Lesson 5

January 26 - February 1

Winning and Losing

Lesson graphic

Sabbath Afternoon   January 19

READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Genesis 39; Judges 13-16; 2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Kings 18:20-40; Heb. 11:23-29.

MEMORY TEXT: " 'How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him' "(1 Kings 18:21, NKJV).

KEY QUESTION: The great controversy is fought, in part, through human agents. In what ways is the battle manifested in our lives?

THE BATTLE CRY OF THE GREAT CONTROVERSY.  Satan will attempt to influence every person, especially those who claim to be God's servants, to deny their Creator and view His commandments as harsh and arbitrary. During such struggles, the cry of the battle is: Whom will you serve? This week we will study about Joseph, Moses, Samson, David, and Elijah to see how they prepared themselves to answer this battle cry.

"The whole universe is watching with inexpressible interest the closing scenes of the great controversy between good and evil. The people of God are nearing the borders of the eternal world; what can be of more importance to them than that they be loyal to the God of heaven? All through the ages, God has had moral heroes, and He has them now—those who, like Joseph and Elijah and Daniel, are not ashamed to acknowledge themselves His peculiar people. His special blessing accompanies the labors of men of action, men who will not be swerved from the straight line of duty, but who with divine energy will inquire, 'Who is on the Lord's side?' (Exodus 32:26)."—Prophets and Kings, p. 148. As you read this week's lesson, ask yourself how the lives of the people we are studying can help you remain true to duty in the battles that you, personally, are facing.  

*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, February 2.)

Sunday  January 27

JOSEPH (Genesis 39).

"How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Gen. 39:9).  

How did Joseph know that having an affair with his master's wife would have been a "sin against God" when the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai was still many centuries away?  

Make a list of excuses Joseph could have used to rationalize away his sin, had he chosen to do so:  

A salesman confessed to his pastor one day that he had become entangled in an illicit love affair. "I couldn't help it," he rationalized. "You can't possibly understand the outside pressures that were affecting me."

The pastor responded: "You couldn't help it? Outside pressures? Whatever happened to your inside braces?"

Joseph had his outside pressures too! The daily persistence of an attractive woman. The promise of romance. Sexual passion. The likelihood of not getting caught. Society's tolerance of sexual immorality. The possible advantages of climbing high on the professional ladder. And above all, Satan's ceaseless whispers that such an act was nothing. But Joseph's inside braces kept him from betraying God. The story of Joseph, however, up to that point, revealed something that showed why he acted as he did. What was it? See Genesis 39:1, 2.

Suppose Joseph had succumbed to Satan's wiles and sinned against his master and his God.  Would this have been the unpardonable sin?  No.  Couldn't he have been forgiven and the slate wiped clean?  Yes But there's a deeper issue with sin than just forgiveness.  Would God have been able to use Joseph to the extent that He did if Joseph had fallen at that time?  In other Words, how does sin, even if forgiven, sometimes limit what we could otherwise accomplish for the Lord?  

Monday  January 28

MOSES (Heb. 11:23-29).

Moses' role in the great controversy was to forge a nation out of battered tribes who had nearly lost their identity to slavery—a nation through whom God would spread the message of salvation to the world and from whom would come the Messiah.

Satan, however, hoped to win a decisive victory in the war between good and evil, and his tool in this case was Pharaoh's determination to keep Israel under his domination (Exodus 1; 5). When that didn't work, he thought he could gain victory through Israel's complaining spirit and subsequent 40 years of wandering in the wilderness (Num. 10:11-14:45).

How did Moses prepare for his role and succeed in fulfilling it? Heb. 11:23-29.  

Moses made choices that prepared him for the battles ahead. Putting things into perspective early in his life, he refused Egypt's throne. He chose affliction with God's people rather than the pleasures of sin. He esteemed "disgrace for the sake of Christ" (vs. 26, NIV) greater than the riches of Egypt. He confronted Pharaoh, kept the Passover, then led Israel to freedom (Exodus 5-12). He mediated the law and established the sanctuary service (Exodus 19-30). He snuffed out rebellion, pleaded to God on Israel's behalf, and finally brought them to the borders of the Promised Land (Exodus 32; Num. 22:1-36:13). But he could not enter Canaan because of one specific sin (Num. 20:7-11, 24). However, he was resurrected and taken to the presence of God (Matt. 17:1-13; Jude 9).

"Never, till exemplified in the sacrifice of Christ, were the justice and the love of God more strikingly displayed than in His dealings with Moses. God shut Moses out of Canaan, to teach a lesson which should never be forgotten—that He requires exact obedience. . . . He could not grant the prayer of Moses that he might share the inheritance of Israel, but He did not forget or forsake His servant. The God of heaven understood the suffering that Moses had endured; He had noted every act of faithful service through those long years of conflict and trial. On the top of Pisgah, God called Moses to an inheritance infinitely more glorious than the earthly Canaan."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 479.

Through Moses' faith and obedience, God's justice and love stood vindicated.  How can you, as a single individual, make a difference in the conflict between good and evil?  Or can't you?  

Tuesday  January 29

SAMSON (Judges 13-16).

Samson was a miracle child. His birth was the direct result of a divine promise for a divine purpose. The angel of the Lord, who delivered the promise to his parents, gave detailed instructions regarding what his mother should not eat and drink and how she should raise him.

Study these instructions in Judges 13:4, 5, 13, 14. Also take note of Manoah's prayer in verse 8. What do these instructions and the prayer suggest about the role of the home in the great controversy?  

Samson's role in the great controversy was to deliver Israel from the Philistines and to be a judge over God's people. Because he started out in life with every advantage possible, he should have been incredibly successful in fulfilling this role. But what character traits prevented him from realizing his goal in a timely manner? Judges 14:1-3; 13:5; 15:7, 8; 16:1, 4, 17.  

No question, Satan wanted to destroy Samson, or at least his effectiveness for what God wanted to use him for. The devil knows our weak points and will press hard upon them. How crucial that we surrender ourselves every day to the Lord, especially when temptation comes. God promises that we can have victory: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13).

List other texts in the Bible that promise us divine aid to overcome the temptations that will, inevitably, come our way.  

How ironic that the strongest man on earth became the weakest because of his selfish passion. With his eyes, he had gazed upon lovely women and had fallen to the temptation of these pleasurable sights. Ultimately his "eyes" became the reason for his capture and a source of great pain and grief He whose goal it was to defeat the Philistines was defeated by them, even as he succeeded in fulfilling that goal.

Was Samson a winner or a loser in the great controversy?  Give reasons for the answer you choose.  

Wednesday  January 30

DAVID IN CRISIS (2 Samuel 11:12).

David had his ups and downs, his triumphs and tragedies. But his greatest crisis was the sin he committed against Bathsheba, Uriah, and the Lord. Adultery combined with murder offered the perfect opportunity for Satan to hail that even a man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:14) cannot keep the law. Satan's jubilation was a challenge to God's stand in the great controversy. But God declares: "Where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:20, 21, NIV).

God and Satan seemed locked in a battle over who would win David's heart. What brought about Satan's defeat? Ps. 51:1, 4, 10.  

In this Psalm, David penetrated to the heart of the issue. His relationship with God was more than some legal contract. It was grounded in an understanding that God cared for him personally, that God cared for what sin did, not just to those he hurt but to David himself.

"With David's heart attitude corrected, forgiveness could flow and the Spirit of God could work again to cleanse David. When he was cleansed, God would work through David to do good for Zion and for all his people."—Richards, The Teacher's Commentary, p. 236.

In Psalm 32:1, 2 (RSV), David used four words to define sin: (1) transgression—a deliberate, premeditated, willful violation of a divine norm; (2) sin—an act that misses the mark and deviates from what God has marked out; (3) iniquity—an act of crookedness and perverse behavior; and (4) deceit—an attempt to cover up and evade obligation. David's actions described in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 cover all four of these definitions. Furthermore, he is aware of what his actions have done to him (Ps. 51:2-4). The effects of sin are so diabolical that there is nothing the sinner can do to escape from its clutches (Rom. 7:24).

When we desire a pure heart and steadfast spirit (Ps. 51:10) we will be enabled to receive God's grace and sing the song of victory:

"Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57).

Psalm 51:10 reads literally in the Hebrew:  "A clean heart create for me, God."  How does allowing God to create "for" us a clean heart enable us to be better able to withstand the foe's assaults against us?  

Thursday  January 31

ELIJAH (1 Kings 18:20-40).

As this week's memory text implies, the great controversy is a battle for allegiance, a battle for our minds. Elijah's confrontation with the prophets of Baal and King Ahab was, perhaps,one of the most graphic portrayals of this spiritual conflict.

Elijah's challenge was especially to those people who wavered between God and Baal; to those who seek in the church a comfortable pew and a compromising message; to those who find in Christianity not the power of the gospel to convict and save but a tool that brings social status and approval. To such comes the prophet's challenge:  "'How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him' " (1 Kings 18:21, RSV).

According to 1 Kings 18:28, the prophets of Baal "cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them." What does this example teach about the notion that "it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere in believing it"? Why is that sentiment something that Satan, in the great controversy, would be glad to have people believe?  

The lone prophet was pitted against 450 priests of Baal. But one person committed to God's truth can defy any evil army. Elijah knew that. He also knew that he was doing God's bidding. There lies the strength of the lonely soldier of the Cross in the conflict between good and evil. The powerful representation of God's power was done in a way that only God Himself, not any man, could have done.

Look again at this verse:  " 'How long will you go limping with two different opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him' " (1 Kings 18:21, RSV).  Notice the interesting use of the verb "limping."  Why is that such an appropriate word to use in this situation?  Why do people "limp" between these two positions?  What does that tell us about the nature of the great controversy?  

Friday  February 1

FURTHER STUDY:  All of the people we studied this week knew what it was like to both win and lose in the great controversy. Based on Wednesday's lesson, it is easy to see how Moses and David both lost and won. In what ways did Joseph, Samson, and Elijah both lose and win? Base your answers on the following texts: Genesis 37:1-19 (Joseph); Hebrews 11:32, 34 (Samson); 1 Kings 19:1-18 (Elijah). How do their mistakes and successes help us to answer Sabbath's key question?

"Of everyone He [God] expects loyalty, and to everyone He grants power according to the need. In his own strength man is strengthless; but in the might of God he may be strong to overcome evil and to help others to overcome. Satan can never gain advantage of him who makes God his defense. 'Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength.' Isaiah 45:24."—Prophets and Kings, p. 175.

If you would like to read more about the people we studied this week, see any of the following: Patriarchs and Prophets, "The Return to Canaan," pp. 204-212; "Joseph in Egypt," pp. 213-223; "Joseph and His Brothers," pp. 224-240; "Moses," pp. 241-256; "The Death of Moses," pp. 469-480; "Samson," pp. 560-568; Prophets and Kings, "Elijah the Tishbite," pp. 119-128; "The Voice of Stern Rebuke," pp. 129-142; "Carmel," pp. 143-154; "From Jezreel to Horeb," pp. 155-166; " 'What Doest Thou Here?' "pp. 167-176; " 'In the Spirit and Power of Elias,' "pp. 177-189.  

1. How is Elijah's conflict with Ahab and Jezebel similar to the conflict God's people will have in the last days, particularly regarding Sabbath keeping?  Why is Satan so interested in attacking the Sabbath?  
2. English poet John Donne once wrote that no man is an island.  How did the actions of each of the people looked at this week impact others, both for good or bad?  Is sin something that we do in isolation or are others, often innocent, hurt by what we do or don't do?  

SUMMARY:  The great controversy is partly fought through human agencies. "Whom will you serve?" is the battle cry we must answer, and how we answer determines if we win or lose. The people we studied this week teach us that we will occasionally both win and lose. We will lose when we focus on ourselves, but when we focus on Christ and His salvation, we will win.  

InSide Story

Cambodian Refugee Finds Hope in Jesus

J. H. Zachary

During Pol Pot's regime, Cambodians were taken from cities and forced to labor under impossible conditions. Starvation and death were common. Hardly a family escaped without losing at least one member. Iam Wet lost his parents, sister, brother, and more than 30 members of his extended family. Soon he realized that his only hope for survival lay in escaping his homeland. He joined thousands who risked being shot as they made their way toward the safety of the Thai border.

Iam made it across the border and spent the next 17 years living in a refugee camp in Thailand. He married and fathered four children while in the camp.

The camps were full of people desperate to find lost relatives. As families fled Cambodia they often became separated in an attempt to avoid soldiers. For eight years Wet worked with the Red Cross trying to locate lost family members. Every day he met death and sorrow face to face, and eventually he lost hope in the future.

Raised a Buddhist, lam accepted a friend's invitation to visit a Christian church. There for the first time in his life he heard the story of Jesus, who volunteered to die for the sins of the world. From that one visit lam began to believe that there is a God, a God who cares for humanity.

As soon as it was safe to return to Phnom Penh, Jam enrolled his children in a public school. But he was concerned about the level of moral education they were receiving. A neighbor told him that the Adventist church had just opened a new school. She described the spiritual influence that the school offered. Jam transferred his children to this new "God-school."

Jam discovered that the Adventist pastor had been his friend in the refugee camp. Iam and his wife went to visit their old friend, Hang Dara. Soon the couple began studying the Bible with their pastor friend, and in 1999 they were baptized.

Today Jam rejoices in a new life that his family has found in Jesus. "Every day we thank God for the happiness and hope that we now have. And we look forward to the day that He will come again.

J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.

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