February 2 - 8
Faith Amid Turmoil
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Gen. 17:1-11; 22:1-18; Ruth 1:16, 17; 4:13-22; Esther 4:13-17; Job 19:25-27; Dan. 6:22.
MEMORY TEXT: I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He shall stand at last on the earth' (Job 19:25, KJV).
KEY QUESTIONS: One of the issues in the great controversy is whether God's people can be faithful to Him. What strategies does Satan use to make us think that faithfulness is impossibility? What defenses do we have against his subterfuge?
HOW ORDINARY PEOPLE WIN EXTRAORDINARY BATTLES. The Bible is filled with stories of men and women afflicted by Satan. Job, Abraham, Ruth, Daniel, and Esther stand among those who won decisive victories in the great controversy. Facing pain, grief, confusion, temptation, and even the possibility of death, they stepped out in faith, willing to risk all. They were able to do so not because of any power of their own but because of what they permitted God in His grace to do in their lives, both before and during the crises they faced.
As you study the lives of these ordinary people who contributed to the history of salvation in extraordinary ways, remember that "The Lord can work most effectually through those who are most sensible of their own insufficiency, and who will rely upon Him as their leader and source of strength. He will make them strong by uniting their weakness to His might, and wise by connecting their ignorance with His wisdom."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 553.
*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, February 9.)
Sunday February 3
Job's life is a clear illustration of how Satan targets God's people in the great controversy. Why did Satan want to test Job, and why did God allow him to do so? Job 1:6-2:10.
A fter his second test, "Job's grief placed him at the crossroads of his faith, shattering many misconceptions about God (such as: he makes you rich, always keeps you from trouble and pain, or protects your loved ones). Job was driven back to the basics of his faith in God. He had only two choices: (1) he could curse God and give up, or (2) he could trust God and draw strength from him to continue."Life Application Bible, p. 845.
Affliction can destroy our faith if that faith is not grounded in an experiential relationship with Christ. At the same time, affliction can strengthen true faith, whichbased on our past experiences with Godknows that the only way to survive is to put our hand in His.
State in your own words how the following verses describe Job's faith.
Job 13:15 _______________________________________________________________________
Job 19:25-27 _____________________________________________________________________
Job 23:10 ________________________________________________________________
In the middle of Job's story, the confidence he has in God (Job 19:25-27) is revealed. His acclamation in these verses is even more astounding when we realize that he was not aware of why he was being tested and that he thought God had caused all that had happened to him. Even though he believed this way, he had enough faith in God to trust that after it was all over He would be on his side. Thus Job is one of the first people in the Bible to express belief in the resurrection of the body.
|Satan made accusations against God regarding the faithfulness of Job. Why was it so important, not just for Job but for God, that Job remain faithful even amid adversity? What is it about the great controversy theme that makes our faithfulness to God amid adversity an important part of the conflict? In other words, why does it matter to God that we stay faithful to Him?|
The covenant theme runs throughout Scripture. We see it with Noah, Abraham, Moses, the prophets, and in the book of Hebrews. Through the covenant, God becomes our heavenly Parent, and we become His children. It begins with Him and establishes a community of people who exercise love, faith, and obedience in Him.
Read the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 17:1-11. Then answer the following questions.
What promises did God make?
How many times does the covenant refer to God's activities? Whom did the covenant include?
What did God require of Abraham and the covenant people?
What changes occurred because of the covenant?
It takes two sides to make a covenant. What was Abraham's part of the bargain?
Were there other things he should do that weren't explicitly mentioned in the above texts (such as a willingness to sacrifice his son)?
The Israelites were to give God not only their bodies but their hearts, as well. Circumcision was evidence of their faith in His covenant and, as such, it symbolized separation from sin and a heart purified by one who had surrendered the will to God. Only after doing so could they have a covenant faith amid turmoil and be winners in the great controversy. (See also Rom. 2:29; 4:11, 12.)
Abraham's faith came under the most severe test when God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac. Most likely, Satan sowed seeds of doubt in his mind. How could he do this to his own son? And, if he sacrificed Isaac, how could the covenant be fulfilled through him? Furthermore, the heathen nations around him practiced human sacrifices. Hadn't God called him away from such an environment and its practices? (See Lev. 20:1-5.)
|After her father read the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah and explained that Abraham was doing what God asked, an eight-year-old girl responded, "Daddy, if God asked you to do that to me, would you?" How would you answer?|
Ruth is King David's great-grandmother. A Moabite by birth, she is listed in David's genealogy and through him has a place in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt. 1:5, 6).
Matthew wrote his Gospel mainly for Jewish Christians. What reason did he have for listing the name of a Gentile in Christ's genealogy?
God does not limit the plan of salvation to any particular race (Rev. 14:6). He is Lord of all, the Sovereign of the universe. Only He can destroy the barriers that exist between so many of us; barriers of race, nationality, ethnic origin, even gender, barriers erected by Satan to prevent the gospel from going forward (Eph. 2:11-18; Gal. 3:27-29).
Being a Moabite did not stop Ruth from accepting the true God. Most likely, she learned about Him from Naomi and her family. The more people see God's transforming power in our lives, the less of an advantage Satan will have in the great controversy.
Below is a list of character traits we find in Ruth that are essential for fighting the good fight of faith. Match each of the following texts to its corresponding trait (you will want to use some texts more than once): (a) Ruth 1:15, 16; (b) 1:17, 18; (c) 2:8, 9; (d) 2:1-17; (e) 2:4; (f) 3:1-5; (g) 3:14; (h) 3:15; (i) 3:11-13; (j) 4:1-10.
_____ worship of the true God
_____ respect for a wiser, older family member
_____ respect for womanhood
_____ respect for community
|Read Psalm 126:5. Ruth's life illustrates the truthfulness of this song. We may shed tears over Satan's unjust dealings, but if our faith in God remains strong, our tears, too, shall turn to joy. What are some other Bible promises that you can cling to in order to draw comfort that whatever our lot in the great controversy now, we will rejoice as victors in the end?|
Considering some of the issues so far discussed in the lesson, why would Satan want Daniel to pray to another god? Or did Satan, working through the "governors and satraps," know that Daniel would not pray to another god and this was all simply a plan to kill him? Why would it be to Satan's advantage to kill him?
One of the most fascinating verses in this chapter, particularly in the context of the great controversy, is verse 5, in which is said, basically, If we want to do harm to this man, we have to do something that pits our laws against the law of his God, because it is clear from watching him that he will not violate the law of his God. In other words, they knew that here was something that was not going to change, and that was Daniel's obedience to God. Therefore, they needed to weave a plot around their knowledge that this is one thing that will not change.
Though King Darius obviously considered himself a "friend" of Daniel, he unwittingly found himself the key player in Satan's plot against the aged Hebrew. What was Darius's sin that allowed Satan to use him like that, and what lesson can we learn from this about how our sins can be exploited by the enemy?
How easy it would have been for Daniel to rationalize actions that could have spared him this test. After all, he could have closed the window (Dan. 6:10) or done something to have (at least for 30 days) protected himself against what was clearly a law aimed at him. Yet, for whatever reasons, Daniel decided to do just as "was his custom since early days" (vs. 10, NKJV).
|Look at both sides of the issue here. Could Daniel have been justified in taking measureswithout compromising his faithfulness to Godthat would have protected himself? Did he have to do things exactly the way he had always done? Or would any change, in any way, have been a compromise, if he did it out of fear? Should prudence have dictated that he take simple precautions to spare himself legal problems? Does Daniel's example mean that believers, in all cases, should not take steps that could alleviate potential problems with the authorities?|
The word God does not appear in the book of Esther, yet from start to finish, it shows how the Lord can arrange events to help those who are faithful to Him. Haman, no doubt inspired by Satan, planned to kill the Jews. But Mordecai and Esther use to their advantage the situations in which they find themselves to bring about the deliverance of their people.
Two expressions in the book are of special interest as we cooperate with God in the fight against Satan: (1) " 'Who knows but that you [Esther] have come to royal position for such a time as this?' " (4:14, NIV), and (2) " 'If I [Esther] perish, I perish' " (4:14-16). The first indicates that on some occasions God might give some of us a special role to play in the great controversy within a specific time frame. The second stresses that faith in God is no faith at all unless it is willing to risk all for Him.
Below are the names of the principal characters in the book of Esther. Compare and contrast each one's personality. What character traits motivated each of them, and how do these traits aid or hinder us in the great controversy?
|Principal Character||Character Traits|
|Ahasuerus (Xerxes; 1:4-8, 10-12)||
|Mordecai (2:5-7, 21-23; 3:1, 2; 4)||
|Haman (3:1-9; 5; 7:6-8)||
|Esther (4:15, 16; 5:1-8; 7:1-6)||
Character, it has been said, is destiny. We see this, clearly, in the story of Esther. And though, as Christians, we believe that our ultimate destiny rests only upon the perfect character of Jesusthe perfect righteousness that He wrought out for us in His life and credits to all who accept Him by faiththe Bible time and again shows that personal character traits play a big role in our more immediate destinies in a way that can't be separated from our ultimate one. No wonder the Bible stresses the need for personal holiness and character development in the life of believers, even now.
|Write down all the ways Esther could have rationalized a decision not to go to the king. Some of them sound pretty convincing, do they not? What's been your rationale for some of the wrong decisions you have made lately?|
FURTHER STUDY: In this week's lesson, we saw how the faith of Job, Abraham, Ruth, Daniel, and Esther survived the turmoil the great controversy can generate in a person's life. Prayer plays a significant role in faith maturity. Read Daniel's great intercessory prayer in Daniel 9:4-19. What does this prayer say about the great controversy and how we should face the issues that sometimes confront us with all the grace and subtlety of a steam roller?
Also read the answer to Daniel's prayer in verses 20-27.
"Through His chosen agencies God will graciously make known His purposes. Then the grand work of redemption will go forward. Men will learn of the reconciliation for iniquity and of the everlasting righteousness which the Messiah has brought in through His sacrifice. The cross of Calvary is the great center. This truth acted upon will make Christ's sacrifice effectual. This is that which Gabriel revealed to Daniel in answer to fervent prayer. . . . By the humiliation of the cross He was to bring everlasting deliverance to all who would walk after Him, giving positive evidence that they are separated from the world."The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, vol. 4,pp. 1172, 1173.
Read also Prophets and Kings, "In the Court of Babylon," pp. 479-490; "In the Lions' Den," pp. 539-548; "In the Days of Queen Esther," pp. 598-606; from Patriarchs and Prophets, "The Test of Faith," pp. 145-155.
SUMMARY: Satan could use neither temptation, pain, grief, confusion, nor the threat of death to convince the people we studied about this week that it was impossible to follow God. Through prayer, by cooperating with Him, and by accepting His strength and grace they learned that "those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isa. 40:31, NKJV).
Alice Sukua of Papua New Guinea awoke thinking about the dream she had. She had seen a wide road filled with people. Nearby was a narrow road on which only a few people traveled. What could it mean, she wondered.
A few months later Alice had another dream. In it she approached a village, and a man invited her to enter. As they walked through the village, she smelled burning meat. As she left the village, the man told her, "Think about what you have seen here."
The next morning Alice told her family about the dream, hoping they could help her understand its meaning. She knew that the meats she had smelled were unclean, and that Adventists do not eat them. But she was not an Adventist. In fact, she often fought against the Adventists in her village.
A few months later Alice and her family moved to the district capital, where she would teach school. She met Adventist missionaries Jeff and Bobbi Bishop. The two families became friends. One day Jeff Bishop saw Alice sitting alone in her classroom, and he stopped to talk.
"I was listening to the radio the other day," Alice said. "The announcer offered a book that sounded interesting. I would like to read it, but I can't remember the name of it." Jeff was stymied as well, but he offered to try to help her get the book. He began guessing book titles.
"Could it have been The Great Controversy? "he asked, stabbing at any title that came to mind.
"That's it!" Alice said excitedly. Jeff agreed to try to get her a copy. He managed to find a working telephone and relay the request for the book to the bush pilot who flies across Papua New Guinea and was planning to come to the nearby airstrip the following week. "And bring me The Desire of Ages, too," he requested.
The pilot arrived on Sunday as planned, and Jeff picked up his supplies, including the books for Alice. She began reading them. Jeff could see that God was moving on her heart, but Alice continued to resist the Adventist message. Then the Bishops were assigned to their permanent village two hours upriver by canoe. The families were not able to keep in touch with each other except when Jeff returned to the district capital for supplies. What will become of Alice and her fledgling faith? the missionaries wondered.
(continued next week)
Jeff Bishop and his family serve with Adventist Frontier Missions in Kotale, Papua New Guinea.
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