Immediate Pre-Law Preparations in Exodus 19

Note: The first part of this article, Immediate Pre-law Preparations in Exodus 19, Part 1, was posted on February 9. This article contains both the first part and the rest of the author’s presentation of the so-called “immediate pre-law preparations.” This study is at its’ genesis stage and is not intended to be devotional. Points made here will be expanded at some other time.

INTRODUCTION

Lesson six of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, Glimpses of Our God,[1] is entitled “God the Lawgiver.”[2] The memory text is taken from the book of Isaiah: “For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King; He will save us” (Isa. 33:22, NKJV). The objective of the lesson is to “look at the law and, by default, the Lawgiver.” The idea behind this objective is that “the law reveals the character of the lawgiver.” Thus, you can’t take one without the other. Seventh-day Adventists have always argued that “the law is a transcript of God’s character.” This lesson falls in line with that understanding.[3]

Sunday’s lesson, “The Law at Sinai”, is an investigation of Ex. 19:18, 19; 20:18; Deut. 5:22; Heb. 12:21; and Rom. 7:8-13. The Old Testament (OT) passages are used so that students may be able to describe God’s physical manifestation at Sinai at the giving of the law, and the Israelites response. Hebrews 12:21 is also a reference to the giving of the law in the OT. Romans 7 is brought in to explain the role of the law.

“The Law at Sinai” seems ill-titled. It doesn’t investigate the law itself. Rather, it investigates the reaction of the Israelites to God’s presence prior to the giving of the law (Ex. 19:18, 19), their post-law hearing reaction (Ex. 20:18, Deut. 5:22, and Heb. 12:21), and the role of the law (Rom. 7:8-13). In other words, it skips the law altogether. At the least, it should have been titled, “Reactions to the Law at Sinai.” Although that title still doesn’t include what is being addressed by Paul in Romans 7. (Too much fuss shouldn’t be made over titles.) This article addresses what I refer to as “the pre-law preparations” in Exodus 19.

LOCATION

The giving of the law to Israel took place in the midbar sinay (“wilderness of Sinai”). Sinay means “thorny.” Some scholars believe that this is the plain of er-Raha. It is a “bush-studded,” 2 miles long and ½ mi wide area, surrounded by mountains. Of course, one particular mountain, rising from the southeast of the area, is believed to be the actual mountain on which God descended and Moses received the tablets. Three days are given for when it is believed that the Israelites made it to Sinay: (1) the first day of Sivan [name of the third month—Jewish tradition supports this], (2) the 14th day of the month, or (3) the 15th.[4]

IMMEDIATE PRE-LAW PREPARATIONS

Prior to the giving of the law preparation was necessary. Chapter 19 may be viewed as the preparation chapter. (Some may wish to argue that Israel’s experience since God began their deliverance out of the hands of Pharaoh should be viewed as, what I’m “the pre-law preparations.” I have no quarrels with that). In fact, to be more precise, we may state that chapter 19 contains “immediate pre-law preparations.” The chapter immediately following contains the audible stating of the law by God Himself. I have divided the pre-law preparations into two sections: Immediate Pre-law Prep. 1 and Immediate Pre-law Prep. 2.

For the purpose of clarification, let me state exactly what I mean by “immediate pre-law preparations.” I’m using the title to refer to statements that comes prior to the giving of the law that calls for those who will receive the law to say, believe, or do something. I use the term “immediate” for Exodus 19 because it is the chapter that precedes the giving of the ten commandments.

Immediate Pre-Law Prep. 1

Pre-law prep. 1 refers to Exodus 19:3-8. In the selected verses, God’s first recorded communication to the people of Israel after their arrival at Sinay contains three distinct sections: (1) God’s stating of His act of deliverance [Ex. 19:4], (2) His desire for the obeying of the law (His voice) and keeping of the covenant [19:5a, b], and (3) what He will do in response to their obedience [19:5c. 6].

The first one is a declaration of what He has done for them in terms of their former status as slaves: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Ex. 19:4).[5] Thus, God not only calls them to recall His acts in Egypt, but also their post-Egyptian experience, which at this point, consists of their journey from Egypt to Sinay, from bondage to Himself.

The purpose of having them recall God’s deliverance and providence seems to be design to establish God’s intent to treat them as a special people prior to them promising any type of obedience. Since He is now promising them that they will be His “treasured possession,” “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” they knew that He would do it since He brought them to where they were, to Himself.

Whether one agree with this analysis or not, it still remains that in this section we have a promise to the people of Israel concerning their obedience to the law. Where some may take issue is the fact that Exodus 19:5 doesn’t ask for obedience to the law, but to God’s “voice.” This is correct. However, since the law is audibly stated in Exodus 20, it is to be included  as what is “heard” coming from God. Thus, pre-law prep. 1 one calls for the obeying of God’s voice and the keeping of the covenant.

Response to Pre-Law Prep. 1

Exodus 19:7 states that Moses presented God’s promise to “the elders.” However, the next verse states that “the people all responded together” (19:8). How the news got from the elders to the people is not explained. Perhaps Moses called the elders first and then they helped him inform the people concerning the proposal. No matter how it happened, the important point is that the people agreed. Agreeing to this first proposal wasn’t the only thing that God needed them to do prior to the giving of the ten commandments.

Immediate Pre-Law Prep. 2

Immediate pre-law prep. 2 is found in Exodus 19:10-15. Here, God commands that the people be “consecrated” and that they should wash their clothes prior to the meeting. They were to abstain from sexual activities. They are also told that they shouldn’t touch the mountain itself during the meeting. Not only were those that touch the mountain were to be stone and/or shot with arrows, but it seems that killing them by projectiles was to prevent others from being killed by touching them. In other words, if you touch those who touch the mountain, whatever befalls them would befall those that touch them.

This pre-law prep seems to be geared towards preparing the people for meeting God, rather than just the hearing of the law itself. The people were about to come face to face with Yahweh and therefore had to be prepared for that encounter. This type of preparation may not have been asked for if the law was to be given to the people by a person, rather than directly from God Himself. This may make some to consider pre-law prep. 2 as being a bit indirect (or secondary).

Response to Pre-Law Prep 2.

The people were consecrated and they washed their clothes. It can be said that there is further evidence from silence. If the people weren’t consecrated then God would have “break out against them” (Ex. 19:22). However, He didn’t. This implies that they were indeed, truly consecrated, their clothes were washed, and they had abstain from sexual activities.


[1] Clifford R. Goldstein, ed., “Glimpses of Our God,” Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press 2012)

[2] Goldstein, 46.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Nichol, Francis D.: The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary: The Holy Bible With Exegetical and Expository Comment. Washington, D.C. : Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978 (Commentary Reference Series), S. Ex 19:2

[5] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scriptures in this article are taken from the New International Version.

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Whitney Houston: A Eulogy

In the gospel According to Matthew, Jesus says, “you are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).[1]

This saying places emphasis on identity and uniqueness. A disciple is unique because of who he is. The identity of a disciple makes him unique. In this case, Jesus identifies a disciple as a light-bearer. What makes a light-bearer unique is what he is contrasted against, darkness. By saying “you are the light,” Jesus should be understood to be implying that there is darkness all around and that the disciple is not like that darkness. Without darkness, it wouldn’t matter if the lamp is placed “under a bowl.”

The light-bearer, who now knows who he is, is told to “let your light shine before men” (5:16). Knowledge of identity precedes that of mission (in this case). Having to be who he is in an environment that is not conducive to who he is, is what the light-bearer is told to do. If he is indeed who he claims to be, then he will be who he is, for he can’t be anything else.

A light-bearer does “good deeds” that are not intended towards glorifying himself, but his “Father in heaven.” This final part of the saying is truly the ultimate purpose of a light-bearer’s existence: glorifying God. Indeed, humanity finds true self-fulfillment in a life that brings praise to the “Father in heaven.” Thus, a light-bearer, when his entire life is viewed as a whole, will ultimately reflect the God whose light he bears.

Whitney Houston was a star, a light that stood out against others that surrounded her, a city on a hill. And she still is all that. Although she now sleeps the sleep of the dead her contribution to this world, especially in music, is colossal. No one can ignore the elephant in the room. The world is full of singers, but none of them sounds like Whitney.

Whitney is missed by her family and close friends. They are the ones who are primarily affected by her death. They are the ones who have watched her grow up to be the star that she is today. Before the lights were fixated on her, they were the ones that first saw someone of worth. At this time, they are in pain. They are not now concerned with what legacy she leaves behind (although they will do their best to make sure that she is remembered as positively as possible). They are grieving over the loss of Whitney, the person.

They are not the only ones that are grieving. Fans of Whitney are grieving also. Fans are grieving over the loss of someone they admire; sing songs recorded by; and watched performances by. They are in disbelief. They weren’t ready for this type of news. For them, it came like a “bat out of hell.” They are forced to say goodbye to a shining light they believe is gone too soon. They are left only with CDs, pictures, and videos of the starlet in all her glory, not enough for hearts that are broken.

Undoubtedly, in Whitney’s official eulogy there will be great praise for what she has accomplished in over 40 years of life. It is a feat that many of will never attain to, let alone aspire to do so. She will be lifted up in grand sermonic discourses describing her towering and iconic status. So great will the praises be that, if it was possible, they would usher Whitney into the gates of heaven—a place she certainly be said to be in. Truly, her family will be proud. But what kind of light was Whitney? Did she leave behind a legacy that praises the “Father in heaven”?

To claim to have an answer to that question would be pompous on my part. Some may be offended that one would even ask such a thing. Only God truly knows whether or not she brought glory to His name. All that can be done now by we who are still living is evaluation of our own lives in an attempt to sort out whether we are living a life that praises God. It is much better to make assessments of ourselves than others. Although we would never admit to this, we tend to make great mistakes when it comes to the latter.

The death of such a young star reminds us that we cannot continue to exist forever. At some point, this life will come to an end, one way or another. Before it does, however, we can take a deeper look at (1) who we are, (2) what we have done and are doing, and (3) who that did and is glorifying: God or the other. The death of Whitney forces us to reflect collectively, as those who are “destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb. 9:27).

As we look over Whitney’s life, let us look at ours and sort out what type of lights are we. The heights that can be obtain means nothing if our “Father in heaven” is not praised. That is truly what we were born to do. Although Whitney is resting in peace, we will not be able to have any peace now unless we are living to what we are destined to be.


[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scriptures in this article are taken from the New International Version.

Ecclesiastical Elitist

From without, the church is often viewed as a fortress inhabited by arrogant and socially awkward laymen guarding the gate from attacks and candidates deemed unfavorable. From within, some of those supposing they are spiritually strong embark on everlasting campaigns in which they continuously bombard others with fire and brim-stone diatribes. Newcomers are perplex in their attempts to navigate through an ocean of unknown faces and sea monsters. Perhaps they are looking for a welcoming smile, but they are often greeted with a stern look and handled like surgical waste. Among the many that have been within for awhile, those who are not class amidst the ranks of biblical elites are treated as pseudo-humans, slaves to be commanded concerning when to turn to the right or to the left.

Unsuspected by some who are called to lead, certain fractions within organized ecclesiastical institutions seems to long for them to don the totalitarian regalia of the medieval church. Control is the top priority in the agenda and character modification is the policy being advocated as the means to that end. Heart transformation is of little importance, though it is the victim of much lip service. Waiting for the Spirit to mold and develop at His pace and concerning what He deems  of primal importance is considered too exhausting. Instead, mortal minds are ever developing and modifying techniques to hasten themselves and others to their perception of godliness. Thus, it can be said by the elitist  to the lowly, “you are godly, if you do what you’re told.” This creates a mechanical religion that paralyzes the soul.

Wrongs are not always intentional, but wrongs that are derivatives of malice–the desire to do harm–are. Is it that we, the church, have adjudicated our purpose as being the formation of ecclesiastical zombies by any means? Continuing down this trajectory, whether we intended to commence it or not, will result in a major scandal that will paint us as hypocrites. These are not the kind of brushstrokes we long for. Now is the time to acknowledge the wrong and seek correction. When a Christian realizes he/she is wrong and desire a change, that’s the first step. When wrongs are recognized, it is up to the so-called “repentant” one, the one responsible for the harm, to alleviate the suffering or suspend from acts that causes it. That’s the second step.

The mistreatment of those who are of lesser biblical knowledge by some in the church is wrong. However, it is not a recent anomaly. The indoctrinating process–which, despite the vicious ring to it, is enlightening and necessary–is not done in a shepherd-like manner. Instead cattle herders push their intended victims through a proof-texting labyrinth. Seems harsh? Well, it is.

Criticizing a system is not wrong. Yet, it is only one half of the solution. The critic indicates that you’ve located an area, or several,  for which improvement is necessary. Well, how should we go about correcting this area?

Should Adventists Celebrate Easter?

For many Christians Easter is the time of the year in which they celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a time for reflection, family, and festivities. Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday, spent the Sabbath (sunset Friday to sunset Saturday) and the dark periods of Sunday in the tomb, and resurrected on Sunday morning. Christians believe that this sacrifice was done as payment for sin. The death that Christ died provides the opportunity for those who are willing to enter into relationship with Him to be barred from paying the ultimate sacrifice for their sins, death.

The corporate world sees the Easter period as a time for great revenue. The corporate world’s use of Easter in the secular realm has cause many to mistakenly argue that this is one of the reasons why Easter shouldn’t be celebrated. This argument has no substance because what corporate America decides to do concerning a moment of celebration for the Christian church is not the Christian church’s fault. They are simply capitalizing on a festive time. The same goes for Christmas.

Adventists find themselves in a debate over whether or not Easter should be celebrated. As is typical with most internal debates, the lines are divided between conservatives being against and liberals being for. The conservatives are against the celebration of Easter because they view the holiday as being of pagan origin. Their position is that of caution. What they would prefer to see is an exhaustive commentary providing evidence of Easter’s pagan roots.

The liberals have pretty much embraced the festive mood and may or may not be aware of Easter’s pagan roots. They are simply not interested in spending the time looking for what is wrong, but making the best of what is right. Their position is that we should look for the good in the moment. Both sides agree that Jesus should be emphasize, however, they have different ways of going about it.

I think fingers should not be pointed on those who celebrate it, with Easter bunny and all. Why? If one has ever read the council that Ellen White (whom people are willing to use only when it is beneficial to their argument) gives concerning the celebration of Christmas, then one can see why it is not a big deal to celebrate Easter. When White was asked, “shall we have a Christmas tree? Will it not be like the world?” She answered, “You can make it like the world if you have a disposition to do so, or you can make it as unlike the world as possible. There is no particular sin in selecting a fragrant evergreen and placing it in our churches, but the sin lies in the motive which prompts to action and the use which is made of the gifts placed upon the tree” (Adventist Home, p. 482.1).

Does this not contain a principle to use when it comes to holidays? I think it does. The idea of being different is often presented incorrectly and has led some to take positions that they would never have taken if they understood that one is not called simply to do things that are different just because the world (or other Christian denominations) do it a certain way. Should we not wear jeans just to be different from the world? Most would say of course not. Therefore, if our objective in doing something else is simply to be different then we are misled.

Is their a spiritual danger in celebrating Christmas? Yes, if your attention is not on Christ. This is a general observation. If your attention is not on Christ in any aspect of life, then you are spiritually in trouble. But Christmas in and of itself is not wrong unless one believes that the prophet is mistaken. If we rely on the same principle, then celebrating Easter won’t cause problems in terms of spirituality unless Jesus is not really the focus.

Ultimately the answer to the question really has to do with whether or not the individual is comfortable with the celebration of Easter. One should not be forced to do and neither should another be denied (or spoken of as if they are heretics). However, both need to immerse themselves in the talk of Jesus that is being done during this holiday. Make the best of the moment and find ways to talk about Christ.

A Different Way of Fighting: Verbal Attacks in the Church

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On the street corner, conflicts are resolved with the throwing of knuckles, the quick slashes of a knife, or the rapid fire of a gun. There is always the potential that they can be handled that way in the church, but that is the exception rather than the norm. Physical violence, as an approach to conflict resolution, is often avoided because of the damage that it will cost to one’s public image. Therefore, even though one would prefer to handle an issue through violent means, it rarely happens.

A different method of dealing with conflicts is more dominant. Instead of violently taking down an opponent, it has become the norm to use cleverly selected phrases. There are two results: (1) the first is that the attack has the duo effect of not seeming to be an attack, when in fact it is; (2) the second is that one gets to avoid the public disgrace of reacting violently in a physical manner. Perhaps some further elaboration will make matters a bit clearer.

When offended individuals decides to use phrases as a means of attack, they intend for the message to be communicated. If that wasn’t the case then there is no point in utilizing that method. However, they also don’t want to be seen as being too direct. Being too direct will result in bad press. To correct this problem, they carefully word their phrases in a manner that gives the listeners enough evidence to make assumptions concerning what (and of whom) they are speaking about, and at the same time, leave enough room for doubt. It’s a balancing act.

Using a non-physical assault is more “civilized,” at least that’s what we tend to think. In fact, most would probably lift it to a higher standard, such as: “the method of the intellectuals.” Somehow many assume that we are better Christians, or perhaps, not as bad as others, if we don’t use physical violence. Our sinner’s rating scale reveals that it’s o.k. to attack somebody verbally but not physically.

Where has this gotten the members of the church? Years of endless hatred between families. At times the hatred is so evident that one may be fair in concluding that perhaps we think that it is o.k. to continue existing like this because God has approve our hatred. The most absurd thing is that we think that we are so clever that other members of the church don’t realize what is going on, especially the youth–who, if they haven’t already, will most likely do the same thing.

It has also made us very prideful. The more that we cleverly mask our phrases to launch attacks, the better we get at it, and the better we get at it, the more we think that we are smarter than everybody else. If a person who is trying to live a godly life still has to watch out for pride, imagine one who revels in the fact that he/she has just assaulted an enemy through the use of words. The very fact that that individual finds it o.k. to use the verbal attack makes it difficult for he/she to then turn around and confess the wrongness of the act. How can they be convinced that pride is something to be shunned when the act that is being committed leads to it? They won’t be worried about pride. Their satisfaction concerning their verbal achievement will be more important to them than pride.

Talking bad about people has been preached on, however, I’ve yet to hear a sermon that goes into detail concerning the various tactics that are used to launch verbal assaults. I truly believe that if the topic is brought to the forefront, some will continue it (as is the norm whenever admonitions are given) and others will cease to do so either because their secret is out, or they never sat down and reflected on the implications of their actions. The problem is that most sermons only go surface deep when commenting upon real life issues. The nail is rarely hit on the head.

Maybe I should not have said anything about this. It seems that there is a large fraction of the church that is fine with the way things are and would like to continue in that direction. However, for the few who dare to think that there is a greater ideal for the church, then this is another deficiency that needs to be reflected on, and with the help of the divine, overcome. Being content with disease will only result in the eradication of the one infected.

Is the Secret Worth Knowing?:Why Bother with Revelation

The book of Revelation is not something that I hear much about from most of the young Christians that I know. The few that I hear talking about it are more interested in making historical connections. While it is a prophetic book, which does require those connections at some point, I’ve been wondering lately, as Jon Paulien,[1] dean of Religion at Loma Linda University, states: “[Adventists] get so absorbed in history that we fail to follow the story of revelation itself” (emphasis mine). This, he goes on, may cause us to miss things that are important in helping us understand the text itself and how it helps us understand history.[2]

In the spirit of this statement, I’ve begun walking through Revelation again. I came down this road several times before. When I first read Revelation, I was driven by an apologetic spirit; seeking out ways to defend the Adventist position. Over the years as my understanding of biblical interpretation, due to constant reading and some theological classes, deepened, I started to notice things that I didn’t see before.

This time around, I don’t want to bog you down by starting with background information, heavy explanations, or theological terminology (even though a big part of me wants to write this in more scholarly form). The reason: most people are more interested in devotional messages than the process that one goes through in order to develop the material for those devotions (smile). That being said, I begin with reflections on the first three verses which some bibles call, “Introduction and Benediction.”[3] It tells us: where Revelation come from; the beings involved in the process to get it to earth in the first century; and why we should read it.

Origin of Revelation

Where does the content of Revelation come from? The value that we put on Revelation is based on a claim that it makes concerning itself: it originated from God (Rev. 1:1). In fact, all of the versions I’ve read explicitly states, “God gave.”[4] Thus, there is no confusion about the origin of the content that is within this document. However, being the curious person that I am, I went on to ask myself about what does it mean when it says God. This question arose because I notice that a difference is made in the verse between “Jesus Christ” and “God.”

As one who believes in the trinity, I thought that If God gave the Revelation to Jesus Christ then the term God must be referring to God the Father, God the Spirit, or both. I don’t have a definitive answer at this point, but I believe that the answer must include God the Father. This is not to say that the Spirit wasn’t aware of the transfer of the communication, or what may have you. I hope I did not perplex you further concerning this already perplexing book. The point is that God is the source. This is the divine origin of the book.

I thought that it would be necessary to mention the human writer in this origin section. John, a writer with four other literary documents[5] in the Bible, is the human being that was, as the apostle Peter puts it, “moved” by God (2 Pet. 1:21 NKJV). This is an example of Peter’s words in action.

The Journey from God to Earth

John could have started the Revelation by simply stating it was given to him by God, but he didn’t. Instead, he decides to list 4 beings: Jesus, God, an angel, and himself. As stated earlier, it begins with God. Revelation unveils a God who took the initiative of sending something that wasn’t asked, but utterly necessary.

Thus, God “gave” it to Jesus, who then gave it to an angel. The Godhead gave an angel the opportunity to participate in the transmission of this communication. This adds to the grandness of the Revelation. Heaven embarked on a great mission to bring something to earth. This mission involved all the big names. The angel enters into the world of mankind and gives the prophet the secret that is to be unveiled.

Why Bother with this Book?

This may seem like a mundane question, but it is one that I’ve heard frequently. Before discussing the reasons, as stated in the first three verses, I would like to present an analysis of the contemporary climate. People are more interested in reading the stories in the Bible that they can easily understand. I reckon that the reason for this, that is to say, for those that are serious, is to find commands and principles that will tell them what to do. This is a good objective because the Bible aims at doing just that, providing guidance. The problem is that in the quest to find what to do some people develop a habit of being content with the quickest answer. Anything that challenges the mind to dig deeper receives a screwed face. It never ceases to shock me when I see college students do this.

But let’s get back to the topic. Other than the fact that it is in the Bible, which, I have noticed, is not a motivator for Christians to read something anymore, Revelation states that its’ readers, hearers, and doers will be blessed (Rev. 1:3). If this is not an incentive to invest time into this book then I don’t know what is. Everywhere you hear the pulpiters (preachers) storming about receiving God’s blessings, but nowhere is this book mentioned. If it is, I haven’t heard it. Here is an opportunity to be blessed, and all you have to do is prayerfully read and study.

There is something to note about this blessing that is being promised. The verse says that blessings will come upon “the one who reads,” and “those who it hear it and take it to heart” (NIV). An idea that may come to the mind of someone reading this is that there are two pre-requisites for this blessing. The first is that if you are a reader of Revelation then you will be blessed. The condition is that you simply read it. The second is that a blessing is reserved for those who don’t read it but heard it. The listeners, they reckon, also have to practice the counsels within.

Jacques B. Doukhan, professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Exegesis at Andrews Theological Seminary, comments that this section of the three verses is a reference to the worship service in which Revelation is to be read. He bases this on the fact that the one who is reading it is stated in singular form, and the hearers are in the plural. So does this mean that we only receive the blessings if we gather somewhere and hear someone speak on Revelation? No. Without going into too much of a discussion on meaning of words, Doukhan states that the word that is being used in reference to hearing also requires the understanding of what is being heard.[6] This will require more than just sitting in church and hearing a sermon.

What about Jesus? Any discussion on Revelation must include Jesus. Not only did he participate in the transmission process of the material, but it is also a revelation about himself (1:1). Perhaps the real issue with understanding this is due to the failure of some to show the church how Jesus is revealed. Jesus’ relationship to the rest of the book is pivotal in understanding it since it is a revelation of him.

Another reason that must come in under this section is Revelation’s claim to contain “what must soon take place” (1:1, 3). I’m sure that what will happen tomorrow, or even for the rest of today for that matter, is of great interest to many. Well, God doesn’t give us all the information about what is going to happen soon, but he does give us something. The only reason why we would deny ourselves this information is if we don’t believe that it is really there. Our belief in whether or not this document contain what it says it does will affect whether we read it or not.


[1] Jon Paulien, Ph.D., is a Seventh-day Adventist New Testament scholar. He specializes in Johanine literature (especially the book of John and Revelation).

[2] Jon Paulien, Armageddon at the Door: An Insider’s Guide to the Book of Revelation (Hagerstown, MD: Autumn House Publishing, 2008), pp. 63-64.

[3] Cf. Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible.

[4] Cf. ASV; ESV; KJV; NAB; NASB; NET; NIV; NJB; NKJV; NRS; RSV; and YLT.

[5] The apostle John wrote the Gospel According to John; 1 John; 2 John; and 3 John.

[6] Jacques B. Doukhan, Secrets of Revelation: The Apocalypse Through Hebrew Eyes (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2002), pp.12-13.

Confess Your Sins to Each Other?: Dealing with James 5:16

The Wednesday section of the Sabbath school lesson[1] presents us with a verse that we are not so fond of. In fact, some may think that the Bible would do well without it. However, despite the eyebrows that the author must have surely known would be raised, the decision was made to include the terrifying words of James 5:16 which calls us to, “confess [our] sins to each other and pray for each other so that [we] may be healed” (NIV, emphasis mine). Frightful, is it not? Not exactly what we wanted to hear.

Not only does the author bring the verse into the relationship conversation, which is the theme for this week, but we are also given four lines to write our interpretation and how we can apply it in our lives. I imagined the eyes of my Sabbath school students rolling as they stared at those lines (smile). I certainly can’t wait for Sabbath morning to hear what will be said concerning this verse. I anticipate that much of the discussion will be aimed at a caution that is given concerning confessing to others: “there is always the risk that our friend will reveal the confidence to others.”

Is it true? It certainly is. Gossip, popular in our culture, seems to be a fundamental quality of our dysfunctional characters. If we are not the ones telling the tale, then we are the ones hearing it. Often times, this is overlooked in personal reflections because we don’t realize the seriousness of gossip. I’m sure that many sermons are preached on the topic, but for the most part we tend to brush the wrongness of it to the side. We are not concerned, unless, of course, it is about us.

The lessons points to two interpretations for the verse: confessing sins committed against someone “in order to secure forgiveness and to restore the relationship”; confessing sins in general to someone that, all evidence indicates, has a mature faith. In my personal analysis of the text, the second one was the one that quickly came to mind. In my reading, James 5:16 seems to be setting up a principal.[2] If we are being called to confess to each other, then there is a need for a change in the way we are and the way we look at each other.

Let me clear those two points up. First, if we are in the church and are not considered persons that can be called upon to pray for others—what James calls a, “righteous man,” then there is a problem. What is the problem? What are we doing in the church if we can’t be identified among the faithful? That is a problem. By saying “righteous man,” James indicates that there are people of mature faith in the church. It behooves us to be amongst that company.

As I was reflecting on this point, it occurred to me that those who are to pray are functioning as mediators. They take the confessed sins and plead to God on behalf of the confessor for pardon, forgiveness and healing. This is a mighty and noble act, reminiscent of Moses and Christ. In order for us to partake of this great service on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the faith, we need to be what we claim to be.

Second, on the part of those who confess, there must reside within them not only the ability to trust, but the ability to discern character. The need for trust is not stated in the verse, it is implied. Discernment of character comes through prayer. With analysis inspired from God we can be directed to the best person to talk to. One of the best indicators of maturity is visible consistency in devotion to God. Of course, it can all be a show. This is why it is essential to not only ask God who or when, or if you should at.

Imagine what type of community the church would be if these things were so. Well, it can be so, but it would have to take some Bible believing souls who are interested in putting the principals into practice, trusting that God will work mightily through them as they do so. The togetherness of the church would rise to greater heights. We would be closer to the scriptural ideal for the church, a family.


[1] Julian Melgosa. “Jesus Wept: The Bible and Human Emotions.” Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (2011), p. 34.

[2] There are two ways that I suspect one may look at James 5:16. The first is that it is calling for a moment in which people gather together, confess their sins—whether it is to that individual or not, is not indicated—and pray for each other.  What may dismiss this argument is the fact that the word “healed” connects the verse to the three prior verses. The three prior verses deal with being sick and therefore verse 16 may be calling for those who are sick to be the ones to confess. The second way, which is the one I prefer, is that it is stating that we should confess to a trusted spiritual person.