Lesson 25 | Sabbath, 21 December 2019
“God’s law is the mirror presenting a complete reflection of the man as he is, and holding up before him the correct likeness. Some will turn away and forget this picture, while others will employ abusive epithets against the law, as though this would cure their defects of character. Still others who are condemned by the law will repent of their transgressions and, through faith in Christ’s merits, will perfect Christian character.” –Faith and Works, p. 31.
Known and secret sins
1. While everything is open as a book to the Lord, what danger do human beings face? Therefore, what did the psalmist especially pray for?
Job 13:23 How many are mine iniquities and sins? make me to know my transgression and my sin.
Psalm 19:12 Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
“The law of God, as presented in the Scriptures, is broad in its requirements. Every principle is holy, just, and good. The law lays men under obligation to God; it reaches to the thoughts and feelings; and it will produce conviction of sin in every one who is sensible of having transgressed its requirements. If the law extended to the outward conduct only, men would not be guilty in their wrong thoughts, desires, and designs. But the law requires that the soul itself be pure and the mind holy, that the thoughts and feelings may be in accordance with the standard of love and righteousness.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 211.
2. What blessing makes it possible for a person to recognize his own sins? How did the apostle Paul become aware that certain of his actions were deplorable?
Romans 3:20; 7:7 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin…. 7:7What shall we say then? is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
Galatians 3:19, first part Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made;…
“Sin does not appear as sinful, unless viewed in the truthful mirror God has given them as a test of character. When men and women acknowledge the claims of the law of God, and plant their feet upon this platform of eternal truth, they will stand where the Lord can give them moral power to let their light so shine before men that they may see their good works, and glorify our Father who is in Heaven.” –Review and Herald, March 8, 1870.
3. After many years of neglect, what did the high priest Hilkiah discover in the temple in the time of King Josiah (ca. B.C. 638-608)?
2 Kings 22:8, 9, first part, 10 And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord. 9And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the scribe came to the king,… 10And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.
“In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, God chose him to superintend the repairing of the temple. It was as this work was being done that the book of the law was found. Through some mismanagement it had been lost, and the people had been deprived of its instruction. Brethren, have any of you lost the book of the law? Have not many of us lost sight of the precepts that are in the holy Book?” –General Conference Bulletin, April 1, 1903.
Blessings from reading the law and taking action
4. What immediate effect did the reading of the book of the law have on King Josiah as he grasped the meaning of what he heard?
2 Kings 22:11-13 And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. 12And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king’s, saying, 13Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.
“The reading of the book of the law, so long forgotten, made a deep impression upon the king’s mind. He realized that something must be done to bring this law to the attention of the people, and to lead them to conform their lives to its teachings. By his own course of action, he designed to show his respect for the law. He humbled himself before God, rending his clothes.
“In his position as king, it was the work of Josiah to carry out in the Jewish nation the principles taught in the book of the law. This he endeavored to do faithfully. In the book of the law itself he found a treasure of knowledge, a powerful ally in the work of reform.” –General Conference Bulletin, April 1, 1903.
5. Decades later, after the exiles returned to Jerusalem, what kind of meeting took place outdoors? For about many hours did Ezra read to the people from the book of the law?
Nehemiah 8:1-3 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel. 2And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. 3And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.
“There is no safety nor repose nor justification in transgression of the law. Man cannot hope to stand innocent before God, and at peace with Him through the merits of Christ, while he continues in sin. He must cease to transgress, and become loyal and true. As the sinner looks into the great moral looking glass, he sees his defects of character. He sees himself just as he is, spotted, defiled, and condemned. But he knows that the law cannot in any way remove the guilt or pardon the transgressor. He must go farther than this. The law is but the schoolmaster to bring him to Christ. He must look to his sin-bearing Saviour. And as Christ is revealed to him upon the cross of Calvary, dying beneath the weight of the sins of the whole world, the Holy Spirit shows him the attitude of God to all who repent of their transgressions. ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ John 3:16.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 213.
Reading and understanding the law
6. Who helped in the explanation so that the assembled multitude could understand the true meaning of the law?
Nehemiah 8:5-8 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: 6And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. 8So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
“Here is a work for man to do. He must face the mirror, God’s law, discern the defects in his moral character, and put away his sins, washing his robe of character in the blood of the lamb. Envy, pride, malice, deceit, strife, and crime will be cleansed from the heart that is a recipient of the love of Christ and that cherishes the hope of being made like Him when we shall see Him as He is. The religion of Christ refines and dignifies its possessor, whatever his associations or station in life may be. Men who become enlightened Christians rise above the level of their former character into greater mental and moral strength. Those fallen and degraded by sin and crime may, through the merits of the Saviour, be exalted to a position but little lower than that of the angels.” –God’s Amazing Grace, p. 232.
“The Bible is God’s voice speaking to us just as surely as though we could hear Him with our ears. The word of the living God is not merely written, but spoken. Do we receive the Bible as the oracle of God? If we realized the importance of this Word, with what awe would we open it, and with what earnestness would we search its precepts. The reading and contemplating of the Scriptures would be regarded as an audience with the Most High.” –In Heavenly Places, p. 134.
7. What happened when the people realized how far they had strayed away from the Lord’s will? Thus, what is the effect of the law when one earnestly seeks to understand and obey it?
Nehemiah 9:1-3 Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. 2And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. 3And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the Lord their God.
Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.
Proverbs 28:9 He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.
Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
“A great work must be done for us all before we will have perfection of Christian character. The law of God is the standard of righteousness. This is the mirror into which we are to look to discern the defects of our character. When we look in a common mirror, it points out to us the defects upon our person, but it does not remove one stain; we must go and wash if we would become clean. So it is with the law of God. It is God’s great mirror, or moral detector of sin; but there is no saving quality in law; it has no power to pardon the transgressor. There is a provision made for the sinner: ‘If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’ Then what is the work before the sinner? It is to exercise repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. In His precious blood the stains of sin may all be washed away. There is a fountain open for Judah and Jerusalem, and the defilement of sin may be removed if they will only wash in this fountain.” –Present Truth, November 3, 1885.
For additional study
“Let those who feel inclined to make a high profession of holiness look into the mirror of God’s law. As they see its far-reaching claims, and understand its work as a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, they will not boast of sinlessness. ‘If we,’ says John, not separating himself from his brethren, ‘say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’ ‘If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.’ ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ 1 John 1:8, 10, 9.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 562.
“‘By the law is the knowledge of sin.’ Romans 3:20. In order to see his guilt, the sinner must test his character by God’s great standard of righteousness. It is a mirror which shows the perfection of a righteous character and enables him to discern the defects of his own. The law reveals to man his sin…. It declares that death is the portion of the transgressor. The gospel of Christ alone can free him from the condemnation or the defilement of sin. He must exercise repentance toward God, whose law has been transgressed; and faith in Christ, his atoning sacrifice….” –God’s Amazing Grace, p. 20.