October 28 - November 3
Your Choices Determine Your Destiny
GOD'S LAW IS BINDING UPON ALL CREATION. Because Proverbs is such a practical book, it tends to deal with absolutes and ultimates. In effect, it says to us, "This is what will happen if you do that." We see this in its references to God's law. The guidelines for human life, as well as the principles governing matter and energy, are in accordance with this law.
Of course, there are always some who choose to disregard God's law. Solomon calls such people "fools," because in their quest for freedom, they become victims and captives. We cannot break God's law without suffering the consequences. Because it stands forever, the results of choosing to disregard it are inevitable.
As you study this week's lesson, remember that our salvation rests upon our willingness to enter into a faith relationship with God that results in conformity to His law.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE:
I. The Divine Standard, Part 1 (Prov. 3:1-8).
II. The Divine Standard, Part 2 (Rom. 7:12, 14).
III. The Folly of Lawlessness (Prov. 15:21).
IV. The Reaping Time, Part 1 (Prov. 22:8).
V. The Reaping Time, Part 2 (Prov. 11:3; 15:25).
MEMORY TEXT: "Folly is a joy to one who has no sense, but a person of understanding walks straight ahead" (Proverbs 15:21, NRSV).
The term law raises varied mental images in different people. Some envision row upon row of massive bound volumes in an attorney's library. To others, it brings to mind discussions regarding the law in the Bible, whether moral or ceremonial. Still others are fascinated by the laws that govern the natural world. Which of these are God's laws? To which are we rightfully accountable?
Why is it important to live by God's law? How can we obey His law?
|Texts||Why Is It Important To Live By God's Law?||How Can We Live By God's Law?|
In the book of Proverbs, we listen to a wise father teaching his child about God's law. Proverbs includes mothers as teachers of God's law, as it does all adults in Israel. Such teaching impresses upon young minds the great truths of God's Word, never to be erased.
Some Bible students have concluded that the Old Testament presents law as the means of salvation, while the New Testament presents grace. Such a distinction is unbiblical. We can obey God's holy law only by trusting in the Lord (Prov. 3:5). As the believer acknowledges the Lord in all of his or her ways, "He [God] shall direct your paths" (v. 6, NKJV). Only the one who fears (has reverence for) the Lord is able to "depart from evil" (v. 7). Fear of the Lord is the living faith of which the New Testament speaks. It results in choosing to obey God's law. (See Rom. 3:31.)
|Proverbs 3:1, 2 suggests that obedience to God's law helps us live a long life. Verse 8 takes verse 2 a step further, stating that keeping God's law "will bring. . . nourishment to your bones" (NIV). Do you think this really means that following God's laws will make us healthier physically?|
What attributes of God's law does Paul mention in Romans 7:12, 14?
All of God's laws work in harmony with each other and reveal His character of love and the order in His kingdom. The laws of nature are God's laws as surely as is the Decalogue. No conflict exists between true religion and true science, for God is the Author of both.
How does Psalm 19:1-3, 7 illustrate the working of God's law?
"We would do well to read often the nineteenth psalm that we may understand how the Lord binds up His law with His created works."Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 1143.
Just as a thistle lies dormant in its seed, so death is inherently bound up in sin. The declaration, "The soul who sins is the one who will die" (Ezek. 18:4, NIV) is not a threat of punishment but a warning of natural consequences. While God desires obedience born of love rather than of fear, at the same time He wants us to be able to make intelligent choices. He tells us what will be the ultimate consequence of obedience and disobedience and leaves us free to decide between the two.
How do Isaiah 5:1, 2 and Matthew 21:33 symbolize God's law?
The vineyard represents God's chosen people, Israel. "To this people were committed the oracles of God. They were hedged about by the precepts of His law, the everlasting principles of truth, justice, and purity. Obedience to these principles was to be their protection, for it would save them from destroying themselves by sinful practices."Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 287, 288.
"That law of ten precepts of the greatest love that can be presented to man is the voice of God from heaven speaking to the soul in promise, 'This do, and you will not come under the dominion and control of Satan.' There is not a negative in that law, although it may appear thus. It is DO, and Live."Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1105.
|What provision has God made that we may be able to live according to His law? Heb. 8:10; Ezek. 36:26. How have you availed yourself of this provision lately?|
The book of Proverbs refers to fools, folly, and foolishness in 84 verses. This is 9 percent of the book. The authors of Proverbs must have been impressed with the seriousness of being a fool!
How does the fool relate to wisdom and understanding? Prov. 17:16, 24; 23:9; 24:7.
"In the gate they do not open their mouths" (Prov. 24:7, NRSV). "The wise men and judges sat in counsel in the city gates, where business was made legal and public matters were discussed. The fool would have nothing to contribute.
'Silence is the virtue of fools.' It is also a virtue of the wise (see 17:27). So a silent fool and a wise man can very seldom be told apart. As long as a fool keeps quiet and nods wisely now and again, he can enjoy the esteem held out to a wise man of sound judgment and few words (17:28). If the fool, however, picked up this pearl of wisdom in a rare moment of attention in the classroom, we should not be too hopeful that he will keep his mouth shut. He could not possibly conceive that it applied to him. In any case, he has a happy knack of picking up words of wisdom and letting them drop at all the wrong times and places. He thinks he is being very clever when he can come out with a pithy saying, but it invariably falls flat on its face (26:7) and makes not the slightest impact (26:9). So even if the fool says something wise, his sense of timing will usually give him away."Kenneth T. Aitken, Proverbs (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986), pp. 98, 99.
Proverbs mentions several things that are inappropriate for a fool. List the ones found in Proverbs 19:10; 26:1, 7-9.
People who are wise in their own conceit cannot be told anything, however desperate the situation. Proverbs graphically describes their tendencies (17:12, 21; 26:6, 11, 12; 27:3). Because fools choose to reject God's love and law, there is no way for them to enjoy eternity with the righteous. When the Lord repays "according to everyone's work" (Rev. 21:12, NRSV)[See Rev. 20:12; 22:12], fools, being "an abomination," will be shut out from the kingdom of glory (21:7)[See Rev. 21:8].
|One characteristic shared by all fools is the tendency to substitute their own way for God's way. How would you help a fool? What approaches would you use to wean a foolish person away from folly?|
What sharp contrasts between the righteous and the wicked does Proverbs draw?
Prov. 10:24, 25 __________________________________________________________
Prov. 10:27-30 __________________________________________________________
Prov. 11:6 ____________________________________________________________
God is the ultimate Source of truth, righteousness, and everlasting life. To commit oneself to His principles, to choose righteousness as a way of life, to follow His directions for success, and live with Him in a fellowship of trust and admiration is to connect one's soul with the Infinite One and share in His life. On the other hand, to choose a lifestyle opposed to the principles of life, to despise righteousness and live for self, is to cut off one's soul from its Source, a choice which ultimately can end only in destruction.
By what are all people judged, and according to what are they rewarded? Why? Prov. 12:14; 24:12; James 2:12, 13; Rev. 22:12.
We are saved by grace, not by works of the law. (See Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-10.) The experience of salvation by grace, however, results in obedience to God's law. (See Rom. 8:1-4.) Works of faith demonstrate that Christ's grace is operating in the life to bring us into accord with the righteous principles of His law. We are judged by the law, the great standard of righteousness because Christ's grace has been made available as the power to obey it. Our works are judged because grace makes possible works that are acceptable to God.
Obedience is a sign of our love for God (John 14:15) and of our willingness to render Him true worship. Obedience through the power of the Holy Spirit is not legalism. "Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us" (1 John 3:24, NIV).
|How would you explain to a friend that God's grace saves us from the penalty of sin, from the power of sin, and from the presence of sin? What texts would you use in your explanation?|
Who destroys the wicked? Prov 11:3; 15:25.
In the book of Proverbs, we find evidence for two distinct views of the judgment. One places the responsibility for destruction on God; the other places the responsibility on sinners themselves. Could it be that Solomon and the other writers of Proverbs are presenting two sides of the same coin?
"When a man has given his heart to his Saviour, when his only aim in life is to please God, then he need have no fear that he will be led astray (John 7:17; Isa. 30:21). On the other hand, the persistent disobedience of the sinner . . . leads him into eternal destruction in the great consummation."The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 983.
Mercy and justice work together in the operation of law. Therefore, mercy, no less than justice, designates the end of those who reject that law. God is responsible in that He designed the laws in the first placea description of how the universe works. But He also built into the system freedom of choice, which gives individuals ultimate responsibility for their destiny. In the final end of the wicked, God gives them over to the consequences of their foolish choices: eternal annihilation.
What plea does the Lord make with those whose foolish choices are leading to destruction? Ezek. 33:11.
Sin becomes unpardonable only because the sinner chooses to reject pardon. With every knock on the heart's door, unheeded, the inclination to open the door becomes weaker. The impressions of the Holy Spirit, disregarded, will not be as easily distinguished the next time. The heart becomes less and less impressionable.
Finally, God must say "They are joined to their idols; let them go." His heart of love, however cries, "Oh, how can I give them up! How can I let them go!" (See Hos. 4:17; 11:8.)
"The thirty-third chapter of Ezekiel shows that God's government is a government of personal responsibility. Each one must stand for himself. No one can obey for his neighbor. No one is excused for neglecting his duty because of a similar neglect on the part of his neighbor."Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1164.
|Each day presents us with many choices that will lead us down one path or the other. Pray that God will help you to make the best choices.|
FURTHER STUDY: Read the following examples regarding the importance of making good choices. How do these examples help you to understand what motivates our choices? Lot: Genesis. 13:1-12; 29; Mary and Martha: Luke 10:38-42; Moses: Hebrews. 11:24-28.
Regarding some of the first choices ever made, read Patriarchs and Prophets, "The Creation," pp. 44-51.
"The history of nations that one after another have occupied their allotted time and place, unconsciously witnessing to the truth of which they themselves knew not the meaning, speaks to us. To every nation and to every individual of today God has assigned a place in His great plan. Today men and nations are being measured by the plummet in the hand of Him who makes no mistake. All are by their own choice deciding their destiny, and God is overruling all for the accomplishment of His purposes."Education, p. 170.
SUMMARIZE this week's lesson by completing the following sentences: (1) The choices we make ______________________________________.
(2) It is important to keep God's law because ___________________________________________.
(3) The folly of lawlessness consists of __________________________________________.
(4) In the end, ultimate responsibility for a person's destiny rests with _____________________________________.
Remember that if you choose to be a fool, you will not be condemned for your weakness but for refusing the help that God offers. However, you can always choose to live in harmony with the laws of life and receive the necessary help from God to choose the harvest unto eternal life.
Golden Lapani is a lay evangelist working in Malawi. Recently he completed an evangelistic effort in the Muslim town of Mkwinda. Some 254 people accepted Christ, and 48 people have already been baptized. Among those is the Muslim sheikh who had to postpone baptism until he could divest himself of two of his three wives and a Muslim leader who asked many questions before he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. The village chief gave land on which the believers could build a church.
Because so many former Muslims became Christians, the Muslim mosque no longer was needed. It was dismantled, and the bricks were used to build the Adventist church. Now, instead of the early morning Muslim call to worship, villagers hear the sound of singing as voices praise the one God in heaven.
God has blessed Lapani with many souls during his 13 years as a Christian. But the one he treasures the most is the conversion of one woman.
Edda Oliver had raised her seven children to be faithful Muslims. But her second son, Golden, accepted Christ as his Savior and began sharing his new faith. He won his older brother, father, and four sisters to Christ. But his mother refused to listen when he talked about Jesus. Golden prayed that his mother would find Jesus as her Lord.
Then in 1998, while he was conducting a group Bible study in his mother's village, he saw his mother sitting among the old women at the meeting. His heart leaped. He wondered if she would disturb the study, and he prayed that the Holy Spirit would speak to her heart.
She listened attentively to his lesson, and when he invited those present to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord, his mother raised her hand. He wondered if she understood what he had said.
After the meeting those who had indicated they wanted to accept Christ came forward to sign their names. Lapani's mother wrote her name as well. Then she approached her son and begged forgiveness for having refused his invitation to accept Jesus for so long. "I have wasted 62 years in my former faith," she told him. But all Lapani could think of was that his 13 years of prayers had just been answered.
Following his mother's baptism, Golden Lapani said joyfully, "Now all my family are Adventists. God has given me a miracle today."
Len Atkins wrote this while he served as pastor of the Kabula Hill Adventist Church and chaplain at Blantyre Adventist Hospital in Blantyre, Malawj. He has since returned to North America.
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