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Fourth Quarter 2015 October–December)
COMMENTARY ON JEREMIAH
Week 13: December 19–25
COMMENTARY ON LESSONS FROM JEREMIAH
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Sabbath Afternoon, Dec. 19: Introduction
After giving us some introductory thoughts concerning the theme of the daily lessons for this week the forth paragraph outlines what is called the "crucial principles" expressed by Jeremiah:
"Such as faithfulness to God and obedience to His commandments. Such as true religion, a religion of the heart, as opposed to empty and dead rituals that can leave people in a false state of complacency. Such as the people’s willingness to listen to correction, even when it cuts across what they want to hear. Such as true revival and reformation. Such as trusting in the Lord and His promises instead of the arm of flesh. Such as . . ."
For today we will explore what it means to obey God from within the context of the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah.
OBEDIENCE TO GOD'S COMMANDMENTS:
At the time of creation God gave Adam, who was created in the image of God, an oral command which was to not eat of The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Gen. 2:16. If he disobeyed he would die on the day he ate of it. He did eat and he did die on that day. Since Adam did sin and did die on that day yet had physical life for many years afterwards, the obvious question is; What part of Adam died on the day he sinned? Since Jesus reveals to us that our human spirit must be born again, John 3:1-21, to enter into the kingdom of God, the obvious answer is that Adam's human spirit died on that day resulting in all mankind being born in sin, Rom. 5:12-17 & 1 Cor. 15:20-22. As for the consequence of sin, notice that death reigned from Adam until Moses without the existence of the written law which was first given at Mount Horeb, Ex. 3:1 & 1 Kings 19:8. Also, notice that the promises given to Abraham by God was 430 years before the giving of the written law, Gal. 3:15-17. The Mosaic Covenant nor the law of this covenant certainly did not apply to Abraham. Therefore, the Adventist claim that the 'Ten Commandments' are eternal laws established at creation is speculative nonsense not supported by Scripture.
The faith found within the New Covenant is not founded upon the Old Covenant written law. Rather, it is centered upon the 'faith of Abraham', see Romans chapter four, summarized by these verses:
For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. (Rom. 4:13-15)
One key point where Adventist theology goes wrong is in making the assumption that the Ten Commandments of the Old Covenant God made with Israel reflects God's universal moral law intended to be obeyed by all mankind whereas Scripture says no such thing.
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord:for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jer. 31:31-34)
Jeremiah prophesied that the Old Covenant law would be replaced by law written on the hearts of New Covenant believers:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Rom.8:1-6)
To set your mind on the Old Covenant law is to set your mind on the things of the flesh which leads to death.
What Adventist theology fails to recognize is that the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah and proclaimed by Jesus Christ replaced the Old Covenant made with Israel is a covenant unlike the old. One of the new things things is that this new covenant made with Israel would now include Gentiles. As for the law, it would be totally different. This alone means that the so called 'Ten Commandments' are not God's universe eternal commands. In their very structure they were bounded by a beginning at Sinai and and ended at Calvary.
As for the Fourth Commandment of the now obsolete old covenant, it symbolized and pointed towards Jesus Christ who gives us eternal rest from slavery to our sin nature we inherited from Adam. Jesus, not a symbol, is our Sabbath Rest:
For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. (Heb. 4:3-10)
The Old Covenant seventh day Sabbath rest from physical work was patterned after God's eternal rest from his work of creation. This pointed to and symbolized Jesus Christ death, burial and resurrection which is our eternal rest in Jesus Christ from slavery to sin. New Covenant believers rest in Jesus Christ, not the seventh-day symbol that pointed to that rest.
Sunday, Dec. 20: Jeremiah's Lord
The lesson for today begins with this sentence:
"Seventh-day Adventists understand that at the center of the great controversy exists a crucial issue: What is the character of God?..."
A foundational assumption of Adventist theology is that God must defend his character yet provides no contextual biblical support to defend this assumption, whereas even the prophet Jeremiah records the very words of God teaching us something totally different in the symbolism of 'the potter and the clay' recorded in Jer. 18:1-10:
Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. (Jer. 18:5-6)
The book of Job begins with an encounter between God and Satan. God, not Satan, orchestrates the conversation by asking Satan a series of questions concerning the righteousness of Job. Where upon Satan falls for God's trap by claiming; "....But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face", Job 1:11. Satan's challenge is so irrelevant to the outcome God had in mind we are not even told what was Satan's reaction to the unfolding events. While Job suffers many afflictions and the constant probing of his 'friends' who assume he has some sort of secret unconfessed sin the one thing Job refuses to do is curse God. Only at the end do we learn what God wanted Job to know, Job chapter 38 though to chapter 40 verses 1 & 2.
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? (Job 38:1-4)
Moreover the Lord answered Job, and said, Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it. (Job 40:1 & 2)
God wanted Job to know that he, the Creator of all things, is sovereign. Period, end of story.
Then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further. (Job 40:3-5)
Not even a person like Job can challenge God by questioning who he is. Job certainly did not question God's character. Moreover, this was a personal, one-on-one encounter between God and Job where Job is humbled and knows 'God is the potter and he is the clay'. There is no such thing as a watching world out there somewhere waiting to see if God can and will vindicate his character as such an idea is heresy concerning who God is.
Monday, Dec. 21: Rituals and Sin
The lesson first mentions 'organized religion' before moving onto the theme for today expressed earlier this week as:
"a religion of the heart, as opposed to empty and dead rituals"
The lesson also has this statement:
"the Lord was seeking to get people away from the cold, dead, but very organized rituals that came to dominate their faith, rituals that they believed covered their sin"
The above quote is nonsense. The people had abandon their God and refused to acknowledge what they were doing was sin nor did they believe their practices (rituals) of whoring after other gods covered their sin of doing so. As terrible as their rituals of sin were their root sin was they had turned away from their God. All that follows in the book of Jeremiah centers on God's opening statement to Jeremiah:
Hear the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel. Thus says the LORD: “What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?" (Jer. 2:4-5)
The rituals of 'whoring after other gods' of Jeremiah's day points to a 'heart' problem. Later, in new testament times, Jesus confronted the Pharisees, whose acts of 'man-contrived holiness' were just as evil as 'whoring after other gods':
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?" (Matt. 15:1-3)
Jesus condemned the Pharisees by quoting Isaiah where God says "their hearts are far from me:
And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” (Isa. 29:13-14)
If your heart is far from God even your apparently good rituals mean nothing to God. Since our rituals are what we do versus what God does in our lives we will explore this theme in greater depth within the context of 'religion of the heart' in tomorrows commentary.
Tuesday, Dec. 22: Religion of the Heart
These are quotes come from yesterday's lesson:
“There is a document that records God’s endless, dispiriting struggle with organized religion, known as the Bible.”—Terry Eagleton, Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (Yale University Press, 2010), Kindle Edition, p. 8.
Not quite true, and that’s because the religion of the Bible, the religion that God has given humanity, has always been an “organized religion.”
This statement towards the end of today's lesson exposes the Adventist weakness of not understanding how to please God with true faith:
Though both Testaments of the Bible talk about the corporate nature of God’s church, true faith is a matter of each person, himself or herself, making a daily surrender to the Lord, a personal choice to walk in faith and obedience.
The "nature of of God's church" is the subject for Thursday's commentary.
In the Sabbath day lesson it asserts that "true religion, a religion of the heart" is one of the "crucial principles" we find expressed by Jeremiah. The question is; Just what is true religion? For that we will turn to the New Testament Scriptures.
While James is specifically addressing fellow Jewish Brothers (James 1:9) who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, he is describing the true religion of all Christians:
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:26-27)
True religion of the heart, or as James' puts it, 'pure religion' is the behavior of those who have become followers of Jesus Christ. They are those whose sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ which is totally a work of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul addresses our 'Justification by Faith' which directly affects our behavior in the following passage by showing that this also is a work of our Savior Jesus Christ:
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Gal. 2:15-21)
What Paul is literally saying is that Jesus Christ lives within each and every Christian. It is Jesus Christ, not us, that gives victory over the practice of sin. As Christians, we understand this to be the work of the Holy Spirit working within us. As Paul said; "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me".
Wednesday, Dec. 23: Twilight of the Idols
Today we are ask to study Jer. 10:1-15 where the worshiping of inanimate man-made objects rather than the living God is shown to be extreme foolishness.
As you consider why sinners do such foolish things one must ultimately focus on a sinner's root problem.
Why would anybody be so foolish as to do as these people are doing by chasing after other gods who are no gods at all rather than surrendering to the living God, Creator of all things? Or, to put it in a modern context; why are people trapped in self-destructive habits that can only lead to terrible results?
The lesson directs our attention to the foolishness of modern day idols such as 'digital devices, money or fame' yet fails to identify the root cause of why sinners do what they do. The lesson even points to Jesus yet doesn't say what it is Jesus does that sinners cannot do for themselves.
On the day Adam sinned he died, Gen. 2:15-17. All sinners are born with Adam's death (inherit death), 1 Cor. 15:21 & Rom. 5:12-14. Jesus declares we must have a rebirth of our human dead spirit before we can enter into the kingdom of God, John 3:1-21. Since even animals breathe air obviously the 'breathe of life' God breathed into Adam was something far more than the physical air that gave Adam physical life. God, who is Spirit can only be worshiped by those who have a living human spirit, John 4:23-24.
The foundational point to understand is that whether we are talking about physical or spiritual life, only God gives life.There is no other source for having life. Jesus the Son of God is our Creator and the only source of life:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
The point is that sinners, whether in Jeremiah's time or ours, cannot produce spiritual life by any action of their own. Only Jesus can do that. Outside of the promises and actions of God sinners are totally helpless. There is nothing sinners have done, can do or will ever do to bring life where there is no life. When God through the words he gave Jeremiah appealed to the people to put on the 'wooden yoke' rather than be forced to wear the 'iron yoke', he was offering them life rather than certain inevitable death.
The second and most important point is that false pride coupled the determination to 'do it my way' in the face of obvious ongoing failure comes from having a hard heart:
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity. (Pro. 28:13-14)
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! (Eph. 4:17-20)
In all ages the solution has fundamentally been the same. In the very words of Jesus:
"...Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)
Thursday, Dec. 24: The Remnant
Today the lesson focuses on the remnant with Jer. 23:1-8 & 33:14-18 along with Rev. 12:17 as primary scripture references.
The introduction begins with an Ellen G. White quote which includes this statement:
"But God left not to hopeless despair the faithful remnant who were still in the city. Even while Jeremiah was kept under close surveillance by those who scorned his messages, there came to him fresh revelations concerning Heaven’s willingness to forgive and to save, which have been an unfailing source of comfort to the church of God from that day to this.”
The church, the Body of Christ here on Earth, was a mystery that wasn't revealed and didn't exist until after the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave, Rom. 16:25-27, Eph. 1:22-23, Eph 3:3-10 & Col. 1: 24-27. If Ellen G. White had really been an inspired prophet of God she would not have referred to the church as having existed in Jeremiah's time.
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Rom.16:25-27)
Of course the real intent of Ellen G. White is to connect the "the faithful remnant" of Jeremiah's day with the Adventist claim of being the true remnant for our times. To support this theme and at the same time introduce Adventism's 'Great Controversy' concept (the general theme for next quarter) the lesson refers us to Rev. 12:7. However if you study starting back at Rev. 7:1-8 and then progress forward to Rev. 14:1-5, you will see that the 144,000 are all ethnic Jews, totally unrelated to the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. There is no biblical support for believing Adventism is the modern day remnant church with direct ties back to Jeremiah that Ellen G. White claims it to be in today's lesson quote.
Friday, Dec. 25: Further Thought
The commentary for today will be focused on this lesson discussion question:
"Earlier this week we saw the problem of believing that going on with religious worship without a change of heart is a deception. What is true grace, in contrast to the cheap, worthless, and even deceptive version of it warned about here?"
It is without question that worship without a change of heart is a deception. The real question should be: What must happen for a person to have a change of heart?
In John 3:1-21 Jesus teaches that sinners must have a spiritual birth, that is, their spirit must be born again in order to enter into the kingdom of God.
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:5-6)
Unless a sinner's dead spirit is born again that person cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The brutal fact is that we sinners all sin because we are born with a sin nature we have inherited from Adam.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Rom. 3:21-25)
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Rom. 5:12-14)
All sinners sin. However even if a person could perfectly obey God that would not produce life where there is no life. In Mark 10:17-31 Jesus also talks about the difficulty for many to enter into the kingdom of God and then says this:
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)
There is nothing you can do, other than to surrender yourself to Jesus Christ, to gain entry into the kingdom of God and therefore have eternal life. Moreover, once you are part of the kingdom of God there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God, Rom. 8:31-39. Since Jesus Christ shed his own blood to give us eternal life only a fool would call this "cheap grace".
As for questioning the success of Jeremiah's preaching the very words God put into his mouth, we know of at least four men who humbly put on the 'wooden yoke' that God promised would result in their redemption as the remnant people of God, Daniel 1:1-7.