” After the flood the people once more increased on the earth, and wickedness also increased. Idolatry became well-nigh universal, and the Lord finally left the hardened transgressors to follow their evil ways, while He chose Abraham, of the line of Shem, and made him the keeper of the law for future generations.” Manuscript 65, 1906.
Following the flood men decided, against the express wishes of God, to build a city and a tower in order to make a name for themselves. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. While the tower was in the process of being built, the Lord came down, destroyed it and confused their language. The effect was to scatter them over the face of the earth. Having done this He left them to their own designs.
After the flood, God had told Noah, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” Genesis 9:1. The sons of men decided that their plan was better than God’s plan and so they congregated and refused to scatter over the earth. Have we not as professed followers of the Lord fallen into the same trap that Satan laid for the men of Babel, that is, acting as though our plans are better than God’s plans? God’s instruction is, “Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14.
We cannot follow our own wishes in the building and operation of institutions. One of our large university churches is expending three million, nine hundred thousand dollars to expand its facilities. The Lord has warned us over and over not to congregate: “No one is to make an urgent appeal for means with which to erect large and expensive buildings for sanitariums, colleges [college churches], or publishing houses, so absorbing means that the work in other places is crippled. Let our brethren be careful lest by drawing largely from our people for the erection of large buildings in one place, they rob other parts of the Lord’s vineyard. Unduly to invest means and exalt this work in one part of the field when there is city work to be done in many places, is not the right thing. It is selfishness and covetousness. The Lord especially condemns such a manifestation, for by it His sacred work is misrepresented before the world. He would have His work controlled and guided by equity, justice, and judgment. He does not call for the erection of immense institutions. One corner of the vineyard is not the whole world. In many places throughout the world memorials for God are to be established to represent His truth.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 13, 406, 407.
Some may argue that we need to meet the needs of the students who attend the university. If this requires such a large outlay of funds then the whole institution is too large. The goal of most students is to obtain the best education, in order to make the most money possible, in the shortest time. Our educational institutions were intended to train young people for service to mankind, not service of self.
“It is a mistake for our people to crowd together in large numbers. It is not in harmony with God’s plans. It is His will that the knowledge which we receive of the truth should be communicated to others; that the light which shines upon us should be reflected upon the pathway of those walking in darkness, so that we may lead others to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. But where a large number are congregated together in one church, this work in a large measure is neglected, and the light of truth is often only reflected back and forth upon the church-members; the world is left in darkness, the alarm is not sounded, the warning message from Heaven is not given.” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, July 9, 1895.
There is another problem area that needs to be addressed ,and that is the infatuation with church growth. An SDA church we attended in the state of Washington had a Pentecostal church next door. Both churches started with 300 members. Our pastor remarked to the congregation one Sabbath that the church next door now had a membership of fifteen hundred, while we had only five hundred members. He suggested that we talk to them and find out how they were able to maintain such a large membership.
More recently, in September 1997, a seminar was held at Andrews University on church growth.
The instructor was Dr. Robert Logan, vice-president of New Church Development of Church Resource Ministries, headquartered in Anaheim, California.
We have definite instruction from the Lord about utilizing the methods of the world in our work. “The divine commission needs no reform. Christ’s way of presenting the truth cannot be improved upon. The worker who tries to bring in methods that will attract the worldly minded, supposing that this will remove the objections that they feel to taking up the cross, lessens his influence. Preserve the simplicity of godliness.” Evangelism, 525.
We Have Sinned
Israel went into captivity time and time again because of disobedience to the commands of God. From the time they asked for a king to rule over them so that they could be like the other nations around them, they were determined to have their own way. We have been admonished that we are following the same path trod by ancient Israel. Should we not, pray like Daniel did, when Israel was in captivity in Babylon?
“And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love Him, and to them that keep His commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from Thy precepts and from Thy judgments: Neither have we hearkened unto Thy servants the prophets, which spake in Thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land . . . Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets. Yea, all Israel have transgressed Thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey Thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against Him.” Daniel 9:4–6, 10,11.
We must follow the example of Daniel and bring ourselves to the throne of God confessing our sin against Him, admitting our self-centeredness and turn back to Him for complete guidance in carrying out the great commission. Until we depend fully upon the Lord for direction, He cannot, will not, bless our efforts. Like Daniel we must plead for guidance at every step so the work may be completed in God’s way.
God told Noah’s descendants to scatter and replenish the earth, not to congregate in one area. We are told to establish many small institutions. “Instead of large establishments bringing great numbers together, let there be small institutions in different places.” Welfare Ministry, 230.
“In the centers that are formed in some places, there is constant temptation to carry the work after worldly methods. I have had presented before me the dangers before us in the future. This light I have tried to present with pen and with voice. Let the work be carried forward intelligently by men and women of sound faith and strict religious principle.” The Publishing Ministry, 63.
God’s Methods, Not Our Own
“At the ordination of the Twelve the disciples had greatly desired that Judas should become one of their number, and they had counted his accession an event of much promise to the apostolic band. He had come more into contact with the world than they, he was a man of good address, of discernment and executive ability, and, having a high estimate of his own qualifications, he had led the disciples to hold him in the same regard. But the methods he desired to introduce into Christ’ work were based upon worldly principles and were controlled by worldly policy. They looked to the securing of worldly recognition and honor—to the obtaining of the kingdom of this world.” Education, 93.
We cannot ignore God’s plan for His work and introduce our ideas, thinking they are better. The Lord has shown us plainly in His word how He desires the propagation of the Gospel to be carried forward. If we insist on doing the Lord’s work our way and refuse to heed His admonitions, we will receive the same condemnation that God gave to the wicked men after the flood. We will be left to our own devising and suffer the same fate they did. We are here to bring reformation to the world, not to join in its policies. God has placed us here as witnesses, not as attorneys, judges or juries. It is our duty and privilege to testify to the world of what God has done in our lives, thus revealing the character of Jesus to our neighbors. Then, we will not only be instruments used by God in the salvation of others, but we will save our own souls as well.
In the process of time, God called Abraham who, despite the wickedness around him, remained a worshipper of the true God. This man would be an instrument in the hand of the Lord to bring reformation to the society in which he lived. In the call to leave his home there was a promise given of a Savior that would come through his descendants.
The experiences that Abraham went through were not only for his spiritual growth but also for the benefit of all future generations. God had a problem that needed to be solved, and that problem was sin. Man cannot continue to disobey God’s expressed commands without suffering the consequences.
When years passed after the promise of a son, Abraham and Sarah became impatient and determined to take measures into their own hands. As a result there has been conflict between the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac in the Middle East ever since. It does not pay to ignore the commands of God. Our work is clearly laid out for us in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. We are to be His servants, not His board of directors.
The great Second Advent Movement was raised up by the Lord for the purpose of proclaiming to the world the full Three Angel’s Messages. He gave specifid instructions regarding the educational, publishing, evangelistic and health work. We have been blessed with a blueprint showing how to fulfill the great commission. But, like Abraham and Sarah, we have decided that the blueprint is outdated, and we will use the world’s methods to accomplish the great objective of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Our rationale is that we must keep up with the times in order to reach people. In reality, we need to get back to the primitive gospel, using God’s methods so that He can use us in His work.
“Christ came to the world to counteract Satan’s falsehood that God had made a law which men could not keep. Taking humanity upon Himself, He came to this earth, and by a life of obedience showed that God has not made a law that man cannot keep. He showed that it is possible for man perfectly to obey the law. Those who accept Christ as their Saviour, becoming partakers of His divine nature, are enabled to follow His example, living in obedience to every precept of the law. Through the merits of Christ, man is to show by his obedience that he could be trusted in heaven.” The Faith I Live By, 114.
While Abraham was traveling south, in Palestine, a famine came upon the land. To escape it and yet be close by the Promised Land, God sent him down into Egypt where he stayed until the famine passed. “The Lord in His providence had brought this trial upon Abraham to teach him lessons of submission, patience, and faith—lessons that were to be placed on record for the benefit of all who should afterward be called to endure affliction. God leads His children by a way that they know not, but He does not forget or cast off those who put their trust in Him. He permitted affliction to come upon Job, but He did not forsake him. He allowed the beloved John to be exiled to lonely Patmos, but the Son of God met him there, and his vision was filled with scenes of immortal glory. God permits trials to assail His people, that by their constancy and obedience they themselves may be spiritually enriched, and that their example may be a source of strength to others. ‘I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil.’ Jeremiah 29:11. The very trials that tax our faith most severely and make it seem that God has forsaken us, are to lead us closer to Christ, that we may lay all our burdens at His feet and experience the peace which He will give us in exchange.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 129.
The greatest trial that Abraham had to endure was when God commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac. What made this command more puzzling to Abraham was that a Savior had been promised that would come through Isaac’s descendants. But in spite of this seeming impossibility, Abraham obeyed without questioning God. The Lord was preparing this man to bring reformation and revival to a dying generation, and He needed someone whom He could depend upon to do the job. The effects of Abraham’s test went beyond him and his generation to future generations and to unfallen worlds: “The sacrifice required of Abraham was not alone for his own good, nor solely for the benefit of succeeding generations; but it was also for the instruction of the sinless intelligences of heaven and of other worlds. The field of the controversy between Christ and Satan—the field on which the plan of redemption is wrought out—is the lesson book of the universe. Because Abraham had shown a lack of faith in God’s promises, Satan had accused him before the angels and before God of having failed to comply with the conditions of the covenant, and as unworthy of its blessings. God desired to prove the loyalty of His servant before all heaven, to demonstrate that nothing less than perfect obedience can be accepted, and to open more fully before them the plan of salvation.” Ibid., 154, 155.
Next month we will return to our story with the raising up of Moses and God’s attempt to once again bring reformation to a lost and dying world.