Why do we look back upon the patriarchs and prophets with such respect and awe?
Most importantly, why are there no persons of such character today for us to respect and admire?
Is it possible for there to be a people that love God as much as they did?
Is it possible for God to bless a person or a people the way He did in the days of the patriarchs and prophets?
Does God not still have the capability to give a person the gift of prophecy or the gift of interpreting the Scriptures the way they did?
Why was Isaac, the son of Abraham, so obedient and loving to his father?
Why do we not find any Josephs, Daniels, Elijahs, or Pauls today?
Can a person have a perfect character in the eyes of God the way that Job did?
As we look upon the degenerating generations of today, we should and must ask ourselves these questions, then decide from the Bible, not from modern opinions, what we should do about the problem.
Today, the reason we do not find characters like the patriarchs and prophets of old is because no one wants to be like the patriarchs and prophets of old. No one wants to be like Joseph, or Daniel, or Paul. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. “God is no respecter of persons” Acts 10:34. He loves us just as much as he did the Bible characters. He wants to give us the same grace and powers He gave them. It is written in the New Testament that Christians “can do all things through Christ” Philippians 9:13. The only difference between them and us, is that they truly loved God and wanted to please Him. Yes, “God is no respecter of persons,” but God does bless individuals and nations and churches according to their obedience and faith in Him. (See Genesis 17:1–9; 18:19, 32; Romans 4:13.) God promised, in Joel 2:28–31, that in the last days there will be dreams and visions and prophets. This is called the “Latter Rain,” Joel 2:23, and it will be more abundant and more powerful than was the early rain upon the day of Pentecost.
The reason we have no Elijahs today is because we are all like Peter before he was converted. We have no fear to die for our Saviour, but we refuse to live for Him. Tradition and selfishness teach us to be politically correct. We are afraid to live and teach different than our peers. Peter was truly willing to die a hero for his Master, but when he was put in an embarrassing position; he was not willing to live for Him. He was not willing to be thought of as connected to a criminal of the state. A hero is praised, while a criminal is despised and rejected. Peter was willing to die a hero for his Master, but not willing to suffer embarrassment for Him.
Often I hear worldlings, and even many Seventh-day Adventists make the statement that “no one is perfect.” How can anyone judge every single person in the world? I dare say, that had one of the people making this statement walked along side of the Saviour, they would not have seen Him as perfect either. They would have heard Him calling others by names that were not pleasing and would have thought Him as critical, judgmental, and divisive. The character and words of Christ turned many away from following Him. Such people would have noticed that He did not have possessions or wealth, and felt that, because of His unpleasing words, He was not being blessed by God. People that believe no one is perfect will never be perfect themselves, and will never enter the gates of Heaven.
Train Up a Child
It is time that Seventh-day Adventists wake up and live for the Lord. It is time we train the next generation to live for Him, and the Bible plainly teaches us how. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6. I have heard many say, “I have done the best I can, now my child is eighteen and he is on his own.” This seems to me to be a self-righteous excuse for the sins of their child.
As a parent who truly wanted to train up his children for God, I can now look back upon their training and see that I did not follow the Bible plan 100%. And friends, when God said, “Train up a child in the way he should go,” He was meaning that the training should be 100% according to His plans. If we follow His counsel 99.9% of the time, we have still failed. Consider the difference in characters between Isaac and Samson. God said of Abraham, Isaac’s father, that “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him.” Genesis 18:19. What is the result of properly training up our children the way God commands? Let us look at one of the most beautiful chapters ever written by human hand, to see the results. “At the appointed place they built the altar and laid the wood upon it. Then, with trembling voice, Abraham unfolded to his son the divine message. It was with terror and amazement that Isaac learned his fate, but he offered no resistance. He could have escaped his doom, had he chosen to do so; the grief-stricken old man, exhausted with the struggle of those three terrible days, could not have opposed the will of the vigorous youth. But Isaac had been trained from childhood to ready, trusting obedience, and as the purpose of God was opened before him, he yielded a willing submission. He was a sharer in Abraham’s faith, and he felt that he was honored in being called to give his life as an offering to God. He tenderly seeks to lighten the father’s grief, and encourages his nerveless hands to bind the cords that confine him to the altar.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 152, 153.
Willing to Take the Blame
Though I have wonderful children that I love and cherish, still I have wished many times that my children could be like Isaac. The blame is not on my children, but rather on myself. There can be no doubt that I have not trained up my children in the way they should go when I consider the guidelines laid out in the Bible, and when I consider the many times I have fallen short just so I could please them, the way Samson’s parents pleased him. In other words, there have been many times when my children have been my idols or gods, at their own expense. There have also been many times that I have allowed my children to do things I knew they should not do, because of peer pressure; because others thought I was being too strict. One can be sure that the examples given us in the Scripture will live out their lives in us today. (See 1 Corinthians 10:11.)
The following instructions on raising children is from Patriarchs and Prophets, chapter 54, entitled, “Samson.” “The child will be affected for good or for evil by the habits of the mother. She must herself be controlled by principle and must practice temperance and self-denial, if she would seek the welfare of her child. Unwise advisers will urge upon the mother the necessity of gratifying every wish and impulse, but such teaching is false and mischievous. The mother is by the command of God Himself, placed under the most solemn obligation to exercise self-control. And fathers, as well as mothers, are involved in this responsibility. Both parents transmit their own characteristics, mental and physical, their dispositions and appetites, to their children. As the result of parental intemperance, children often lack physical strength and mental and moral power. Liquor drinkers and tobacco users may, and do, transmit their insatiable craving, their inflamed blood and irritable nerves to their children. The licentious often bequeath their unholy desires, and even loathsome diseases, as a legacy to their offspring. And as the children have less power to resist temptation than had the parents, the tendency is for each generation to fall lower and lower. To a great degree parents are responsible, not only for the violent passions and perverted appetites of their children, but for the infirmities of the thousands born deaf, blind, diseased, or idiotic.
What Shall We Do?
“The inquiry of every father and mother should be, ‘What shall we do unto the child that shall be born unto us?’ The effect of prenatal influences has been by many lightly regarded; but the instruction sent from heaven to those Hebrew parents, and twice repeated in the most explicit and solemn manner, shows how this matter is looked upon by our Creator.
“And it was not enough that the promised child should receive a good legacy from the parents. This must be followed by careful training and the formation of right habits. God directed that the future judge and deliverer of Israel should be trained in strict temperance from infancy. Samson was to be a Nazarite from his birth, thus being placed under a perpetual prohibition against the use of wine or strong drink. The lessons of temperance, self-denial, and self-control are to be taught to children even from babyhood…
Yielding at Last
“Had Samson obeyed the divine commands as faithfully as his parents had done, his would have been a nobler and happier destiny. But association with idolaters corrupted him. The town of Zorah being near the country of the Philistines, Samson came to mingle with them on friendly terms. Thus in his youth, intimacies sprang up, the influence of which darkened his whole life. A young woman dwelling in the Philistine town of Timnath engaged Samson’s affections, and he determined to make her his wife. To his God-fearing parents, who endeavored to dissuade him from his purpose, his only answer was, ‘She pleaseth me well.’ The parents at last yielded to his wishes, and the marriage took place.
“Just as he was entering upon manhood, the time when he must execute his divine mission—the time above all others when he should have been true to God—Samson connected himself with the enemies of Israel. He did not ask whether he could better glorify God when united with the object of his choice, or whether he was placing himself in a position where he could not fulfill the purpose to be accomplished by his life. To all who seek first to honor Him, God has promised wisdom; but there is no promise to those who are bent upon self-pleasing.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 435–437. [all emphasis supplied].
The parents at last yielded. How often we parents yield to the selfish wishes of our children while knowing the story of Samson and the resulting example. And why would you ever allow them to mingle with other children and adults who are not true to God? Today we think that our children must have the association with other children in grade school so they will not be withdrawn and know how to socially interact. I tell you, keep your children away from disobedient children, and even adults that do not make God their all. Let others speak evil of you and call you self-righteous. Protect your children no matter how others may speak of you. Peter’s fear of what others would think caused him to deny his Lord. It is good that God’s children never learn how to socially interact with those who cherish self and place God in second place in their desires. We must never yield.
What is Your Example?
If all of the above good instructions were to be followed to the letter, it would be of no avail unless the husband and wife, mother and father, understand their God-given purpose and roll in life as husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. The father must be allowed to be the head of the house, yet love his wife the way Christ loves the church. If we want obedient, loving children, they must have examples of obedience to God’s instructions by their parents. Young men and women, make sure you choose a God-fearing man or woman for your spouse if you wish to have obedient children and a happy family. Make sure your future spouse is not spoiled, and that they respect their parents and God more than their desires, or you will be in for an ungodly life of misery. Think of the pain and misery that Samson’s parents must have gone through, seeing the results of the one time they yielded. Think of the pain and suffering their dear child went through because of this one temptation. If you are unfaithful in choosing your spouse, your children will suffer the consequence and the pain will be much greater than it would be now to set selfish desires and lust aside.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:5, 6. Is it not time we not only give this message, but also train our young people and parents to live it?
One of God’s Great Men
“Soon after the birth of John, the tongue of Zacharias was loosed, and he spake and praised God. And fear came on all that dwelt round about them; and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judea. And all that heard them, laid them up in their hearts, saying, ‘What manner of child shall this be?’ And the hand of the Lord was with him; and his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts until the day of his showing unto Israel.” Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, 45.
The parents of John “were to faithfully cooperate with God in forming such a character in John as would fit him to perform the part God had assigned him…. John was the son of their old age, he was a child of miracle, and the parents might have reasoned that he had a special work to do for the Lord, and the Lord would take care of him. But the parents did not thus reason; they moved to a retired place in the country, where their son would not be exposed to the temptations of city life, or induced to depart from the counsel and instruction which they as parents would give him.” Courage and Conflict, 270.
“There was a great work appointed for the prophet John, but there was no school on the earth with which he could connect. His learning must be obtained away from the cities, in the wilderness. The Old Testament Scriptures, God, and the nature which God created, were to be his study books. God was fitting John for his work of preparing the way of the Lord. His
food was simply locusts and wild honey. The customs and practices of men were not to be the education of this man. Worldly engrossment was to act no part in the formation of his character.” Manuscript 131, 1901.
“The prophet John, separated himself from his friends and kindred, and made his home in the wilderness. He denied himself of the ordinary comforts of life. His food was simple. His clothing was a garment made of hair-cloth confined about the waist with a leather girdle. His parents had in a most solemn manner dedicated him to God from his birth.” Review and Herald, vol. 2, January 7, 1873.
“John was an example to the young people in these last days, to whom have been committed important and solemn truths. God would have them temperate in all things. He would have them see the necessity for the denial of appetite, for keeping their passions under the control of reason. This is necessary that they may have mental strength and clearness to discern between right and wrong, between truth and error. There is work for everyone of them to do in the vineyard of the Lord, and He would have them fit themselves to act a useful part.” Youth’s Instructor, January 7, 1897.
How much we want to be blessed, as was John the Baptist and his parents, but how unwilling we are to live like John or his parents in order to receive these blessings.
Name withheld at request of author.