And it begins with humbly doing the right thing and talking directly with someone who has hurt you. This, too, would be another example of greatness in those who do it.

Read Matthew 18:21-35 again. What crucial point is Jesus making?

When Jesus says to “forgive seventy times seven,” what He’s really saying is that we must never stop forgiving someone. Jesus is serious about the necessity of forgiveness, not only for others’ benefit but for our own. Look at how strong the parable is that He told to make His point. We can be forgiven a lot of things; that’s what the gospel is all about, forgiveness (see Exod. 32:32Acts 5:31Col. 1:14), but if we don’t forgive others the way we have been forgiven by God, we can face dire consequences.

Why is it so important, then, to dwell upon the Cross, upon the forgiveness that we have been given because of it? If God did this for you, if this is what it took to forgive you, how can you learn to forgive others, no matter how impossible that forgiveness might now appear to be?

TuesdayMay 24

Idols of the Soul

Read Matthew 19:16-30. As New Testament Christians, how are we to relate to this story today? What lessons can we take from it for ourselves?

Though not much is told us specifically about this man, we can pick up a few salient points. He was rich, a ruler (see Luke 18:18), and apparently a very scrupulous follower of God’s law. We can see, too, that he sensed something was missing from his life. It reminds one a bit of the story of Martin Luther; though outwardly a pious monk, inside he was dissatisfied with his spiritual life and he struggled with assurance of salvation. In both cases, the men sensed that the great gap between themselves and God was not going to be filled by their outward works.

“This ruler had a high estimate of his own righteousness. He did not really suppose that he was defective in anything, yet he was not altogether satisfied. He felt the want of something that he did not possess. Could not Jesus bless him as He blessed the little children, and satisfy his soul want?”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 518.

Some people might argue that, in this story, Jesus is teaching that we receive eternal life based on our good works. After all, inMatthew 19:17 Jesus says, “If you want to enter life, keep the commandments” (NIV). If this were the only text on that subject, one could make an argument here. But too many other texts, especially in Paul’s writings, teach that the law does not save but rather points to our need of salvation (see Rom. 3:28Gal. 3:2122Rom. 7:7). Instead, Jesus must have been guiding this man to see his own great need of more than what he was doing. After all, if keeping the law alone could do it, then the man would already have salvation, since he was scrupulous in keeping it. The gospel needs to penetrate the heart, to go right to the idols of the soul, and whatever we are holding onto that’s an impediment to our relationship to God needs to be gone. In this case, it was his money. Jesus notes how hard it is for a rich man to be saved; and yet, shortly after this dialog, Luke records a beautiful story of exactly that happening (see Luke 19:1-10).

If you were in the position of the rich man, and you asked Jesus the same question, what do you think He would say to you? Dwell on the implications of your answer.

WednesdayMay 25

What’s In It for Us?

Right after the incident with the rich ruler, what happens?

“Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?’” (Matt. 19:27, NKJV).

Nothing in the text says what prompted this question, but it could easily be in direct response to the rich man’s departure from Jesus. Peter seemed to be implying that, unlike this man and others who either rejected Jesus or stayed with Him a while and then left, he and the other disciples had left all for Him. They were remaining faithful to Him, even at great personal cost. Thus, the question is, What’s in it for us?

From our perspective today, we might see this question as another indication of how hard-hearted and spiritually dense the disciples were (and, to some degree, that’s true). On the other hand, why not ask a question like Peter’s? Why shouldn’t he wonder what he would get by following Jesus?

After all, life here is hard, even for those who have it the best. We are all subject to the traumas, the disappointments, the pain of our fallen existence. In the 1800s an Italian intellectual named Giacomo Leopardi wrote about the overriding unhappiness of human beings, saying that “as long as man feels life, he also feels displeasure and pain.”

Life is often a struggle, and the good in this world doesn’t always even out with the bad. So Peter’s question makes perfect sense.Because life is hard, what advantage comes to us from following Jesus? What should we expect from making the kind of commitment that Jesus asked of us?

How did Jesus respond to the question? (See Matt. 19:28-20:16.)

Notice, Jesus didn’t rebuke Peter for selfishness or the like. He gave him first a very straightforward answer and then the parable regarding the workers and their wages. Though over the centuries a great deal of discussion has ensued over the meaning of the parable, the basic point is clear: you will get from Jesus what He has promised us.

If someone were to ask you, “What will I get by serving Jesus?” what would you answer?

ThursdayMay 26

“We Are Able”

To truly appreciate today’s story about James and John (and their mom) in Matthew 20:20-27, first read Luke 9:51-56. This event occurred when Jesus and His disciples at first set out for Jerusalem, just days before James and John asked if they could sit on Jesus’ left and right in the kingdom.

Read Matthew 20:20-27. What does Luke 9:51-56 tell us about how ready James and John were to sit on the left and right of Jesus in the kingdom?

James and John, the Sons of Thunder, were still clearly more worried about their own future than about the salvation of those around them, even after they had been sent out to evangelize the surrounding areas. In its own way, this story is somewhat like what we looked at yesterday, with Peter’s question regarding what they could get by following Jesus.

Look carefully at Jesus’ answer here. “‘You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’” (Matthew 20:22, NKJV). In other words, to be identified with Jesus’ future glory means, first, to be identified with His suffering and death, something that they had not anticipated and were not ready for. The fact that they immediately answered, “‘We are able’” (Matt. 20:22) shows that they didn’t know what He was warning them about. They would learn, eventually.

An interesting contrast is presented here, one that we need to think about for ourselves. As we saw in yesterday’s study, we have been promised wonderful things, even “eternal life” (Matt. 19:29, NKJV), if we follow Jesus. At the same time, too, the Bible makes it clear that in this world, following Jesus comes with a cost, sometimes a very big one. Jesus Himself later told Peter that he would die a martyr’s death (see John 21:1819). Many believers throughout history, and even today, have paid a great price for following Jesus. In fact, it might be wise to ask ourselves if there is something wrong with our walk if indeed we have not paid a steep price for following the Lord. Whatever the price, though, it’s cheap enough.

What has following Christ cost you? Think hard on the implications of your answer.

FridayMay 27

Further Thought: Through the centuries some people have argued for what is sometimes called “natural law.” Though it comes in many shapes and forms, the idea is that we can derive from the natural world moral principles that can help guide our actions. In one sense, as Christians who believe that nature is God’s “Second Book,” we could accept that there’s some truth to this. For instance, see Paul’s discourse in Romans 1:18-32 about what people should have learned about God from the natural world. At the same time, too, we can’t forget that this is a fallen world, and we view it with fallen, corrupted minds. So it should be no surprise that we could come away with wrong moral lessons from nature. For example, one of greatest mortal minds in antiquity, the Greek philosopher Aristotle, argued for slavery based on his understanding of nature. For him, nature revealed two classes of people, one of which was as “inferior to others … as … a beast to a man.” So for them, a “life of slavish subjection is advantageous.” This is just one of many examples we can find of how worldly principles, values, and ideas conflict with those of God’s kingdom, which is why—regardless of where we were born and brought up—we need to study God’s Word and from it derive the morals, values, and principles that should govern our lives. Nothing else, of itself, is reliable.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Jesus calls us to forgive all who hurt us. This includes our own families. Think about someone close to you who has hurt you. Though your scars might always be there, how do you reach a point where you can forgive?
  2. In class, discuss your answer to Sunday’s questions about the clash between your society’s values and those of the Bible. How are we as Christians to work through these differences?
  3. Dwell more on the idea of greatness as having the humility of a child. What does this mean to us as Christians?
  4. As Seventh-day Adventists we believe in obeying God’s law, the Ten Commandments, and rightly so. What, though, should the story of the rich ruler tell us about why, however important outward obedience to God’s law is, it’s not enough, and that true Christianity, while including obedience to the law of God, includes more?

Inside Story~ 

Coming Home-Part 1

I was introduced to the Seventh-day Adventist Church when my mother married an Adventist. I was in my early teens when I began attending the Adventist Church, and I really enjoyed it.

The two things that kept me going were the Sabbath School and Pathfinder leaders and the great programs they planned. They were so good that we kids never wanted to miss! Besides that, we knew that if we missed a week or two, we would get a visit, sometimes from the whole Sabbath School class!

By the time I was 15 my parents were no longer going to church, but I kept going because I loved it so much.

The Pathfinders were planning a camporee, and I wanted to go. The pastor drove me home so I could ask my stepdad if he would pay my way to go to the camporee. But instead of encouraging me, he told me I should spend my time studying instead of going camping. Then he said if I really wanted to go on this camporee, I could pack my things-right then-and leave for good. I gathered my things together and went home with the pastor.

My mom's marriage failed, and she lost interest in church. But I had found something I wasn't willing to give up. I moved in with my grandmother, where I had lived off and on over the years. Even though Grandma was not an Adventist, she supported me and encouraged me to attend church.

Throughout these difficult teen years, the church pastor and church members were my family. But the pastor left the following year, leaving me feeling as if I had lost my own father. Things weren't the same after that, and in time I attended church less and less often.

My grandmother worked hard weaving mats and making handicrafts to send me to a good school. I hated to see her struggle, so I asked the school for help. The priest who ran the school told me that they would help me attend school if when I finished and got a job, I would pay them back. I decided to do this. I went home and told my grandmother that I had a scholarship. I knew this wasn't really true, but I wanted to help her. I kept my promise, and when I graduated I got a job to repay the school.

But the school wasn't always a good influence on me. Some of the alumni encouraged athletes to drink alcohol. This started me on some bad habits. I was enjoying the benefits of my athletic abilities, but in the back of my mind I knew what was right and wrong, and my conscience bothered me.

To be continued.


Lesson 8May 14-20

Peterand theRock

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Gal. 4:4Heb. 7:26Matt. 16:13-20Eph. 2:20Matt. 16:21-2717:1-9.

Memory Text:“‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’” (Matthew 16:15, NIV).

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Matt. 16:21, NKJV).

The New Testament is clear: Jesus had to die. As He faced the looming shadow of the Cross, Jesus prayed: “‘Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save Me from this hour”? But for this purpose I came to this hour’” (John 12:27, NKJV). This was the divine plan, conceived within the mind of God, even “before time began” (Titus 1:2, NKJV, see also 2 Tim. 1:9).

That’s why Jesus didn’t say simply that He was going to suffer many things and be killed and raised up on the third day, but that Hemust face these things. Given the nature of God, the sanctity of the law, and the reality of free will, His death was the only way that humanity could be saved from the penalty of transgression.

This week we pick up more of the story of Jesus, though we will focus on Peter and how Peter responded to the ministry of Jesus as He marched toward a death planned from ”before time began.”

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, May 21.

SundayMay 15

“You Are the Christ”

Imagine what it must have been like for Peter, who had been with Jesus almost from the start. What must have gone through his mind as he witnessed one incredible event after another: the healings, the casting out of demons, the feeding of the multitudes, the amazing teachings, the controlling of nature, raising the dead, and the walking on water together? What questions (such as, again, Why did He allow John the Baptist such an ignominious end?) must have bounced around inside him, day after day, seeing things that no one in all of history had ever seen? After all, Jesus was God in human flesh and lived and ministered to humanity in the flesh (Gal. 4:4;Heb. 7:26Isa. 9:6Luke 2:1011). So, those who were around Him, who lived with Him, and who were His disciples were going to have plenty of unique experiences.

Read Matthew 16:13-17. What question did Jesus ask His disciples, and of what significance is it that Peter is the only one recorded as answering? And why is his answer so pivotal?

Peter’s declaration of Jesus as “‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (vs. 16, NKJV) is one of the high points in all of Scripture. Peter called Him “‘the Christ,’” the Anointed One, and with this confession he was saying (correctly, as it turned out to be) that Jesus was the Messiah, the One who was to come in fulfillment of the covenant promises made to Abraham and then Israel (see Gal. 3:16).

Also, Peter proclaimed Jesus as the Christ in the region of Caesarea Philippi. This was Gentile country. In the days prior, Peter had watched Jesus care not only for the Jews but for the Gentiles, as well. With the aid of the Holy Spirit, Peter recognized that Jesus was something much more than a Jewish prophet, as others had suggested. His ministry extended much further than that of John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah. Indeed, it was to encompass all humanity; hence, Jesus calls Himself “the Son of Man,” showing His personal identification with all human beings. As the Bible later shows, Peter still had so much to learn about Jesus and the fullness and universality of what He had come to do.

What are the things that Jesus has done in your life that you could testify to as a witness to others? Why is it good always to keep these things before you and to share them?

MondayMay 16

“On This Rock”

Right after Peter’s bold confession of faith in Jesus as “‘the Christ, the Son of the living God,’” Jesus says something in answer to Peter.

Read Matthew 16:17-20. What did Jesus say to Peter, and how are we to understand what He meant?

The phrase “on this rock” has been controversial within the Christian church. Catholics interpret the “rock” to mean Peter himself, arguing that Peter was the first pope. Protestants, however, and with good reason, reject that interpretation.

The biblical weight of evidence is clearly in favor of the idea that the Rock is Christ Himself and not Peter.

First of all, in a few places Peter refers to Jesus, and not to himself, with rock imagery (see Acts 4:8-121 Pet. 2:4-8).

Second, all through the Bible the image of God and of Christ as a rock is found; in contrast, humans are seen as weak and untrustworthy. “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14, NKJV). “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help” (Ps. 146:3, NKJV). As John wrote, too, about Jesus: “and [He] had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:25, NKJV). And He knew, too, what was in Peter, as well (Matt. 26:34).

In contrast, what do these texts tell us about who the Rock really is and upon whom the church is built? (1 Cor. 10:4Matt. 7:2425Eph. 2:20).

“How feeble the church appeared when Christ spoke these words! There was only a handful of believers, against whom all the power of demons and evil men would be directed; yet the followers of Christ were not to fear. Built upon the Rock of their strength, they could not be overthrown.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 413.

What has been your own experience in regard to the fallibility and weakness of human beings? How can you use these experiences to help you lean only on the Rock?

TuesdayMay 17

Peter as Satan

Read Matthew 16:21-23. Why is Jesus suddenly so tough on Peter?

Peter’s problem wasn’t that he was trying to protect Jesus. He was trying to steer Jesus. He was no longer following Jesus; he was telling Jesus to follow him.

Jesus said, “‘Get behind Me, Satan!’” (vs. 23, NKJV) because, like Satan himself in the wilderness, Peter had become a threat to the mission of Christ.

Mark 8:33 notes that during this exchange, Jesus turned and looked at His disciples. He had come to save them. He was not going to be tempted otherwise, and certainly not by one of His own disciples, no matter how well-meaning that disciple thought he was.

As much as Simon Peter had grown in his walk, he was still trying to control things, including Jesus Himself. In this sense, Peter wasn’t all that different from another disciple, Judas, who tried to manage Jesus and to execute his own plans for what he thought a Messiah ought to be like. But, unlike Judas, Peter was deeply repentant and willing to be disciplined and forgiven.

Read Matthew 16:24-27. What does Jesus mean when He says, “‘For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’” (vs. 25, NKJV)?

We live in a culture that tells us to follow our dreams, to sacrifice everything for what we want. But Jesus tells us to do the opposite; He invites us to give up our dreams and entrust them to Him. Peter and the disciples were gradually learning what true faith is. True faith isn’t supposed to be the exciting experience of pursuing what you most want. True faith is the painful experience of releasingwhat you most want. When you let go of your dreams, you are “losing your life.” And at the same time, you are finding it.

What are some things that you had to lose in order to follow Jesus? Maybe at the time they seemed so important, but looking back, how do they appear now?

WednesdayMay 18

Encouragement From Heaven

Read Matthew 17:1-9. What happened here, and why was it so important for both Jesus Himself and for the disciples?

Jesus “had dwelt amid the love and fellowship of heaven; but in the world that He had created, He was in solitude. Now heaven had sent its messengers to Jesus; not angels, but men who had endured suffering and sorrow, and who could sympathize with the Saviour in the trial of His earthly life. Moses and Elijah had been colaborers with Christ. They had shared His longing for the salvation of men … These men, chosen above every angel around the throne, had come to commune with Jesus concerning the scenes of His suffering, and to comfort Him with the assurance of the sympathy of heaven. The hope of the world, the salvation of every human being, was the burden of their interview.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 422, 425.

How fascinating that Jesus, the Son of God, in His humanity had the need of comfort and encouragement from these men, who themselves knew their own share of suffering and discouragement. Luke records that they spoke to Him about “His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31, NKJV). Notice the word accomplish, which can also be translated as “fulfill,” more evidence that Jesus’ death was necessary for the salvation of humanity. With so much at stake, it’s no wonder that heaven saw the need and sent this encouragement.

Also, despite all that they had seen and heard already, Peter, James, and John were going to get even more reasons to believe. The voice coming out of the cloud certainly had to be encouraging, as well, once they got over their initial fear. How revealing, too, that Matthew says that Jesus “came and touched them and said, ‘Arise, and do not be afraid’” (Matt. 17:7, NKJV). Even amid all that He was about to face, Jesus comforts and encourages His disciples.

No matter who we are or how strong our faith and commitment is, we can all at times use encouragement. This also means that someone you know might be in need of it, as well. Whom do you know that you could give some encouragement to right now?

ThursdayMay 19

Jesus and the Temple Tax

Read Matthew 17:24-27. What is going on here, and what does this also tell us about Jesus?

Though all Jews were required to pay the temple tax, priests, Levites, and rabbis were exempt. So, this question about whether Jesus paid the temple tax was also a challenge to His ministry.

Ellen G. White writes that Peter missed an opportunity to testify on this occasion to the absolute authority of Christ. “By his answer to the collector, that Jesus would pay the tribute, he had virtually sanctioned the false conception of Him to which the priests and rulers were trying to give currency … If priests and Levites were exempt because of their connection with the temple, how much more He to whom the temple was His Father’s house.”—The Desire of Ages, pp. 433, 434.

We can learn much from Jesus’ gracious response to Peter. Rather than humiliate him, Jesus gently explains his error. Moreover, Jesus adapts to the course Peter had taken in a most creative way. Rather than simply paying the tax—thereby acknowledging His obligation to it—Jesus gets the tax elsewhere: from the mouth of a fish.

This miracle is unusual; it’s the only time Jesus performs a miracle seemingly for His own benefit. But that wasn’t the miracle’s purpose. Instead, the miracle was a demonstration to everyone of Jesus’ authority not only over the temple but over all of creation. From a human standpoint, how can we even begin to understand how Jesus could have performed this miracle? Of all the things that Peter had seen, can you imagine what must have gone on in his mind when he throws out his line, catches his first fish, and finds the exact amount owed for the temple tax? (See Isa. 40:13-17.)

Though there was no necessity for Jesus and His disciples to pay the temple tax, Jesus had them do it anyway, in order to avoid unnecessary controversy. What are ways we can learn to de-escalate situations, especially on things that are not absolute, in order to avoid unnecessary conflict?

FridayMay 20

Further Thought: The story of how Jesus has Peter pull the money, the exact amount needed, out of the mouth of the first fish Peter catches is extraordinary, so extraordinary that some scholars have tried to argue it away. It was just a “bit of a folk-tale,” a cute story to make a point, nothing more. Of course, that’s a totally inadequate solution (it’s no solution at all, in fact). Sure, in contrast to the other kind of miracles—for example, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, raising the dead, feeding the hungry—this one is of a different nature altogether. In the Bible, too, we do have the floating axe head (2 Kings 6:2-7) and the wet fleece on the dry ground and the dry fleece on the wet ground (Judg. 6:36-40); so, it’s not of a nature totally unknown in Scripture. Why didn’t Jesus simply hand Peter the money and tell him to pay it rather than perform such an amazing feat in order to solve what was a relatively small problem? The text doesn’t say. However, as the lesson said, it does show us the incredible power of God, which should not be surprising to us. After all, we see evidence of His incredible power all the time. Our mere existence, much less than that of the visible cosmos, is an amazing manifestation of the power of our God. If God could do this, a specific coin in a specific fish’s mouth was nothing. Though written in a different context, Paul’s point is so well taken: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33, NKJV). The account in Matthew is just one more manifestation of this truth.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Peter’s struggle to submit his will to God is our struggle, as well. A powerful metaphor of this struggle can be found in Malachi 1, where God asks the Jews to bring only their best animals for sacrifice. “‘When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?’ says the LORD” (Mal. 1:13, NIV). Why would God care what kind of sacrifices we bring to Him? Because He wants us to entrust Him with what we most want to hold onto. What things in your life do you find yourself clutching onto the most? How can you release these things to the Lord?
  2. Think about the way Jesus handled the situation with the temple tax. Rather than exacerbate the situation, He let it rest. What does this teach us about the day-to-day conflicts we might find ourselves in? How do you know when it’s time to speak and when it’s time to be silent?

Inside Story~ 

The Bridge That God Built-Part 2

The story thus far: Pastor Frank Kalom ministered to 21 village churches scattered among the steep mountains and valleys around Maramuni River area of Papua New Guinea. After visiting members on the other side of the river, the pastor and his traveling companion learned that the bridge crossing the river had been washed away.

The two men decided to follow the river upstream to search for a place to cross. But their way was blocked by boulders.

As they stood on the bank of the raging river, wondering what to do next, they saw a huge log come hurtling down the river, tossing about like a cork. As the log neared where the men were standing, it suddenly was thrown into the air and came to rest across the two banks, just like a bridge.

Quickly grasping the opportunity they were sure God had given them, the men climbed down the muddy bank and stepped gently onto the log. Deciding it was safe, the two carefully walked across the log and up the bank on the opposite side.

As soon as the two men jumped off the log, it crashed back into the madly swirling water and went hurtling downstream. The men watched in amazement and gratitude as the log sailed down the river. Still standing in the slippery mud, they offered heartfelt thankful prayers to God, then began the arduous task of clambering up the slippery path toward the pastor's home village.

Along the trail they met some people who knew the regular bridge had been washed out.

"Where have you come from?" the strangers asked in surprise.

"We came from the village on the other side of the Maramuni River," Pastor Frank answered with a smile.

"But that's impossible! The bridge was washed out yesterday," the strangers answered. Then Pastor Frank told the people about the bridge that God had built.

They did not believe the pastor's story, so they followed the footprints back to the place where the pastor and his companion crossed the river. They saw two sets of heavy prints in the soft mud leading up the bank of the river, and a mark in the mud where a large log had been-but they saw no log. Then the people knew that God really had sent a bridge so that His servant could return home.

Many children in Papua New Guinea have no place to meet for Sabbath School except under trees. One of the Thirteenth Sabbath Mission projects this quarter is to provide "Lamb Shelters"-sturdy structures where the children's Sabbath Schools can be held from week to week. Thank you for giving generously.

By Maye Porter, who served as the associate children's ministries director in the Papua New Guinea Union Mission when she wrote this story.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  website:

Lesson 7May 7-13

Lord of Jews and Gentiles

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Matt. 14:1-21Exod. 3:14Matt. 14:22-33Isa. 29:13Matt. 15:1-20Matt. 15:21-28.

Memory Text:“‘I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles’” (Isaiah 42:6, NIV).

In Matthew 15:24, Jesus says explicitly, “‘I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’” (NKJV). No question, Christ’s earthly ministry was directed mostly toward the nation of Israel.

But, as the whole Bible shows, Israel wasn’t the only people God cared about. The reason God chose Israel was so that He could bless all people on earth. “This is what God the LORD says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: ‘I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness’” (Isa. 42:5-7, NIV).

It was through Israel, or more specifically from the Messiah who would arise from Israel, that God would reach out to the whole world. This week we’ll see a little more of the Lord’s outreach to all in need of salvation.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, May 14.

SundayMay 8

Feeding the Hungry

One of the most well-known acts of Jesus is the feeding of the five thousand, “besides women and children” (Matt. 14:21). Yet, as with everything else in the New Testament, this story doesn’t occur without a context that helps us understand even more deeply the meaning of what Jesus had done.

Read Matthew 14:1-21. What happened right before the miraculous feeding, and what role might that event have played in what followed?

Put yourself in the position of the disciples at that time. John the Baptist, clearly a man of God, just had his head chopped off. His disciples knew that, because they were the ones who told Jesus. Though the texts don’t say, it must have been incredibly discouraging for them. No doubt, it put their faith to the test. However, after what Jesus did next, their faith must have been given quite a boost, especially after such a let down.

There is, however, a much deeper meaning to this story, regardless of how it might have increased the disciples’ faith. Jesus’ action of feeding the Jewish people reminded everyone of the manna that God had provided to the Israelites in the wilderness. “The tradition arose within Judaism that the Messiah would come on a Passover and that along with His coming, manna would begin to fall again … So when Jesus fed the five thousand just before Passover, it should not surprise anyone that the crowd might begin to speculate whether He was the Messiah and whether He was about to do an even greater miracle—feed everyone all the time by restoring the manna.”—Jon Paulien, John: The Abundant Life Bible Amplifier (Boise: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1995) pp. 139, 140.

This was exactly the kind of Messiah the people wanted: a Messiah that would tend to their external needs. At this moment, the crowds are ready to make Jesus king, but Jesus hadn’t come to be king, and His refusal would greatly disappoint them. They had their expectations, and when those were not met, many would turn away from Jesus, even though He had come to do so much more than what their narrow and worldly expectations were.

In what ways might your expectations of what you expect from God be too narrow?

MondayMay 9

Lord of All Creation

After the miraculous feeding, Jesus ordered His disciples into their boat (Matt. 14:22). He wanted them away from the mayhem and pressure. A good teacher will shelter his students from what they’re not yet ready to handle. “Calling His disciples,” writes Ellen G. White, “Jesus bids them take the boat and return at once to Capernaum, leaving Him to dismiss the people … They protested against the arrangement; but Jesus now spoke with an authority He had never before assumed toward them. They knew that further opposition on their part would be useless, and in silence they turned toward the sea.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 378.

Read Matthew 14:23-33. What do these verses reveal about who Jesus was and the nature of salvation?

A revealing moment occurs when the terrified disciples are wondering who is walking on the water toward them. Jesus says to them, “‘It is I; do not be afraid’” (vs. 27, NKJV). The phrase “‘It is I’” is another way of translating the Greek phrase ego eimi, which means “I am.” This is the name of God Himself. (See also Exod. 3:14.)

Scripture time and again has the Lord in control of all nature. Psalm 104, for example, clearly shows that God is not only the Creator but also the Sustainer, and that it’s through His power that the world continues to exist and that the laws of nature operate. There’s nothing here that hints at the god of deism, who creates the world and then leaves it alone. Jew or Gentile, we all owe our continued existence to the sustaining power of the same Lord who stilled the sea. (See also Heb. 1:3.)

Peter’s cry, “‘Lord, save me!’” (Matt. 14:30, NKJV) should echo our own, because if the Lord Jesus doesn’t save us, who will? Peter’s helplessness in that situation reflects our own in the face of what our fallen world throws at us.

Think about just how helpless you really are, in the sense of being at the mercy of forces so much greater than you and that you can’t control. How should this reality help strengthen your dependence upon Jesus?

TuesdayMay 10

The Hypocrite’s Heart

“Therefore the LORD said: ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men’” (Isa. 29:13, NKJV). Though this was the Lord speaking to ancient Israel, what message is here for the church, today? What are the two main issues that the Lord is warning them about, and how can we be sure that we aren’t doing the same thing?

Many centuries after Isaiah wrote those words, Jesus quotes them while in a controversy with the religious leaders.

Read Matthew 15:1-20. What is the specific issue here, and how does Jesus address it?

At some point after He returns to Capernaum, Jesus gets into a debate with the Jewish teachers about what makes a person unclean. The teachers had added to the law all kinds of regulations about external uncleanliness. For example, you had to wash your hands in a certain way. But Jesus’ disciples weren’t bothering with this regulation, and when the scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem pointed it out, Jesus responded as He did.

In short, Jesus strongly condemns what’s so easily a trap for anyone: hypocrisy. Who hasn’t at some point been guilty of this, condemning someone for an action (either verbally or in your own heart) even though you have done or were doing the same thing or worse? We all, if not careful, have a tendency to see the faults of others while being blind to our own. Hence, being a hypocrite tends to come naturally to us all.

We all hate hypocrisy in others. It is always so easy to see hypocrisy in others too. How can we make sure that our ability to see hypocrisy in others isn’t just a manifestation of it in ourselves?

WednesdayMay 11

Crumbs From the Table

After feeding, healing, and preaching to His own Jewish people, Jesus makes a dramatic decision. He leaves the area of the Jews and enters the region of the outsiders, the Gentiles.

Read Matthew 15:21-28. How are we to understand this story?

In many ways, this isn’t an easy story to read, because we’re without the benefit of voice tone and facial expressions. At first Jesus seems to ignore this woman; then, when He does talk to her, His words seem very harsh: “‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs’” (vs. 26, NIV).

What if you tried this approach? Someone asks if they can have some of your chips, and you respond, “It is not right to toss my chips to the dogs.” Not exactly a way to win friends, is it?

However, here are a few things to consider.

First, it is true that at this time the Jews referred to Gentiles as dogs, bringing the image of mangy dogs running the streets. But Jesus uses the more affectionate Greek term, “small dog” (or “puppy dog”) here, conjuring up domestic dogs kept in the home and fed from the table.

Second, this Canaanite woman calls Jesus the “Son of David.” This shows her familiarity with Jesus’ Jewishness. Like a good teacher, Jesus dialogs with her and perhaps tests her. Craig Keener writes: “Perhaps he is requiring her to understand his true mission and identity, lest she treat him as one of the many wandering magicians to whom Gentiles sometimes appealed for exorcisms. Yet he is surely summoning her to recognize Israel’s priority in the divine plan, a recognition that for her will include an admission of her dependent status … One may compare Elisha’s requirement that Naaman dip in the Jordan despite Naaman’s preference for the Aramean rivers Abana and Pharpar … , ultimately leading to Naaman’s acknowledgment of Israel’s God and land (2 Kings 5:17-18).”—The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, p. 417.

Finally, it’s likely this woman was an upper-class Greek woman who was part of a class that had “routinely taken the bread belonging to the impoverished Jews residing in the vicinity of Tyre … Now … Jesus reverses the power relations, for the ‘bread’ Jesus offers belongs to Israel first … ; this ‘Greek’ must beg help from an itinerant Jew.”—The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, p. 417.

This is not an easy passage, but we have to trust Jesus. By dialoging with this woman, Jesus dignifies her—just as He did the woman at the well. She leaves with her daughter healed and her faith in the Son of David ignited.

ThursdayMay 12

Lord of The Gentiles

Read Matthew 15:29-39 and compare it with Matthew 14:13-21. What are the similarities and the differences between the two stories?

Many people don’t realize that there are two feedings of the multitudes in the Gospels: the first for the Jews, the second for the Gentiles. In both instances, Jesus has “compassion” for the people.

It’s amazing, this image of thousands of Gentiles coming out to be taught, loved, and fed by this young Rabbi. Today, looking back and understanding the universality of the gospel (after all most people reading this right now are not Jews), we can easily miss just how incredible and unexpected something like this must have appeared to the people, both to the Jews and to the Gentiles. No question, Jesus was surely taking everyone out of their comfort zones.

Yet, this was always God’s plan, to draw all peoples of the earth to Him. A startling verse in the Hebrew Scriptures testifies to this truth: “‘Are not you Israelites the same to me as the Cushites? … Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?’” (Amos 9:7, NIV).

What is God saying here? That He’s interested in the affairs of not only Israel but of all people? He’s interested in Philistines? A careful reading of the Old Testament reveals this truth over and over, even though it had become so obscure through the centuries that, by the time the New Testament church was formed, many of the early believers had to learn this basic biblical truth.

Read Romans 4:1-12. In what ways is the gospel, and the universality of the gospel, captured in these verses?

FridayMay 13

Further Thought: A Christian was speaking to students on a secular campus about the existence of God. After using all the common arguments, he took a different tack, saying: “You know, when I was about the age of most of you, and not believing in God, every now and then, when something would convict me that maybe God did exist, I always pushed the notion out of my mind. Why? Because something told me that if, indeed, God did exist, then—considering how I was living—I was in deep trouble.” The mood shifted, instantly. Dozens of consciences, in sync, started grinding against themselves. It was almost as if the temperature in the room rose from the friction behind all these suddenly uncomfortable faces. He clearly struck a nerve. These students, not Christians, and thus probably not too concerned about the Ten Commandments, nevertheless still sensed that all was not right with their lives morally and that if there were a God they would have a lot to answer for. As Christians, however, people who should be very attuned to God’s moral standards, we don’t have to feel uncomfortable when confronted with the reality of a moral God, and that’s because of the promise of the gospel. Whether Jew or Gentile, when confronted by our sinfulness, we can take refuge in the righteousness of Christ offered to us by faith “apart from the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28, NKJV). When we become acutely aware of our sin, we can claim the promise that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1, NKJV). Jew, Gentile—it doesn’t matter. “Without distinction of age, or rank, or nationality, or religious privilege, all are invited to come unto Him and live.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 403.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read Matthew 16:1-12. What do you think Jesus means when He says, “‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees’” (Matt. 16:6, NIV). At first the disciples thought Jesus meant literal yeast. During Passover, the Jews were careful to get rid of leaven; so, they thought Jesus was instructing them not to buy bread with leaven. But Jesus had in mind something much deeper. What was it?
  2. The love of Christ for all people should be the message that emanates first and foremost from Christianity. After all, we are struggling sinners too. None of us haS any hope outside of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the message we send can, at times, seem to be one of judgment, arrogance, and superiority. Following the lead of Jesus, how can we as a church better show our compassion for all people?

Inside Story~ 

The Bridge That God Built-Part 1

Frank Kalom was a pastor in the Maramuni River area of Papua New Guinea. In this isolated and untamable region, he ministered to 21 village churches scattered among the steep mountains and valleys of his territory. One Friday he set out to visit a village on the other side of the river.

This was no easy journey, as there are no roads. Pastor Frank had only a narrow foot track to follow. First he climbed up the hill behind his house and crossed the airstrip where the mission planes land to deliver supplies and visitors, and occasionally evacuate medical emergency patients to the hospital, which was only an hour away by plane, but several days by foot. After crossing the airstrip, he began the steep descent down to the Maramuni River. This river, like so many rivers in Papua New Guinea, is swift-flowing, especially during the rainy season. Over the years the river has cut great gorges through the soft soil and rock, and now the river flowed deep and wide.

Pastor Frank followed the narrow winding trail that led to a bridge that crossed the torrent. The bridge was a simple structure woven from bush vines. It didn't look safe, but the pastor was used to such bridges, and he crossed the river without any trouble.

Word reached the village that the pastor was coming, and happy church members ran out to greet him. They didn't often have their pastor come to minister to them. Nobody complained about the rain that fell almost nonstop.

Pastor Frank ministered to the people, baptizing new believers, marrying excited couples, and dedicating new babies born since his last visit. When it came time for him to return, villagers walked partway with him to express their love, and some gave him gifts of food for his journey home. One of the believers decided to go with Pastor Frank back to the mission station. As they walked along the trail that led to the river, they met some people who announced, "You might as well turn back. The river has washed away the bridge. It's impossible to cross." But Pastor Frank told his companion, "I really need to get back home. We're doing God's work, and He will provide a way for us to cross the river."

The two men came to the river and saw for themselves that the bridge had been washed away. The river flowed so fast, deep, and wide that there was no way to get across. The men stopped and prayed that God would provide a way for them to cross the river.

To be continued.

Lesson 6April 30-May 6

Resting in Christ

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Matt. 11:28-3012:12Luke 14:1-6John 5:9-16Matt. 12:9-14Isa. 58:7-13.

Memory Text:“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’” (Matthew 11:28, NIV).

Christ was a living representative of the law. No violation of its holy precepts was found in His life. Looking upon a nation of witnesses who were seeking occasion to condemn Him, He could say unchallenged, ‘Which of you convicteth Me of sin?’”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 287.

Jesus’ life fully reflected the meaning of God’s law, the Ten Commandments. He was the law of God lived out in humanity, in human flesh. Thus, by studying His life, we learn what keeping the commandments is like and how to keep the commandments in a way that is not a dry and spiritless legalism.

And, of course, among those commandments is the fourth, the seventh-day Sabbath.

This week, as we continue our study of Matthew, we will look at a few of the Sabbath controversies and see in the life of Jesus a manifestation of what it means to keep the Sabbath. For if the law is, indeed, a reflection of the character of God, and if Jesus embodied that law, then, by learning how He kept the fourth commandment and what He taught about it, we can learn more about the character of God and, even more important, how we can reflect that character in our own lives.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, May 7.

SundayMay 1

The Light Yoke of Christ

In Matthew 11:20-27, Jesus begins with a powerful rebuke to some of the cities in Galilee who rejected His ministry. What makes the rebuke, and His warning of condemnation, so frightening is that these cities had been given great opportunities to know the truth. He, the Truth (John 14:6), had walked in the flesh among them. And if that weren’t enough, He had performed many “mighty works” (Matt. 11:20) there, as well; and yet, they refused to repent. Indeed, He said that if the “mighty works” (Matt. 11:23) He had done in Capernaum had been done in Sodom, then “‘it would have remained until this day.’” In other words, they were worse than the Sodomites.

Right after that, in verses 25-27, Jesus starts praying to the Father, thanking Him and then talking about the close relationship between the Two. And He also acknowledges all that had been given Him by the Father, in a sense showing even more clearly why His rejection by those cities was so tragic.

Read Matthew 11:28-30. What is Jesus saying here, and why would it come right here, just after what He had just said?

After denouncing unbelief and reaffirming His closeness with the Father, Jesus offers everyone who is weary, rest in Him. In other words, He is telling the people not to make the mistake these others made by rejecting Him. He has the authority and power to do what He says, and He says that by coming to Him you will find rest for your souls. Given the context, that rest would include peace, the assurance of salvation, and the hope that those who reject Him don’t and can’t have.

What else does Jesus mean when He says He will give us rest? Does it mean laziness? Does it mean anything goes? Of course not. Jesus has a very high standard for us; we saw this in His Sermon on the Mount. But a relationship with Jesus is not intended to wear us out. By learning of Him, by emulating Him and His character, we can find a rest from many of the toils and troubles of life. And, as we will see, one expression of that rest is found in keeping the Sabbath.

How do you experience the promise that Jesus offers us here? What does being “gentle and low” have to do with bearing a light burden?

MondayMay 2

Unrest Over a Rest Day

If, as so much of the Christian world argues, the seventh-day Sabbath was abolished, replaced, superseded, fulfilled (whatever), then why did Jesus spend so much time dealing with how to keep the Sabbath?

Read the following verses. What are the issues under contention in these scenes, and what are not the issues?Matt. 12:12Luke 14:1-6Mark 2:23-28John 5:9-16.

Knowing that one of the reasons Israel had gone into Babylonian captivity was because the nation had defiled the Sabbath, the Pharisees had wanted to prevent that from happening again. Hence, they created a whole litany of rules and regulations about what was and was not acceptable on the Sabbath, with the idea of protecting its sanctity. What were some of those rules?

If a hen lays an egg on the Sabbath, is it OK to eat it? The majority opinion of the Pharisees was that if the hen was an egg-laying hen, then it was not OK to eat an egg laid on Sabbath because the hen was working. However, if a hen was not an egg-laying hen—if it was just a hen being fattened up to be eaten—then it was OK to eat the egg because this wasn’t the hen’s primary labor. (There was also a suggestion that you could eat an egg laid on Sabbath by a laying hen, as long as you later killed the hen for breaking the Sabbath.) Is it OK to look at yourself in a mirror on Sabbath? The answer? No, because if you see a gray hair you might be tempted to pluck it, and this would be reaping and, as such, a violation of the Sabbath. If your house catches fire on Sabbath, is it OK to go salvage your clothes? The answer: you should carry out only one set of clothing. However, if you put on one set of clothing, then you may carry out another set. (By the way, if your home catches fire, it’s not OK to ask a Gentile to put out the fire, but if the Gentile is putting out the fire anyway, that’s OK.) Is it OK to spit on Sabbath? The answer: you may spit on a rock, but you may not spit on the ground because that would be making mud or mortar.

We might laugh but, in our own way, how might we avoid doing the same thing, not just in regard to the Sabbath but in regard to every aspect of our faith; that is, losing sight of what is truly important and focusing, instead, on the trivial?

TuesdayMay 3

Jesus’ Response

This was the climate that Jesus was ministering in: rigid impossibilities required for Sabbath keeping that ruined the original purpose of the Sabbath. It was to be a day to rest from our work; a day to worship God and fellowship with other believers in ways that we cannot do during the work week; a day where kids knew their parents would be more available to them than they might have otherwise been; a day to especially rejoice in what has been done for us by our Creator and our Redeemer.

Read Matthew 12:3-8 to see how Jesus responds to the heavy yoke of the Pharisees. Also read 1 Samuel 21:1-6. What is Jesus’ line of reasoning here?

Jesus was telling them what He would later said in a much stronger manner (see Matt. 23:2324), and that is for them to focus on what is really important. Jesus recounts the familiar story of the fugitive David taking bread from the tabernacle that was supposed to be eaten by priests only. In that situation, the hunger of David and his companions was more important than was a tabernacle ritual intended for another purpose. In the same way, the hunger of Jesus’ followers was more important than Sabbath guidelines (about reaping) intended for another purpose.

Jesus also cites the work of the priests in the temple on the Sabbath day. The Sabbath allowed for the work of ministry. In the same way, the Sabbath allows for the work of Jesus’ companions because Jesus and His work was greater than the temple.

Nothing Jesus said here or anywhere else in regard to keeping the Sabbath lessened in any way the divine command that we keep it. He was trying to break them free, not from the Sabbath but from meaningless rules that hid what the Sabbath was supposed to be about, and that is an expression of the rest that we have in Christ as our Creator and our Redeemer.

“In the days of Christ the Sabbath had become so perverted that its observance reflected the character of selfish and arbitrary men rather than the character of the loving heavenly Father.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 284. Look at your actions and ask yourself what you could do to make sure that they reflect the character of our loving heavenly Father more than they do the character of self and arbitrariness.

WednesdayMay 4

Healing on the Sabbath

It is very interesting to read through the Gospels and to see all the times that the writers recorded the Sabbath incidents between Jesus and the religious leaders. Why would all four Gospel writers include, in some cases numerous accounts, of the struggle that Jesus had with the leaders over Sabbath keeping if the Sabbath were about to be abolished? This point becomes even more salient when we remember that the Gospels were written down many years after the ministry of Jesus. Though scholars are divided over the exact dates, most place them at least 20 to 30 years after the death of Jesus. Thus, by then, if the seventh-day Sabbath had been replaced by Sunday (one common argument), this change is certainly not hinted at in any of the inspired accounts of Jesus’ life. Thus, we have powerful evidence that the seventh-day Sabbath was not abolished, changed, or superseded, at least certainly not by any example or command of Jesus as recorded in the four Gospels. On the contrary, if we focus on Jesus’ commands and example, the Gospels show us the continued validity of the seventh-day Sabbath.

Read Matthew 12:9-14. What is the issue here, and why would that be another cause for contention?

“Upon another Sabbath, as Jesus entered a synagogue, He saw there a man who had a withered hand. The Pharisees watched Him, eager to see what He would do. The Saviour well knew that in healing on the Sabbath He would be regarded as a transgressor, but He did not hesitate to break down the wall of traditional requirements that barricaded the Sabbath … It was a maxim among the Jews that a failure to do good, when one had opportunity, was to do evil; to neglect to save life was to kill. Thus Jesus met the rabbis on their own ground.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 286.

Again, as in the previous Sabbath incident, Jesus was seeking to point people to the higher purpose of the law, to the higher purpose of what the life of faith is all about. These men would have been content to leave that man with his pain and suffering rather than violate their own man-made rules regarding the Sabbath, which had gotten so twisted that—though they would have pulled an ox out of a ditch on the Sabbath—they would not relieve a fellow human being’s suffering.

How careful we need to be in making sure that our practice of faith does not get in the way of living our faith in the ways that God has called us to.

ThursdayMay 5

Keeping the Sabbath

As should be clear from the Gospel records, Jesus didn’t abolish the Sabbath. If anything, He restored the Sabbath, freeing it from the cumbersome burdens people had placed on it. Hundreds of years later Christians were still resting and worshiping on Sabbath. The fifth-century historian Socrates Scholasticus wrote: “Almost all churches throughout The World celebrated the sacred mysteries (the Lord’s Supper) on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, refuse to do this.”—Ecclesiastical History, book 5, p. 289. No question, whatever the reasons all these incidents were recorded in the Gospels, it wasn’t to point anyone away from the Sabbath.

Read again Matthew 12:12 and focus on the phrase: “Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (NKJV). What does that mean in the immediate context that Jesus was addressing? And what does that also tell us that Sabbath keeping should include?

Though Jewish law did permit giving medical attention on the Sabbath to a person whose life was in danger, Jesus took it further. Healings, perhaps even healings that could be done on another day, are permitted on the Sabbath. With all this in mind, look at what Jesus said later in Matthew. “‘Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old’” (Matt. 13:52, NIV). No question, Jesus was clearly bringing out new treasures, as well.

Read Isaiah 58:7-13. How does what is expressed here help reflect what it means to truly follow the Lord and to live out the principles of the law, including the Sabbath? How do we understand the phrase “repairer of the breach,” especially in the context of the three angels’ messages?

FridayMay 6

Further Thought: “With or without religion,” someone said, “you would have good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” In the 1600s, French mystic Blaise Pascal famously warned “men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” Though they are somewhat overstated, there is unfortunately some truth to these sentiments. This truth can be seen in the context of the week’s lesson, in regard to the Pharisees and the Sabbath. “When Jesus turned upon the Pharisees with the question whether it was lawful on the Sabbath day to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill, He confronted them with their own wicked purposes. They were hunting His life with bitter hatred, while He was saving life and bringing happiness to multitudes. Was it better to slay upon the Sabbath, as they were planning to do, than to heal the afflicted, as He had done? Was it more righteous to have murder in the heart upon God's holy day than love to all men, which finds expression in deeds of mercy?”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 287.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does Jesus mean when He said, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Matt. 12:7, NKJV)? As you formulate your answer, consider these texts as well: Matt. 9:10-13Hosea 6:6, and Isa. 1:11-17.
  2. Why, given the powerful evidence we have from Scripture, do you think that so many Christians, even many very faithful people who love Jesus, are so adamant in their rejection of the Sabbath? What are things that we could do, besides showing the evidence from the Bible, that perhaps could make these people more open to the Sabbath truth?
  3. How do you keep the Sabbath? In what ways could you do more to get a deeper and richer experience from keeping the Sabbath?
  4. Jesus said that “my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Ask yourself a question: in what ways can you help lessen the burden and loosen the yoke of those around you?

Inside Story~ 

Don't Wait

In this first person account, William, a young man from Fiji, shares a frightening experience that made a big impact.

My dad paid for my brother and me to go to a Christian national youth congress. I wasn't interested, but went to please Dad. One day I decided to go home and return later that evening.

When I arrived home, the house was empty. That evening, something seemed wrong. I felt a lump of fear in my stomach and sensed that something bad was about to happen. On the way to the stadium, I started feeling light-headed and hot. I began seeing strange things that I knew weren't real, but once I was at the congress, I felt better.

On the way home, my heart started beating hard, and it felt as if my feet weren't touching the ground. Suddenly a man appeared. His hair stuck out from his head, and his eyes glowed red. "Friend," he said, "I need money to get . . ."

I mumbled that I had no money, then hurried home. I went straight to my room and closed the door, my heart still pounding. I was sure I'd seen a demon.

The next morning I was terrified that the demon might return. I became increasingly afraid and told my parents. Dad listened, then he read a passage from his Bible and prayed for me.

Still, negative thoughts, fear, and guilt paralyzed me. I felt scared all the time and couldn't eat or sleep. My family formed a circle around me and prayed. I began laughing out loud. I wanted to stop, but I couldn't. When they finished praying for me, I was covered with sweat. I hoped things would return to normal, but they didn't. In fact, the attacks became so bad that every few minutes I would shake and cry.

I knew people were praying for me, but it was when I started to pray for my own deliverance that I started to feel a change. I had to ask God to save me from this evil. Sometimes all I could say was, "God, help me. Take out the evil inside me, and give me strength to overcome." I knew I couldn't do it myself.

After praying, I began to feel stronger. I started reading my Bible and praying regularly. I found the Psalms especially comforting, and I claimed Psalm 56:13 as my own.

My whole life is different now. I realize that God had been there all the time, but I hadn't taken His presence seriously. When I stopped praying regularly and stopped reading the Bible, it opened the door for the devil to trouble me. Now I'm careful to keep the avenue of my soul closed to evil and open only to God.

I love going to Christian youth functions now and taking part in church activities. Others have shared with me that they have gone through similar experiences.

I want young people to know that now is the time to take God seriously. This is no time to play around with God or straddle the line between God and Satan. We must take our stand today. Tomorrow may be too late. Don't wait to get close to God.

William Uluilakeba was a student at the University of South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, when this was written.

Lesson 5* April 23-29

The Seen and the Unseen War

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Matt. 11:1112Rev. 5:5Matt. 12:25-29Isa. 27:1Matt. 11:1-12Heb. 2:14.

Memory Text:“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12, NKJV).

Each day we make important choices about lifestyle, relationships, careers, priorities, entertainment, and friends. To truly comprehend the significance of these choices, we need to make sure we understand what they are really about. We need to pull back the curtain and see the unseen, for the Bible teaches that there is an unseen reality that greatly impacts what we do see.

Living in the age of science, we shouldn’t have a hard time believing in invisible realities. We who know about x-rays, radio waves, and wireless communication should easily believe in what we cannot see. With every cell phone call we make or receive, or with any satellite communication we watch, we are working on the assumption of unseen realities that make these seen (and heard) experiences real.

Indeed, the great controversy between Christ and Satan forms the unseen background to the world of the seen that we experience every day. This week we will examine texts from Matthew (and elsewhere) that help to reveal these unseen forces and how they impact our lives, and choices, here.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 30.

SundayApril 24

Matthew 11:11-12

Scripture is the Word of God, and in it the plan of salvation is made clear. Yet, some texts can be difficult to understand. This, though, should not be surprising. After all, in every aspect of natural life we find things hard to understand. How much more so will it be with parts of the Word of God, which reveals to us spiritual and supernatural truths and realities?

Ellen G. White expressed this concept so clearly: “The very humblest forms of life present a problem that the wisest of philosophers is powerless to explain. Everywhere are wonders beyond our ken. Should we then be surprised to find that in the spiritual world also there are mysteries that we cannot fathom? The difficulty lies solely in the weakness and narrowness of the human mind. God has given us in the Scriptures sufficient evidence of their divine character, and we are not to doubt His word because we cannot understand all the mysteries of His providence.”—Steps to Christ, pp. 106, 107.

For instance, one of the most challenging texts in all Scripture is Matthew 11:11-12: “‘Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it’” (NIV).

Read through the verses. What do you understand about them? What don’t you understand?

Some translations of Matthew 11:12 read: “From the days of John the Baptist until the present, the kingdom from heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people have been attacking it” (ISV). “And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it” (NLT).

What is Jesus saying to us here?

What things, even in secular life, remain mysteries to us? Do we stop believing, for instance, in the existence of the sun simply because of the many mysteries about it that we don’t understand? How much more so, then, with questions of faith and the Word of God?

MondayApril 25

The Frontiers of Darkness

Bible students through the ages have struggled with Matthew 11:12 because the words that describe the kingdom and the people here can be used in either a positive or negative sense. The Greek verb basmati can mean either “forcefully advancing” or “suffering violence.” And the Greek word biastes can mean “forceful or eager men” or “violent men.”

So, does this verse mean that the meek and mild kingdom of heaven is suffering violence, that violent people are attacking it? Or is the kingdom of heaven forcefully advancing in a positive sense, and the forceful men seizing it are actually followers of Christ?

Is it possible for followers of Christ to be this aggressive, even forceful, in their pursuit of the kingdom?

Read the following texts. What are they saying that could shed some light on the last question asked above?

Matt. 10:34

Rev. 5:5

Mic. 2:13

Some have argued that the most likely interpretation of Matthew 11:12 is to apply the most common uses of biazomai (typically positive) and biastes (typically negative), giving us this interpretation: the kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing with “holy power and magnificent energy that has been pushing back the frontiers of darkness”; and while this is happening, “violent or rapacious men have been trying to plunder it.”—D.A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary With the New International Version: Matthew, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), pp. 266, 267.

This interpretation appears to ring true to the wider gospel of Matthew. In fact, this interpretation also captures the bigger picture, that of the struggle between light and darkness, between Christ and Satan, a theme that permeates the Bible but is made explicit in the New Testament. There is indeed a war, seen and unseen, in which we are all involved, in which we all take a side, in which we all experience every day, regardless of how much we do or do not understand what’s going on. This is what living amid the great controversy is all about.

TuesdayApril 26

The “Warfare Worldview”

Whatever the ultimate meaning of Matthew 11:12, as we saw yesterday, it does help to reveal the reality of the great controversy. It depicts a struggle, a battle and—as we know from other Bible texts—this battle is, at the core, the one between Christ and Satan.

Who do the following texts tell us about in view of the reality of the great controversy?

Matt. 12:25-29

Isa. 27:1

1 John 5:19

Rom. 16:20

Gen. 3:14-19

Eph. 2:26:10-13

These are just a few of many more texts, both in the Old and New Testament, that refer to what one contemporary (non-Adventist) theologian has called the “Warfare Worldview,” the idea that there is a battle going on between supernatural powers in the cosmos, a warfare in which we are all in one way or another involved. This notion, of course, is not new to Seventh-day Adventists. It has been part of our theology from the earliest days of our church; indeed, our pioneers held to it even before our church itself was officially formed.

In what ways do you see the reality of this struggle expressed in your own life? How is it being played out in the choices you have to make and in the temptations you face? How can your understanding the reality of this conflict help you to make the right choices and to resist temptation?

WednesdayApril 27

When the Battle Gets Nasty

As we have already seen, the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:12, however deep, do reveal the fact that the kingdom of God isn’t going to be established without a struggle, or without a fight. That fight, we understand, is the great controversy, and it has been and still is raging. It will until the final destruction of sin, Satan, and the lost. And, at times, it can and does get very nasty along the way.

We can see the reality of the great controversy, and just how nasty it can become, in the context in which Jesus Himself said what He did in Matthew 11:12.

Read Matthew 11:1-12. How do we see the reality of the great controversy here being played out on a number of levels? That is, how does the great controversy help us to make sense of what is happening here?

For starters, who do we think inspired the leaders to put John in jail? We can see here Satan’s attempt to not only stop John but to discourage faith in Jesus. After all, if John, Jesus’ forerunner, met such a fate, what could one hope for Jesus Himself?

Then, too, there’s no question that Satan could have made the followers of Jesus and John ask themselves the question: If this Jesus of Nazareth can do so many wonderful things, and has so much power, then why is He letting such a faithful and good man as John, His cousin, rot in jail?

Also, who do we think was putting the doubts in John’s head? Why am I here? Why doesn’t He free me? Hence, no wonder he asked, “‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’” (Matt. 11:3, NKJV). Remember, this is the same John who baptized Jesus, who saw the “‘Spirit of God

descending like a dove and alighting upon Him’” (Matt. 3:16, NKJV) and who heard the voice from heaven declare: “‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (Matt. 3:17, NKJV). Now, though, with all that had happened, he becomes filled with doubts? Of course, as bad as John’s situation was, it was (at least for the short term) going to get worse, which could only continue to feed more doubt (Mark 6:25-28).

If anything is causing you to doubt now, what can you focus on, dwell on, and pray about that will push the doubt away and help you to realize all the wonderful reasons you have to trust in the goodness of God?

ThursdayApril 28

A Lost Cause

All through history, humans have engaged in warfare. Something in human nature causes the people of one group to want to plunder, pillage, and slaughter those of another. In a book about her father, British philosopher Bertrand Russell, Katherine Tait wrote about her father’s concern at the outbreak of World War I regarding the joy in the streets of England at the prospect of war with Germany. “He had grown up with an optimistic Victorian belief in automatic progress, with the confidence that the whole world would, in its own good time, follow the wise course of the English from ancient brutality to civilized self-government. Then, suddenly, he found his own beloved compatriots dancing in the streets at the prospect of slaughtering great numbers of fellow human beings who happened to speak German.”—My Father Bertrand Russell (England: Thoemmes Press, 1997), p. 45. Multiply this same idea over history among almost all people, and we see the reality of fallen human nature in one of its most consequential and tragic forms.

Now, in most of these human wars, no one knew the outcome beforehand. People went to battle not knowing if they would be on the winning or losing side.

In the “Warfare Worldview” of our cosmos, we have one great advantage: we know which side has already won. Christ has won the decisive victory for us. After the Cross, no question remained about who is the Victor and who can share in the fruits of that victory. Satan’s cause is, indeed, a lost cause.

What do the following texts tell us about the outcome of the great controversy? Heb. 2:141 Cor. 15:20-27Rev. 12:12,20:10.

Just as Satan lost the war in heaven, he lost the war on earth, as well. But with hatred and vengeance he’s still seeking all whom he may devour (see 1 Pet. 5:8). However complete Christ’s victory, the battle still rages, and our only protection is to place ourselves, mind and body, on the winning side. And we do that by the choices we make every day. Are we making choices that put us on the winning side, where the victory is assured for us, or on the losing side, where defeat is certain? On the answer to this question our eternal destiny hangs.

FridayApril 29

Further Thought: Who among us doesn’t know the reality of the great controversy? We know about this war because we feel it inside us on a daily basis. We live in a broken world, a world cursed with anxiety and pain. A world where a serpent isn’t limited to one tree in the middle of a garden but where the entire garden has been overrun with serpents. A world full of the whispers of temptation that come in all sorts of ways and that so easily ensnare those who are not diligent in faith and in prayer. No wonder Jesus said: “Watch and pray” lest we fall into the many snares that await us. And, of all the snares, perhaps the most dangerous one for the Christian is believing the lie that says, “When you succumb to temptation, you’ve gone too far. There is no God of grace who will welcome you back into His arms.” Who hasn’t at one time or another heard that voice whispering in his or her ears? In one sense, that sentiment is right: when you fall into temptation, even once, you have gone too far to ever get yourself back. That’s exactly why Jesus came, won the victory for us where we all have failed, and then offers His triumph to us. This is what the whole gospel is about, Jesus doing for us in the great controversy what we could never do for ourselves. At the same time, too, though, we have to choose, daily, hourly, moment by moment, to place ourselves on His side, and we do that by obeying His Word and by claiming the promises of victory that He had assured us we can have, the whole time leaning only upon His merits for us as the surety of our salvation.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some of the other physical realities that exist all around us and yet that are completely inaccessible to our sense perceptions? Again, how should this reality help open our minds to the existence of other forces and powers that we simply cannot see? How can our realization of the existence of these unseen realities help us to understand the reality of the great controversy?
  2. Many Christians do not believe in or have any concept of the great controversy worldview. What reasons might they have for not seeing it? What arguments might they throw out at you against it, and how would you answer them? If you were to give someone a study on the great controversy, what texts would you use?
  3. How do you deal with the question of why we are still here so long after Jesus won the victory at the cross? After His death and resurrection and ascension, why didn’t Jesus just come back and destroy the devil once and for all?

Inside Story~ 

An Amazing Ride-Part 3

Note: In Part 3, we complete the stories from the Solomon Islands, as told by Carol Boehm, wife of Wayne Boehm, former president of the Solomon Islands Mission. He now serves as manager of the Hope Channel in Sydney, Australia.

In 1986, Christine became a Seventh-day Adventist. Her family was horrified, especially her brother. She was disowned and told to leave the village. Fortunately, she went to study nursing at Atoifi, our Adventist hospital on the island of Malaita. Little did she know that her parents mourned deeply for her.

Later, when Christine returned home for reconciliation, everyone in the village welcomed her-except her brother. He hadn't forgiven her for leaving their beloved church. He told everyone that the Adventist Church should be "thrown into the mangroves." (This was the stretch of beach used as toilets for the village.)

For more than 20 years, he interrogated his sister about her beliefs and beat her mercilessly. One time, as she noticed a bush knife sitting on the table beside him, she told her brother, "Even if you chop my head off I will not renounce my beliefs." He beat her even more fiercely. Christine was black and blue the next day, but she felt no pain and kept praising God for His goodness. When the wife of the Adventist pastor asked Christine why she kept going back to her village, she simply said, "I stopped fearing death or pain a long time ago. These people are my family and I'm the only Seventh-day Adventist who they will let into their village."

When Christine married, she took her husband, Gary (a nurse and Adventist minister), to her village. The villagers were so embarrassed about the beatings that they also allowed Gary to enter their village. They even allowed him to run a church mission and agreed to let the Adventists build some pit latrines.

This had been a huge need for the people and their hearts began to soften. Eventually, five people from Christine's village were baptized in the water at the end of a pier that separates the now unused men's and women's mangrove areas. The devil may have wanted to throw Adventists into the putrid water, but God had other ideas of how this now clean water could be used! Because of this dear woman's faithfulness, her whole village is beginning to open up to Jesus.

The Boehm family moved to the Solomon Islands in 2011 for what they thought would be a five-year stint, but the Lord had other plans. In the two years He allowed them to serve Him there, Wayne worked as the president of the Solomon Islands Mission while Carol homeschooled their eldest son and introduced CHIP (Complete Health Improvement Program) to the city of Honiara. "People often ask us where home is and I stare at them blankly," says Carol. "Wayne is from Melbourne and I am from Sydney; our last Australian appointment was in Tasmania; we served God in Fiji, and we are now back in Sydney. When I finally hang my hat on that golden stand in my mansion in heaven, then I'll be home!"

Lesson 4
* April 16-22

“Get Up and Walk!” Faith and Healing

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Matthew 8; Lev. 13:44-50Dan. 7:78John 10:10Matt. 9:1-81 John 1:9.

Memory Text: “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?” (Matthew 9:5, NKJV).

If you made a list of what you most dreaded in life, what would it look like? For many of us, the list would include a family member dying or even you, yourself, dying. And while that’s certainly understandable, think about just how earth-centered that is. It’s all about our lives now. Is this really and truly what we ought to dread most, the loss of life on earth, especially when it never lasts that long anyway?

If God were to make a list of what He most dreads, it would certainly deal with the loss of either our family’s or our own eternal life.

Sure, God cares about physical illness and death, but most of all He cares about spiritual illness and eternal death. Though Jesus healed many people, and even brought the dead back to life, it was only temporary. They all died a physical death, one way or another with the exception of the saints that Jesus resurrected at His own resurrection. (See the SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 550 and Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 786.)

Despite all that it accomplished in our behalf, the plan of salvation did not spare us from earthly sickness and earthly death. With this in mind, let’s consider several stories of healing, both physical and spiritual, and see what important lessons about faith we can derive from them.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 23.

SundayApril 17

Touching the Untouchable

After preaching the Sermon on the Mount, where He’d described the principles of the kingdom of God, Jesus re-encountered the kingdom of Satan, a cold dark place filled with decaying people groaning for redemption, a place whose principles are often contrary to everything for which He stands. And at that time one of the greatest examples of just how wretched and fallen Satan’s realm had become could be seen in the disease of leprosy. Though occasionally used as a form of divine punishment, such as in the case of Miriam (see Num. 12:9-12), in the larger context of the Bible it’s a powerful and horrific example of just what it means to live in a fallen and broken world.

Read Matthew 8:1-4. What importance can be seen in the fact that, in healing this leper, Jesus touched him? See, for example, Lev. 13:44-50

The leper kneels before Jesus and says, “‘If You are willing, You can make me clean’” (NKJV). The Greek word for “can” is dunamai,like “dynamite” in English. It means full of power. “If you are willing, you are full of power and can change my life.” Jesus says He is willing to heal the leper and immediately does just that.

The fact that Jesus touched him must have sent shivers through the multitudes who saw what had happened. Surely, as He did on other occasions (such as the next recorded healing), Jesus could have just spoken the word, and the man would be healed. Why did He touch him though?

“The work of Christ in cleansing the leper from his terrible disease is an illustration of His work in cleansing the soul from sin. The man who came to Jesus was ‘full of leprosy.’ Its deadly poison permeated his whole body. The disciples sought to prevent their Master from touching him; for he who touched a leper became himself unclean. But in laying His hand upon the leper, Jesus received no defilement. His touch imparted life-giving power. The leprosy was cleansed. Thus it is with the leprosy of sin,—deep-rooted, deadly, and impossible to be cleansed by human power.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 266.

Perhaps, by touching the leper, Jesus showed that no matter how bad our sin is, He will draw close to those who are willing to be forgiven, healed, and cleansed from it.

Whom do you know, right now, who is suffering from the kind of thing we view today as “leprosy”—that is, anything that makes people recoil in horror and judgment? How can the example of Jesus help you to understand how to relate to that person?

MondayApril 18

The Roman and the Messiah

There’s a good reason the book of Daniel spends a lot of time dealing with Rome (see Dan. 7:7819-21Dan. 8:9-1223-25). And that’s because of its great power, which was prevalent also at the time of Christ. Nevertheless, a Roman officer, not only a symbol of the power of Rome but an expression of that power, comes to Jesus. The man is helpless in the face of the common trials and tragedies that beset us all. What a lesson about the limits of what earthly powers can do. The greatest and most influential leaders, the richest men and women, stand helpless against many of the common struggles of life. Truly, without divine help, what hope do any of us have?

Read Matthew 8:5-13. What important truths about faith and what it means to have faith are revealed in this story? What should it say to us, as Seventh-day Adventists, given the privileges we have?

A centurion was a Roman military officer who generally oversaw anywhere from 80 to 100 soldiers. Serving in the army for about twenty years, he was not permitted to have a legal family. Thus, the centurion’s servant might have been his only real family.

In that culture, the only person more despised than a Gentile like this would have been a leper; so, this officer perhaps assumes that Jesus wouldn’t want to enter his home, even though Jesus says that He will. By asking just for the Word of Jesus, not His actual presence, the centurion demonstrates great faith that speaks to us today: Jesus’ Word is as powerful as His touch. To this centurion, for Jesus to heal someone wasn’t a difficult thing. It was akin to a military officer giving orders to a soldier, which happened all the time.

Also, look at what Jesus says in Matthew 8:1112. What a stern warning to those who have been given great privileges. We, as Seventh-day Adventists, also are greatly privileged, and should take heed.

What daily practices and choices do you make? More important, how do these choices impact your faith? What can you do to make choices that will cause your faith to grow?

TuesdayApril 19

Demons and Pigs

Read Matthew 8:25-34. What do both these accounts teach us about the power of God? How can we draw comfort from what we see here about His power, especially as we struggle with things so much greater than ourselves?

In Jewish thought it was the prerogative of God alone to rule over nature and demons. After calming a violent storm with simple words (Matt. 8:23-27), Jesus steps onto the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, in not only Gentile territory but where some demon-possessed men lived.

Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39 add details to the story of the demon-possessed men. The demons identify themselves as “legion.” A legion in the military was 6,000 soldiers. The demons were sent into 2,000 pigs.

Many have wondered why the demons asked to be sent into the pigs. One tradition taught that the demons most detested empty wandering; they preferred a home of some type, even if it was an unclean pig. Another tradition taught that demons were afraid of the water, and Jesus Himself even makes references to demons passing through waterless places looking for rest (see Matt. 12:43, RSV). There were also Jewish traditions that taught that demons could be destroyed prior to the final apocalyptical day of the Lord.

Yet, the most important point is this: the destructive condition of the men in this story is exactly the destructive condition that Satan desires for God’s children. But Jesus completely changed their lives. All that Satan seeks to do in our lives Jesus can and will undo for those who choose to give themselves to Christ. Otherwise we are helpless against Satan.

We are either on one side or the other in the great controversy. No matter how stark and uncompromising it sounds, Jesus couldn’t have expressed this truth more clearly than He did when He said: “‘He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters’” (Luke 11:23, NKJV). Which side we’re on depends upon us.

Read John 10:10. “‘The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly’”(NKJV). How does this apply, not just to the demoniacs but to ourselves and to our lives? In what ways can and should we experience what we are promised here?

WednesdayApril 20

“Get Up and Walk!”

In Monday’s study, we noted that Jesus said that He hadn’t found anyone in Israel with such great faith. But, during these same hours in Israel, there was a man who had reached a place where his desire for healing of the heart was even greater than for healing of his body.

Read Matthew 9:1-8. What great hope should we take from this for ourselves regarding the promise of forgiveness for our sins, no matter what they have been or the damage that they have done? See also Rom. 4:71 John 1:91 John 2:12.

How fascinating that the first thing Jesus dealt with when the paralytic was brought before Him was the man’s spiritual condition. Jesus, obviously, knew exactly what the real problem was. Despite the man’s wretched physical state, Christ knew that the deeper issue was the man’s guilt over what must have been a very sinful life. Hence, knowing the man’s desire for forgiveness, Jesus utters what would have to be the greatest and most comforting words for anyone who understands the reality and the cost of sin: “Your sins are forgiven you”(Matthew 9:2, NKJV).

Ellen G. White adds: “It was not physical restoration he desired so much as relief from the burden of sin. If he could see Jesus, and receive the assurance of forgiveness and peace with Heaven, he would be content to live or die, according to God’s will.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 267.

A Seventh-day Adventist pastor often preached about having enough faith to not be healed. This is the greatest faith of all: when we look deeper than our physical circumstances and instead focus on our eternal circumstances. So often our prayer requests are about our physical needs, and God does care about these things. But in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said we are to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Thus, in the end, despite our immediate physical needs, how crucial that we keep eternal things ever before us in a world where so much is only temporal and fleeting.

Whatever our physical struggles, even in the worst case scenario they will always and only be temporary. Why is it crucial that we never forget this truth?

ThursdayApril 21

Letting the Dead Bury the Dead

Read Matthew 8:18-22. What is Jesus saying to these men here about what it means to follow Him?

First, in Matthew 8:18-22, we see two men approach Jesus with the desire to be His disciples. Both are sincere; and yet, both seem to be held back by something. Jesus, who knows all our thoughts, goes straight to the heart of the matter. He questions whether the first man is really willing to give up everything—including his own bed!—to follow Him. This does not necessarily mean that a person will lose all earthly possessions if he or she follows Jesus but simply that a person needs to be ready to do so.

Jesus then asks the second man whether he’s truly willing to put Jesus ahead of his own family. At first glance, His words to the second man seem very harsh. All the man wanted to do was bury his father. Why couldn’t he do that first, and then follow Jesus, especially when in the Jewish faith it was considered part of obeying the fifth commandment to ensure that one’s parents were properly buried?

However, some interpreters argue that the man’s father wasn’t yet dead, or even at the point of death; instead, the man was basically saying to Jesus, Let me get everything with my family all worked out, and then I will follow You.

Hence, Jesus’ response.

Another call to discipleship is found in Matthew 9:9-13, with the call to Matthew, a despised tax collector. Jesus knew the man’s heart, which was obviously open to truth, as his reaction to the call showed. Jesus surely knew what reaction His calling someone like Matthew would bring, which it did, as the texts reveal. From our perspective today, it’s hard to see just how upsetting to the status quo the call to someone like Matthew would be to the people back then. What we see here is another example of just how universal the call of the gospel really is.

Read Matthew 9:13. Though the context is different, how does the principle apply even today, even when we substitute the idea of animal sacrifice with the sacrifice of Jesus? That is, how can we be careful that we don’t let religious beliefs or practices, no matter how right, get in the way of doing what really matters to God?

FridayApril 29

Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “‘Thou Canst Make Me Clean,’” pp. 262-271, in The Desire of Ages.

The Germans have a saying, “Einmal ist keinmal.” It means, literally, “One time is no time.” It’s an idiomatic expression for the idea that if something happens only once, then it doesn’t count. It doesn’t matter. If it happens only once, it might as well never have happened at all. Whether you agree or not, think about this idea in context of Thursday’s study, when Jesus said to the man who wanted first to bury his father and then to be a disciple: “‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead’” (Matt. 8:22, NKJV). What did Jesus mean by implying that the man, a living man, was dead? Well, if “Einmal ist keinmal,” if “one time is no time,” then to live upon this earth only once, with no eternity to follow, then you might as well have never been born at all. You might as well be dead now(see John 3:18). Secular thinkers, who believe in no afterlife, have groused over the meaningless of a life that exists here only once, and for quite a short time, too, before dissipating for eternity. What can it possibly mean, they have asked, if after this short stint we are forever gone and forever forgotten? No wonder, then, that Jesus said what He did. He was seeking to point the man to a reality greater than what this world, in and of itself, offered.

Discussion Questions:

  1. With the idea presented above, go back and read the story in Matthew when Jesus said what He did to the man about burying his father. What should this tell us about how crucial it is to keep the big picture (and when we say “big,” we mean real big) in mind with all that we do? How does our theology help us to understand just how big the picture really is?

  2. We don’t always know God’s will for physical healing, but we do always know His will for spiritual healing. In what way should this affect your prayer life?

  3. What are the things that are most important to you? Make a list and bring that list to class. What can you learn from your priorities? What do our priorities teach us about ourselves and about our view of the world, of God, and of one another? How different would the list be if a group of atheists were doing the same thing?

Inside Story~ 

An Amazing Ride-Part 2

Note: In Part 2, we continue with first-hand stories from the Solomon Islands, as told by Carol Boehm, wife of Wayne Boehm, former president of the Solomon Islands Mission. He now serves as manager of the Hope Channel in Sydney, Australia.

One of the great needs on the nearby island of Savo was for a water tank. The Adventists on the island gave a tank to another church, absolutely amazing the priest and the entire congregation. They wondered why Adventists would care whether or not they had fresh water to drink. And hearts began to soften.

Recently, young people from our Mbekona church went to camp at Savo and to quietly witness to the villagers. When they arrived, they were overwhelmed to be given a welcome fit for a king. They were even invited to hold their Sabbath worship in the non-Adventist church with many of the locals attending! In turn, our youth attended their church service on Sunday. Our pastor was even asked to preach. What topic did he choose? The Sabbath! Nerves of steel, I tell you!

Our young people made friends with many of the local youth, some of whom have told them they want to become Adventists because they are a people of the Word and people of action. They have been invited back to hold meetings, and surrounding villagers have begun to show an interest in attending. Ivan Ghemu, the head elder, said to me, "I was planning on ways to make a difference there, but instead I've been running as fast as I can to keep up with God."

Another story comes from the beautiful island of Choiseul. The regional director and his team were holding outreach meetings there when they heard about a woman who had been living in the bush by herself for 30 years and had turned feral. She had been living with a pack of ten dogs. It took a few days for them to find her; but when they did, they were shocked to see a wild woman with fiery eyes and completely unkempt hair and nails. They gently befriended her and asked her to come back to the village with them. She did. Slowly the community reached out to her and she began to attend some of the meetings. We have just gotten word that she has responded to a call to give her life to Jesus.

To be continued in next week's Inside Story.


Lesson 3* April 9-15

The Sermon on the Mount

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Matthew 5-7, Rom. 7:7Gen. 15:6Micah 6:6-8Luke 6:36Matt. 13:44-52Rom. 8:5-10.

Memory Text:“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:2829, NIV).

In the book of Exodus, we see God lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, “baptize” them in the Red Sea, bring them through the wilderness for 40 years, work signs and wonders, and meet with them personally on a mountaintop where He gives them His law.

In the book of Matthew, we see Jesus come out of Egypt, be baptized in the Jordan River, go out into the wilderness for 40 days, work signs and wonders, and meet personally with Israel on a mountaintop where He amplifies this same law. Jesus walked the history of Israel, became Israel, and in Him all the covenant promises were fulfilled.

The Sermon on the Mount is the most powerful sermon ever preached. His words have profoundly influenced not only its immediate listeners but all who would hear its life-changing messages down through the centuries and even to our time.

And yet, we must not just listen to this sermon; we also must apply it. This week, along with studying what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), we will study what Jesus said in Matthew 13 about applying His words to our lives.

* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 16.

SundayApril 10

Principles and Standards

Skim through the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Summarize on the lines below what stands out the most in your mind about it, about what it says to you.

“Perhaps no other religious discourse in the history of humanity has attracted the attention which has been devoted to the Sermon on the Mount. Philosophers and activists from many non-Christian perspectives who have refused to worship Jesus nevertheless have admired His ethic. In the twentieth century, Mohandas Gandhi was the sermon’s most famous non-Christian devotee.”—Craig L. Blomberg, The New American Commentary: Matthew (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1992), vol. 22, pp. 93, 94.

This sermon has been viewed in many different ways. Some see it as an impossibly high moral standard that drives us to our knees and causes us to claim the righteousness of Jesus as our only hope of salvation because we all have fallen far short of the divine standard that God calls us to as revealed in the Sermon on the Mount. Others see it as a discourse in civil ethics, a call for pacifism. Some have seen in it the social gospel, a call to bring the kingdom of God to earth by human effort.

In a sense, probably everyone brings something of himself or herself into this sermon because it so powerfully touches us in crucial areas of our lives; thus, we all react to it in our own way.

Ellen G. White writes: “In the Sermon on the Mount He sought to undo the work that had been wrought by false education, and to give His hearers a right conception of His kingdom and of His own character … The truths He taught are no less important to us than to the multitude that followed Him. We no less than they need to learn the foundation principles of the kingdom of God.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 299.

Thus, whatever else we bring to it, the Sermon on the Mount gives us the foundation principles of God’s kingdom. It tells us what God is like, as the ruler of His kingdom, and tells us what God calls us to be like, as subjects of His kingdom. It’s a radical call from the principles and standards of the fleeting kingdoms of this world to the principles and standards of the one kingdom that will exist forever. (See Dan. 7:27.)

MondayApril 11

The Sermon Versus the Law

Some Christians view the Sermon on the Mount as a new “law of Christ,” one that replaced the “Law of God.” They say that a system of legalism was now replaced with a system of grace, or that Jesus’ law differs from the Law of God itself. These views are misconceptions about the Sermon on the Mount.

What do the following texts say about the law and indirectly about the idea that, somehow, the law (i.e. the Ten Commandments) was replaced by the Sermon on the Mount? Matt. 5:17-1921222728; see also James 2:1011Rom. 7:7.

Craig S. Keener writes: “Most Jewish people understood the commandments in the context of grace … ; given Jesus’ demands for greater grace in practice … , he undoubtedly intended the kingdom demands in light of grace (compare Matt. 6:12Luke 11:4Mark 11:25Matt. 6:1415Mark 10:15). In the Gospel narratives Jesus embraces those who humble themselves, acknowledging God’s right to rule, even if in practice they fall short of the goal of moral perfection (Matt.5:48). But the kingdom grace Jesus proclaimed was not the workless grace of much of Western Christendom; in the Gospels the kingdom message transforms those who meekly embrace it, just as it crushes the arrogant, the religiously and socially satisfied.”—The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), pp. 161, 162.

Read Genesis 15:6. How does this help us to understand that salvation has always been by faith?

The faith of Jesus Christ was not a new faith; it was the same faith from the Fall onward. The Sermon on the Mount wasn’t salvation by grace replacing salvation by works. It was always salvation by grace. The children of Israel were saved by grace at the Red Seabefore they were asked to obey at Sinai. (See Exod. 20:2.)

What should your own experience with the Lord and His law teach you about why salvation has always had to be by faith and not by the law?

TuesdayApril 12

The Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees

Read Matthew 5:20. What does Jesus mean when He says that unless our righteousness “surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law” (NIV), we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven?

Though salvation has always been by faith, and though Judaism, as it should have been practiced, was always a system of grace, legalism did creep in, as it can in any religion that takes obedience seriously, such as Seventh-day Adventism. At the time of Christ, many (but not all) of the religious leaders had fallen in a kind of “hard religious orthodoxy … destitute of contrition, tenderness or love” that left them with “no power to preserve the world from corruption.”—Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 53.

Mere outward forms, especially those that are man-made, have no power to change lives or transform character. The only true faith is that which works by love (Gal. 5:6); that alone is what makes outward actions acceptable in the sight of God.

Read Micah 6:6-8. In what ways is this a summary of the Sermon on the Mount?

Even in Old Testament times, the sacrifices were not an end in themselves but a means to an end, and that end was a life in which followers of God reflect the love and character of God, something that could be done only through a complete surrender to God and a realization of our utter dependence on His saving grace. Despite all their outward appearances of piety and faith, many of the scribes and Pharisees were definitely not a model on how a follower of the Lord should live.

Even if you are a great believer in salvation by faith alone, and that only Jesus’ righteousness can save you, how can you be sure that even subtle forms of legalism don’t creep in?

WednesdayApril 13

The Principles of the Kingdom

Perhaps the most radical teaching of Jesus is found in Matthew 5:48. Read the text. How are we, especially as sinners, supposed to do that?

Of all the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, this has to be one of the most amazing, the most “extreme.” To be as perfect as “your Father in heaven”? What does that mean?

A crucial component in understanding this text is found in the first word of it, “therefore.” That is, it implies a conclusion, an inference from what came before it. What came before?

Read Matthew 5:43-47. How do these verses, which are then brought to a close with Matthew 5:48, help us to understand better what Jesus meant by Matthew 5:48See also Luke 6:36.

This isn’t the first time an idea like this is seen in the Bible. Way back in the book of Leviticus 19:2, the Lord says to His people, “‘ “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” ’” (NKJV). In Luke 6:36, Jesus said: “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” (NKJV).

The whole context here, in Matthew 5:43-48, is not about an outward conformity to rules and standards, however important that may be. Instead, the whole focus on this section deals with loving people, not just those whom anyone could love but those whom, by the world’s standards, we would not generally love (again, this is about the standards of God’s kingdom, not man’s).

The important thing to remember here is that God does not ask of us anything that He cannot accomplish in us. If left to ourselves, if dominated by our sinful and selfish hearts, who would love their enemies? That’s not how the world works, but are we not now citizens of another kingdom? We have the promise that if we surrender ourselves to God, then “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6>, NKJV), and what greater work could God do in us than to get us, in our own sphere, to love as He loves us?

How different would your life be, right now, were you to love your enemies?

ThursdayApril 14

Receiving the Words of the Kingdom

A mountaintop wasn’t the only place Jesus preached. He preached the same message of the kingdom all over Israel. Matthew 13 records Jesus teaching from a boat, “while all the people stood on the shore” (Matt. 13:2, NIV). Jesus then told the people parables intended to drive home the importance of not only hearing His word but applying it.

Read Matthew 13:44-52. What is being said here in these parables that is of particular importance to us in understanding how to apply to our lives the truths revealed in the Sermon on the Mount?

Two points stand out in the first two of these stories. In both, there is the idea of separation, of getting rid of what one has in order to obtain something new, be it treasure in a field or a pearl. The other crucial point is the great value each man placed on what he had found. In both cases, they went and sold all that they possessed in order to get it. Though we cannot buy salvation (Isa. 55:12), the point of the parables is clear: nothing we have in this kingdom, this world, is worth our losing out on the next one.

Thus, to apply to our lives what God asks of us, we need to make a choice to separate ourselves from all the things of the world, of the flesh, and let God’s Spirit fill us instead (see Rom. 8:5-10). This might not be easy; it will require a death to self and a taking up of one’s cross. But if we always have before us the value and the worth of what we are promised, we should have all the motivation we need to make the choices that we must.

Read the last parable (Matt. 13:47-50). This, too, is talking about a separation. In what ways does the separation seen in the first two parables help us to understand what is happening in the third parable?

FridayApril 15

Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “The Sermon on the Mount,” pp. 298-314, in The Desire of Ages and the book Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing (Book available online at

In the parables of Matthew 13:44-46, the men found something of great value. Given the context, especially after Jesus told the third parable (Matt. 13:47-50), what they found was the truth, the truth that leads to eternal life, as opposed to eternal destruction “in the furnace of fire.” This is important because we live in an age where the idea of “truth” itself is considered old-fashioned at best or dangerous at worst. And, unfortunately, this is a false idea that some Christians have bought into. Nevertheless, the message of these parables is that not only does truth exist but that truth will make a difference for eternity in every human life. This shouldn’t be surprising. The Bible is predicated on the idea of absolute truth. After all, Jesus said, “‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6, NKJV). If that is not stating an absolute truth, what is? Of course, when someone with as much knowledge of the truth as Paul could say that “we know in part” (1 Cor. 13:9), it’s obvious that there’s a lot we don’t know. But his mere statement that we know “in part” implies that there’s more truth to know, truth that literally makes a difference either for eternal life or eternal death. Eternal life or eternal death? It doesn’t get more absolute than that.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What would it be like living in a world where everyone followed the principles found in the Sermon on the Mount?

  2. Jesus told the parable of the wise and foolish builders (see Matt. 7:24-27in sight of the shores of the Sea of Galilee. In the dry season, the difference in the appearance of the rock and the sand on the shores was almost imperceptible, and a builder could build his house on sand, thinking it was rock. When the rains came, the sandy foundation was revealed, and the house collapsed. Jesus compares those who hear His words but don’t practice them to a sandy foundation. How do the storms of our own lives reveal whether our foundation is of rock or sand? How can we have a foundation that will keep us stable and firm even amid the worst of trials?

Inside Story~ 

Note: The following first-hand stories are from Carol Boehm, wife of Wayne Boehm, former president of the Solomon Islands Mission. He now serves as manager of the Hope Channel in Sydney, Australia.

One of the things I have learned here [in the Solomon Islands] is to plan big for God, no matter how few your resources. Some pretty amazing things have been achieved during the past two years: a huge mission outreach, the setting up of a nationwide radio station, a health program that has reached more than 100 people and is exploding in popularity, smaller missions on every island, and large-scale renovations at Betikama Adventist College.

How was all this achieved with no money? God truly owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He has moved on the hearts of so many people who have given generously. And He has multiplied their gifts so that the money stretches further than we ever dreamed possible. I heard Wayne say the other day that he wants to change the nametag on his door from President to Passenger because we have been on an amazing roller-coaster ride with Jesus at the controls. Now we move to Fiji in the hope that we can revisit the results we've had in many other missions across the Pacific. We go boldly, intending to plan on a huge scale and then watch as the Lord provides.

Another lesson I've learned is to never be ashamed of your God. The Solomon Islanders talk openly about their loving Father. They never hesitate to say grace in public, to pray in a huddle at airports or wharfs, or to invite strangers to meetings or socials. Their boldness has been a silent witness to me and I thank them for that.

Exciting things are happening at Savo, our closest neighboring island. We have tried in vain on several occasions to witness to a few of the villages there. The last time our pastor tried, he was expelled from the area. But then the annual Dorcas Federation [also known as Adventist Community Services] met in Savo, and things began to change.

Every year dozens of Seventh-day Adventist Dorcas members from area churches visit a remote area where there is much need to minister to people. They enter the village singing so that everyone knows they are there. They offer workshops on cooking, sewing, dyeing fabric, sewing machine repair, hospitality, and Bible study. One day is set aside for what they call "Highways and Byways." This is when they distribute bundles of clothing and food, and mix with the locals. The ladies turn the region upside down! And while the women are being the hands and feet of Jesus, the men cook for them, enabling them to focus completely on their ministry. The women make friends and reach out to the people and the men follow up with meetings and baptisms. They make a fantastic team!

To be continued in next week's Inside Story.

Lesson 2* April 2-8

The Ministry Begins

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Matt. 3:1-122 Pet. 1:19Phil. 2:5-8Matt. 4:1-12Isa. 9:12Matt. 4:17-22.

Memory Text: “‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people’” (Matthew 4:19, NIV).

One of the great struggles of humanity has been to know what the meaning and purpose of our lives are and how to live them. After all, we don’t come with written instructions tucked under our arms on how to live, do we?

“I didn’t understand