Home » Sabbath: Making Sense of History: Zerubbabel and Ezra    


Sabbath: Making Sense of History: Zerubbabel and Ezra — 31 Comments

  1. Getting your name in the history books is something rather special. But in the stories of Nehemiah and Ezra there were a lot of hardworking bricklayers and stonemasons who don’t get a mention but were the foundation of the rebuilding work. These nameless souls, inspired by their leadership did the hard work of building the walls, and creating a safe place.

    There is a place for every worker ...

  2. Ezra, Jeshua and Zerubbabel were given to the task of building the temple of the Lord God. They could not ally themselves with those who were opposed to such. They were a special people, holy to the Lord, with a special mission. We too are just such a special people; our mission is special. We cannot ally ourselves with the world, nor allow the world to ally itself with us. To whatever degree we allow this to happen we diminish the effectiveness of our work for the Lord.

  3. Happy Sabbath! I am glad we are going to study such an exciting part of biblical history. While I am very glad that the author is leading us through such an important subject, I do need to point out an error in the history. Ezra 4 is not as confusing as it seems, and does not need to be spliced up to make sense of the history. Ellen White identifies the Artaxerses in 4:7 as false Smerdus, an imposter to the throne, so he has nothing to do with Ezra in chapter 7

  4. Just to add the reference for my prior comment: Prophets and Kings 572-573: "During the reign of Cambyses the work on the temple progressed slowly. And during the reign of the false Smerdis ( called Artaxerxes in Ezra 4:7) the Samaritans induced the unscrupulous imposter to issue a decree forbidding the Jews to rebuild their temple and city"

  5. The election of 2016 in USA brought shock to many Americans.
    Most of us went to sleep imagining the first woman president into US government.
    Contrary to the belief, the results came in with Trump winning the election.
    Many struggled with the election results.
    Those who recovered from the shock earlier are those who believed in God.

    I have never seen so many prayers being offered for this US President.

    2 Chronicles 7:14
    If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
    I will hear
    I will forgive
    I will heal

    Are we ready
    to call upon his name
    to be humble
    to Pray
    to seek His face
    to turn from our wicked ways

    What are we doing to prepare for the restoration of the land?

  6. Ezera 7:11-28, tell of an interesting story in the letter of king Artaxerxes to Ezra. In verses 12-28 it tells of huge amounts of silver and gold that are listed and itemized, and moved from Judah and Jerusalem. Details make interesting reading.

  7. Wonderful to see the LORD working on hearts then and now. He stirred Cyrus' heart, He moved people's hearts to volunteer and in our time Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to convict people of the truth!

  8. Those of you who like to read may enjoy the book “Paradigm”, by Jonathan Cahn. Rabbi Cahn is a Messianic Jew and quite the historian. This book shows definitive parallels between the years leading up to the Babylonian captivity and our modern times. It gives us substantial evidence that God is present in history and is actively moving in our world today.

  9. Bible passages under study for this week's lesson include Jeremiah 25 and Isaiah 55:8,9.

    Jeremiah 25:11-12 seems to say that after 70 years, God will "punish" the king and the nation of Babylon. And just a few verses earlier it states that God had sent Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar (His "servant") to punish Israel and the surrounding nations for 70 years.

    If we take these verses at face value, the notion of a God who 'punishes' people when they don't do what he says flies in the face of Isaiah 55:8,9 because this is no different to how humans operate and how the gods of the ancient Near East religions were believed to operate.

    If you are comfortable with a God who punishes, then I won't try to change your perspective. But if you have wondered about the above point, there is an alternative perspective you might like to research for yourself - like the Bereans (Acts 17:11). Here are some key points to consider:

    * Starting with 'the fall' of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, a true knowledge of God quickly dissolved and in its place, human-projected misperceptions and misconceptions took over. This quickly led to development of pagan religions across the ancient Near East that dominated and consequently heavily influenced people's 'worldviews' of how 'gods' operated. Simply speaking, the gods of these religions were favorable towards you if you did what pleased them or were angry against you if you failed to please them or did what displeased them. Under this worldview, the gods were the direct source of the 'blessing' or 'cursing' you might experience.

    The people of the Old Testament did not escape being influenced by this pervasive and prevailing worldview of their times. If you look carefully across the bible from beginning to end, you will find a progression of development from portraying God as the direct source of good or evil to God as the source of that which is good and Satan as the source of that which is evil. This progressive development reflects a recovery of a more true knowledge of God.

    * Bible translators also had a worldview and that worldview influenced their translation - along with any 'agendas' that those commissioning the translations had along the way.

    * How might the way God operates be different from the ways that human's typically operate and think (ie, Isaiah 55:8,9)?

    Here are some propositions that I would assert are biblically valid:

    1. There is only one way that life can and does work - and God 'inhabits' that way and creates life in accordance with that way because that is the only way life works. Hence, it is not God arbitrarily commanding that things be a certain way (as Satan has suggested: eg, Genesis 3:5), but rather God is informing us of the only way that things work and compassionately urging us to choose that way.

    2. This one way that life works is underpinned by reality of consistency of cause and effect - ie, law. If you choose live in harmony with (ie 'obedient' to) that which alone enables life to work, you will live. If you choose try living out of harmony with (ie 'disobedient' to) that which alone enables life to work, you will "perish". The first principle is what Paul referred to as "the law of the Spirit of life" while the second principle is what he referred to as "the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). Natural law is what enables/causes order and therefore life - lawlessness (ie sin: 1 John 3:4) causes non-order/chaos and therefore non-life/death.

    So what has stopped the law of sin and death exerting its full impact to date? This is where the notion of God directing the angels to restrain the 4 winds of strife (sin's full-force natural consequences) in Revelation 7:1 becomes highly relevant along with the more detailed unpacking of God as The Restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2. What this means is that God is not causing the consequences of lawlessness - He is restraining those consequences where He can validly do so (keeping in mind that God's nature and character are 'on trail' before the cosmos).

    In light of the above (and more), I would propose that what is going on in Jeremiah 25:11-12 as the background to this quarter's study of Ezra and Nehemiah is that Israel's lawlessness had reached a point where God could no longer validly restrain the natural/inherent consequences of Israel's location within a pagan world. And therefore the natural consequences began to unfold - Babylon dominated the world. But God in His foreknowledge also knew that after 70 years He would once again be able to validly begin restraining these natural consequence of lawlessness in order to promote restoration and recovery to life once again. God needed to resume restraining where He could validly do so in order to keep open the avenue for the coming of the Messiah so that a valid salvation plan could be implemented successfully.

    Thus, while the bible does frequently read that God punishes people, I would propose that this humanity's misperception of God rather than the truth of God's higher way's of operating (Isaiah 55:8,9). That is why we see passages such as Galatians 6:8 and James 1:14-15 presenting what I would contend is a more accurate understanding of how "punishment" unfolds.

    See through the lens of what I have attempted to outline above, the following quote from Ellen White is interesting in that it would seem to suggest how she understood the notion of God's punishment even more than 100 years ago:

    "We are not to regard God as waiting to punish the sinner for his sin. The sinner brings the punishment upon himself. His own actions start a train of circumstances that bring the sure result. Every act of transgression reacts upon the sinner, works in him a change of character, and makes it more easy for him to transgress again. By choosing to sin, men separate themselves from God, cut themselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death" (1 Selected Messages 235.2).

    Furthermore, Ellen White also proposes that it was Satan who instigated the view that God had to punish or else He couldn't be a God of "truth and justice" (Desire of Ages 761.4). Satan's accusation reflects his conception of "justice" - one that is radically different to God's thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8,9). Which view of 'justice' has humanity adopted? Which view has mainstream Christianity adopted?

    I am not alone in proposing what I have outlined above. Others have also written extensively on the subject - a summary of which is contained in the book Servant God by Brad Cole (Editor).

    While what I have written is unfortunately lengthy, I would propose that it is a vital background to how we will interpret the material covered by this quarter's lessons as it represents the foundational assumptions of the worldview that we bring to our reading and understanding of Ezra and Nehemiah. And it will therefore influence what we take away from it.

    God bless your study of this quarter's content.

    • Can you demonstrate a more accurate translation of Jeremiah 25:11-12 and the other passages that mention God's "punishing"?

      Alternatively might it be enlightening to examine why and how God "punishes"?

      I would also ask whether punishment is always evil. Can punishment not be used to lead to repentance and therefore salvation?

      As for using Babylon to "punish" Israel and then "punishing" Babylon for going far beyond what God intended - it makes perfect sense to me. So perhaps you can tell me what I'm missing. 🙂

      You suggest that the translation of "punishment' is not accurate because it is similar to how humans operate. But didn't God create humans in His image? Should we not expect that there are similarities in our way of seeing things - even if/when our understanding has become darkened?

      • With specific reference to interpreting Jeremiah 25:11-12, it is interesting and significant that the opening phrase in Jeremiah 25:12 is parallel with the opening phrase in Jeremiah 29:10.

        In both instances, the reference to the 70 years is followed by the exact same Hebrew word "epqod". However, interpreters have selected "I will punish" as the interpretation/translation of epqod in Jeremiah 25:12, yet they have selected "I will visit" as the interpretation/translation in Jeremiah 29:10.

        According to Strong's, to visit in such a way that the visitation results in a change to the situation is the overarching meaning of paqad - the root word from which epqod is a derivative.

        I would then propose that unpacking the mechanism of this visitation impact needs to be considered in view of wider reference in scripture. Consequently, I would also propose that where the impact of the visitation is to directly enhance abundant life (as per Jeremiah 29:11), the source and mechanism of such is God's direct fostering/facilitating (John 10:10). Conversely, when the impact of the visitation is detrimental to the persons concerned, I would propose that Paul's unpacking in Romans 1:18,24,26,28 of "God's wrath" as giving people up/over (ie releasing previously applied resistance because of 2 Peter 3:9) to their freely chosen trajectory is consistent with 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 7:1 regarding the release of restraint (to varying degrees).

        I see this same phenomenon acknowledged by Ezra at the outset of his prayer (Ezra 9:7). Because the self-destructive forces/actions/impacts of lawlessness (ie, absence of order) are no longer restrained (or, more typically, as restrained - see Ezra's acknowledgement in Ezra 9:13), these self-destructive forces of lawlessness were then freed/unleashed to exert their natural impact/s - Israel was conquered by the stronger nation/army of Babylon. It was therefore lawlessness that was directly fostering/facilitating/driving the 'punishment'/detrimental consequences upon Israel, not God.

        This is how I interpret Jeremiah 25:11,12 and other similar passages referring to God's 'punishing/carrying out wrath/etc'. I believe Paul had an understanding of this concept, but that such was subsequently lost sight of during the subsequent centuries. I also believe that early Adventism began recovering this lost sight (as per Ellen White's explanation in 1SM 235.2), but that such has again been lost sight of across time. Could it be that God is offering us an opportunity to once again recover sight of this important aspect of His nature and character at this critical point in earth's history and therefore this critical point in the Great Controversy? (I am referring to the wider emergence of this view among others apart from myself).

        If sin (lawlessness) was not already inherently self-destructive, then we would need a God who imposes punishment and ultimately destruction. But lawlessness already fulfills those functions and therefore, I would submit, the need for God to fulfill that role is redundant. And not only is it redundant, I believe it is fundamentally contrary to God's nature and character while being entirely consistent with Satan's nature and character (as per John 10:10).

    • God did not “punish” Babylon for spoiling Israel, which He commanded. God said: “... I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation for their Iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and I will make it an everlasting desolation...” Jer 25:12,13. God also declared the same to Assyria - the “rod of His anger” against Israel (Isa 10:5-19). Isn’t it interesting that the Assyrian ‘judgment’ is compared with Egypt’s (Isa 10:24-27). These (Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon) are three of the four horns that “scatter” Israel (Zech 1:18-21; Jer 50:17-20; Isa 27:13; 52:3-6). Who/which is the fourth? Consider Ezk 34:2,5,21-24 - the only “scatterer” that actually has ‘horns’ associated with it. Its scattering is *spiritual*, infinitely greater/worse than the others...

      • Thank you Kenny for the correction regarding Babylon being 'punished' for their iniquity. Consequently, I will have my first point amended accordingly. However, my key proposition that it is not God that is the source of punishment, even though humans perceived Him that way at times, still stands.

        • By way of attempting to reduce risk of misunderstanding of where I am coming from with the view I have expressed, I will summarily state what I believe to be the foundational premises for my frame of reference:

          * God is exclusively about fostering and facilitating abundant eternal life (John 10:10, 2 Peter 3:9)
          * Abundant eternal life absolutely conditionally requires that a created being be in willing dependent connection with God and willing accordance with the law/s that foster and maintain life (ie, principles/constants that promote and maintain the order necessary for true life rather than chaos which precludes life). This was the state of Adam and Eve prior to Genesis 3 and previously of Lucifer prior to his 'fall'.
          * Sin (ie lawlessness) - by the nature of what it is - produces consequences that are incompatible with life. Unrestrained, these consequences result in instantaneous annihilation.
          * If God had not restrained the consequences of Lucifer's departure from righteousness to sin (ie lawfulness to lawlessness), Lucifer would have 'died' (self-annihilated). Given the allegations that Lucifer had raised against God, if Lucifer had died, it is reasonable to conclude that there would have been the risk of a question mark in the minds of the angels and all other created beings as to why Lucifer had died. Because there was no prior experience of what 'sin' was and what it produced, such experience unfortunately needed to be available so that all of creation could freely draw its own conclusion as to which claimed reality is 'truth': God's or Lucifer's. Hence, God had to restrain to some degree the results of Lucifer's sin in order for evidence that speaks for itself to emerge.
          * Fast-forward to Genesis 3. Once again, if God had not stepped in and restrained the full consequences of sin, the plan of salvation could not be an option. Therefore, restraint was necessary in order to both keep open an avenue for the Messiah to validly give humanity the option of eternal life and to enable humans to have access to that option (ie a second chance).
          * Consequently, there is a constant 'balancing' by God between allowing consequences of sin to reveal evidence that speaks for itself regarding the nature and character of sin/lawlessness and preserving access for humanity to uptake the provided second-chance at choosing abundant eternal life. We see this evident in Genesis 6 where humanity was only 1 generation away from being completely overtaken by sin.
          * Fast-forward to Israel's experience. Israel was located within a wider context of 'pagan' nations who embraced lawlessness as their desired way of living. Characteristic of this way of living was that there was constant warfare whereby the strong were striving to dominate weaker - hence the rise and fall of world empires. Israel could only exist within such a context if they were protected by God - if God restrained natural consequences (including the time when they were living in a inhospitable desert that was over-run by snakes and other risks to life).
          * However, because God is about abundant eternal life, God provides restraint for that purpose. When the restraint that was being provided to Israel was unfortunately being (mis)used by Israel to perpetuate lawlessness, the validity of the restraint was no longer supported. Hence, God released the restraint and natural consequences were correspondingly unleashed (to varying degrees on varying occasions). Thus Israel was taken captive by Babylon - the strongest empire of the time.
          * However, Babylon was a nation that also lived by lawlessness (iniquity) rather than righteousness. Therefore, it too was subsequently taken over by another empire in the ongoing saga of domination, with this same cyclic pattern continuing down through the ages.
          * Hence, I find that God is not contriving and imposing punishment for those who don't do what he says (the typical conceptualisation of disobedience). Rather, being all-knowing, God knows the way that alone leads to abundant eternal (ie true/real) life and the way that preclude life/lead to death. God, in compassionate grace, gives us abundant opportunities to choose the way of life, but also respects our freewill choice to reject the way of life and correspondingly embrace/unleash the way of death.
          * Therefore, it is the reality of lawlessness that causes 'punishment' (any and all detrimental consequences) to us.
          * That God intervenes in grace to provide an opportunity for a second chance for us via restraining the full consequences of lawlessness - but later releases that restraint in accordance with our free choice to embrace lawlessness (for multiple and various reasons according to the specifics of the situation) - does not make God responsible for those consequences. The responsibility lies with the foundational 'driving force' of those consequences - lawlessness.

          So, if the above is true, why then does the Old Testament state so many times that God is the source of punishment? That is an associated topic for another time - though is well covered by Alden Thompson's book "Who's afraid of the Old Testament God" for those who are interested to research this particular dimension further themselves.

  10. Hi Inge

    Firstly, please remember my disclaimer that for those who are comfortable with a God who 'punishes', I am not trying to change their perspective. Rather, I am raising what I would propose is an alternative perspective that I find to be biblically consistent for those who might like to research it further for themselves - like the Bereans (Acts 17:11).

    To be as brief as possible, I present the following:

    1. Our English word 'punishment' most typically is used to refer to an imposed consequence/penalty. However, the scope that constitutes the dictionary definitions for the word punishment also include situations where a person suffers natural consequences that are not imposed by anyone, but are an inherent outcome of being out of harmony with (ie, in violation of, if you like) the natural laws that would otherwise fail to produce that consequence. Within church circles when reference is made to God 'punishing', the prevailing view is the former imposed consequence/penalty whereby God is the source and instigation of the penalty.

    2. How does abundant, eternal life happen? In summary, I find that while God is the only Source of 'life-energy', God has also 'employed' the reality mechanism/s of life. That is, God has utilised reality-embedded constants (aka,'law' and its associated natural 'laws' of physics, health, etc, etc) to keep all things in their necessary order that is required for abundant eternal life to operate/function. When any member of God's creation freely chooses to live in (a) dependent connection with God as the Source of life and (b) harmony with the mechanism of life (ie all the laws that support life), life is the inherent outcome. This is what I believe Paul was referring to when he used the term "the law of the Spirit of life" (Romans 8:2). And it is what I believe to have been the case of Adam and Eve prior to Genesis 3 - and again in the life of Jesus as the 2nd Adam (which is how and why Jesus conquered sin and death).

    3. How does anything other than abundant life occur? The converse of point 2 above. We see Eve in Genesis 3 exchanging her dependent connection with God for attempted independence and we also see an associated trajectory of being out of harmony with the laws that alone enable eternal abundant life. I would propose that God's statement in Genesis 2:17 was His warning of precisely this phenomenon.

    4. Is 'punishment' something that is initiated by a who or by a what? I would propose that 'punishment' is a consequence of a what rather than a who. Sin is defined by John as "lawlessness" (1 Jn 3:4). What does natural law do? It creates and maintains order. And order is necessary for true life. Conversely, what does lawlessness create? Any and all states other than life: this is what I believe Paul understood when also referring to the "law of sin (lawlessness) and death" in Romans 8:2.

    I believe that in Genesis 3:5, what God said in Genesis 2:17 should have happened that very day - actually, I believe it should have happened that very instant. But because of 2 Peter 3:9, I believe God intervened to temporarily restrain the inherent consequences of Adam and Eve's choice to lawlessness/incompatibility with life/death. God acting as a (temporary) restrainer of inherent consequences is mentioned in Revelation 7:1 and unpacked in more detail in 2 Thessalonians 2.

    5. What is the default state for humanity and nature since Genesis 3:5? Without God's above-outlined restraining, the default state of this planet is/would be unimpeded lawlessness and therefore life-impeding chaos. Every single human is only 'alive' because of God's restraining activity - and the same goes for nature holding together somewhat.

    So, if God releases the restraint of lawlessness, is He responsible for causing the consequences of unleashed lawlessness? I would propose not - the consequences are caused by the lawlessness itself, not by God. To use an analogy, suppose a person wants to take their own life and therefore engages the forces of lawlessness to do so. But you want to give that person a second chance to live, so you intervene and restrain the consequences of the lawlessness they have unleashed and put them on a life-support machine. The person recovers a bit and instead chooses to disconnect themselves from the life support machine and again subject themselves to the forces of lawlessness. You intervene again and again and again, but each time they choose to disconnect themselves from the life-supporting machine so they can instead pursue lawlessness. Eventually you see that no matter how many times you offer them another chance, they are determined to disconnect themselves from life-support and pursue lawlessness. Their heart is now irreversibly set upon this trajectory (and perhaps they are also harming others in the course of their lawlessness - others who are choosing to return and be restored back to lawfulness). So you respect their freedom to choose this way - the fundamental freedom of choice that abundant eternal life is based upon - and you now cease to restrain them with the result that they now experience the unrestrained (unmixed, undiluted, full-strength) natural consequences of lawlessness. Did you initiate and produce these consequences? Or is it the reality of lawlessness that initiated and produced the consequences? Are you responsible for this person's final outcome because you granted them the freedom to exercise their choice? Or are they responsible for their trajectory and final outcome via the reality of their freedom of choice?

    The quote I cited by Ellen White from 1SM 235.2 appears consistent with the view that there is a reality that unfolds that causes and is responsible for consequences or 'punishment' as a consequence unleashed via lawlessness. And this is what I believe Ellen White had in mind when she used the term punishment in her writings - which is why she could also say that we are not to look upon God as waiting to punish the sinner for their sin.

    Conversely, if God were to be the source of imposed punishment in the name of 'justice' as He is most commonly portrayed within Christianity to be, then Ellen White's proposed statement by Satan in DA 761.4 is true - God cannot be just and true if He does not impose punishment. The only way Satan's alleged statement cannot be true is because there is no role for imposed punishment. And I would propose that there is no role for imposed punishment because of the reality of the "law of the Spirit of life" (a reality involving connection with a personal being) and the "law of sin and death" (an impersonal reality that takes over when lawlessness is embarked upon).

    Yes, God did create us in His image. Yes, we should expect that there are similarities in our way of seeing things even though our understanding has become darkened. But which specific aspects do we begin to see similarly and which ones do we inherently see quite differently is an important question?

    • Hi Phil,
      I agree with the basic premise that sin initiates natural consequences that are all bad. As a matter of fact, the real natural consequence of sin (rebellion against --> separation from God) is annihilation, because God is the Source of life.

      Let me use an analogy. In raising our children, I allowed them to experience "natural consequences" whenever practical. But this wasn't always practical in that the natural consequences would be too far in the future to alter their pattern of behavior. So we intervened with punishment to help them to understand that the consequences of bad behavior were not pleasant. Sometimes natural consequences would be life-threatening. You'd better believe that if a child of mine ran out into a street, he would be immediately and thoroughly impressed with the bad consequences of such behavior. The punishment would be imposed to *prevent* the natural consequences by motivating our child to alter his behavior.

      I believe God uses punishment in much the same way, and I'm extremely grateful that He doesn't just stand by to allow us to reap the "natural consequences" of our sins but actively intervenes in whatever way necessary, including punishment, to guide us in the right direction.

      (PS Yes, I believe in physical punishment of children. Our boys were all strong-willed and needed active intervention now and then, and as strong-minded adults they are none the worse for it. 😉 As a matter of fact, one of our sons wrote a letter to the editor regarding the positive benefits of corporal punishment while he was still a young teen. The key element is that all discipline/punishment must be motivated by love which puts the welfare of the child first. Any punishment for actions that simply inconveniences parents does not represent the character of God. Example: A child who accidentally damages a $10,000 item should not be punished but instructed on a better course of action. But a child who does no damage and does not inconvenience parents but acts in a disrespectful manner needs to experience some sort of punishment to correct the behavior that would otherwise result in a serious character defect that could cause him to lose out on an eternity with our Creator.)

      • Hi Inge

        I completely agree that in the raising of children it is necessary at times to impose consequences for the sake of discipline (discipling) because exposure to actual consequences is either too remote or too dangerous. I have applied this many times in my former roles as a teacher and a parent.

        But if I consider comparing this with God, I find significant differences. As a human, I am not fully operating as a restrainer to the total extent that God does - though I may have the capacity to intervene to restrain and modulate consequences at times for my students/children. The 'punishments' that I imposed upon students and children (when natural consequences were not available or appropriate) were things like corporal punishment (back in the days when this was still allowed), going to bed early, temporary suspension of privileges, writing of lines, etc. Because none of these 'punishments' were directly tied by reality to the 'lawlessness' that my students or children had undertaken, I had to contrive arbitrary (ie not a direct natural cause-effect phenomenon) consequences which necessitated that I be the instigator/source and executor/maintainer of such 'punishments'. I would propose that this is not the way things operate with God.

        Prior to Genesis 3, God did not need to restrain anything directly involving Adam and Eve (other than Satan's access to them). But since Genesis 3 God has to restrain every facet of life on this earth due to the consequences of the sin-infectedness of this planet. In contrast with me who had to 'manufacture' and then impose consequences for my students/children because there were situations where I wasn't restraining anything that I could release restraint of, God does not need to manufacture or impose because every negative consequence of sin (lawlessness) is inherent to the reality of lawlessness.

        So I have spent the night reflecting upon my life that has been turned around from walking independently of God (or at least attempting to) to now being able to resonate with Psalm 42:1 and Psalm 40:8 in the core of my being. How did that change come about? As I look back over my life, I see one experience after another where I encountered the consequences of lawlessness (my own, others and life within this sin-infected world in general) to the point where I became so tired and despairing of it (as per Matt 11:28). A lot of stuff has happened and gone wrong in my life, but I can't see any instance where God has imposed 'punishment' on me. Rather, in every instance it has been natural consequences that I have encountered. Any and all imposed consequences that I have experienced across my life have been from this world, not from God.

        And I have thought across scripture too. I thought of situations such as the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues of Egypt (including the 10th plague), the plagues of Revelation - which I have commented on previously. Then I considered situations like Miriam's leprosy (Numbers 12) and the serpents entering the encampment of the Israelites (Numbers 21) and so on. I thought too of situations such as God giving David a choice of 3 options of consequences in 1 Chronicles 21:10-27. All these events are most typically considered imposed punishments that were initiated by God (ie, God being the source that generated the punishment). But I would propose that in each instance, the events that unfolded had their source in the natural consequences of the lawlessness itself that God had previously been restraining and then ceased restraining to some degree.

        While some might say that God is still responsible because He is the one that released the restraint He was previously applying, I would propose that such a view mistakenly assumes that restraint is deserved and is the default state. Rather, I believe and find consistent biblical support for the view that lawlessness and annihilation are the default state and are the sole cause and source of any and all 'punishment' that may ensue. When God releases any of the restraint He undertakes, He is only returning things to their default reality - such as the snakes that entered the Israelite camp, the leprosy that overtook Miriam, the death of Uzzah following touching of the ark, the death of the firstborn of Egypt, the flood, the final end of this world, etc.

        But, perhaps there is a biblical example of God contriving an arbitrary consequence that was not already a naturally occurring consequence that was being restrained. I will keep looking out for such in case I have missed something.

    • I'd also like to address Ellen White's statement in Desire of Ages, p. 761 (Click the link for context):

      In the opening of the great controversy, Satan had declared that the law of God could not be obeyed, that justice was inconsistent with mercy, and that, should the law be broken, it would be impossible for the sinner to be pardoned. Every sin must meet its punishment, urged Satan; and if God should remit the punishment of sin, He would not be a God of truth and justice. When men broke the law of God, and defied His will, Satan exulted. It was proved, he declared, that the law could not be obeyed; man could not be forgiven. Because he, after his rebellion, had been banished from heaven, Satan claimed that the human race must be forever shut out from God’s favor. God could not be just, he urged, and yet show mercy to the sinner.

      You focused on "Every sin must meet its punishment, urged Satan" and suggest that "Every sin must meet its punishment" is false because Satan uttered it.

      If everything Satan uttered were untrue, his power of deception would hardly be great. His power lies in his mixing truth with error so as to make it hard to distinguish between the two. In this case, I see nothing at all in the Bible or the writings of Ellen White that negates Satan's statement that "Every sin must meet its punishment." Rather, God met Satan's declaration in a way wholly unimaginable by the selfish heart of the rebellious angel. God offered Himself to bear the punishment/natural consequences of sin in a way we cannot totally fathom. Here are Ellen's words a few paragraphs later:

      The law requires righteousness,—a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God’s holy law. But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. More than this, Christ imbues men with the attributes of God. He builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine character, a goodly fabric of spiritual strength and beauty. Thus the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ. God can “be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

      Peter makes this declaration about the unimaginable substitution: "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." 1 Peter 2:24

      • Thanks Inge.

        I am familiar with the wider context to the DA 761.4 quote that I abbreviated for the sake of brevity. You should see my copy of DA (and the rest of the Conflict of the Ages series) and how underlined, hilighted and annotated and cross-referenced it is!

        With reference to both of the related quotes you have reproduced above, my view of these is that punishment of sin has nothing to do with true justice (ie justice as it is and operates within God's realm) because punishment itself cannot heal/restore. I note 1 Peter 2:24 and Isaiah 53 (that Peter was referring to) that what Jesus endured resulted in our being "healed", not in our being pardoned.

        In specific reference to the DA 762.2 quote, I concur with what Ellen White is saying, not because she said it, but because I have come to understand things differently as a result of my study (as per what I have shared via ssnet). For example:

        * what does it mean that "the law requires a righteous life, a perfect character"? As I have mentioned above, I believe that true life (ie, Greek: "zoe") can only viably exist when there is total dependent connection with God and absolute accordance with the natural law and laws that enable and sustain such. Genesis 3 saw an irreversible (from a human perspective) departure from this necessary reality that could not be reversed by anything we could do.

        * "But Christ, coming to earth as a man lived a holy life and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forebearance of God." I no longer believe the above statement is a referring to a legal framework - but rather to an actual, reality-based healing and restoration framework as per "by His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).

        As I have written previously, I believe that with the first Adam, humanity as a total race became 'terminal' (reflected succinctly in Romans 5:14) and no-one from within humanity could do anything to change this. But in order for humanity to no longer be terminal, someone from outside of humanity (to bypass the problem referred to in Romans 5:14) would need to enter humanity and become a valid member of humanity that would live a holy life and develop a perfect character - thereby attaining the 'right' (via natural cause and effect) to abundant eternal life as a human. This is what Jesus did as the second Adam (as per Romans 5:17-21 with particular attention to v19). As a consequence of Jesus doing this, humanity now has a first Adam whose legacy is death and a second Adam whose legacy is life. This is what I would propose Ellen White was referring to when she used the words "His life stands for the life of men" - that is, because Jesus, as a human, fulfilled the conditions necessary for abundant eternal life (cause and effect), He is able to offer his legacy to all who will co-operate with His efforts to do so.

        But that legacy cannot merely be the passing on of a completed gift that we passively accept - like is often portrayed. The gift is a process we must collaboratively engage in - the process of actual, practical redemption and restoration that puts us into actual and practical remission. This is what I would propose that the remainder of the DA 762.2 quote is referring to. Thus, there are two 'dimensions' to salvation: (1) a member of humanity needed to validly regain the right to eternal life (Jesus as the second Adam), and (2) each individual must choose whether they will actively (which is only possible by collaborative partnership with God/Holy Spirit) embrace the gift of partaking in that legacy via joining in the restoration of their character to Christ-likeness.

        2 Corinthians 5:21 is frequently cited as evidence that salvation is fundamentally and primarily a process of substitution. However, I would propose that 2 Corinthians 5:21 is a parallel expression of Hebrews 2:14,17; Galatians 3:13; Romans 8:3 and Isaiah 53:12 whereby the only valid way that humanity as a race could once again become non-terminal is for someone from outside of humanity to enter humanity and actually become a human and live a holy life and develop a perfect character. This is why I now see salvation as a process of actual, practical redemption/restoration/healing/remission by one who ransomed (see Mark 3:27 in conjunction with Hebrews 2:14 for how I believe Jesus ransomed humanity) the human race from its terminal condition.

        All of this is to say that I believe that the wider context to the DA 761.4 quote (that I had abbreviated) is consistent with the suggestion that, contrary to Satan's alleged claim, the actual reality involved in the process of redemption/salvation does not require punishment because that process is a healing phenomenon, not a legal one. Thus, I was not focusing on this abbreviated statement as the evidence supporting my outlined position, but rather as a succinct statement from a previous time in the history of the SDA church that is consistent with that position. (I believe some within the SDA church once knew/came to see things that we are only recently starting to once again recover).

        With specific reference to there being nothing within the writings of Ellen White that would negate the suggestion that "every sin must meet its punishment", I would propose that the quote from 1SM 235.2 does so. Ellen White was outlining that it is the inherent cause and effect embedded within natural 'law' reality that produces ruin and death and therefore, contrary to popular opinion, it is not God who is bringing punishment on the 'sinner'/lawless one for their 'sin'/lawlessness.

        Thank you for your challenges to my position that cause me to check and double and triple check things in case I am overlooking something. I have literally spent hundreds of hours re-vewing and re-studying things in light of your replies across our many exchanges to date. And I have gained further and further insights in the course of doing so. Iron is certainly sharpening iron!

        • “... that would live a holy life and develop a perfect character - thereby *attaining the ‘right’* (via natural cause and effect) to abundant eternal life as a human... Jesus, as a human, Fulfilled the conditions necessary for abundant eternal life (cause and effect).”

          No creature, angel or human, can “attain” (to) eternal life, as creature. That’s what Lucifer conceived and convinced Adam likewise. Eternal life was promised “before time” (Tit 1: 2; 2 Tim 1:1; 1 Jn 2:25). This eternal life is bound up with, or in Christ as He is, the Son of God (Jn 1:4; 1 Jn 1:1,2; 5;11-13,20), foreknown before the foundation of the world. He affirmed equality with His Father as He was, in Galilee ( Jn 5:17-27; 8:58; 10:30; 14:9-11; 17:5). He partook of humanity because His brothers and sisters were humans. He would experience human living and be thus perfected as Mediator and High Priest, the God Man. As Man He restricted the expression or manifestation of divinity, but He was truly God and truly Man. He was the promised Eternal Life. He did not have to attain (to) eternal life. One must be born from Him to partake of His Life.
          Natural life came with Adam, natural man. Eternal life comes with Christ,the Spiritual Man, the life-giving Spirit, the God Man - the One who was promised (1 Cor 15:21,22, 44-49).

          • Thank you again for spelling out what I also believe.
            The 'natural' laws of this world (reality) were set up and are maintained by the LORD, they are His Laws or as I like to think of them His Principles of Life.
            Pysical life is a gift from the LORD, we can accept it or reject it until the Second Coming when rejection will be permanent non existence.
            Eternal life is based on loving and accepting the LORD as our Ruler and wanting to live according to His Principles of Life.

          • "No creature, angel or human, can “attain” (to) eternal life, as creature...."

            As I see it, abundant eternal life is a conditionally-based phenomenon. Like Shirley De Beer has correctly said above "Eternal life is based on loving and accepting the LORD as our Ruler and wanting to live according to His Principles of Life". Adam and Eve fulfilled these 2 conditions prior to Genesis 3 and retained the abundant eternal life they had been given at the outset by God.

            However, when Adam and Eve relinquished the rulership of God and correspondingly embraced alternative principles (the law of sin and death Romans 8:2) that then placed them out of harmony with the Principles of Life. They no longer had the valid 'right' (ie, valid access to/connection with as per, for example, John 1:12) abundant eternal life. And under the inheritance of the first Adam, the rest of humanity born under the first Adam shared this fate (Romans 5:14).

            This was/is a reality-based issue that needed a reality-based solution. Salvation actually needed to repair what was broken - to actually heal and restore valid reconnection back to eternal life for humanity (ie, for "whosoever will"). Jesus conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:3-6) becomes revealing in this regard - the need for submission to and co-operation with Holy Spirit 'rebirth' that re-aligns our heart (from self-centredness to self-renouncing) and in so doing validly and actually transfers our adoption-based heritage from that of the first Adam to that of the second Adam (eg, Galatians 3:26,27;4:4-7; Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:14,15).

            By conceptualising of salvation as primarily/fundamentally a legal issue (due in a large degree to the legacy of Martin Luther's proposition of the specific nature of salvation), the deeper need for actual healing and restoration from our Genesis 3 default condition back to the Genesis 1 and 2 default condition has been overlooked. This is not in any way legalism - it is reality-based necessity.

            Thanks for your input Kenny - it helps keep me revisiting my emerging conclusions in light of feedback.

      • Yes, that is the one. I have the Kindle version which is significantly cheaper. I am working my way through it at present.

        Over the past year I have also carefully read Sigve Tonstad's own book 'God of Sense and Traditions of Non-sense' along with Alden Thompson's books 'Who's afraid of the Old Testament God' and 'Inspiration: Hard Questions, Honest Answers (2nd Ed)'.

        Sigve has also graciously provided me with a copy of a paper he wrote on 2 Thess 2 regarding God as The Restrainer.

        All of the above is in addition to my direct bible study going back over the bible text (including looking into the Hebrew and Greek to see whether the range of word meanings preclude the interpretations that I am raising).

        I also look at Ellen White's material - not to base my views upon but to compare and contrast what she wrote across her developmental journey with what I am seeing across my developmental journey.

  11. Reading secular history sources we learn that the invitation Cyrus made allowing the Jews to practice their religion was apparently not unique - other conquered groups were apparently treated in similar manner in that they were also allowed to continue their unique religious practices. Are we ready to say that God moved Cyrus' heart to promote every other religion as he did the Jewish religion? That thought has required me to re-evaluate my view of where I fit in the bigger picture of God's dealings with all of mankind throughout history and even today.

    • Good observation Ronald. As part of your re-evaluation process, keep in mind that in the Old Testament period, God was could only 'reform' people's views at a rate that was manageable for them. Consequently, God had to essentially prioritise what reforms to institute first and which ones to subsequently attempt at an appropriate point down the track. Thus, there are many things the OT writers ascribed to God in the OT that are subsequently ascribed to Satan in the NT.

      This point is explored in detail in particular by Alden Thompson in his book 'Who's afraid of the Old Testament God' and fits in well with the observation of a developmental trajectory of humanity across scripture (eg Matthew 5:38,39,43,44).

      Incorporation of this awareness, along with other awarenesses, would be an important consideration in learning how God orchestrates intervention/s.

  12. One hundred fifty years before Cyrus even existed, the prophet Isaiah mentions him by name and what he would do for the Jews: “This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him . . . ‘I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me’” (Isaiah 45:1,4). Evincing His sovereignty over all nations, God says of Cyrus, “Cyrus He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please” (Isaiah 44:28).

    Cyrus’s decree releasing the Jewish people, in fulfillment of prophecy, is recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:22–23: “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.”

    It is true that historians credit Cyrus for his advancement of human rights. It is said that he wrote the first declaration of human rights a couple thousand years before the Magna Carta. And yes, he granted internal autonomy to all states in his empire.

    Surely the Holy Spirit found a responsive heart to bring a rule of kindness and fairness to world. The other nations had also suffered under dictatorial rulers, they too were now blessed with an opportunity to "start again".
    This should not bring into question God's purposes for His people in giving them liberty, opportunity and the provisions to re-establish themselves in their homeland.

    Who knows, but that Cyrus was so impressed to find himself mentioned in the Hebrew scrolls as the "shepherd" that this very prophecy may have helped make him the benevolent Emperor he became.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags allowed in your comment: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>