But Did It Really Happen?
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Ps. 103:7; Isa. 46:9, 10; 2 Pet. 1:16-19; 3:3-7.
MEMORY TEXT: "I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds" (Psalm 77:11, 12, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: Through His Word, God has given us a reliable account of His workings in earth's history, in order to help establish faith, give encouragement, and provide a better understanding of His will for the resent and future.
GOD'S WORD: A RELIABLE HISTORY. A recent Public Broadcasting Service special on Genesis aired to critical acclaim in North America. While viewers across the nation found the program fascinating, a question that apparently lurked in the back of many minds was openly voiced by Newsweek magazine, "But Did It Really Happen?" It is one thing to read and even enjoy the stories of the Bible; it is quite another to hold that they actually happened. Yet, if the statements of the biblical writers are to be taken at face value, this is precisely what they believed and what they intended their readers to believe.
"It [the Bible] came fresh from the fountain of eternal truth, and throughout the ages a divine hand has preserved its purity. ... In God's Word only do we behold the power that laid the foundations of the earth and that stretched out the heavens. Here only do we find an authentic account of the origin of nations."Education, p. 173, emphasis supplied.
What does Proverbs 16:25 imply about the importance of an accurate understanding of God's Word?
"The truth and the glory of God are inseparable; it is impossible for us, with the Bible within our reach, to honor God by erroneous opinions. Many claim that it matters not what one believes, if his life is only right. But the life is molded by the faith. If light and truth is within our reach, and we neglect to improve the privilege of hearing and seeing it, we virtually reject it; we are choosing darkness rather than light."The Great Controversy, p. 597.
What does Jesus say about the relationship between doing God's will and understanding His teaching? John 7:17.
"The language of the Bible should be explained according to its obvious meaning, unless a symbol or figure is employed. Christ has given the promise: 'If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.' John 7:17. If men would but take the Bible as it reads, if there were no false teachers to mislead and confuse their minds, a work would be accomplished that would make angels glad and that would bring into the fold of Christ thousands upon thousands who are now wandering in error."The Great Controversy, p. 599.
What do Acts 17:11 and Isaiah 28:10 tell us about arriving at God's truth?
"Scriptural difficulties can never be mastered by the same methods that are employed in grappling with philosophical problems. We should not engage in the study of the Bible with that self-reliance with which so many enter the domains of science, but with a prayerful dependence upon God and a sincere desire to learn His will."The Great Controversy, p. 599.
Jesus promised His disciples in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit "will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (NKJV). Recall particular instances in your spiritual journey when the Holy Spirit helped you to understand and to remember God's truth. How did such divine insight comfort or help you in your situation?
What historical events did later biblical writers frequently refer back to for understanding their current situation? Ps. 105; 106; Isa. 51; Hos. 11. Why do you think they did this?
Biblical writers frequently recounted earlier key events in their history, such as the Exodus, to give the people confidence and assurance that God could and would see them through their present crisis. Claims to the past also served as a motivator for the Israelites to take action with confidence that God was leading them.
Therefore, unless, the Exodus actually took place, there is nothing to the claim "I am the Lord God who brought you up out of the land of bondage," a statement repeated 125 times in the Old Testament. If it were believed that God hadn't really led them out of Egypt, why then would later generations of Israelites pay any attention to any later prophet's appeal based on that claim?
How did David regain confidence when he was feeling discouraged? Ps. 77:3-15.
Psalm 77 reflects a particularly low point in David's life. He felt completely abandoned by God. But he regained his courage by remembering, meditating on, and considering the mighty deeds that God had accomplished in the past. He particularly took courage from remembering how God had helped his people escape from the Egyptians through the Red Sea, an event that was well in the past by David's time. The remembrance of that miraculous event gave David hope for a genuine deliverance from present and future troubles.
Suppose for a moment, David believed the history in the Scriptures was made up of people who did not really live and who did things that did not actually happen. How effectively, then, could he have trusted in God's promises for deliverance? Belief that the Bible is merely fiction, in whole or in part, undermines trust in God's promises and ultimately dwarfs spiritual growth.
Make a list of past events in your life in which you knew beyond a doubt that God was involved. Perhaps God delivered you from sickness or despair or even a financial crisis. Keep this list tucked somewhere in your Bible so that, when you become discouraged, you can meditate upon it as David did on his "list." Compare your list with David's, noting any similarities. How did David's list serve as a source of inspiration for him? How does it inspire you?
How did the early Christian witnesses view the reliability of the things they preached about? How did they expect their hearers to respond? Luke 1:1-4; 1 Cor. 15:15; 2 Pet. 1:16, NIV.
Most of the messages in the Scriptures were originally directed to the community of believers, whether ancient Israel or the early Christian church. Therefore, the historical trustworthiness of the Scriptures was usually not questioned. However, it could not necessarily be supposed that these messages would automatically be accepted at face value when witnessing outside the community of faith.
Peter recognized this as he prepared to share the "new light" of Jesus with his listeners. He affirmed the historical reality of the things he was describing by insisting that he and his friends had not followed "cleverly invented stories!" Before writing his account of Jesus' life and ministry, Luke carefully checked the available historical sources. In the same way when Stephen (Acts 7) and Paul (Acts 24:14; 26:6-8, 22) defended their beliefs, each insisted on tying the rise of their new Christian faith into the historic flow of Old Testament history. The historical reality upon which their testimonies depended was a major concern in their witnessing efforts.
To what event did Paul ultimately appeal in his attempt to persuade the Athenians that they were all under the same invisible God? Why? Acts 17:26, 27.
It is interesting that Paul used an argument derived from the table of nations in Genesis 10 to convince the Athenians that all humans were brothers and sisters and thus were all under that one invisible, unnamed God.
Ellen White pointed out that the use of this argument by Paul (in Acts 17:26, 27) "reveals the true philosophy of history. In those words of matchless beauty and tenderness spoken by the apostle Paul to the sages of Athens is set forth God's purpose in the creation and distribution of races and nations."Education, pp. 173, 174. Implicit in Paul's argument is an acceptance of the historicity of the idea that all humans are descendants of Adam and Eve and descendants of Noah after the Flood.
|How does the fact that all humans are related, brothers and sisters, affect your relationship with others?|
How was the story of Creation viewed within the flow of biblical history? Deut. 32:6,7.
It is interesting how many times the word remember occurs in the Old Testament. Repeatedly, the Israelites are told that if they want to understand what is expected in the present, they must "remember" the past. This shows the importance that history played in providing a foundation for future understanding.
What do the following verses tell us about how the New Testament writers viewed the historical reality of Genesis 1-11? Rom. 5:12; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:13, 14; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5; 1 John 3:12; Rev. 14:7.
As the various New Testament writers set out the doctrinal foundations for the Christian faith in areas such as the Fall, marriage, worship, spiritual renewal and salvation, baptism, judgment, and the Second Coming, they repeatedly appealed to events in the first eleven chapters of Genesis for the historical context that justified and made clear the need for the doctrine. The New Testament affirms the historicity of Genesis 1-11.
How did Jesus view the historical reality of the first eleven chapters of Genesis? Matt. 19:4,5; Mark 10:6; Luke 3:38; 17:26, 27.
Even more important than the attitude of the various New Testament writers toward the Creation is that of our Lord Himself. Jesus repeatedly referred to events in Genesis 1-11, indicating that He did believe they really happened. He used the reality of these events to justify His pronouncements on marriage and divorce, for example.
His comments in Matthew 19 on divorce are prefaced with the challenging remark, "Have you not read ... ?"(NKJV), making it clear that Jesus saw the Creation account as authoritative. He then goes on to remind His listeners that "at the beginning [the Creator] made them male and female.' "
|Certainly Jesus took the account of Creation as a literal and historical event. How does His solid testimony boost your confidence in God's Word? Why?|
Second Peter 3:3-7 tells us that in the last days people will be in danger of forgetting what happened at Creation. Why is this? In what ways have you seen it happening?
Here we read that in the last days there will be scoffers who will deny the historical reality of both God's Creation of the earth, as depicted in Genesis 1, and the Flood. The context of chapter 3 is the concern Peter has of both false prophets and teachers who will introduce destructive heresies among God's people (2 Pet. 2:1, NIV).
Both of these key events appear in the first eleven chapters of Genesis, and they are generally denied by modem secular scholarship as having any place in historical reality. The tendency is to explain these chapters as some form of nonhistorical literature. The more common suggestions have been that these first eleven chapters are myth, poetry, saga, parable, a theological statement, or something else but not history. These chapters are theological, and in the original Hebrew, considerable portions are poetic, but such facts in no way preclude their being factual history.
What other reminder in the New Testament points us back to the Creation? Rev. 14:7.
The first of the three angels' messages was to announce "the hour of [God's] judgment" that began in 1844. It contains an explicit reminder to "worship him who made the earth, the sea and the springs water." This is a virtual quote from Exodus 20:11 (the Sabbath commandment), which, itself is referring to God's original proclamation given in Genesis 2:2,3. The fact that God felt it important to remind the world to worship Him as the Creator reinforces the prediction of Peter that, in the last days, people would forget their Creator.
|Jot down the blessings that come from trusting God's record of the early history of our world as you contemplate Ellen White's account in Medical Ministry, p. 89: "We are dependent on the Bible for a knowledge of the early history of our world, of the creation of man, and of his fall. Remove the word of God, and what can we expect than to be left to fables and conjectures, and to that enfeebling of the intellect which is the sure result of entertaining error. We need the authentic history of the origin of the earth, of the fall of the covering cherub, and of the introduction of sin into our world."|
FURTHER STUDY: Use a Bible concordance and look up the word remember. How often does it appear that God asked His People to remember His past deeds in their behalf? Why would He do this?
"Science is ever discovering new wonders; but she brings from her research nothing that, rightly understood, conflicts with divine revelation." "Both the revelations of science and the experiences of life are in harmony with the testimony of Scripture."Education, pp. 128, 130.
"But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain, 'Thus saith the Lord' in its support."The Great Controversy, p. 595.
SUMMARY: We can have confidence in God's Word; not just in its theological statements but also in its historical accounts. This includes the story of Creation and the Flood. By reviewing how God has worked with His people in the past, we can have confidence in the future.
When a musician plays one instrument's part of an orchestra arrangement, the listener may question that the notes could ever make great music. Perhaps a single note is held over several measures, or a series of quick runs is followed by rests that seem to make no sense. But when the conductor brings the orchestra together, those apparently haphazard notes blend to create music that stirs the soul.
So it is with life. The parts we are given to play may seem haphazard and make little sense until God, the Master Conductor, blends the parts of many performers to create a masterpiece of beautiful harmony. We may be unable to see God's overall plan, but if we trust Him and play our part in faith, He will blend it with other parts into one perfect whole.
Janoario and Raimunda Costa lived in a small town in northeastern Brazil. The family loved God and enjoyed studying the Bible together. One day Mr. Costa discovered that the Sabbath, which he had thought was a commandment given to the Jews, was in fact a gift to all humanity. He asked his pastor why Christians do not observe God's Sabbath, but the pastor brushed his question aside.
Disappointed in his pastor's response, Costa quit attending church, but he continued studying the Bible at home with his family. The Costas were convinced that the Sabbath was still binding; they worshiped in their home on Sabbath, for they knew of no other Christians who kept Sabbath.
Then one day Francisco, a traveling photographer, arrived in the little town where the Costas lived. This man was an Adventist lay evangelist who used his skills in photography to meet people and share his faith in Christ. Someone told him of the Costa family, who worshiped in their home on Saturday.
Francisco found the Costas and introduced himself. As they shared their faith with one another, excitement mounted. Francisco realized that God had led this family to embrace Bible truths even without a teacher. And the Costas were thrilled to learn that other Christians keep God's seventh-day Sabbath. The photographer introduced the Costas to his friends Valerio and Florencio, laymen from a town some 34 miles away. These men began to study the Bible with the Costas.
(continued next week)
Mateus Barroso is a pastor in Ze Doca, Maranhao, Brazil.
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