May 29 - June 4
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Lev. 19:31; Ps. 106:28; 1 Cor. 10:20; Rev. 16:14.
MEMORY TEXT: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV).
KEY QUESTIONS: How has Satan taken advantage of the damaged image of God in people? What methods has he used to turn them away from God?
OVERVIEW. So far this quarter, we have looked at human nature as God created it, what He intended for the human race to be, and what it became because of sin. From Scripture, we learned what happens to people when they die and what the future holds. The body returns to dust. The spirit (the breath or spark of life) returns to God who gave it. The soul (the composite of dust and breath) is then no more. Death came because of sin, but the hope of life comes through Jesus Christ.
When Adam and Eve sinned, the image of God was marred, not obliterated. There remained in people the desire for goodness, a longing in their hearts for the relationship with God that they had lost. It is this desire, this longing for spiritual oneness with their Creator, that Satan took advantage of in order to bring them under his control. One of the most successful avenues through which he has attempted to do so is through spiritualism.
But "God has expressly forbidden all pretended communication with departed spirits."The Great Controversy, p. 556.
The story of the Exodus brings into focus the power of the supernatural-the power of God to turn a shepherd's rod into a serpent and the power of Satan to seemingly do likewise with the rods of Pharaoh's men.
When Moses and Aaron went to see Pharaoh, they did exactly what God told them to do. They soon discovered that Pharaoh's wise men, sorcerers, and magicians were apparently able to do the same things through magic.
The use of magic in ancient Egypt has been well documented. Archeological discoveries have shown a snake charmer holding a serpent made as stiff as a rod up in the air before his gods and a snake that goes against other snakes and devours them. Exactly how the magicians were able to do this is not easy to explain scientifically. No doubt by use of illusion and deceptive appearances they were able to cast spells over what appeared to be their rods but which could actually have been serpents made immobile by applying pressure on the nape of their necks. They could also have done so by the use of demonic power. (See The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 347.)
Explain how it was possible for Satan to control Pharaoh's vision so that he saw the magicians' rods turn into serpents (Exod. 7:12).
"The magicians did not really cause their rods to become serpents; but by magic, aided by the great deceiver, they were able to produce this appearance. It was beyond the power of Satan to change the rods to living serpents. The prince of evil, though possessing all the wisdom and might of an angel fallen, has not power to create, or to give life; this is the prerogative of God alone. But all that was in Satan's power to do, he did; he produced a counterfeit. To human sight the rods were changed to serpents.
"Satan is constantly seeking to counterfeit the work of Christ.... He leads men to account for the miracles of Christ by making them appear to be the result of human skill. . . ."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 264.
When duplicating Moses's and Aaron's actions, what long-range plan had Satan in mind besides hindering the deliverance of Israel? See above reference, pp. 264, 265.
In Exodus 32:1-8, Moses is on the mountain receiving God's Ten Commandments and instructions regarding true worship while below Satan leads the people into an ecstasy of false worship, consented to by Aaron, the high priest.
Describe how the people responded to Aaron's announcement proclaiming "a feast to the Lord." Exod. 32:5,6.
Satan was there to quickly exploit the human condition of conflict between the flesh and the spirit. As long as the Israelites were under the restraining influence of Moses and depended on the leadership of their "unseen" God, they led a fairly spiritual life. But when Moses was seemingly gone and God was not heard from, they reverted back to idolatry. (See SDA Bible Commentary , vol. 1, p. 665.)
Explain the influence of Aaron's leadership and the excuse he gave for what he did. Exod. 32:21-26.
"If Aaron had had courage to stand for the right, irrespective of consequences, he could have prevented that apostasy. If he had unswervingly maintained his own allegiance to God, if he had cited the people to the perils of Sinai, and had reminded them of their solemn covenant with God to obey his law, the evil would have been checked. But his compliance with the desires of the people, and the calm assurance with which he proceeded to carry out their plans, emboldened them to go to greater lengths in sin than had before entered their minds.... they were filled with admiration of his gentleness and patience. But God seeth not as man sees. Aaron's yielding spirit and his desire to please had blinded his eyes to the enormity of the crime he was sanctioning."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 323.
In light of Exodus 32:1-26, discuss the spiritual reliability of human nature and the quickness with which it can revert to savagery when influenced by demonic forces (compare Gal. 5:19-25; 1 Cor. 10:11-13).
|Has your spiritual life had only a few "rough" spots other than the day-to-day tussles? If this is the case, how do you know how strong you will be under certain temptations? Would you be as firm if you were faced with some of the difficulties and temptations others are facing?|
Fearful that he might be defeated by the Philistines, Saul was willing to go to any length to find out what to do. Seeking advice from the witch of Endor was the final step in a series of blunders that led Saul further and further from the Lord until the Lord no longer answered him. Pride and love of power, inherent in human nature, had gradually done their work in Israel's first king.
What Bible texts studied in previous lessons prove that Samuel did not really appear to Saul at the invitation of the witch of Endor?
Describe what events in Saul's life led him to consult the medium rather than the Lord. 1 Sam. 28:6, 15-18.
Explain why obedience is better than sacrifice.
Why did Samuel compare Saul's disobedience to witchcraft?
What is the relationship between these two sins against God? 1 Sam. 15:10-23.
"The Holy Spirit had been granted to Saul to enlighten his understanding and soften his heart. He had received faithful instruction and reproof from the prophet of God. And yet how great was his perversity! The history of Israel's first king presents a sad example of the power of early wrong habits. In his youth, Saul did not love and fear God; and that impetuous spirit, not early trained to submission, was ever ready to rebel against divine authority. Those who in their youth cherish a sacred regard for the will of God, and who faithfully perform the duties of their position, will be prepared for higher service in after-life. But men cannot for years pervert the powers that God has given them, and then, when they choose to change, find these powers fresh and free for an entirely opposite course."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 622.
What habits of yours help you to serve God more faithfully? Which ones keep you from serving Him as you would like to?
|Do you believe God's grace can help you overcome bad habits? If yes, how will His grace specifically help you?|
Daniel and Ezekiel were both taken captive by NebuchadnezzarDaniel to the city of Babylon in 605 B.C. and Ezekiel near Nippur by the River Chebar in 597 B.C. The captives living with Ezekiel confidently believed that their captivity would be short and that God would not allow Nebuchadnezzar to capture Jerusalem again nor destroy the temple. But when Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonians took Jerusalem after a siege of two years, in 586 B.C. They captured the city, destroyed the temple, and took most of the population captive. Repeatedly, Ezekiel had warned the captives about what would happen. But they stubbornly refused to believe it. To help Ezekiel understand why Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed, and to strengthen his confidence in God's message, the Holy Spirit gave Ezekiel a vision of what was happening in Jerusalem and of the heathen rites of worship that were being conducted in the temple. (See SDA Bible Dictionary, pp. 783, 784, 353-355.)
Describe the types of idols the priests were worshiping. Ezek. 8:6-12.
Some commentators think that the idols on the walls of the temple were evil spirits of the lower world, the mortuary deities of Egypt. Serpents, crocodiles, beetles, baboons, etc. were often featured in Egyptian tombs, where they were generally painted on the walls. This means that the "abominations" the priests were practicing in the temple might have included attempted communications with the dead.
Describe what Ezekiel saw the women doing. Ezek. 8:13, 14; Jer. 7:16-18.
Tammuz was the Sumerian god of fertility and rain, similar to Baal, who would die in the winter and be resurrected in the spring. The Queen of Heaven was Ishtar, the Assyro-Babylonian goddess of love and fertility, often associated with the worship of stars and planets, which was forbidden as early as the time of Moses (Deut. 4:19; 17:2-5). This kind of idolatry was not only practiced privately but by whole families, undoubtedly including children.
Compare what Ezekiel saw with the foolishness of humans described in Isaiah 44:9-20.
|What "false gods," if any, are you depending on or worshiping? How can the Holy Spirit help you in this area?|
Describe how the sanctuary in the wilderness was positioned. Why was such a position important? Exod. 27:9-19.
The position of the sanctuary, its articles of furniture as well as its services, all had symbolic significance. For example, God provided only one way into the sanctuary. This entrance leading into the presence of God points to Christ, who is the door (John 10:7), the way to the Father (John 14:7), and the only One through whom we can be saved (Acts 4:12). The general position of the sanctuary also was important. The entrance faced east so when the worshipers walked into the courtyard and faced the altar of sacrifice they would be turning their backs toward the sun, symbolizing their rejection of idol worship.
Sun worship was common in the ancient Near East. God warned His people against this kind of idolatry practiced by the nations around them (2 Kings 21:5; 23:5, 11). For the people in countries such as Assyria and Egypt, as well as for those in Canaan, the sun usually personified one or more of their gods. The ancient Egyptians worshiped the sun as Re (or Amon-Re). Under Amenhotep IV, the solar disk became the royal family's object of worship.
Although forbidden in the Mosaic law (Deut. 4:19; 17:3), sun worship became a problem in ancient Israel, particularly during the period of the Assyrian dominance. The kings of Judah dedicated horses to the sun and stationed them, along with chariots, at the entrance of the house of Yahweh (2 Kings 23:11). These symbolized the horses and chariots used by the sun-god to traverse the heavens.
Discuss the significance of the order in which Ezekiel saw the abominations practiced by the priests in the temple. Ezek. 8:6-18.
What Ezekiel saw in vision confirmed what God had told him. In spite of the previous two captivities of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the people and priests continued to worship idols and turn their backs on Jehovah. The Lord had no choice but to withdraw His protection from the city and allow Nebuchadnezzar to destroy both the city and the temple. What is it about human nature, about men and women who worship God, that they can be so blind, so willful not to see and hear and believe what God has said?
|Do you believe what God has said, what Jesus has told us? How have you taken His prophecies to heart, particularly the prophecies of the last days?|
FURTHER STUDY: How does Paul speak about the human conflict regarding spiritualism? Read Ephesians 6:10-18.
For additional insight into the history of sun worship, see Bible Student's Source Book, vol. 9 of the SDA Bible Commentary series.
Read The Great Controversy, "Can Our Dead Speak to Us?", pp. 551-562; Patriarchs and Prophets, "Ancient and Modem Sorcery," pp. 683-689.
SUMMARY: Ever since God expressed His love for humankind, Satan has used whatever means possible to destroy the human race. One such means is for him to take advantage of the desire in the human heart for fellowship with the Creator. To do this, Satan works through mediums to establish contact with the "spirit" world. Another approach Satan uses is to lead women and men to worship "idols" of their own making. Nevertheless, "When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him" (Isa. 59:19, NKJV).
Suleman Sampson had attended the evangelistic meeting in his schoolhouse, intending to set the speaker straight on religious matters. But the pastor's message on Christ's second coming fascinated him. He wanted to take a Bible home after the meeting, but the usher told him that he would have to attend all the meetings before he could have the Bible. Samson tried to buy a Bible in town, but the shops were closed. Finally he borrowed his neighbor's Bible.
That night he sat beside the fire and told his relatives what he had heard at the meeting that day. He could remember only one Bible reference that the pastor had quoted: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. He read these verses, which explain how Jesus will return to rescue those who love Him to live with Him forever.
Later that night Samson dreamed that someone came into his bedroom and crushed his head against the bed. When he awoke, pain shot through his head. It subsided enough so that he could attend the meetings, but later the pain returned with a force that made him sick. This happened every day, but the pain did not stop Samson from attending the meetings or accepting the truths he heard. The pastor learned about Samson's mysterious headaches and prayed for him. After the meetings ended, he took Samson to Juba for a check-up.
Samson stayed with his aunt while in Juba to see the doctor. His two brothers, Wisely and Paul, were also living with her while they attended school. Samson invited them to study the Bible with him, and on Saturday he took his brothers to church. But when his aunt learned that Samson no longer followed the family's religion, she became angry and hid their Bibles. The pastor gave Samson and his brothers three more Bibles.
Samson shared his growing faith with neighbors as well, and invited them to study the Bible with him. He noticed that the pain in his head disappeared whenever he was studying the Bible. Soon after Samson and his brother, Wisely, were baptized. Samson realized that the pain in his head was gone.
(continued next week)
Suleman Samson (left). Becky Mercill wrote this while serving with ADRA/South Sudan, in Nairobi, Kenya.
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