Al Brown lived with his wife on the corner less than a block from my house. I spent a lot of time visiting them in their little house on the edge of twenty acres of pastureland.1
You could just get past the door at the Browns’ house before you were in the doorway to the kitchen. But if you closed the door there was room for a wooden rocking chair where Mr. Brown sat, and room for me on a straight-legged dining room chair facing him. An upright wooden piano occupied the wall on the other side.
“How old are you, Mr. Brown?” I asked after I got settled.
He thought a minute. “Ninety-six this year,” he said.
“Did you know Abraham Lincoln?” I asked.
“No, I’m afraid not. He was assassinated in 1865 when I was three years old.”
“Did you ever see Ellen White?”
“Oh, yes. She was in California once, and I got to see her there.”
“Wow,” I said. You are old. You’re almost as old as history.”
He chuckled. “Only God is that old.” he said. “God has seen everyone who ever lived. God is older than all the history we know. A lot older.”
As I sail past my 70th birthday, I am astonished when I remember that day when I had a chat with a man who had seen Ellen White and was alive during the Civil War. If he’d had a very old friend when he was a child and if that friend could have spanned another ninety years, his friend could have been a child during the Revolutionary War. Three people’s life spans covering almost three centuries and only about 25 people’s life spans going back to the birth of Jesus.
[Thought Questions for The Bible and History February 29 2012]
1. Alpha and Omega. Should it give us courage to realize that God has lived forever? Does that realization give the evil one any comfort? Does God build human history around a ladder or diagram of events that will take place? Why does God care that human history was recorded for future generations? Is it possible for mere humans to imagine life without end or beginning? Which is harder to understand, a future without end? or a past without a beginning? Why?
2. The history of civilization. The lesson states that “Time is a one-way street.” What does that mean? Is it a one-way street for God? In what way? Does your life ever seem to wobble? Do you ever wish God would show you a straight path with no bumps or potholes? Are we earthlings more civilized today than we were 2,000 years ago? 4,000 years ago? How do you define “civilization?” Is God waiting for the peoples of the earth to become more civilized before He comes in the clouds? If God has “no beginning” and “no end,” how would you describe the time line of His life? As a giant circle? Why not? How far into the future do you want to live with God with the trajectory of your life in a straight line pointing upward?
3. The Word of the Lord. When we elect certain people to leadership positions in the church or in government, what do we expect them to do? Are they going to listen carefully to us and do those things we ask them to do? Or are they going to promise they will and then forget about it when they take office? When God says He is going to do something, does it always happen? Examples? How does the Word of God influence nature and all of the creatures and processes at work there?
4. Daniel 2. Why did God create all of us with free will? Do you value this freedom or would you rather have God just tell you what to do? What was the foretold history of Daniel 2? Are you ever astonished when you relate each aspect of the time line spelled out in this mighty prophecy with actual historical events? Given we have free will, isn’t God asking a lot for stubborn people like us to fulfill the conditions of his prophetic words?
5. God’s providence. When it comes to prophecy, when should we value it more: when it is written or when it is fulfilled? Why? Have you ever heard a false prophecy or prediction? What did you do about it? On a milder level, have you ever heard a member of a local church declare that unless a vote is taken in a certain way, trouble will occur? How could you know–or could you?–that the speaker is correct? Does Daniel 2 have anything to say about Syria? Egypt? Iran? or other trouble-ridden spots on our world? Why not?
6. The Great Controversy. One of our church’s incredible books has the forbidding title, “The Great Controsvery Between Christ and Satan.” Some say that the concept of a single conflict tossing people in every direction and explaining the Bible and history as we know it is the finest contribution Ellen White made to our denomination. Others say it’s not really unique to her and still others doubt its verify. What do you think about the belief that good and bad fight it out on earth and that good wins in the end? Who is the enemy of our souls? Why? Did Satan change at the cross? How?
7. The cross in history. Now and then someone comes up with a 100% “secular” calendar with no holidays or observances for any event with religious roots. Others eliminate the seventh day of each week. But it doesn’t happen. Why do you think non-believers, atheists, pagans, and others seem to reject a sweeping change of the calendar? Do you think it will ever happen (a change in the calendar)? What do we bring to the cross that makes our surrender worthwhile? Even sinners with no thought of living with Jesus recognize the noble aspects of tolerating or even supporting a Christian lifestyle. Is this something we should encourage? If so, how?