Memory Text: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21, NKJV).
Introduction: A research was conducted at the Gallup World Poll between 2005 and 2009 in about 155 countries to find out the “happiness” levels in each country. They asked people to reflect on their overall satisfaction with their lives. Do they feel that they are free? Are they making a living? Do they feel intellectually engaged? Are they relatively free of pain or suffering? Do they feel that they are respected by others?
The top five countries on the happiness scale, who say they are thriving are Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands. These are prosperous countries, not involved in wars, (except for the recent tragedy killings in Norway) out of the center of the world’s problems. Costa Rica and New Zealand come next. In eighth place, there is a tie among four countries: Canada, Australia, Switzerland–and ISRAEL.
Yes, Israel. This small country, surrounded and threatened constantly by enemies, terrorism and war, subject to an Arab economic boycott, often maligned by the media, torn within by ethnic and religious strife, is among the world’s happiest countries!
To look at the overall view, the United States is ranked 14; France is 44; Saudi Arabia is 58; Russia is 73; Japan is 81; China is 125.
62% of Israeli described themselves as thriving; 35% as struggling; and 3% as suffering. With these figures, Israel is tied for eighth place among the 155 nations surveyed.
Question: In spite of its many problems, why is Israel so happy? Why is it among the happiest, most thriving, and most creative countries of the world?
Responding to these questions, Rabbi Marc D. Angel writes, “I believe the answer is: the grand human spirit of the people of Israel. Israelis–in spite of many differences among themselves–recognize that they are part of an incredible, dynamic adventure. Israel is the only example in the history of humanity of an ancient nation exiled from its land, forced to live (often under horrific conditions) as a minority group scattered throughout the world–who after nearly 2000 years returned to its ancestral land, revived its ancient language, and re-established its historic culture. Israelis–and all members of the Jewish people–understand that we are living in a unique period of history. Israelis are happy not only because they are thriving intellectually, culturally, scientifically, militarily; but because they understand that their lives mean something, that they are pioneers in restoring the honor and strength of the Jewish people after centuries of powerlessness and disgrace.
Responding further he says, “Happiness doesn’t mean having no troubles and no problems. Happiness means believing that life has meaning and direction, that one’s life counts that one is building for the future.
The Jewish people, throughout the ages, have demonstrated an astounding optimism, an unflinching, unwavering faith in the future. In spite of all the difficulties we have faced, we have never given up on our mission to be a light unto the nations.
The Talmud (Berakhot 4b) quotes the opinion of Rabbi Yohanan who taught: who has a place in the world to come? One who recites the “geulah” (prayer for redemption) connected to the Amidah prayer of the evening service.
Rabbi Marc says that this passage can be understood as follows: Who is the one who will have ultimate redemption? It is one who can dream of redemption even at “night”, even at times when everything seems dark and bleak. This is the eternal genius of the Jewish people–to dream of and work for redemption–regardless of how difficult the external circumstances appear. How does the church dream of the work of redemption?
As we dive into our lesson study, let us rejoice with Israel as one of the happiest, most creative, most advanced countries of the world. Let us pray for true peace and redemption–happiness for all Israel and for all humanity!
The Dedication – This lesson is about consecration, worship, obedience, and God’s show down with fire coming down from heaven. The last portion of the book of Exodus tells us about the construction of the tent-sanctuary in the desert and God’s presence experienced, in the cloud of God’s glory that filled the recently completed tent sanctuary which not even Moses could enter. (Exodus 40:34, 35)
When one week of consecration had passed, on the eighth day the priests entered into their sacred ministry in the sanctuary to begin their solemn work of sacred ministry, a work that pointed to the work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary (Leviticus 9). Moses was given specific laws about offerings and sacrifices.
Question: As we read Leviticus 9 what elements appear here that teach us about worship?
After having completed the required sacrifices for the dedication of the Sanctuary and the priests Aaron, being instructed by Moses, lifted up his hands; and Moses and Aaron entered the tent-sanctuary. We are not sure exactly what happened inside. It is likely that Moses was instructing Aaron–based on his conversations with God–about the use of each of the individual pieces of furniture inside.
But, when they returned to the outside, “Fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” The coming down of the fire meant that the sacrifice offered has been accepted by the Lord. This was a very impressive time.
Question: What are we supposed to learn about God from those experiences?
When the people “fell on their faces,” it was an expression of intense reverence, awe, and obedience for every detail of God’s commands were followed, and the Lord showed His acceptance of what they had done. It was an expression of intense worship and humility before the Lord.
Question: What is our experience when we worship the Lord?
Worship involves respect and reverence for something that we value or consider to be of very great worth. But, as we know, people have worshiped almost every imaginable thing down through the generations. Isaiah 5:20,21 suggest that the time came when they called evil good and called good evil!
Question: How do you think that happened? Other than the obvious involvement of Satan, what factors led them to do that?
The Scriptures describe two kinds of worships in general. There is self-centered worship, otherwise known as pure selfishness; and there is God-centered worship, otherwise known as love. In other words, there is our way, and there is God’s way. And we have learnt about that in Cain and Abel’s worship experience.
Fire From Before the Lord –
Fires are scary, especially when they are unexpected and uncontrolled. But, some uses of fire remind us of God. The Israelites were acquainted with the fire of God’s presence. This was the Holy Fire. In Leviticus 10 we see that Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu, do something that was not commanded by the Lord and the fire of blessing was turned into a fire of punishment.
Leviticus 10:9 suggests that the problem may have had something to do with alcohol. Ellen G. White stated that those two young men had become almost drunk, had lost their clear thinking, and entered the tent-sanctuary with “common fire” rather than the fire sent from heaven that God had specified to be used. They also used incense which was not of the type which God had specified. (Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene 18.2; Historical Sketches of the Seventh day Adventist Church 208.1; 1 Spirit of Prophecy 277.1; 4a Spiritual Gifts 11.3; Review and Herald, July 29, 1873, par. 5; Youth’s Instructor, June 4, 1903 par. 4)
Further she writes, “Assisted by his sons, Aaron offered the sacrifices that God required, and he lifted up his hands and blessed the people. All had been done as God commanded, and He accepted the sacrifice, and revealed His glory in a remarkable manner; fire came from the Lord and consumed the offering upon the altar. The people looked upon this wonderful manifestation of divine power with awe and intense interest. They saw in it a token of God’s glory and favor, and they raised a universal shout of praise and adoration and fell on their faces as if in the immediate presence of Jehovah.”—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 359.
But, Nadab and Abihu forfeited all of that by behavior which was typified by this episode of disregarding God’s direct instructions.
When Moses and Aaron carefully fulfilled God’s directions to the letter, God was pleased; fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering. (Leviticus 9:22-24) When Aaron’s sons misbehaved and misrepresented God and entered the tent with strange incense and common fire in their censors, fire came down from God and consumed them!
Question: How many times did God send fire directly out of heaven to this earth?
- Fire came down on the top of Mount Sinai before the giving of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 19)
- Fire came down from heaven to consume the burnt offering; (Leviticus 9:24) and a short time later, fire came down to burn up Nadab and Abihu. (Leviticus 10:2)
- Fire came down from heaven on the top of Mount Carmel in response to Elijah’s prayer before all the children of Israel. That fire consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the water, and left a black hole in the earth! (1 Kings 18:38)
- When King Ahaziah of Israel sent troops to get Elijah, fire came down from heaven and consumed the troops–twice! (2 Kings 1:10,12)
- Fire will come down from heaven to consume the wicked as described in Revelation 20:9 contrast Revelation 13:13.
Question: How does this fit with Isaiah 66:22-24 which says that the fire will be consuming dead bodies?
Ellen White describes that fire at the end of time as a fire that cleanses the earth. [Compare
Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, p. 217, 218 (1858); Early Writings 294,295 (revised 1882); Spirit of
Prophecy, vol. 4, p. 47-49 (1884) and Great Controversy 672, 673 (1888)]
Question: What do we learn from these passages? Is God testing us to see if we will do things His way instead of our own way?
Happy Are You, O Israel – Turning to the story of Moses recorded in Numbers 20: 1-12, was it Moses’ anger or rebellion that kept him from entering the Promised Land?
Reading carefully the wording of Numbers 20:12, notice that it does not talk about anger, rebellion, or even disobedience. It says, “Because you did not have enough faith in me….”
Question: What are the implications of those words?
Remember that faith is a word we used to describe a relationship with God as with a good friend. What Moses did was to misrepresent God and that mistake prevented him from entering the land of Canaan.
Moses had done well of representing God correctly in many previous occasions. But, on this occasion, he made it sound like he and Aaron were the ones who had led the children of Israel out of Egypt. It sounded like rebellion! He was punished but he did not complain. He accepted God’s verdict despite asking some questions–which God always allows.
It is important to note that when Moses climbed to the top of Mount Nebo and looked out over the land of Canaan, he was given a vision of the entire land so that he actually saw where the children of Israel were going. (Patriarchs and Prophets p. 477)
Three days after Moses died and after God contended with the Devil over his body, (Jude 9) God resurrected Moses and took him–not to this sinful, earthly Canaan, but to the heavenly Canaan.
This story reminds us that the God of the universe still cares about each one of us individually and expects us to be faithful to Him.
An Attitude of Surrender – I Samuel 1
The story of Hannah and Samuel in Israelite history help reveal to us how true worship can be expressed in the heart of a penitent soul. It reminds us that when we have the kind of relationship with Him that we should have, He responds to us.
Question: What does this teach us about worship?
In 1 Samuel 15 it is very clear that Saul considered his opinion more important than the guidance he received from God through Samuel. This is clearly a case of self-worship versus God-worship.
Was the choice of Saul to be the first king of Israel a mistake? Didn’t God choose him? How do you understand the following passages: 1 Samuel 15:10,11,29,35?
It seems clear that in choosing Saul as the first king of Israel, God was not choosing the kind of person He wanted; but rather, He was yielding to the wishes of the people and choosing the kind of king they wanted. Saul was never God’s first choice.
Question: What should we learn about worship from this experience of Saul’s rejection of God and God’s rejection of Saul? Read 1 Samuel 15:22,23.
- God would rather have our hearts than our offerings. (If He truly has our hearts, the offerings will follow.)
- Obedience is more pleasing to Him than are sacrifices. (Obedience is our way of showing that we understand what the sacrifices are truly about.)
- Stubbornness, insisting on our own way, is idolatry because we have made a god of ourselves, our desires, and our opinions. (Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide for Thursday, July 28)
God requires perfection of His children. His law reflects His own character, and it is the standard of all character. This infinite standard is presented to all that there may be no mistake in regard to the kind of people whom God will have to compose His kingdom. The life of Christ on earth was a perfect expression of God’s law, and when those who claim to be children of God become Christ like in character, they will be obedient to God’s commandments.
Clothed in the glorious apparel of Christ’s righteousness, they have a place at the King’s feast. They have a right to join the blood-washed throng. Christ’s Object Lessons 315; God’s Amazing Grace 148 (1900)
Each one of us must make a permanent, final decision: Will we worship in our own ways, our own thoughts, our own desires, and practice self-worship and selfishness? Or, will we–with prayer, submission, and reverent awe–see the superiority of God’s ways and choose them and worship God in the correct way so that we can, one day, be among His saved people?
God Bless You!!!