Bible Study Guides – Captivity and Restoration

June 21, 2009 – June 27, 2009

Key Text

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.” Jeremiah 33:14.

Study Help: Testimonies, vol. 8, 69–80; Steps to Christ, 57–65.

Introduction

“Thus was the church of God comforted in one of the darkest hours of her long conflict with the forces of evil.” Prophets and Kings, 474.

1 What is recorded of the last events after the fall of Jerusalem? II Chronicles 36:17–21.

Note: “At the time of the final overthrow of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, many had escaped the horrors of the long siege, only to perish by the sword. Of those who still remained, some, notably the chief of the priests and officers and the princes of the realm, were taken to Babylon and there executed as traitors. Others were carried captive, to live in servitude to Nebuchadnezzar and to his sons ‘until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah.’ [11 Chronicles 36] Verses 20, 21.” Prophets and Kings, 459, 460.

2 How did God care for His faithful servant, Jeremiah? Jeremiah 39:11, 12.

Note: “Released from prison by the Babylonian officers, the prophet chose to cast in his lot with the feeble remnant, ‘certain poor of the land’ left by the Chaldeans to be ‘vinedressers and husbandmen.’ [II Kings 25:12.]” Prophets and Kings, 460.

3 How did Jeremiah show his immutable faith in God’s purpose for His people? Jeremiah 32:6–15.

Note: “From every human point of view this purchase of land in territory already under the control of the Babylonians, appeared to be an act of folly. The prophet himself had been foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem, the desolation of Judea, and the utter ruin of the kingdom. He had been prophesying a long period of captivity in faraway Babylon. Already advanced in years, he could never hope to receive personal benefit from the purchase he had made. However, his study of the prophecies that were recorded in the Scriptures had created within his heart a firm conviction that the Lord purposed to restore to the children of the captivity their ancient possession of the Land of Promise. With the eye of faith Jeremiah saw the exiles returning at the end of the years of affliction and reoccupying the land of their fathers. Through the purchase of the Anathoth estate he would do what he could to inspire others with the hope that brought so much comfort to his own heart.” Prophets and Kings, 469.

4 Perplexed by what the Lord had instructed him to do, what was the tenor of Jeremiah’s prayer? Jeremiah 32:24, 25.

Note: “So discouraging was the outlook for Judah at the time of this extraordinary transaction that immediately after perfecting the details of the purchase and arranging for the preservation of the written records, the faith of Jeremiah, unshaken though it had been, was now sorely tried. Had he, in his endeavor to encourage Judah, acted presumptuously? In his desire to establish confidence in the promises of God’s word, had he given ground for false hope?” Prophets and Kings, 469, 470.

5 How did the Lord answer Jeremiah’s prayer? Jeremiah 32:26, 27, 37, 38, 42–44. What further confirmation of God’s promise was given to Jeremiah? Jeremiah 33:1–3, 6–8.

Note: “Thus was the church of God comforted in one of the darkest hours of her long conflict with the forces of evil. Satan had seemingly triumphed in his efforts to destroy Israel; but the Lord was overruling the events of the present, and during the years that were to follow, His people were to have opportunity to redeem the past.” Prophets and Kings, 474.

6 Name an important principle that God is seeking to teach us through the study of this experience from Jeremiah’s day. Proverbs 11:30.

Note: “Why did the Lord permit Jerusalem to be destroyed by fire the first time? Why did He permit His people to be overcome by their enemies and carried into heathen lands?–It was because they had failed to be His missionaries, and had built walls of division between themselves and the people round them. The Lord scattered them, and that the knowledge of His truth might be carried to the world. If they were loyal and true and submissive, God would bring them again into their own land.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist bible Commentary, vol. 2, 1040.

“The time has come when the liberty of the church of Christ is endangered. Let it be a time also when true missionary work shall be done, in public ministry and in house-to-house labor. The oppression of Christ’s church would apparently be a great victory for the side of transgressors of the Sabbath, and would cause rejoicing among evil-doers. But nothing should discourage us. God has victory for his people. Let sanctified ability be brought into the work of proclaiming the truth for this time. If the forces of the enemy gain the victory now, it will be because the churches have neglected their God-given work.” The Review and Herald, February 16, 1905.

7 Besides Judah, who was included in the promise of restoration? Jeremiah 31:1, 7–9.

Note: “In the glad day of restoration the tribes of divided Israel were to be reunited as one people. The Lord was to be acknowledged as ruler over ‘all the families of Israel.’ ‘They shall be My people,’ He declared. ‘Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save Thy people, the remnant of Israel.’ Jeremiah 31:1, 7.” Prophets and Kings, 474, 475.

8 Before restoration was to take place, what lesson did the captives need to learn? Jeremiah 30:11.

Note: “Humbled in the sight of the nations, those who once had been recognized as favored of Heaven above all other peoples of the earth were to learn in exile the lesson of obedience so necessary for their future happiness. Until they had learned this lesson, God could not do for them all that He desired to do. ‘I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished,’ He declared in explanation of His purpose to chastise them for their spiritual good. Jeremiah 30:11.” Prophets and Kings, 475.

9 What hope did God give the people through Jeremiah, even at this tragic hour in history? Jeremiah 23:3–8.

Note: “Never did Jeremiah in his ministry lose sight of the vital importance of heart holiness in the varied relationships of life, and especially in the service of the most high God. Plainly he foresaw the downfall of the kingdom and a scattering of the inhabitants of Judah among the nations; but with the eye of faith he looked beyond all this to the times of restoration. …

“Prophecies of oncoming judgment were mingled with promises of final and glorious deliverance. Those who should choose to make their peace with God and live holy lives amid the prevailing apostasy, would receive strength for every trial and be enabled to witness for Him with mighty power. And in the ages to come the deliverance wrought in their behalf would exceed in fame that wrought for the children of Israel at the time of the Exodus. The days were coming, the Lord declared through His prophet, when ‘they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, The Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.’ [Jeremiah 23] Verses 7, 8. Such were the wonderful prophecies uttered by Jeremiah during the closing years of the history of the kingdom of Judah, when the Babylonians were coming unto universal rule, and were even then bringing their besieging armies against the walls of Zion.” Prophets and Kings, 426, 427.

10 What promise is given to all who fully accept Christ as their Deliverer? Hebrews 8:10. How must we understand the immutability of this promise? Jeremiah 31:35–37.

Note: “The Jews regarded their natural descent from Abraham as giving them a claim to this promise. But they overlooked the conditions which God had specified. Before giving the promise, He had said, ‘I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people. … For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.’ Jeremiah 31:33, 34.

“To a people in whose hearts His law is written, the favor of God is assured. They are one with Him.” The Desire of Ages, 106.

“When the principle of love is implanted in the heart, when man is renewed after the image of Him that created him, the new-covenant promise is fulfilled, ‘I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.’ Hebrews 10:16. And if the law is written in the heart, will it not shape the life? Obedience—the service and allegiance of love—is the true sign of discipleship. …

“We do not earn salvation by our obedience; for salvation is the free gift of God, to be received by faith. But obedience is the fruit of faith.” Steps to Christ, 60, 61.

Additional Reading

“The work of restoration and reform carried on by the returned exiles, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, presents a picture of a work of spiritual restoration that is to be wrought in the closing days of this earth’s history. … Heavy were the burdens borne by the leaders in this work; but these men moved forward in unwavering confidence, in humility of spirit, and in firm reliance upon God, believing that He would cause His truth to triumph. Like King Hezekiah, Nehemiah ‘clave to the Lord, and departed not from following Him, but kept His commandments. … And the Lord was with him.’ II Kings 18:6, 7.

“The spiritual restoration of which the work carried forward in Nehemiah’s day was a symbol, is outlined in the words of Isaiah: ‘They shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities.’ ‘They that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.’ Isaiah 61:4; 58:12.

“The prophet here describes a people who, in a time of general departure from truth and righteousness, are seeking to restore the principles that are the foundation of the kingdom of God. They are repairers of a breach that has been made in God’s law—the wall that He has placed around His chosen ones for their protection, and obedience to whose precepts of justice, truth, and purity is to be their perpetual safeguard.

“In words of unmistakable meaning the prophet points out the specific work of this remnant people who build the wall. ‘If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.’ Isaiah 58:13, 14.

“In the time of the end every divine institution is to be restored. The breach made in the law at the time the Sabbath was changed by man, is to be repaired. God’s remnant people, standing before the world as reformers, are to show that the law of God is the foundation of all enduring reform and that the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is to stand as a memorial of creation, a constant reminder of the power of God. In clear, distinct lines they are to present the necessity of obedience to all the precepts of the Decalogue. Constrained by the love of Christ, they are to co-operate with Him in building up the waste places. They are to be repairers of the breach, restorers of paths to dwell in. See verse 12. [Isaiah 58.]” Prophets and Kings, 677, 678.

©2005 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.

Bible Study Guides – A Tragic End

June 14, 2009 – June 20, 2009

Key Text

“And he [Zedekiah] did [that which was evil] in the sight of the Lord his God, [and] humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet [speaking] from the mouth of the Lord.” II Chronicles 36:12.

Study Help: Prophets and Kings, 452–463; Testimonies, vol. 4, 184, 185.

Introduction

“While he [Zedekiah] was convicted of the truth as spoken by Jeremiah, he did not possess the moral stamina to obey his counsel, but advanced steadily in the wrong direction.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 184.

1 Although Zedekiah had inquired of Jeremiah the will of the Lord, how did he receive the inspired words? II Chronicles 36:12.

Note: “He [Zedekiah] had started upon the wrong track and would not retrace his steps. He decided to follow the counsel of false prophets and of men whom he really despised and who ridiculed his weakness of character in yielding so readily to their wishes. He yielded the noble freedom of his manhood to become a cringing slave to public opinion. While he had no fixed purpose of evil, he also had no resolution to stand boldly for the right.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 183, 184.

2 In speaking with Jeremiah, what was the main concern of the king, and how is this a lesson for us? Jeremiah 38:19–27.

Note: “He [Zedekiah] was even too weak to be willing that his courtiers and people should know that he had held a conference with the prophet, so far had the fear of man taken possession of his soul. If this cowardly ruler had stood bravely before his people and declared that he believed the words of the prophet, already half-fulfilled, what desolation might have been averted!” Testimonies, vol. 4, 184.

“You are not to seek that popularity which has led far away from the simplicity of Christ. God is to be your Leader. Those who are Christians will stand in the strength of God. They will show in their lives the superiority which God gives to obedient subjects, those who are loyal to His commandments. Those who believe the truth will never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Medical Ministry, 167.

3 How solemn was Zedekiah’s promise of loyalty to King Nebuchadnezzar? II Chronicles 36:13 first part.

Note: “Through Daniel and others of the Hebrew captives, the Babylonian monarch had been made acquainted with the power and supreme authority of the true God; and when Zedekiah once more solemnly promised to remain loyal, Nebuchadnezzar required him to swear to this promise in the name of the Lord God of Israel. Had Zedekiah respected this renewal of his covenant oath, his loyalty would have had a profound influence on the minds of many who were watching the conduct of those who claimed to reverence the name and to cherish the honor of the God of the Hebrews.

“But Judah’s king lost sight of his high privilege of bringing honor to the name of the living God.” Prophets and Kings, 447.

4 What is written of Zedekiah’s behavior? II Chronicles 36:13 last part. How is God appealing to each one of us? Hebrews 3:14, 15.

Note: “It is not safe for us to close our eyes and harden our conscience so that we shall not see or realize our sins. We need to cherish the instruction we have had in regard to the hateful character of sin, in order that we may truly confess and forsake our sins. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ [I John 1:9.] Are you willing to be cleansed from all unrighteousness? Is it your purpose to press forward? but not in your own human strength, toward the mark for the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus?” The Youth’s Instructor, July 5, 1894.

5 What was the Lord forced to declare about His people in Jeremiah’s day? II Chronicles 36:14–16. What sentence was finally given to them? Ezekiel 8:18.

Note: “The day of doom for the kingdom of Judah was fast approaching. No longer could the Lord set before them the hope of averting the severest of His judgments. …

“Foremost among those who were rapidly leading the nation to ruin was Zedekiah their king. Forsaking utterly the counsels of the Lord as given through the prophets, forgetting the debt of gratitude he owed Nebuchadnezzar, violating his solemn oath of allegiance taken in the name of the Lord God of Israel, Judah’s king rebelled against the prophets, against his benefactor, and against his God. …

“To the ‘profane wicked prince’ had come the day of final reckoning. ‘Remove the diadem,’ the Lord decreed, ‘and take off the crown.’ [Ezekiel 21:25, 26.] Not until Christ Himself should set up His kingdom was Judah again to be permitted to have a king.” Prophets and Kings, 450, 451.

6 What was predicted about Jerusalem, and why? Jeremiah 9:9–16. When the few righteous inhabitants knew that the temple was to be destroyed by fire, what did they do?

Note: “Among the righteous still in Jerusalem, to whom had been made plain the divine purpose, were some who determined to place beyond the reach of ruthless hands the sacred ark containing the tables of stone on which had been traced the precepts of the Decalogue. This they did. With mourning and sadness they secreted the ark in a cave, where it was to be hidden from the people of Israel and Judah because of their sins, and was to be no more restored to them. That sacred ark is yet hidden. It has never been disturbed since it was secreted.” Prophets and Kings, 453.

7 How do the Scriptures describe the fall of Jerusalem? Jeremiah 52:4–6, 12–14.

Note: “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. ‘They burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof.’ II Chronicles 36:19.” Prophets and Kings, 458, 459.

8 How terrible was the end of King Zedekiah, his family, and the nobles of Judah? Jeremiah 52:8–11. Who else was taken captive, and why? II Kings 25:11.

Note: “The weakness of Zedekiah was a sin for which he paid a fearful penalty. … [He] was taken prisoner, and his sons were slain before his eyes. The king was led away from Jerusalem a captive, his eyes were put out, and after arriving in Babylon he perished miserably.” Prophets and Kings, 458, 459.

“The children of Israel were taken captive to Babylon because they separated from God, and no longer maintained the principles that had been given to keep them free from the methods and practices of the nations who dishonored God. The Lord could not give them prosperity, he could not fulfill His covenant with them, while they were untrue to the principles He had given them zealously to maintain. By their spirit and their actions they misrepresented His character, and He permitted them to be taken captive.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, 1040.

9 If King Zedekiah had believed Jeremiah’s words, what experience of Jehoshaphat could he also have expected? II Chronicles 20:20. What should we realize from this experience? Proverbs 6:23.

Note: “Zedekiah was faithfully instructed through the prophet Jeremiah, how he might be preserved from the calamities that would surely come upon him if he did not change his course and serve the Lord. The calamities came, because he would not, through obedience, place himself under the protection of God. With his eyes put out, he was led in chains of captivity to Babylon.

“What a sad and awful warning is this to those who harden themselves under reproof, and who will not humble themselves in repentance, that God may save them!” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, 1040.

10 What firm position should Zedekiah have taken? Joshua 24:15. How would this have influenced the people? Joshua 24:24.

Note: He [Zedekiah] should have said, I will obey the Lord, and save the city from utter ruin. I dare not disregard the commands of God because of the fear or favor of man. I love the truth, I hate sin, and I will follow the counsel of the Mighty One of Israel. Prophets and Kings, 458

Then the people would have respected his courageous spirit, and those who were wavering between faith and unbelief would have taken a firm stand for the right. The very fearlessness and justice of this course would have inspired his subjects with admiration and loyalty. He would have had ample support, and Judah would have been spared the untold woe of carnage and famine and fire.

“Heavy will be the responsibility that will rest upon men who have had great light, and great opportunities, and who have yet failed to be wholly on the Lord’s side. Should they venture to be wholly on the Lord’s side, they would be preserved in integrity, even when they were called upon to stand alone. He would enable them to stand courageously, in purity and fairness, contending for uncorrupted principles of righteousness. He would sustain them in battling for the right because it is right, though justice were fallen in the street, and equity could not enter. … Through all this strife of error against truth, they would be preserved.” The Home Missionary, September 1, 1894.

Additional Reading

“With what tender compassion did God inform His captive people in regard to His plans for Israel. He knew what suffering and disaster they would experience were they led to believe that they should speedily be delivered from bondage and brought back to Jerusalem according to the prediction of the false prophets. He knew that this belief would make their position a very difficult one. Any demonstration of insurrection upon their part would have awakened the vigilance and severity of the king, and their liberty would have been restricted in consequence. He desired them to quietly submit to their fate and make their servitude as pleasant as possible. …

“Just such men arise in these days and breed confusion and rebellion among the people who profess to obey the law of God. But just as certainly as divine judgment was visited upon the false prophets, just so surely will these evil workers receive their full measure of retribution; for the Lord has not changed. Those who prophesy lies encourage men to look upon sin as a small matter. When the terrible results of their crimes are made manifest, they seek, if possible, to make the one who has faithfully warned them responsible for their difficulties, even as the Jews charged Jeremiah with their evil fortunes.

“Those who pursue a course of rebellion against the Lord can always find false prophets who will justify them in their acts and flatter them to their destruction. Lying words often make many friends, as in the case of Ahab and Zedekiah. These false prophets, in their pretended zeal for God, found many more believers and followers than the true prophet, who delivered the simple message of the Lord.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 173, 174.

“The Lord is testing and proving you. He has counseled, admonished, and entreated. All these solemn admonitions will either make the church better or decidedly worse. The oftener the Lord speaks to correct or counsel, and you disregard His voice, the more disposed will you be to reject it again and again, till God says: ‘Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek Me early, but they shall not find me; for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none of My counsel: they despised all My reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.’ [Proverbs 1:24–31.]” Testimonies, vol. 5, 72.

©2005 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.

Bible Study Guides – The End of Judah’s Kingdom

June 7, 2009 – June 13, 2009

Key Text

“I spake also to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live.” Jeremiah 27:12.

Study Help: Testimonies, vol. 4, 181–185; Prophets and Kings, 440–446.

Introduction

“Jeremiah, in the presence of the priests and people, earnestly entreated them to submit to the king of Babylon for the time the Lord had specified.” Prophets and Kings, 445.

1 Besides the people in Judah, who else was admonished to submit to the Babylonian rulership? Jeremiah 27:2–7.

Note: “The lightest punishment that a merciful God could inflict upon so rebellious a people was submission to the rule of Babylon, but if they warred against this decree of servitude they were to feel the full vigor of His chastisement.

“The amazement of the assembled council of nations knew no bounds when Jeremiah, carrying the yoke of subjection about his neck, made known to them the will of God.” Prophets and Kings, 443, 444.

2 What additional instruction and warning was given to them all? Jeremiah 27:8–11.

Note: “The ambassadors [from Edom, Moab, Tyre and other nations] were further instructed to declare to their rulers that if they refused to serve the Babylonian king they should be punished ‘with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence’ [Jeremiah 27:8] till they were consumed. Especially were they to turn from the teaching of false prophets who might counsel otherwise.” Prophets and Kings, 443.

3 What message of hope was given by a false prophet, and what should we learn from the way Jeremiah responded? Jeremiah 28:10–14.

Note: “Hananiah, one of the false prophets against whom God had warned His people through Jeremiah, lifted up his voice in opposition to the prophecy declared. Wishing to gain the favor of the king and his court, he affirmed that God had given him words of encouragement for the Jews.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 170.

“He [Jeremiah] had warned the people of their danger; he had pointed out the only course by which they could regain the favor of God.” Ibid., 171.

“God had said that His people should be saved, that the yoke He would lay upon them should be light, if they submitted uncomplainingly to His plan. Their servitude was represented by a yoke of wood, which was easily borne; but resistance would be met with corresponding severity, represented by the yoke of iron.” Ibid., 172.

“The servants of God should manifest a tender, compassionate spirit and show to all that they are not actuated by any personal motives in their dealings with the people, and that they do not take delight in giving messages of wrath in the name of the Lord. But they must never flinch from pointing out the sins that are corrupting the professed people of God, nor cease striving to influence them to turn from their errors and obey the Lord.” Ibid., 185.

4 What was Hananiah’s fate, and how is this a warning for us today? Jeremiah 28:15–17.

Note: “This false prophet [Hananiah] had strengthened the unbelief of the people in Jeremiah and his message. He had wickedly declared himself to be the Lord’s messenger, and he suffered death in consequence of his fearful crime. In the fifth month Jeremiah prophesied the death of Hananiah, and in the seventh month his death proved the words of the prophet true.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 171, 172.

“There are many false prophets in these days, to whom sin does not appear specially repulsive. They complain that the peace of the people is unnecessarily disturbed by the reproofs and warnings of God’s messengers. As for them, they lull the souls of sinners into a fatal ease by their smooth and deceitful teachings. Ancient Israel was thus charmed by the flattering messages of the corrupt priests. Their prediction of prosperity was more pleasing than the message of the true prophet, who counseled repentance and submission. …

“Those who seek to cloak sin and make it appear less aggravating to the mind of the offender are doing the work of the false prophets and may expect the retributive wrath of God to follow such a course. The Lord will never accommodate His ways to the wishes of corrupt men. The false prophet condemned Jeremiah for afflicting the people with his severe denunciations, and he sought to reassure them by promising them prosperity, thinking that the poor people should not be continually reminded of their sins and threatened with punishment. This course strengthened the people to resist the true prophet’s counsel and intensified their enmity toward him.

“God has no sympathy with the evildoer. He gives no one liberty to gloss over the sins of His people, nor to cry, ‘Peace, peace,’ when He has declared that there shall be no peace for the wicked. Those who stir up rebellion against the servants whom God sends to deliver His messages are rebelling against the word of the Lord.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 185.

5 What message of love and hope did God give to those living in captivity? Jeremiah 29:11–14.

Note: “With what tender compassion did God inform His captive people in regard to His plans for Israel. He knew what suffering and disaster they would experience were they led to believe that they should speedily be delivered from bondage and brought back to Jerusalem according to the prediction of the false prophets. He knew that this belief would make their position a very difficult one. Any demonstration of insurrection upon their part would have awakened the vigilance and severity of the king, and their liberty would have been restricted in consequence. He desired them to quietly submit to their fate and make their servitude as pleasant as possible.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 173.

6 While the Chaldeans were temporarily diverted from besieging Jerusalem, what message did Jeremiah deliver to King Zedekiah? Jeremiah 37:6–10.

Note: “The Chaldeans commenced the siege against Jerusalem, but were diverted for a time to turn their arms against the Egyptians. Zedekiah sent a messenger to Jeremiah, asking him to pray to the God of Israel in their behalf; but the prophet’s fearful answer was that the Chaldean army would return and destroy the city. Thus the Lord showed them how impossible it is for man to avert divine judgment.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 181.

7 After God’s message was delivered, what happened to Jeremiah? Jeremiah 37:11–16.

Note: “Jeremiah considered his work done and attempted to leave the city; but he was prevented by a son of one of the false prophets, who reported that he was about to join the enemy. Jeremiah denied the lying charge, but nevertheless he was brought back. The princes were ready to believe the son of the false prophet because they hated Jeremiah. They seemed to think that he had brought upon them the calamity which he had predicted. In their wrath they smote him and imprisoned him.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 181.

8 What did King Zedekiah ask Jeremiah in secret? Jeremiah 37:17–21. What lesson can we learn from the rebellious attitude of Zedekiah about God’s will?

Note: “Those who humbly and prayerfully search the Scriptures, to know and to do God’s will, will not be in doubt of their obligations to God. For ‘if any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.’ [John 7:17.] If you would know the mystery of godliness, you must follow the plain word of truth,—feeling or no feeling, emotion or no emotion. Obedience must be rendered from a sense of principle, and the right must be pursued under all circumstances. This is the character that is elected of God unto salvation. The test of a genuine Christian is given in the word of God. Says Jesus, ‘If ye love Me, keep My commandments.’ [John 14:15.]” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 125.

9 Fearing the impending calamity, what did King Zedekiah desire from God’s prophet? Jeremiah 38:14–16. What supplication did Jeremiah make to the king? Jeremiah 38:17, 18.

Note: “After he [Jeremiah] had remained in the dungeon many days, Zedekiah the king sent for him and asked him secretly if there was any word from the Lord. Jeremiah again repeated his warning that the nation would be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 181.

“Here was exhibited the long-suffering mercy of God. Even at that late hour, if there were submission to His requirements, the lives of the people would be spared and the city saved from conflagration. …

“With tears Jeremiah entreated the king to save himself and his people. With anguish of spirit he assured him that he could not escape with his life, and that all his possessions would fall to the king of Babylon.” Ibid., 183.

10 When Zedekiah was under suspicion of treason, what did he do to appease the Chaldeans? Jeremiah 51:59.

Note: “The unrest caused by the representations of the false prophets brought Zedekiah under suspicion of treason, and only by quick and decisive action on his part was he permitted to continue reigning as a vassal. Opportunity for such action was taken advantage of shortly after the return of the ambassadors from Jerusalem to the surrounding nations, when the king of Judah accompanied Seraiah, ‘a quiet prince,’ on an important mission to Babylon. Jeremiah 51:59. During this visit to the Chaldean court, Zedekiah renewed his oath of allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar.” Prophets and Kings, 447.

Additional Reading

“Ought men to be surprised over a sudden and unexpected change in the dealings of the Supreme Ruler with the inhabitants of a fallen world? Ought they to be surprised when punishment follows transgression and increasing crime? Ought they to be surprised that God should bring destruction and death upon those whose ill-gotten gains have been obtained through deception and fraud? Notwithstanding the fact that increasing light regarding God’s requirements has been shining on their pathway, many have refused to recognize Jehovah’s rulership, and have chosen to remain under the black banner of the originator of all rebellion against the government of heaven.

“The forbearance of God has been very great—so great that when we consider the continuous insult to His holy commandments, we marvel. The Omnipotent One has been exerting a restraining power over His own attributes. But He will certainly arise to punish the wicked, who so boldly defy the just claims of the Decalogue.

“God allows men a period of probation; but there is a point beyond which divine patience is exhausted, and the judgments of God are sure to follow. The Lord bears long with men, and with cities, mercifully giving warnings to save them from divine wrath; but a time will come when pleadings for mercy will no longer be heard, and the rebellious element that continues to reject the light of truth will be blotted out, in mercy to themselves and to those who would otherwise be influenced by their example.

“The time is at hand when there will be sorrow in the world that no human balm can heal. The Spirit of God is being withdrawn. Disasters by sea and by land follow one another in quick succession. How frequently we hear of earthquakes and tornadoes, of destruction by fire and flood, with great loss of life and property! Apparently these calamities are capricious outbreaks of disorganized, unregulated forces of nature, wholly beyond the control of man; but in them all, God’s purpose may be read. They are among the agencies by which He seeks to arouse men and women to a sense of their danger.

“God’s messengers in the great cities are not to become discouraged over the wickedness, the injustice, the depravity, which they are called upon to face while endeavoring to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation. The Lord would cheer every such worker with the same message that He gave to the apostle Paul in wicked Corinth: ‘Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.’ Acts 18:9, 10. Let those engaged in soul-saving ministry remember that while there are many who will not heed the counsel of God in His word, the whole world will not turn from light and truth, from the invitations of a patient, forbearing Saviour. In every city, filled though it may be with violence and crime, there are many who with proper teaching may learn to become followers of Jesus. Thousands may thus be reached with saving truth and be led to receive Christ as a personal Saviour.” Prophets and Kings, 276, 277.

©2005 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.

Bible Study Guides – The Last Kings of Judah

May 31, 2009 – June 6, 2009

Key Text

“And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him.” Jeremiah 27:6.

Study Help: Prophets and Kings, 438–441; “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1158.

Introduction

“The Chaldeans were to be used as the instrument by which God would chastise His disobedient people.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1158.

1 What had Jeremiah been inspired to prophesy about Jehoiakim? Jeremiah 22:15–19, 25. With what grand purpose did this king foolishly refuse to cooperate?

Note: “It was God’s purpose that Jehoiakim should heed the counsels of Jeremiah and thus win favor in the eyes of Nebuchadnezzar and save himself much sorrow. The youthful king had sworn allegiance to the Babylonian ruler, and had he remained true to his promise he would have commanded the respect of the heathen, and this would have led to precious opportunities for the conversion of souls.” Prophets and Kings, 437, 438.

2 How can we follow in the footsteps of Jeremiah rather than Jehoiakim? II Timothy 4:1–4.

Note: “We must be wide awake, refusing to let precious opportunities pass unimproved. We must do all that we possibly can to win souls to love God and keep His commandments. Jesus requires this of those who know the truth. Is His demand unreasonable? Have we not the life of Christ as our example? Do we not owe the Saviour a debt of love, of earnest, unselfish labor for the salvation of those for whom He gave His life?” Testimonies, vol. 8, 244.

3 What was the result of Jehoiakim’s betrayal of the Babylonian ruler? II Kings 24:1, 2.

Note: “Scorning the unusual privileges granted him, Judah’s king willfully followed a way of his own choosing. He violated his word of honor to the Babylonian ruler, and rebelled. This brought him and his kingdom into a very strait place. Against him were sent ‘bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon,’ and he was powerless to prevent the land from being overrun by these marauders. 11 Kings 24:2. Within a few years he closed his disastrous reign in ignominy, rejected of Heaven, unloved by his people, and despised by the rulers of Babylon whose confidence he had betrayed—and all as the result of his fatal mistake in turning from the purpose of God as revealed through His appointed messenger.” Prophets and Kings, 438.

4 Who was the new ruler in Judah and how long did he rule from Jerusalem? II Kings 24:6, 8, 9. Why could God not fulfill His covenant with the people?

Note: “Jehoiachin [also known as Jeconiah, and Coniah], the son of Jehoiakim, occupied the throne only three months and ten days, when he surrendered to the Chaldean armies which, because of the rebellion of Judah’s ruler, were once more besieging the fated city.” Prophets and Kings, 438.

“The children of Israel were taken captive to Babylon because they separated from God, and no longer maintained the principles that had been given to keep them free from the methods and practises [sic] of the nations who dishonored God. The Lord could not give them prosperity, he could not fulfil his covenant with them, while they were untrue to the principles he had given them zealously to maintain. By their spirit and their actions they misrepresented his character, and he permitted them to be taken captive. Because of their separation from him, he humbled them. He left them to their own ways, and the innocent suffered with the guilty.” The Review and Herald, May 2, 1899.

5 At the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s second siege, what happened to the king and many of his people? II Kings 24:11–16.

Note: “Nebuchadnezzar ‘carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land,’ several thousand in number, together with ‘craftsmen and smiths a thousand.’ With these the king of Babylon took ‘all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house.’ II Kings 24:15, 16, 13.

“The kingdom of Judah, broken in power and robbed of its strength both in men and in treasure, was nevertheless still permitted to exist as a separate government. At its head Nebuchadnezzar placed Mattaniah, a younger son of Josiah, changing his name to Zedekiah.” Prophets and Kings, 438, 439.

6 What is written concerning the attitude of King Zedekiah toward the Babylonians? II Kings 24:18–20. What golden opportunity did he lose?

Note: “Zedekiah at the beginning of his reign was trusted fully by the king of Babylon and had as a tried counselor the prophet Jeremiah. By pursuing an honorable course toward the Babylonians and by paying heed to the messages from the Lord through Jeremiah, he could have kept the respect of many in high authority and have had opportunity to communicate to them a knowledge of the true God. Thus the captive exiles already in Babylon would have been placed on vantage ground and granted many liberties; the name of God would have been honored far and wide; and those that remained in the land of Judah would have been spared the terrible calamities that finally came upon them.” Prophets and Kings, 440.

7 What timely but unwelcome instruction did the Lord give to those who were taken captive to Babylon? Jeremiah 29:4–7.

Note: “Through Jeremiah, Zedekiah and all Judah, including those taken to Babylon, were counseled to submit quietly to the temporary rule of their conquerors. It was especially important that those in captivity should seek the peace of the land into which they had been carried. This, however, was contrary to the inclinations of the human heart.” Prophets and Kings, 440, 441.

“He [Jeremiah] entreated them [the priests and the people] to hear the words that he spoke. He cited them to the prophecies of Hosea, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and others whose messages of reproof and warning had been similar to his own. He referred them to events which had transpired in their history in fulfillment of the prophecies of retribution for unrepented sins.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 170.

8 What deceitful message was given by those opposing Jeremiah? Jeremiah 28:1–4.

Note: “Satan, taking advantage of the circumstances, caused false prophets to arise among the people, both in Jerusalem and in Babylon, who declared that the yoke of bondage would soon be broken and the former prestige of the nation restored.” Prophets and Kings, 441.

“Men had arisen in opposition to the message of God and had predicted peace and prosperity to quiet the fears of the people and gain the favor of those in high places. But in every past instance the judgment of God had been visited upon Israel as the true prophets had indicated.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 170, 171.

9 What warning was given to the king and the people? Jeremiah 29:8, 9. When were they to expect deliverance from captivity? Jeremiah 29:10.

Note: “God designed to hold the king of Babylon in check, that there should be no loss of life nor galling oppression; but by scorning His warning and commands they brought upon themselves the full rigor of bondage. It was far more agreeable to the people to receive the message of the false prophet, who predicted prosperity; therefore it was received. It wounded their pride to have their sins brought continually before their eyes; they would much rather put them out of sight. They were in such moral darkness that they did not realize the enormity of their guilt nor appreciate the messages of reproof and warning given them of God. Had they had a proper sense of their disobedience they would have acknowledged the justice of the Lord’s course and recognized the authority of His prophet. God entreated them to repent, that He might spare them humiliation and that a people called by His name should not become tributary to a heathen nation; but they scoffed at His counsel and went after false prophets.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 172.

10 How is this history to be a warning for us today? Mark 13:22.

Note: “Just such men arise in these days and breed confusion and rebellion among the people who profess to obey the law of God. But just as certainly as divine judgment was visited upon the false prophets, just so surely will these evil workers receive their full measure of retribution; for the Lord has not changed. Those who prophesy lies encourage men to look upon sin as a small matter. When the terrible results of their crimes are made manifest, they seek, if possible, to make the one who has faithfully warned them responsible for their difficulties, even as the Jews charged Jeremiah with their evil fortunes.

“Those who pursue a course of rebellion against the Lord can always find false prophets who will justify them in their acts and flatter them to their destruction. Lying words often make many friends.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 173, 174.

Additional Reading

“Our privileges are far greater than were the privileges of God’s ancient people. We have not only the great light committed to Israel, but we have the increased evidence of the great salvation brought to us through Christ. That which was type and symbol to the Jews is reality to us. They had the Old Testament history; we have that and the New Testament also. We have the assurance of a Saviour who has come, a Saviour who has been crucified, who has risen, and over the rent sepulcher of Joseph has proclaimed, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ [John 11:25.] In our knowledge of Christ and His love the kingdom of God is placed in the midst of us. Christ is revealed to us in sermons and chanted to us in songs. The spiritual banquet is set before us in rich abundance. The wedding garment, provided at infinite cost, is freely offered to every soul. By the messengers of God are presented to us the righteousness of Christ, justification by faith, the exceeding great and precious promises of God’s word, free access to the Father by Christ, the comfort of the Spirit, the well-grounded assurance of eternal life in the kingdom of God. What could God do for us that He has not done in providing the great supper, the heavenly banquet?

“In heaven it is said by the ministering angels: The ministry which we have been commissioned to perform we have done. We pressed back the army of evil angels. We sent brightness and light into the souls of men, quickening their memory of the love of God expressed in Jesus. We attracted their eyes to the cross of Christ. Their hearts were deeply moved by a sense of the sin that crucified the Son of God. They were convicted. They saw the steps to be taken in conversion; they felt the power of the gospel; their hearts were made tender as they saw the sweetness of the love of God. They beheld the beauty of the character of Christ. But with the many it was all in vain. They would not surrender their own habits and character. They would not put off the garments of earth in order to be clothed with the robe of heaven. Their hearts were given to covetousness. They loved the associations of the world more than they loved their God. …

“Sad will be the retrospect in that day when men stand face to face with eternity. The whole life will present itself just as it has been. The world’s pleasures, riches, and honors will not then seem so important. Men will then see that the righteousness they despised is alone of value. They will see that they have fashioned their characters under the deceptive allurements of Satan. …

“There will be no future probation in which to prepare for eternity. It is in this life that we are to put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness. This is our only opportunity to form characters for the home which Christ has made ready for those who obey His commandments.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 317–319.

©2005 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.

Recipe – Daniel’s Manicotti

1 box firm tofu

1 Tbs. Lemon juice

1 tsp. salt

1 box firm tofu

2 jars spaghetti sauce

1 box manicotti noodles

Optional:

Soy cheese, “meat” crumbles, 1 small onion, herbs of choice.

Combine Mori Nu Tofu, lemon juice, and salt in blender until creamy. In a medium sized bowl, place fresh tofu and mash with a fork till crumbly. Place tofu mixture from blender into the crumbled tofu and mix well. (At this point you may add herbs. Suggested herbs are: 1 tsp. basil and 1 tsp. oregano.) Cook noodles and drain. Put one jar of spaghetti sauce into the bottom of a 13 x 9 pan. (If you choose to use “meat” crumbles and onion, cook these until done in a pan.) Add ½ of the “meat” mixture to the tofu mixture and stuff noodles with tofu and layer in pan. Sprinkle the other ½ of the “meat” mixture on top with the other jar of spaghetti sauce. Top with soy cheese and bake at 350 degrees until the cheese melts and everything is warmed through.

Food – Helps for Digestion

For several months we have discussed the anatomy and physiology of the digestion system and the importance of eating based on the way God designed our body. The following is a review and listing of items important for good digestion:

  1. Meal time should be a pleasant, unhurried time to allow for good digestion.
  2. Digestion, both mechanical and chemical, begins in the mouth, so our food should be thoroughly chewed. There are no teeth in the stomach!
  3. We should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and supper like a pauper. The breakfast should break our overnight fast, and is critical for the start of a productive day. The stomach, like all organs, needs rest. We should go to bed with an empty stomach, allowing the stomach and all of the organs of digestion and the brain to be relieved of digestion during the sleeping hours.
  4. We should avoid liquid drinks at meal times. Drinking liquids at meal times can interfere with the delicate balance of temperature and chemical regulation necessary to digest food.
  5. Our diet should be composed of as many raw foods as possible. Raw foods have the active components necessary for good nutrition. When we do cook our vegetables, it is best to lightly steam them and then use the water in soups and stews.
  6. We should allow five hours between meals to allow one meal to be processed in the stomach, and the stomach emptied before the next food is consumed. Studies have been done that demonstrate that eating between meals can result in breakfast food remaining in the stomach until nightfall when eating between meals is practiced.
  7. Adequate water is essential to health, digestion, and elimination and should be consumed between meals. An excellent formula to use to determine how much water you should drink daily between meals is to take your weight, divided by 2, and the number of ounces of water that you should drink is the result. (140 lbs. divided by 2 equals 70, so a person of this weight should drink approximately 70 ounces or nine 8 ounce glasses of water per day.)
  8. Light exercise after a meal improves digestion.
  9. From our instruction at creation, through the diet history in the Bible, through modern epidemiology, and through our anatomical design at the hand of God, man’s health would be best enhanced by a vegetarian diet.

Children’s Story – On Freedom’s Shore

I wish I might have known my grandfather Leer, but he died before I was born. I can see him, though—a short, stout German farm boy, plowing the gently, rolling fields of his father’s land in Russia’s southern Ukraine.

It was good land, rich black soil. Valentine Leer stopped the horses and squatted on his heels to rub the dirt between his fingers. It was still moist from the winter rains. The best growing land in Russia, he smiled proudly to himself. And his father’s farm was the best kept, the most productive.

Straightening up, he looked out across the upturned furrows behind him to his little village nestled in the poplars among the low hills. Kassel, just fifty miles north of Odessa on the Black Sea, had been home to his people ever since they left Germany, maybe fifty years ago in the early 1800s. They had come in response to the Czar’s call for more thrifty, hardworking German farmers, with the modern methods of Western Europe, to settle these thousands of fertile acres.

Valentine loved the little village which his people had named after their hometown in Germany. He could see the Lutheran church where he helped with the younger boys, the school, and his whitewashed mud cottage in the cherry orchard under the great endless blue of the sky. Someday he would have his own cottage, and he knew who would share it with him—at least, he hoped he knew!

Putting up the horses for the night, Valentine strode toward the welcoming lamp light, hungry for a bowl of his mother’s Borsch. Or maybe there would be Kase Knepf or Strudel tonight. Whatever it was, he knew there would be plenty.

But when he came in, the kitchen was empty. From the next room, he heard his father’s angry voice.

“But, officer, I have already paid my taxes down at Odessa.”

“I did not make the law. I just follow my orders. Fifty more rubles to the Czar this year. After all, there is a war going on.”

There had been a war going on as long as Valentine could remember.

“I cannot pay it now,” his father said. “I do not have the money.”

“If you do not have it in by Monday night, you either go to jail, or we take five desiatine (roughly 1.1 hectares or 2.47 U.S. acres) of your land.”

There was a scraping of chairs and boots, and the front door closed.

Valentine saw his father sink heavily into a chair. His mother sat in the corner wiping her eyes. He waited for his father to speak.

“Ach, so. Another freedom gone.”

“But I do not understand, Father.”

“You are young, my son. Tonight you have seen two of the promises in Catherine the Great’s manifesto broken.

First, the taxes. She promised us freedom from taxation. But year by year they have become heavier until I can hardly pay them. And then this Russian officer! We Germans were to have our own government, with an administrative board appointed by the Czar. One of our own officers should be collecting the taxes. But now the only question is: Where do I get the money? If I do not get it, I will lose the land.”

For the first time, Valentine realized the heavy burden his father carried. He ate his supper silently, wishing there was some way he could help. Scarcely had they finished their meal when Conrad Schmidt, their neighbor to the east, came in. He looked so old and beaten that Valentine’s father exclaimed, “Conrad, what is wrong?”

“They have taken my land,” he almost whispered. “You know I did not have much. My wife has been sick and I had a poor harvest last year. There were other expenses and I could not pay the taxes. So they have taken the land.”

“If I were younger,” Conrad continued slowly, “yes, if I were younger and my wife strong, you know what I would do? I would go to America!”

Valentine slipped out the back door. He had to think. What was happening to the German colony? How could the Russians take their land away from them? It was not right.

He looked up to see Herr Wall, their Lutheran school teacher, swinging briskly down the road, bulging satchel in hand. Herr Wall was always hurrying. “Where are you going?” Valentine called.

“To America,” he answered. Then he stopped and laughed. “Ach, lieber, Valentine. You look surprised! Yes, but it is true. The Russian officers brought me orders from the Czar to turn over our Lutheran school to the Ministry of Education. We were to be free to control our own school, but now it is to be taught and controlled by the Russians!”

“But, America, Herr Wall,” Valentine protested. “What do you know about America? It is so far away.”

“But it is free, my lad. No one will take my school away from me in America. Yes, I am going. I will write and tell you all about it.”

During the following years, Valentine thought often about Herr Wall and America. As he became responsible for more of the duties and problems of the farm, and built the little cottage to which he brought his bride, Fredricka Hieb, he treasured the occasional letter which came from his teacher.

But there was much to keep him busy at home and in the community. As Valentine and his bride walked slowly home over the muddy road one spring evening, avoiding the deep ruts left by the farm wagons, they talked about the Baptist preacher who had recently come to their village.

“You know, Fredricka, I feel that this teaching is more like what I have studied in the Bible myself. I believe I must accept it and be baptized.” He saw her face whiten in the dusk. “But Valentine, you know it is forbidden to change your religion. You know how the Orthodox Church and the government are working together to clamp down on Protestants. I just know you will be put in jail!”

“When something is right to do,” he answered, “then the only thing is to go ahead and do it.”

In spite of Fredricka’s fears, he was baptized. That was when his life of active service really began: a word of comfort to a downhearted Russian peasant here, a pamphlet on the love of God to an educated Russian officer there, and guidance and help to the new little Baptist Church in the German community.

But Fredricka had been right. It was not long before these activities brought him persecution. During the next few years he began to feel that he knew the interior of the Velva jail, five miles away, almost as well as his own home. When he returned from jail, discouraged, he could always find comfort in his children, Karl and Carolina.

“Father!” called little Karl, running out through the lean-to one night. “There is a big, big man in the house!”

Valentine dropped the plow and hurried in. What could it be this time? Surely not more taxes.

Fredricka stood at the kitchen door, tears in her eyes. “It was an officer, Valentine,” she choked. “He is taking a census for … for military service. Sometime this year you will have to go!”

Valentine picked up baby Carolina and put his arm around his wife. “Come, Karl,” he said, “It is time to go in to worship.” He took the big German family Bible from the shelf and sat down.

“That breaks the last promise, does it not? Exemption from military service. But we must remember, Fredricka, that God has a purpose behind all this. Though we cannot see what it is yet, we can trust Him.”

Valentine remembered the confidence and peace of that worship period the next evening when the heavy door of the little jail in Velva slammed behind him.

“Ivanovitch!” He heard the towering, fur-capped officer bellow. “Take this … this Baptist and lock him up. I do not know for how long. Forever, for all I care!”

“But officer,” fussed the balding little jailer. “You know this Valentine Leer makes nothing but trouble in here. He is always converting …” The nervous little jailer’s voice trailed off. The door was shut and the officer gone.

“All right, all right, Valentine Leer,” he sighed. “What is it this time?”

Valentine sank down wearily on the hard slat-covered bed and began to unlace his muddy boots.

“This time, Mr. Ivanovitch, your officers on horseback drove me five miles on foot through the mud to you here because I was reading from the Bible to my Russian neighbor. I was reading from the Book of John, you know, the part where our Savior says …”

“You mean you were out making converts for the Baptist Church again. Proselytizing. That is against the law!”

“Yes, you are right. It is against the laws of Russia, and I am sorry for that. I do not like to disobey laws, especially the laws of a country which has been so good to our people in the past. But if God’s laws tell me to preach, and man’s laws say not to, then I must obey God’s laws.”

The jailer slid down beside Valentine, his eyes on the curious faces of the other inmates as he scooted nearer.

“Tell me something, Leer,” he half whispered. “I do not know much about the laws of God, but I would like to know why it is so important for you to do this—to keep preaching this gospel you talk about, always ending up in jail here. Why are you so different from the rest of us anyway?”

Valentine leaned against the wall, closing his eyes for a moment. He was very tired. Being marched five miles through deep mud had not been easy, especially after a hard day’s work in the fields. He wanted to be alone to rest and think—to think about the letter which had come that day from Herr Wall in America. He would really prefer to talk to the jailer later.

Then a picture of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail came to his mind. They had been tired, too, and had been beaten besides, when they sang their triumphant hymns. He turned to the jailer.

“Mr. Ivanovitch, I am glad to tell you why I seem different. It is just a matter of faith. I see you have an icon over there. You have a fine one, my friend; the gold frame is beautiful and the picture of Jesus is lovely. Now when the priest has blessed this icon, you say it is sacred and you pray to it. You have faith in the icon, do you not?”

The jailer nodded.

“Now I have faith, too, but not in a picture made by a man like myself. I have faith in God and His Son, Jesus. I can pray directly to Him. I know that God hears me, that His Spirit is with me always, wherever I am. I do not have to buy an expensive icon, and then a more expensive one, hoping that it will bring me blessings. I talk with the Creator who made the universe, and yet Who loves and cares for me. Is that not wonderful?”

“Look,” he said, “I will read it to you just as our Savior said it.”

He took his German Bible from an inner pocket and slowly translated several sweet promises into Russian. He could see that the other prisoners were straining to hear, and he wished he could read louder so that they would be sure to get the meaning.

“Come now,” he said finally. “I will teach you how to pray directly to your heavenly Father. We will kneel together.”

As he knelt, Valentine rejoiced to see four of the men climb from their bunks and slip to their knees on the floor. “Now I will teach you the prayer our Savior taught His disciples.” And Valentine slowly repeated the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Soon others were joining in with, “Our Father, which art in heaven …”

Suddenly they heard the tramp of boots outside and the grating of a big key in the lock. Before the jailer could get to his feet, the heavy door swung open, revealing the overseer of the southern Ukrainian prisons.

The overseer cursed in anger.

“Ivanovitch, you swine; what is going on here? Oh, yes, now I see. It is that Valentine Leer here again. These Baptists,” he roared. “When you have one, you have two. If there are two, there will be four. And now look; we have six, and one of them is my jailer.”

“All right,” he sighed. “Let him go. And do not bring that little Leer into one of my jails again. He makes as many converts inside as he does outside!”

Well, I am free to go home again, Valentine thought, pushing along through the mud. Home to what? A few acres of land which could be taken from him at any time, Russian schools for his children where they would be indoctrinated with the Orthodox belief, military service which might take him from home for many years to fight in wars of conquest he could not conscientiously support, and most important, to a total lack of understanding of what religious freedom should be.

He realized that he had come to the place where he must either give up his spiritual work for others or be prepared for a future which could include not only the Velva jail, but also a Siberian prison.

He had almost memorized the words of Herr Wall’s letter—“There is freedom here in America, Valentine. You can worship or not, as you please. You can change your religion, preach any message you wish—no one hinders you in any way.”

Valentine turned to look at the fields of home. He would miss the rich acres and the mild climate, as well as the Russian people. But when he would plow and plant and preach again, it would be on freedom’s soil.

Sequel: Valentine Leer did come to America. He was a Baptist at that time. In America he met an English speaking man who shared the Ten Commandments with him. That was all it took. The Holy Spirit gave him understanding as he studied for himself.

Valentine Leer raised up twenty-five Seventh-day Adventist churches in North and South Dakota. He also raised $70,000 for the College of Medical Evangelists [now Loma Linda University] to give young people the opportunity he did not have—to learn.

The American branch of the Leer family prospered and grew over the years. Many of them are missionaries, ministers, and teachers carrying on the family tradition of active service for the Lord like their progenitor, Valentine Leer.

Nature – Blue Violets

Violets, also known as pansies and heartsease, are flowers in the genus Viola and family Violaceae. There are 400+ species distributed around the world with most being found in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. A few are also found in the Andes of South America, Australasia, and Hawaii. Violets typically are small and have heart-shaped scalloped leaves but some have palmate leaves or other shapes. The vast majority of violets are herbaceous, but a few are small shrubs, and most are perennial.

Their flowers consist of five petals, four fan-shaped petals with two per side and one broad, lobed lower petal pointing downward which often has a spur. The flower color of violets is most commonly violet or blue but also can be yellow, white, or cream, and some are bicolored, often blue and yellow. Most violets are spring blooming and pollinated by insects, but many species also have closed forms in which the flowers lack petals, do not open, and are self pollinating. These closed form individuals flower in the summer and fall. After flowering, fruit capsules are produced that split open by way of three valves and the seeds are often spread by ants.

Violets are common bedding and pot plants worldwide where they are commonly referred to as “violas” by gardeners. There are literally hundreds of cultivars that have been developed. The modern garden pansy, for example, is a plant of complex hybrid origin involving at least three species. In 2005 in the U.S., violas, including pansies, were one of the top three bedding plant crops, producing $111 million for the bedding flower market. Violets also have culinary uses. The flowers are used to decorate salads and are used in stuffings and desserts, while the leaves are used raw or cooked as a leaf vegetable. The flowers, leaves, and roots are used for medicinal purposes too, being high in vitamins A and C, and containing a type of antioxidant called anthocyanin. Recent research has detected a natural aspirin in violets which substantiates its use for centuries as a remedy for headache, body pains, and as a sedative. It also has other constituents that show promise for the treatment of cancer, AIDs, and much more. One species, the Sweet Violet, is used for a source of scents in the perfume industry.

Blue violets have symbolized “faithfulness” since medieval times. The Bible tells us that the Lord is faithful! His great faithfulness extends to the clouds and endures to all generations. “Thy mercy, O Lord, [is] in the heavens; [and] thy faithfulness [reacheth] unto the clouds.” Psalm 36:5. “Thy faithfulness [is] unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.” Psalm 119:90. “Great [is] thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:23. “The Lord calls upon us for confession of His goodness. … Our confession of His faithfulness is Heaven’s chosen agency for revealing Christ to the world. We are to acknowledge His grace as made known through the holy men of old; but that which will be most effectual is the testimony of our own experience. We are witnesses for God as we reveal in ourselves the working of a power that is divine. Every individual has a life distinct from all others, and an experience differing essentially from theirs. God desires that our praise shall ascend to Him, marked by our own individuality. These precious acknowledgements to the praise of the glory of His grace, when supported by a Christlike life, have an irresistible power that works for the salvation of souls.” God’s Amazing Grace, 277.

David Arbour writes from his home in De Queen, Arkansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: landmarks@stepstolife.org.

Health – Too Much of a Good Thing

“Satan well knows the material with which he has to deal in the human heart. He knows—for he has studied with fiendish intensity for thousands of years—the points most easily assailed in every character; and through successive generations he has wrought to overthrow the strongest men.” The Adventist Home, 326.

So how will Satan attempt to overthrow God’s people in the very last days? There are a multitude of methods that he is using: “Satan sees that his time is short. He has set all his agencies at work that men may be deceived, deluded, occupied and entranced, until the day of probation shall be ended, and the door of mercy be forever shut.” The Desire of Ages, 636. “As the time draws near for Christ to be revealed in the clouds of Heaven, Satan’s temptations will be brought to bear with greater power upon those who keep God’s commandments, for he knows that his time is short.” The Review and Herald, January 28, 1875. [Emphasis added.]

What are these agencies? One of them is appetite: “The victims of a depraved appetite, goaded on by Satan’s continual temptations, will seek indulgence at the expense of health and even life, and will go to the bar of God as self-murderers. Many have so long allowed habit to master them that they have become slaves to appetite.” Confrontation, 77. “Appetite and passion, the love of the world, and presumptuous sins were the great branches of evil out of which every species of crime, violence, and corruption grew.” Ibid., 47.

“The controlling power of appetite will prove the ruin of thousands, who, if they had conquered on this point, would have had the moral power to gain the victory over every other temptation. But those who are slaves to appetite will fail of perfecting Christian character. The continual transgression of man for over six thousand years has brought sickness, pain, and death as its fruit. And as we draw near the close of time, Satan’s temptations to indulge appetite will be more powerful, and more difficult to resist.” Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 154.

“The gratification of unnatural appetite led to the sins that caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God ascribes the fall of Babylon to her gluttony and drunkenness. Indulgence of appetite and passion was the foundation of all their sins.” Ibid., 43.

In this article we will only look at one small aspect of the appetite temptation. Satan cannot force you to sin. God has not given him that power. Satan could not force Eve or Adam to sin; he had to entice them, to persuade them to do it. In the same way, Satan cannot force you to eat anything. He has to entice you to do it. In order for Satan to destroy you through your appetite, he has to persuade you to eat in a way that will destroy you. How can he do this? By making the food that is going to destroy your brain and body taste good. As we will see, it is possible to get too much of a good thing.

The Human Brain

Small molecules contained in the food that we eat are utilized by the brain as neurotransmitters. There is a delicate balance in the brain between excitatory transmitters and inhibitory transmitters. If this balance is upset, serious disorders of the nervous system can result. Today we are using tons of substances in our food that act as excitatory transmitters in the brain. These substances were completely unknown and therefore did not generally exist in their purified form 100 years ago.

In 1908, a chemist in Tokyo isolated the chemical in Kombu (a seaweed that the Japanese had used for generations to enhance the flavor of their recipes). He found to his surprise that the mysterious flavor-enhancing substance in this food was a simple salt or ester of glutamic acid—an amino acid widely distributed in plant and animal protein. This was so exciting that by 1909 this chemist and a friend of his formed a company to manufacture this taste enhancer in the form of monosodium glutamate. By 1933 the Japanese were using over 10 million pounds of this taste enhancer every year. During World War 11 American soldiers obtained some food rations from Japanese soldier prisoners. They were surprised that the Japanese soldiers’ rations were so much more delicious than their own. The reason was that MSG (monosodium glutamate), the flavor enhancer, had been added to the Japanese rations, but the Americans did not have MSG added to their rations.

It did not take long for the American food industry to see the financial boom that could result from the use of this substance. It could also be used to enhance the flavor of some new cheap foods that we were developing which did not taste very good unless some type of flavor enhancer was added.

The Vegetable Protein Industry

Adventists have long known that meat was not the best food. Although this could be discovered easily by reading the first few chapters of the Bible, Ellen White is very specific about this subject:

“Flesh was never the best food; but its use is now doubly objectionable, since disease in animals is so rapidly increasing. Those who use flesh foods little know what they are eating. Often if they could see the animals when living and know the quality of the meat they eat, they would turn from it with loathing. People are continually eating flesh that is filled with tuberculous and cancerous germs. Tuberculosis, cancer, and other fatal diseases are thus communicated.” The Ministry of Healing, 313.

“Again and again I have been shown that God is trying to lead us back, step by step, to His original design,—that man should subsist upon the natural products of the earth. Among those who are waiting for the coming of the Lord, meat-eating will eventually be done away; flesh will cease to form a part of their diet. We should ever keep this end in view, and endeavor to work steadily toward it.” Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 119.

Because of this information, Adventists have long been interested in the vegetarian diet, but they were told up until the 1960s that they needed to be very careful to get enough protein if they adopted a vegetarian diet. We know today that this advice was wrong, but this type of thinking made Adventists very susceptible to the new foods being introduced by food technologists. We know today that many of the vegetarian foods introduced by the food industry during the last 100 years are just as dangerous and perhaps more dangerous than the more expensive animal foods that they replaced. (A good example of this would be margarine, but that is another subject.)

One of these new wonder foods adopted almost wholesale by the Adventist world was hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP). Here is a thumbnail sketch of how it is made. First, the vegetable products are boiled in sulfuric acid, and then it is neutralized in caustic soda, and then dried. It can be dried until a brown powder is all that remains. This powder does not have a good taste at all, so MSG is added to it, and we have a powder that we can add to all manner of protein dishes. If a person eats meat such as hamburger, the cost of the hamburger can be greatly decreased by adding some HVP—a true “extender.” However, we have discovered other flavor compounds today besides MSG (many of them). We can add other amino acids to this HVP that will make it taste like beef, and then it can be used in barbecue sauces and fast foods. We can add still other protein combinations that will make the HVP taste creamy, and then use it in soups and salad dressings and sauces.

When we chemically analyze these foods, we find out some alarming facts. First of all, we find some compounds that, when used in high concentrations, are powerful brain transmitters, so much so that they can accurately be called brain cell toxins. Examples of these would include glutamate, aspartate, and cysteic acid.

Over fifty years ago, in 1957, it was discovered in animal experiments that these substances can destroy the inner layer of the retina in the eye. This is part of the reason that the writer developed an interest in investigating this subject.

One segment of the population that is extremely susceptible to obtaining large amounts of these substances are the overweight. These people want to lose weight, but they want low calorie foods that taste good. Three of the main ingredients that give flavor to food are carbohydrate (sugar and starch), fat, and protein. If the food is a low calorie food (like lettuce and spinach), it does not taste all that scrumptious unless some type of food flavoring is added. Historically, the way that this is done is to add fat and sugar (think butter, cream, sugar or syrup, mayonnaise, sweet and sour sauce, etc.) But all these things add calories, so today we can make the food taste good with very little additional calories with our new flavor-enhancing compounds. Any time that you buy food, if you see one of the following ingredients on the label you can be almost certain that it contains one or more flavor-enhancing compounds: “hydrolyzed vegetable protein,” “vegetable protein,” “natural flavorings,” and/or “spices,” “glutamate,” “aspartate,” or “glutamine.”

Another segment of the population that we know today is extremely sensitive to these substances are infants, both born and unborn infants. The central nervous system of the infant (both born and unborn) is much more sensitive to these substances than an adult, and although it would be unethical to perform research experiments with these substances on human beings, extensive animal experiments with these substances have demonstrated a severe effect on the development of the brain in every species of animals tested. Many pregnant women are using large amounts of these substances with absolutely no awareness of what the possible results might be. Nobody actually knows what all the results of large use of these substances might be. Some scientists are afraid that these substances can lead to severe misdevelopment of the brain, resulting in learning disorders and serious psychological problems such as autism, hyperactive behavior, dyslexia, and uncontrollable anger. (Their fears are not based on armchair speculations, but on actual animal experiments.)

If we use large amounts of these substances in our diet, what could be the long term result? Nobody knows, but following are a list of disorders that some scientists are studying in relation to these flavor-enhancing compounds: Neural degenerative diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, seizures, headaches, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Probably by now, if you are still reading this article, you are asking the question, How can I know which foods that I am eating are containing these flavor-enhancing compounds? Unfortunately, this is a difficult question to answer since these compounds are found extensively today in almost every type of processed food, but in the next paragraph an attempt will be made to list some of the most common foods where the health seeker will need to be careful.

Soy milk naturally contains much glutamate, but what could become too much of a good thing is if your soy milk has more glutamate added or if it has more hydrolyzed vegetable protein added. Kombu, miso, and soy sauce have MSG added. Sports supplements and weight loss products often contain Nutrasweet (which, of course, contains aspartate). So, one must not think that a product is harmless, just because he or she obtained it from a health food store, or because it is labeled as “organic.” Hopefully, the reader who is thinking analytically will conclude on his own that so-called health foods are not necessarily healthy and may be some of the most dangerous foods in his diet. The so-called “meat substitutes” or “meal analogs” commonly contain large amounts of these flavor-enhancing compounds. Any drink or diet food which has a sweet taste but contains little or no sugar—obviously there is something in the drink that gives it that sweet taste; if it is not sugar, it has to be a flavor enhancer of some type, (common ones are aspartamine or aspartate). For the person who is interested in health, a healthy skepticism of food flavoring agents in general, and especially food additives, is certainly in harmony with present scientific knowledge. Beef or chicken flavoring, extracts, “broth” and “stock” commonly contain MSG and often other flavor-enhancing compounds, and as stated at the beginning, the problem is not that the product itself is bad; many of these products occur naturally in nature and are essential for the body, but too much of a good thing can be dangerous, as hopefully you now understand. Any time the food that you are eating is described on the ingredient list as containing plant protein extracts or sodium caseinate or calcium caseinate or yeast extract or textured protein or autolyzed yeast or hydrolyzed oat flour or hydrolyzed plant protein, you should assume that it contains flavor enhancers. If you commonly eat in restaurants it is probably going to be impossible for you to avoid these things in your diet, and so it becomes even more important for you to see that your intake of these things is as close to zero as possible when you are preparing your own food.

For the reader who would like to study a more systematic and thorough approach to this subject, a book that the writer referred to for additional information for this article that the reader could purchase and study for himself is Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, by Russell L. Blaylock, M.D., published by Health Press, P.O. Drawer 1388, Santa Fe, NM 87504. ISBN 0-929173-14-7.

Questions & Answers – How can you tell the difference between Faith and Presumption

Let us think about what faith is. The Bible says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1. Another writer said, “We honor God when we take him at his word, and walk out by faith, believing that he means just what he says.” The Review and Herald, March 19, 1889. Faith has substance and it has evidence. It is believing just what God says and acting in accordance with His desires.

It is important that we have faith in God. We are told that “Without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6. Then again, we read, “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Romans 4:3.

We believe that the Bible is the word of God, and Jesus said that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4. If we believe and live by every word in the Bible, we should have faith. When we pray, our supplications should all be in accordance with the will of God.

One way to help us understand the will of God is to meditate on the words of Jesus that He said when the lawyer asked, which is the greatest commandment? “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Matthew 22:37–40.

Boiling it all down, we might just say that faith is believing God, and doing His will. When we pray, we should pray according to the will of God, and He will hear and answer.

As for presumption, I looked in three different dictionaries and found many explanations, but I will just quote a few definitions here: “Boldness, supposition, audacity, acting unwarrantable.” In other words, having confidence in something in which there is no surety.

For example, Satan tempted Jesus by asking Him to jump down from the pinnacle of the temple, saying that the angels would protect Him. There was no necessity to jump, and God had not told Him to jump; therefore it would have been presumption to ask the angels to save Him, since God had not told Him to jump, and there was no purpose in it other than to show off.

It has been said that “presumption is when you claim the promise but do not fulfill the condition.” God’s promises are sure, and we need to have faith that He will fulfill His word. If we expect answers to our prayers, they must be within the will of God. And we must have faith in God that He will do that which is best in the light of eternity.

If you have a Bible question you wish to have answered, please e-mail it to: ruthgrosboll@stepstolife.org.