This week’s topic is “Witness and Service: The Fruit of Revival”
We are all very familiar with the faith versus works debate. We could go back and forth forever on this topic, getting progressively more frustrated, aggressive and cemented into our own bunkers of “rightness” and still get nowhere.
Let’s be outrageous and assume that both things are important and move on.
I remember reading the first reports about the new GC President’s call for a “revival and reformation” in the summer of 2010, probably on the Spectrum site, and, to be honest, I didn’t think too much about it. It seemed such an innocent, reasonable—even obvious—call for a church leader to make, especially one just come to office. Within days, though, Ted Wilson was being denounced on the Spectrum and Adventist Today websites. I thought, “What’s so wrong with revival? How can there be such suspicion of something so basic to Christianity as revival?”
Our commentary on this week’s lesson focuses on Zechariah 14 and two lost-and-found items from our Adventist heritage that are linked with it. One is an astonishing Ellen White quotation on conditional prophecy1; the other, a seminal article from the SDA Bible Commentary that almost no one knows about, “The Role of Israel in Old Testament Prophecy.”2 All this should allow Adventists to take a fresh look at our understanding of the end of time.
We now come to visions and revelations of the Lord; for in that way God chose to speak by Zechariah, to awaken the people’s attention, and to engage their humble reverence of the word and their humble enquiries into it, and to fix it the more in their minds and memories. Most of the following visions seem designed for the comfort of the Jews, now newly returned out of captivity, and their encouragement to go on with the building of the temple.
Haggai wrote about the challenges faced by the nation of Israel in rebuilding its holy temple nearly 2,500 years ago. Yet his insights are directly relevant for today. They speak to both our liberal and conservative impulses. Chapter one calls us to leave the distractions of individualistic materialism; chapter two instructs us to set aside the enervating longing for a mythical golden age. Then, we can engage in consecrated, sustained effort to advance the kingdom of God through the building up of his church. Let us look a little more closely at both of these sections.
The story of Jonah contains significant ironies that can best be understood against the background of ancient maritime practices and Assyrian royal rituals. Various literary clues in the story highlight the ironic sequence of events that pack an enormous theological punch. The story begins with Yahweh’s command to Jonah: “Get up, go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim against it because their wickedness has come up to my face” (1:1)
A friend of mine posted a fantastic “idiomatic translation” by Eugene Peterson of the famous passage from Amos this week on facebook. And, as I read it again, afresh, I realized that it is so vividly self-explanatory that it is worth posting it at the beginning of this week’s Sabbath School study reflection:
Man has murdered and maimed since the Fall from the Garden of Eden. Then as now it is God, the Creator of all things, who will be the final arbiter of justice. Cain murdered his brother Abel because of religious jealousy. Abel’s offering was accepted by the Lord. Cain’s was not. The Lord sentenced Cain to a life as a fugitive and a vagabond. The Lord took sole responsibility to punish – no one else was permitted to harm Cain – for Cain’s offense was not solely against Abel but against God and His law. “Therefore whoever kills Cain,” [said the Lord,]