January 15, 2006 – January 21, 2006
“For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.” Jeremiah 29:10.
Study Help: Prophets and Kings, 367–378; 618–627; 661–668.
“In his study of the causes leading to the Babylonish captivity, Ezra had learned that Israel’s apostasy was largely traceable to their mingling with heathen nations. He had seen that if they had obeyed God’s command to keep separate from the nations surrounding them, they would have been spared many sad and humiliating experiences. Now when he learned that notwithstanding the lessons of the past, men of prominence had dared transgress the laws given as a safeguard against apostasy, his heart was stirred within him. He thought of God’s goodness in again giving His people a foothold in their native land, and he was overwhelmed with righteous indignation and with grief at their ingratitude. . . .
“The sorrow of Ezra and his associates over the evils that had insidiously crept into the very heart of the Lord’s work, wrought repentance. Many of those who had sinned were deeply affected. ‘The people wept very sore.’ Ezra 10:1. In a limited degree they began to realize the heinousness of sin and the horror with which God regards it. They saw the sacredness of the law spoken at Sinai, and many trembled at the thought of their transgressions.” Prophets and Kings, 620, 622.
1 What did God say would result from His blessings upon ancient Israel if they would carry out His will? Deuteronomy 28:10–13.
note: “God surrounded Israel with every facility, gave them every privilege, that would make them an honor to His name and a blessing to surrounding nations. If they would walk in the ways of obedience, He promised to make them ‘high above all nations which He hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honor.’ [Deuteronomy 26:19.]” Education, 40.
2 What illustration of the ingathering of the strangers came to Israel early in their conquest of Canaan? Joshua 2:3, 8–14; 6:25.
note: “The children of Israel were to occupy all the territory which God appointed them. Those nations that rejected the worship and service of the true God were to be dispossessed. But it was God’s purpose that by the revelation of His character through Israel men should be drawn unto Him. To all the world the gospel invitation was to be given. Through the teaching of the sacrificial service Christ was to be uplifted before the nations, and all who would look unto Him should live. All who, like Rahab the Canaanite, and Ruth the Moabitess, turned from idolatry to the worship of the true God, were to unite themselves with His chosen people. As the numbers of Israel increased they were to enlarge their borders, until their kingdom should embrace the world.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 290.
3 Because of their failure to be loyal, whom did God leave in the land to prove Israel? Judges 2:20–23.
note: “God had placed His people in Canaan as a mighty breastwork to stay the tide of moral evil, that it might not flood the world. If faithful to Him, God intended that Israel should go on conquering and to conquer. He would give into their hands nations greater and more powerful than the Canaanites. . . .
“But regardless of their high destiny, they chose the course of ease and self-indulgence; they let slip their opportunities for completing the conquest of the land; and for many generations they were afflicted by the remnant of these idolatrous peoples . . . .” Patriarchs and Prophets, 544.
4 When the service of God was established in the temple of Jerusalem, how did God signalize His acceptance of His sanctuary in Israel? 11 Chronicles 5:14; 7:1–3. In his prayer at the dedication of the temple, what petition did Solomon offer for the stranger? 1 Kings 8:41–43.
note: “In the prophetic prayer offered at the dedication of the temple whose services Hezekiah and his associates were now restoring, Solomon had prayed, [1 Kings 8:33, 34 quoted]. The seal of divine approval had been placed upon this prayer; for at its close fire had come down from heaven to consume the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord had filled the temple.” Prophets and Kings, 335.
“One of the most touching portions of Solomon’s dedicatory prayer was his plea to God for the strangers that should come from countries afar to learn more of Him whose fame had been spread abroad among the nations.” Ibid., 66.
5 What experiences show that rulers and people forgot the evidences of divine leadership? 1 Kings 11:1–8. As a result of their departure from God, what conditions eventually prevailed in Israel and Judah? 1 Kings 14:21–24; 12:26–31.
note: “So gradual was Solomon’s apostasy that before he was aware of it, he had wandered far from God. Almost imperceptibly he began to trust less and less in divine guidance and blessing, and to put confidence in his own strength. Little by little he withheld from God that unswerving obedience which was to make Israel a peculiar people, and he conformed more and more closely to the customs of the surrounding nations. Yielding to the temptations incident to his success and his honored position, he forgot the Source of his prosperity. An ambition to excel all other nations in power and grandeur led him to pervert for selfish purposes the heavenly gifts hitherto employed for the glory of God. The money which should have been held in sacred trust for the benefit of the worthy poor and for the extension of principles of holy living throughout the world, was selfishly absorbed in ambitious projects.” Prophets and Kings, 55.
6 When God could no longer bear with Israel’s rebellions and apostasy, what came upon them? 11 Kings 17:5; Hosea 4:17; Amos 7:11.
note: The Lord permitted Samaria to be invaded “by the hosts of Assyria under Shalmaneser; and in the siege that followed, multitudes perished miserably of hunger and disease as well as by the sword. The city and nation fell, and the broken remnant of the ten tribes were carried away captive and scattered in the provinces of the Assyrian realm. . . .
“The Assyrians were merely the instruments that God used to carry out His purpose. . . .
“Not all who were carried captive were impenitent. Among them were some who had remained true to God, and others who had humbled themselves before Him. Through these, ‘the sons of the living God’ (Hosea 1:10), He would bring multitudes in the Assyrian realm to a knowledge of the attributes of His character and the beneficence of His law.” Prophets and Kings, 291, 292.
7 As Judah failed to learn from the experience of Israel, what fate eventually overtook them and the holy city? 11 Kings 24:10, 14; 25:8–11.
note: “The king was even too weak to be willing that his courtiers and people should know that he had held a conference with Jeremiah, so fully had the fear of man taken possession of his soul. If Zedekiah had stood up bravely and declared that he believed the words of the prophet, already half fulfilled, what desolation might have been averted! . . .
“The enemy swept down like a resistless avalanche and devastated the city. The Hebrew armies were beaten back in confusion. The nation was conquered. . . . The beautiful temple that for more than four centuries had crowned the summit of Mount Zion was not spared by the Chaldeans. . . .
“Zion was utterly destroyed; the people of God were in their captivity.” Prophets and Kings, 458, 459, 461.
8 What promise had been made concerning the duration of the captivity? Jeremiah 29:10; 11 Chronicles 36:21. In order that the prophecy might be fulfilled, whom did God influence in behalf of Israel? Ezra 1:1–4. Under what Persian King was the promise to Jeremiah definitely and finally fulfilled? Ezra 7:11, 21–26.
note: “Jeremiah declared that they were to wear the yoke of servitude for seventy years; and the captives that were already in the hands of the king of Babylon, and the vessels of the Lord’s house which had been taken, were also to remain in Babylon till that time had elapsed. But at the end of the seventy years God would deliver them from their captivity and would punish their oppressors and bring into subjection the proud king of Babylon.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 169.
“Just as long as we are in this world, and the Spirit of God is striving with the world, we are to receive as well as to impart favors. We are to give to the world the light of truth as presented in the Sacred Scriptures, and we are to receive from the world that which God moves upon them to do in behalf of His cause. The Lord still moves upon the hearts of kings and rulers in behalf of His people, and it becomes those who are so deeply interested in the religious liberty question not to cut off any favors, or withdraw themselves from the help that God has moved men to give, for the advancement of His cause.
“We find examples in the word of God concerning this very matter. Cyrus, king of Persia, made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it into writing, saying: [Ezra 1:2, 3 quoted]. A second commandment was issued by Darius for the building of the house of the Lord, and is recorded in the sixth chapter of Ezra.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 202, 203.
“The decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus for the restoring and building of Jerusalem, the third issued since the close of the seventy years’ captivity, is remarkable for its expressions regarding the God of heaven, for its recognition of the attainments of Ezra, and for the liberality of the grants made to the remnant people of God.” Prophets and Kings, 610.
9 Because of their past sins and their punishments, what did the people seek to learn when they were restored to their own land? Nehemiah 8:1–3, 8.
note: “Wherever Ezra labored, there sprang up a revival in the study of the Holy Scriptures. Teachers were appointed to instruct the people; the law of the Lord was exalted and made honorable. The books of the prophets were searched, and the passages foretelling the coming of the Messiah brought hope and comfort to many a sad and weary heart.” Prophets and Kings, 623.
10 What followed the people’s study of the Law of God? What was to be their attitude toward the Sabbath? What pledge of support did they make for the house and worship of God? Nehemiah 10:28–33.
note: “The people took a solemn oath ‘to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and His judgments and His statutes.’ [Nehemiah 10:29.] The oath taken at this time included a promise not to intermarry with the people of the land. . . .
“The people still further manifested their determination to return to the Lord, by pledging themselves to cease from desecrating the Sabbath. . . .
“Provision was also made to support the public worship of God. In addition to the tithe the congregation pledged themselves to contribute yearly a stated sum for the service of the sanctuary.” Prophets and Kings, 667.
11 While binding themselves thus carefully by vows to prevent apostasy, what weighty obligations were eventually forgotten? Matthew 23:23, 25–28.
note: “The Pharisees were very exact in tithing garden herbs, such as mint, anise, and rue; this cost them little, and it gave them a reputation for exactness and sanctity. At the same time their useless restrictions oppressed the people and destroyed respect for the sacred system of God’s own appointing. They occupied men’s minds with trifling distinctions, and turned their attention from essential truths. The weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy, and truth, were neglected.” The Desire of Ages, 617.
12 What was the attitude of the later Jews toward the stranger in their midst? John 4:9; Acts 10:28.
note: “The Jews and the Samaritans were bitter enemies, and as far as possible avoided all dealing with each other. To trade with the Samaritans in case of necessity was indeed counted lawful by the rabbis; but all social intercourse with them was condemned. A Jew would not borrow from a Samaritan, nor receive a kindness, not even a morsel of bread or a cup of water. The disciples, in buying food, were acting in harmony with the custom of their nation. But beyond this they did not go. To ask a favor of the Samaritans, or in any way seek to benefit them, did not enter into the thought of even Christ’s disciples.” The Desire of Ages, 183.
“The people who had been given every opportunity to understand the truth were without a knowledge of the needs of those around them. No effort was made to help souls in darkness. The partition wall which Jewish pride had erected, shut even the disciples from sympathy with the heathen world. But these barriers were to be broken down.” Ibid., 400.