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Insights #9 February 28, 2015
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First Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Words of Truth
For the week of February 28, 2015

 
The lesson points out that some of the Proverbs are very similar to ideas expressed in Egyptian texts of an earlier period.  The lesson raises the possibility that Solomon may have even taken the Egyptian proverbs and re-expressed them from a Hebrew perspective.

Here are a few Egyptian proverbs.  Notice how they are “true”, and similar to things in Proverbs:

        -“Don’t cheat your neighbors with false ledgers.  Don’t bear false witness”
        -“Don’t covet the goods of the poor, don’t hunger for their bread.”
        -“Make honesty your guide to life and you will sleep soundly and wake happily.”
        -“Better to be praised for loving your neighbor than loving your wealth.”
        -“A word is like a bird, once released it can never be recaptured.”

As the lesson points out, this should remind us that “truth” has a universal character.  Truth is “true” wherever and whenever it appears.  Everything that has its origin in God is true.  One wise person asked, “Is something true because it is in the Bible, or is it in the Bible because it is true?”  This makes the point that God included things in His Word BECAUSE they are true, not to make something true that would not otherwise be true.  There is no magical character to God’s Word that causes something to be true because it is there.  Things are in the Bible because they are true – universally true – even if we find them other places also – even in pagan or heathen literature like Egyptian writings.  
A.T.Jones understood this very well as he looked at the nearness of God not just to Christians or “good” people, but to everyone on planet earth, including heathen people.  Notice what he says in the mid-1890s:

HAVE you ever thought that God was away off from you, and you did not know how to get near to him?  His answer to all that is that “he is not far from every one of us.”  To be “not far” is to be near. Then as he is not far from every one of us, he is certainly near to every one of us.  Had it occurred to you that this word—“he is not far from every one of us”—was first spoken to a great crowd of heathen, Greek heathen, too, sunken to the very depths of idolatry and all other Greek heathen abominations; and that there was not a single even professed Christian there, except the man who spoke it?  That is the truth: it was spoken by Paul at Athens; and he was there “alone,” and he spoke it to a crowd of none but heathen. To them all he said, by inspiration of God, “He is not far from every one of us.”  That being true of heathen, and such heathen, too, how is it, then, with you who do believe in him and love him? Is he far from you?—No, no; he is not far from you; he is near to you.  Yes, he is more than near to you: he says, “Lo, I am with you.” More than that: he says: “I am with you always.” Yea, even more than that: he says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”  Then please, please, never think again that God is far from you. Nobody but the devil can ever suggest such a thing. Please believe the Lord rather than the devil. {December 14, 1897 ATJ, ARSH 790}

So if the Lord is not far from every one of us, it becomes entirely conceivable that anyone anywhere who is listening can have the blessing of learning and sharing truth from God.  If they are listening that is!

The challenge comes because Satan has mixed truth with error.  While there may have been a lot of “truth” in Egyptian literature, it was mixed with superstition, false ideas about God, and false “proverbs”.  While there might be a lot of truth in the writings of popular authors from various religions and cultures, everything needs to be tested by the standard of truth – God’s Word.

Ellen White acknowledges the reality that at times in history there have been heathen “wise men” who have studied the Scriptures and had better discernment than God’s people did.  Notice her following quote regarding the wise men that came to Jesus shortly after His birth:

The light of God is ever shining amid the darkness of heathenism. As these magi studied the starry heavens, and sought to fathom the mystery hidden in their bright paths, they beheld the glory of the Creator. Seeking clearer knowledge, they turned to the Hebrew Scriptures. In their own land were treasured prophetic writings that predicted the coming of a divine teacher. Balaam belonged to the magicians, though at one time a prophet of God; by the Holy Spirit he had foretold the prosperity of Israel and the appearing of the Messiah; and his prophecies had been handed down by tradition from century to century. But in the Old Testament the Saviour's advent was more clearly revealed. The magi learned with joy that His coming was near, and that the whole world was to be filled with a knowledge of the glory of the Lord.  {DA 59.3}

It is a not uncommon mistake to decide if something is true based on who says it, rather than based on what is actually said.  How often we may hear in conversations at church, or work, things like, “I don’t believe that because so-and-so said it.”  Or, relatedly,  people will label things rather than discussing the issue.  For example, some will say, “that’s Roman Catholicism,” or, “that’s moral influence theory”, or, “he/she is a liberal/conservative.”  All these scenarios are ways of people avoiding actually dealing with the truth or error of what is being said.  By labeling ideas or people into certain categories that cause people to back away, we avoid actually investigating what is being said and discerning its authenticity, or its error.

Truth is no less inspired if it comes from a non-Christian or non-Adventist source.  Rather than criticize the source, or label something with a negative label, we need to look at the message itself.

This is one of the problems that lay at the foundation of the rejection of the 1888 message over 100 years ago.  Men were looking to other men to know what truth was, rather than investigating for themselves what the truth was.  By labeling ideas as, “not part of the landmarks,” or labeling the men as too young or too outspoken, etc, individuals avoided their responsibility to examine the truth in a fair and impartial manner.  And in doing this, they ended up turning back the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Notice Ellen White’s encouragement that investigation and not prejudice (e.g. labeling) should have been the order of the day in 1888:

When the Jews took the first step in the rejection of Christ, they took a dangerous step. When afterward evidence accumulated that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, they were too proud to acknowledge that they had erred. So with the people of our day who reject the truth. They do not take time to investigate candidly, with earnest prayer, the evidences of the truth, and they oppose that which they do not understand. Just like the Jews, they take it for granted they have all the truth, and feel a sort of contempt for anyone who should suppose they had more correct ideas than themselves of what is truth. All the evidence produced they decide shall not weigh a straw with them, and they tell others that the doctrine is not true, and afterward, when they see as light evidence they were so forward to condemn, they have too much pride to say "I was wrong"; they still cherish doubt and unbelief, and are too proud to acknowledge their convictions. Because of this, they take steps that lead to results of which they have never dreamed.  {1888 169.4}  

Those who have not been in the habit of thinking and investigating for themselves, believe certain doctrines because their associates with them in the work believe them. They resist the truth without going to the Scriptures for themselves to learn what is truth. Because those in whom they have had confidence oppose the light, they oppose it, not knowing they are rejecting the counsel of God against themselves.  {1888 170.1}  

God has a work to do in our world that many finite minds do not see or understand, and when God unfolds truth to His people, and it does not come in harmony with their ideas, many are ready to despise and reject it. I entreat you, brethren, reverence your Bible. Plead with God for light. Fast and pray in your closet upon your knees. Ask God to lead you into all truth. Tell Him that you want the truth as it is in Jesus. It is not wise for one of these young men to commit himself to a decision at this meeting, where opposition, rather than investigation, is the order of the day. The Scriptures must be your study, then you will know that you have the truth. Open your heart that God might write the truth upon its tablets.”  {1888 170.2}  

May we learn from Jewish history, from Adventist history, and from common sense, to judge truth based on its origin in the source of truth – the God of heaven.  May we discern that the Bible has been given us to allow us to sort out the mixture of truth and error that Satan has introduced into the different philosophies and religions and cultures around the world.  And may we be willing to accept truth from wherever God brings it, and bring it to the fair and objective standard of God’s Word to separate the wheat from the chaff.
-Bob Hunsaker