November 11 - 17
As the Needle to the Pole
GOD IS THE ULTIMATE MODEL OF INTEGRITY. "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). James refers to "the Father of all lights, with whom there is never the slightest variation or shadow of inconsistency" (James 1:17b, Philips). Eugene Peterson renders the same verse, "There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle" (The Message). God is the epitome of authenticity.
As King of the universe, God is also the Pattern for rulers and persons of authority on earth, mingling justice and mercy, righteousness and peace. Revenge is a temptation to those with power, as is deceit, but those who are committed to integrity find that "God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you a way out" (1 Cor. 10:13, TEV).
The majority of us are not "kings," but we do bear various levels of responsibility. Integrity is for us, as well.
"The greatest want of the world is the want of menmen who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall."Education, p. 57 (emphasis supplied).
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE:
I. The King-The Model For His People, Part 1 (Prov. 29:2).
II. The King-The Model For His People, Part 2 (Prov. 20:8).
III. Mercy Or Revenge? (Prov. 11:17).
IV. Justice Or Injustice? (Prov. 21:15).
V. Honesty Or Deceit? (Prov. 20:17).
MEMORY TEXT: "The integrity of the upright shall guide them; but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them" (Proverbs 11:3).
In Bible times, both in Israel and other nations, kings were supreme judges. The author of most of the proverbs was a king whose wise judgments were recorded for future generations, but Solomon was not always wise. Tragically, he wandered away from God's ideal of just and faithful kingship.
The practices of the king usually became those of his people. He either set a pattern of purity, truth, justice, and honesty, or he led his people down the path of disloyalty to God into impurity, idolatry, injustice, and dishonesty.
In what type of king do the people rejoice? Prov. 29:2.
Of course, none of us are kings, but each of us can appreciate a just ruler. Moreover, God gives each of us some responsibility, some important trust for which we are accountable to the Master. In the advice given for long-ago rulers, we will discover valuable gems that can enable us to deal fairly with those whose lives we touch.
"Christ was establishing a kingdom on different principles. He called men, not to authority, but to service, the strong to bear the infirmities of the weak. Power, position, talent, education, placed their possessor under greater obligation to serve his fellows."The Desire of Ages, p. 550.
By what is the king preserved? Prov. 20:28.
Proverbs 20:28 mentions the characteristics of God. (See Ps. 85:9, 10.) The delightful paradox is that God is both perfectly just and perfectly merciful. He is so just that He cannot save for eternity a sinner who refuses to accept His atonement for sin. He is so merciful that He can forgive completely and restore to Himself the one who accepts the atonement provided by His Son. (See John 3:16, 36.)
"It is the mingling of judgment and mercy that makes salvation full and complete. It is the blending of the two that leads us, as we view the World's Redeemer and the law of Jehovah, to exclaim, 'Thy gentleness hath made me great.' "Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1072.
|We may not have a choice regarding the appointment of earthly "kings" under whom we live. What two choices, however, do we have regarding spiritual "kings"?|
List what a good king should do.
Prov. 20:8 ________________________________________________________________
Prov. 25:2, 4, 5 ____________________________________________________________
Prov. 29:14 ______________________________________________________________
Prov. 31:8, 9 _____________________________________________________________
Rulers who choose to serve Christ share God's characteristics. In His reign, Christ mingles perfect justice (Matt. 3:12) with infinite mercy (Eph. 2:4, 5). All who enter into fellowship with the heavenly King will exhibit the same characteristics. Because His love rules supreme in their hearts, they are not only unwilling to deny facts but equally unwilling to dethrone God as the ultimate Judge. Even so, secular authorities are appointed to pass judgment on those who break the law of the land. The church as a corporate body has the duty of deciding if a member fails to conform to the standards governing church membership. (Compare Matt. 7:1-5 with 1 Cor. 5:12; 6:2, 3; Rom. 13:1-4.)
If a person in authority pays attention to false information, what will the official who serves under that person most likely be like? Prov. 29:12. Why do you think this is so?
Do his servants become wicked? Or are they already wicked? "A king sets his own policy, but he must depend on information from advisers to help him formulate that policy. If he only listens to lies from advisers (like King Ahab who rejected the prophecy of Micaiah in 1 Kings 22), then all the men who surround him will cater to his depravity and become wicked."Robert L. Alden, Proverbs (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1983), p. 201.
In what ways may the following counsels given to kings and leaders be applied by every Christian believer? Prov. 16:10, 12, 13; 18:5; 24:23-25; 31:3-5?
|Whatever your calling in life, how could you improve your effectiveness by following the instruction the book of Proverbs has for kings?|
Explain the result of living out in one's own life the principles of righteousness and mercy. Prov. 21:21; 11:17.
There is nothing self-serving in the motives of the genuinely merciful person. But mercy's blessing is twofold. First, kindness reacts on the giver in immediate happiness because mercy is always a happier way to live. Then kindness bears fruit in the words and actions of others in whose hearts the seed was planted, returning to refresh the soul who sowed it there.
Psalm 145:9 teaches that the Lord's "tender mercies are over all his works." This means that cruelty to animals is in direct opposition to God. Read Proverbs 12:10. God gave us dominion over the earth for our mutual benefit, not that we might exploit or ravage it. Scripture classifies those hunters who kill for sport and pleasure and those who treat domestic animals cruelly as wicked.
What are the hazards involved in harboring a spirit of revenge toward those who have wronged us? Prov. 24:17-20.
"Whoever does not love abides in death" (1 John 3:14, NRSV). Thus the person who nurses a vengeful spirit is living outside of Christ. This results in serious damage to one's physical, spiritual, and psychological health, and ultimately, loss of eternal life. It is far better to leave an offense with God; He will make it right. He might even win the offender!
As Christ dwells in our hearts, He enables us to practice the counsel He gives: "If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on their head, and the Lord will reward you" (Prov. 25:21, 22, NRSV).
"One of the most common sins, and one that is attended with most [destructive] results, is the indulgence of an unforgiving spirit. How many will cherish animosity or revenge and then bow before God and ask to be forgiven as they forgive. Surely they can have no true sense of the import of this prayer or they would not dare to take it upon their lips. We are dependent upon the pardoning mercy of God every day and every hour; how then can we cherish bitterness and malice toward our fellow sinners!"Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 170.
|Think of a situation in your life in which you showed a merciful, forgiving spirit toward someone who had wronged you. What was the effect of your attitude upon: (a) the person you forgave; (b) yourself?|
List some characteristics of those who are just (righteous). Prov. 4:18; 9:9; 10:20; 20:7.
The just are the righteous who have accepted God as their King and who, by His grace, reflect His character. (See Isa. 51:1, 7; Rom. 8:9, 10; 10:6-10.) They can practice justice in their dealings with their fellow human beings because the righteousness of Christ lives in their hearts by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The just and the unjust cannot respect each other's characters. (See Prov. 29:10, 27.) Yet, the just express their genuine concern for the unjust by praying and working for them. They truly care.
How does Proverbs describe the unjust (the unrighteous)? Prov. 11:5-7; 28:8-10.
The Lord never justifies the unjust, nor does He condemn the just. "Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent-the Lord detests them both" (Prov. 17:15, NIV; see also Exod. 23:7).
Then what hope is there for us? We are all sinners in the sight of a holy God (Rom. 3:10-19). In the light of the Old Testament teaching. how can we explain Paul's statement, "But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness"? (Rom. 4:5, NRSV).
The answer is that when Christ justifies the ungodly (the unjust) they do not remain ungodly. The ungodly are unjustified, unconverted, outside of Christ, and lost (1 Tim. 1:9; 1 Pet. 3:7). The justified have been transformed by the power of Christ. They are now willing slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:17, 18). Their lives are in conformity with God's law (Rom. 8:3, 4) because the Holy Spirit is reigning in their hearts (vs. 9, 10).
When probation closes a short time before Jesus' second coming, the just (the righteous) will remain right with God for eternity and the unjust (the wicked) will remain hateful toward God (Rev. 22:11). At the Second Advent, the just will be translated and the unjust will be slain by the brightness of His coming (1 Thess. 4:16-18; 2 Thess. 1:7-10).
|If an unjust person comes to you with the plea that he or she wishes to experience a change of character and heart, how would you explain from the Bible the means by which that person can be transformed?|
What makes a person dishonest and deceptive? Prov. 11:18, KJV; 12:5, 20.
Unless Christ reigns supreme in a human heart, the evil one will convey his characteristics, and there will be no fortress against deception of any form. Satan will deceive the soul, and that soul, in turn, will practice deception.
List some of the forms of deception practiced by those who do not know Christ.
Prov. 10:10 ____________________________________________________________________
Prov. 17:23 ____________________________________________________________________
Prov. 29:24 ________________________________________________________________
True Christians faithfully pay their bills and refuse to be bribed in any way. They categorically reject any of the many forms of stealing that people practice and even consider acceptable in our world today. This includes stealing all the credit for a job well done, even though many others were involved in the project. Cheating on examinations or as a means of personal advancement is totally foreign to anyone who serves Christ.
Spiritual toughness is needed. "There is in true Christian character an indomitableness that cannot be molded or subdued by adverse circumstances. We must have moral backbone, an integrity that cannot be flattered, bribed, or terrified."The Ministry of Healing, p. 498.
How does the Lord bless those who are honest?
Prov. 10:24 ____________________________________________________________________
Prov. 10:25 ____________________________________________________________________
Prov. 10:28-30 _______________________________________________________________
|How did God fulfill these promises to Israel? How does He keep these promises to you now and in the future?|
FURTHER STUDY: Consider any or all of the following examples of integrity these passages refer to: Numbers 16:15; 1 Samuel 12:1-4; 2 Samuel 18:9-12; 1 Kings 13:1-10; 2 Kings 5:1-16.
Read "Lives of Great Men," in Education, pp. 51-69.
"As far as possible, you should come into harmony with your brethren and sisters. You should surrender yourselves to God and cease to manifest sternness and a disposition to find fault. You should yield your own spirit and take in its place the spirit of the dear Saviour. Reach up and grasp His hand, that the touch may electrify you and charge you with the sweet properties of His own matchless character. You may open your hearts to His love, and let His power transform you and His grace be your strength. Then will you have a powerful influence for good. Your moral strength will be equal to the closest test of character. Your integrity will be pure and sanctified. Then will your light break forth as the morning."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 63.
SUMMARIZE this week's lesson by examining your heart with the following questions: Am I God's friend as God considers true friendship? Do I receive favors from God without acknowledging their Source? Am I as ready to extend finite, human mercy as I am to ask for God's forgiveness and mercy? How can I in my inmost soul be as true to duty as the needle to the pole? Were the final decision of the judgment to be made today, where would I find my place?
Most of us live in a world isolated from the tragedies that befall Christians in other lands. For several years increased violence against Christians in India received little public notice until an evangelical missionary, Graham Staines, and his two young sons were burned alive in their jeep by a group of Hindu extremists early in 1999.
Adventists have not escaped the violence against Christians in India. During a lay training program in Madras, a young man named Samson related his story.
Samson comes from a village in central India. During evangelistic meetings he and his family learned about the Bible Sabbath and decided to follow the clear teaching of God's Word.
The Christian community grew until one in every three villagers was a Christian. The non-Christians began to feel threatened. Who would control community politics?
Then one day concern boiled over into violence. Christians had to flee for their lives. Their livestock was stolen, and their homes were looted and set afire. Fifteen young Christians who tried to resist their attackers were hacked to death. Their bodies were piled up in the village square, dowsed with gasoline, and set ablaze. Samson's church lost one member in the massacre.
The government arrested 54 persons, but the non-Christian majority had so many friends in high positions that soon all of those who had been arrested were released on bail. For nine months the Christians who fled the village lived as refugees in a distant village.
Samson and other Christians have since returned to their village. They are attempting to start over, but it takes time to build a home, build up new flocks and herds, and establish a new farming routine. The Christians pray that they can form new relationships among the many religious communities in the village. But that is difficult when they have watched some of their numbers die.
In spite of the terrorism, the Adventist church has continued to grow. It now has more than 110 members, with another 80 members in nearby villages.
It is so easy to become news-hardened. The pictures of tears, death, and suffering barely interrupt our busy schedules. May we do our best to reach out in love and prayer on behalf of those who suffer for Christ's sake.
J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.
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