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Sunday: “How Long, O LORD?” — 17 Comments

  1. If you have ever been on a long car trip with children, you will be familiar with the cry, "Are we there yet?" When our kids were little we lived in Melbourne and Carmel's parents lived 2000km away on the northern border of NSW. We would have only travelled a hundred kilometres before one would start, "Are we there yet?" and the other one would say, "No, we have at least another hour to go yet!" It called for a lot of parental patience, especially when the fights started about where the middle of the seat was. You need a lot of games, reading material, patience and concentration on a two day trip with two kids. Our memory verse of choice in those days, suitably reinterpreted for the situation was, "Occupy till we get there!"

    And perhaps we Seventh-day Adventists, looking for the return of Jesus, need the reminder to "Occupy till I come!" The cry of "How Long?" should not dispirit us from seeking justice and mercy for those within our horizon of influence who are being denied it now.

    Amen!(39)
  2. Today's lesson states

    "And the Bible offers significant examples of God’s actions to rescue and restore His people, at times even taking revenge on their oppressors and enemies."

    When you read that God 'takes revenge', what image comes to mind?

    If you see God's 'revenge' as Him imposing punishment and destruction upon humans, might you be seeing God as Satan would have you see him?

    On the other hand, if you see God's revenge as His ceasing from restraining the natural consequences to the perpetrator of unjust actions (see Rm 1:18,24,26,28; 2 Thess 2:3-8), might you be seeing beyond Satan's misportrayal of God to the Truth?

    What is my evidence for these propositions? I will provide 2 examples for your consideration.

    In Genesis 2:17, God authoritatively outlined that if Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would die. Going deeper than a superficial reading of this verse, we see that God 'authoritatively prescribed' the danger that unfortunately 'lurked' within that tree and the cascade of consequences that would be unleashed if Adam and Eve exposed themselves to and embraced that danger. Thus, God is not commanding what Adam and Eve will and will not do - He is informing them of the options they are free to choose from and emphasising to them that one of the two options is deadly.

    Fast-forward to Gen 3:5 and we see The Serpent (aka Satan), someone from outside of God's good creation - that is, not of God (Gen 3:1) - re-presenting God's instructions within an entirely different framework of motive. Satan is essentially saying to Eve, God does not have your best interests at heart (ie God is not motivated by self-renouncing love after all) - rather, God is self-seeking and wants to inhibit (and therefore is arbitrarily prohibiting) you from reaching your full potential. Can you see the subtle yet blatant misportrayal (via reportrayal) of God's nature and character that Satan is doing? Satan has taken his own attributes (ie self-seeking and arbitrary) and imposed them upon his portrayal of God to humanity!

    It is precisely these 2 attributes in particular - self-seeking and arbitrary - that Satan has applied and extended in his relentless misportrayal of God and His Ways ever since.

    This is where the notion of God as taking revenge comes in. Yes, it is true that God carries out vengeance - but not the typical view of vengeance and certainly not in the typical way vengeance is taken out. Always keep Isa 55:8,9 in mind as a core principle when unpacking our understanding of God and His ways.

    Deut 32:35 is a classic verse that directly ascribes vengeance to God. But look closely at how that vengeance operates: "in due time their foot shall slip" is the most common rendering. What is the source and mechanism of the vengeance that will occur? It is the cascade of natural consequences that will unfold. This parallels what Gal 6:8, Jas 1:14-15 and a correct understanding of Rom 6:23 also explain.

    The most typical (mis)understanding of God's vengeance - taking revenge - essentially is that God will trip them up in due course. The problem with this conception is that is confirms Satan's accusation that God is arbitrary in His actions (ie He has to arbitrarily step in to impose tripping them up because if He didn't, tripping up wouldn't naturally happen. That is what arbitrary means). But the truth is that it is their own foot that will slip and bring them down because they are on the slippery path of sin (lawlessness). This is the 'law of sin and death' that Paul refers to in Rom 8:2. It is a natural law or principle of reality-embedded cause and effect. Thus, Satan's accusation of God as arbitrary is refuted by evidence that 'speaks for itself'.

    Am I making a mountain out of molehill? Am I merely trying to be intellectually clever? Or is there an issue of huge significance at stake?

    2 Cor 3:18 refers to a very important principle in life. We become like what we view. Rom 12:2 echoes this same point using the term 'conformed'. If we see God as taking revenge on people in the way this is typically portrayed - that God will trip them up - subconsciously, we will feel justified in taking this same attitude to others. Genesis 3 is evidence that the most subtle of distortions can result in the greatest of negative consequences.

    In light of what I have outlined above, could this be one key factor that is impairing our capacity to more fully manifest Jn 13:35 in our lives?

    Amen!(21)
    • Phil,
      Well articulated argument with compelling examples. I agree that the primary issue in our time is the character of God. Thanks for your contribution to the discussion.

      Amen!(5)
    • I think there is a point to be made, Phil, but I don't believe that active versus passive "revenge" is the key to understanding God's character. That seems a bit simplistic to me, not to mention inaccurate.

      Justice is as much a part of God's love as mercy, and Romans 12:19 makes clear that there is a place for vengeance. If that makes you uncomfortable, I'd be curious to know why. What kind of character do we really want God to have, and does that depend on what we see happening around us at the moment?

      Amen!(1)
      • Hi R G White

        I am happy to respond to your points and question, but I first need to know how you understand God’s ‘revenge’, justice and vengeance.

        How does God carry these out and and especially what is His motivation for and purpose in doing so?

        Amen!(0)
        • I have no way of understanding anything beyond what is written in the inspired word. This contains a number of examples of God bringing judgments, with various methods and motivations revealed.

          There was Noah's flood, along with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, where God actively intervened to bring complete annihilation with the evident purpose of preserving the human race by restraining the progress of wickedness.

          There were the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews by Nebuchadnezzar, in which God permitted these things to come upon His own special nation, evidently as a combination of purification through sifting out the wicked and chastening those who would repent. Then other nations who were gloating over, and participating in, what happened to the Jews were similarly punished, but with final consequences, whereas the Jews would be restored. He then let the Medo-Persians punish Babylon for what they did to the Jews.

          Then we have Gehenna, in which God again actively intervenes, this time to purify the universe once and for all, while also making sure that the finally impenitent get what they deserve, in terms of suffering, before they are allowed to sink into eternal oblivion. So justice has a definite part to play in this, as decided by the saints, in union with Christ, during the thousand years.

          There are doubtless many other examples in Scripture, of God's retributive justice, and you may be able to find some revealing additional methods and motivations. Again, I am not promoting any theory about God, only reading what He has revealed about Himself, including His extreme reluctance to bring judgments on people, and His eagerness to bring them to repentance so that He can show them mercy.

          Amen!(1)
  3. I have a question a bit off track. To seek justice and mercy, is God involved, or is this our effort? If God is involved does this not require our petitions for help? If we pray to God does he hear our petitions and answer our prayers? I have heard the explanation that God's answer to prayer can be, maybe, or later or etc.
    What say you?

    Amen!(7)
    • God answers prayer at exactly the right time. Even when it appeared that He was four days “late” in the case of the death of Lazarus, He was right on time.

      God said vengeance is His and we are to leave the case in His hands. We certainly do hear Him say to Moses from the burning bush that He has heard the prayers of His people in Egypt and is taking action to free them from bondage.

      Another portion of scripture reveals to us that king Hezekiah receives the news that he is not going to recover from his illness and must put his house in order in preparation for death. The king prays and God hears him, extending his life by 15 years.

      God heard the lament of unconsolable Rachel when the babies of two years and younger were slaughtered by satan through Herod.

      We are called to love our enemies, to do good to those that do evil to us, not to repay evil for evil and to pray for those who use us, similarly, just as Jesus Himself prayed for Himself three times in the garden, so we too are to pray for ourselves yet always remembering that we are not to fear what happens to our bodies but to focus on the bigger picture which Jesus focused on and said in absolute love “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. Stephen also said something similar as he was being stoned to death “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” and then he fell asleep.

      Do pray remembering that God loves those who hurt us and so we seek their salvation rather than having God deal to them to satisfy our feelings of hurt. Let us express the Fathers love regardless and leave the ultimate consequence to Him if the offenders remain in rebellion against Him as in the case of pharaoh.

      Amen!(13)
    • Short answer is seeking that which is good and just and holy is not our own effort; Jesus himself said in Jn 15:5 "...without me ye can do nothing". It is Christ's spirit that motivates us to do that which is right. Yes, we can and should be praying first and always to seek His perfect will (1Thess 5:17, Rom. 12:2).

      Amen!(12)
    • Our world is certainly not overrun with those seeking justice for the 'here and now'. It was with joy that I learned of a group called the Innocent Project. It is the answer to many a prayer and prayerful appeals. It is described thusly: "The Innocence Project, founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law, exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice."
      Perhaps their success seems insignificant as compared to the reality. 367 innocent victims, some who have been on Death Row or served many frustrated years in prison have been exonerated.
      Maybe setting the captives free is both spiritual and physical as was the roof paralytic's healing.

      Amen!(9)
    • The prayer the Lord taught his disciples seems clear (Luke 11:2):
      1) Hallowed be your name. Prayer is a way of respectfully appreciating God’s character. Through the Holy Spirit, it is a means by which we come to a deeper understanding of the love that motivates God. When we understand more clearly this world from God’s point of view, it gives perspective to guide our thoughts, words and actions in the situations and with the people we encounter. It informs what we ask God and the way we ask it.
      2) Your kingdom come. God’s kingdom is where he is. We do not have to make some incredible impossible journey to find that kingdom. The kingdom comes to us through God’s presence in prayer. As Moses observed, “The Word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may do it.” (Deuteronomy 30:14.) When we understand that prayer puts us in the presence of the Infinite Timeless One, it informs what we ask God and the way we ask it.
      3) Your will be done, as in Heaven, so also on the earth. In the context of the previous, the purpose of prayer is not to bend God’s will to ours, but to align our will with his. It is when we are way beyond our comfort zone and when we face crisis beyond human ability to resolve, that we truly understand God’s answer to our prayer goes far beyond “yes”, “no” or “maybe”. God can never be a cosmic Santa Claus or some supernatural wish-granting lottery host. He is the One who inhabits eternity, yet cares deeply for each of his children, and his will is to be with each of us, even to the end of our existence as we know it now. All of this informs what we ask God and the way we ask it.

      Amen!(1)
      • A better question might be, "How long, O Lord, will it take my heart to align itself with your will?" And my prayer to God? "For the sake of your love, please be patient with me in this matter and let your Spirit continue to strive with mine!"

        Amen!(2)
    • Maybe Paul you peaked ahead to lesson 12, “To Love Mercy”. If we are seeking mercy, we will love mercy with, kingdom priorities, compassion, generosity, and peacemaking. Now to answer your question Paul says: The Holy Spirit does things for us we are incapable of doing ourselves. We may not even know what we should be praying for, then He does it for us. Wow if He can do that, I believe He can surly help us in our infirmities when it comes to seeking and loving mercy. Romans 8:24-28
      Happy Sabbath Paul.
      John

      Amen!(0)
  4. 2 Chronicles 16:9. His eyes runneth to and fro throughout the earth ........The Lord sees, behold and knows what is going on in this present world.

    A few years ago I sat looking at my TV and saw the great devastation from an earthquake that hit a very poor island/country. I burst into tears and began to pray asking God why? to such a poor country. The answer came back to me was “I know what I am doing”
    I knew I pray personally to God and he hears me. He will literally wake me up certain times at nights/early morning to pray. Those same days when I go to work I have trouble or difficulties at work but I already wrestled with God for victory.
    Zech 1:12. It was because of the Wickedness of the rich over the poor, etc, etc that’s why they were carried into captivity. Many times in the Bible it was not the Heathen v/s the Israelites, but The Israelites wickedness against each others.

    Amen!(6)
  5. How long oh Lord? From my understanding when everyone has had a fair chance to make a decision to accept Christ(3Angels message). 20 years ago a Bible worker/pastor, said John you want the Lord to come now, that is very selfish. John there are multitudes right here in the Tampa bay area that have never heard the gospel message, even with all our multimedia. Give the Lord by our humble service, more time to save all who will respond to the 3 angles message. Ya but pastor, even so Lord Jesus come quickly. My friend time is to the Lords ways different to you. Wait on the Lord and in due time He will come.

    Amen!(6)
  6. How Long?
    Abel's blood cries out how long?
    Noah had to wait hundred and twenty years for the promised rain and after they entered the ark it took seven more days for the rain to come down.
    Abraham had to wait twenty five years for the promised son.
    Jacob had to wait fourteen years to marry the love of his life.
    Joseph had to wait seventeen years to be raised from slavery to Prime Minister position
    Joseph's brother and his parents reunification happened almost forty years after separation.
    These examples are in the book of Genesis.

    When the Israelites left Egypt, they were eager to enter into the promised land.
    They must have wondered how long?
    God's answer is I am not done with you yet.
    I need to take the Egypt out of your heart.
    Wilderness story reveals only two left Egypt entered into the promised land.

    Jeremiah 18: 1-4
    18 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

    He is gentle. He knows we are clay. He does allow our freewill to remain supreme which means we are in control of the destination.

    Amen!(6)

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