As Jehoshaphat led out in the prayer service, he called upon God to change the circumstances. Look at verse 6: "and said: 'O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand . , and no one can withstandyou.'" Hadn't God specially protected His own in the past? Hadn't He given this land to His chosen people? So Jehoshaphat pleads in verse 12-17: "'O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.'
"All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.
"Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.
"He said: 'Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you."'"
Look at verse 20: "Early in the morning they left for the desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, 'Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful." So fully did this king believe that little-known prophet, Jahaziel, that he replaced his front-line troops with a choir singing praises to the Lord! As the songs of faith filled the air, the Lord was at work bringing confusion to the armies that opposed His people! Look at verse 24: "When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped." Jahaziel was God's mouthpiece for that special time.
Though sin ended face-to-face communication between God and humans, God did not end His intimacy with us; instead, He developed other ways of communicating. He began sending His messages of encouragement, warning, and reproof through prophets. In the Scriptures, a prophet is one who receives communications from God and transmits their intent to His people.
Many Christians believe that the Gift of Prophecy ceased when the Bible was completed. But the Bible reveals that the Church would have a special need for this gift during the times before the Second Coming of Jesus! God gave the gift of prophecy to John the Baptist before Christ's first advent. In a similar way we may expect Him to send the prophetic gift again to proclaim the Second Advent so that everyone will have the opportunity to prepare to meet the Savior! In fact, Jesus mentions in Matthew 24 the rise of false prophets as one of the signs that His coming is near. If there were to be no true prophets during the time of the end, Jesus would have warned against anyone claiming that gift. His warning against false prophets implies that there would be true prophets as well.
Look at Joel 2:28. Joel confirms what Jesus implied. "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions."
Not only will the Gift of Prophecy be present in the last days, it will be a sign by which people will know God's remnant church. Look at Revelation 12:17: "Then the dragon (Satan) was enraged at the woman (church) and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring--those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus." What is the "testimony of Jesus?" Look at Revelation 19:9,10: "Then te angel said to me, 'write: "Blessed are those who are invited to the weedding supper of the Lamb"' And he added, 'These are the true words of God.'
"At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, 'Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of Prophecy.'"
A number of Biblical signs exist by which we can identify the remnant church. Revelation 12:17 identified two by which they can be known: A commandment keeping people with the prophetic gift!
God could have said that His last day church would be made up of good people and hypocrites! But that goes for every church (and grocery store for that matter). God chose two characteristics that could not be mistaken. Churches exist who keep the commandments and churches exist who claim the prophetic gift, but only one has arisen in these last days that believes in both: The Seventh-day Adventist Church!
In the highlands of Peru is a place called the Mission of the Broken Stone. Elder Stahl promised an Indian chief that he would send a teacher to establish a school among the chief's people. But Elder Stahl was not sure how the chief would identify the teacher when he arrived. The chief took a stone and broke it into two pieces. He gave one half to Elder Stahl and he kept the second half. "Give your half to the man that you send," the chief said. "I will recognize him when the two halves fit perfectly together."
Most people tend to know us by the first half of the equation, keepers of the ten commandments. I believe this to be our own fault. It seems easier to explain that we love Jesus so we would like to do as He asks. But we seem reticent to share about the Spirit of Prophecy because it seems more complicated or because we may feel that someone might think us a bit odd.
I remember this feeling the first time I presented this doctrine of our church. I was giving Bible studies to a man and the time had come to present this message. I prayed earnestly for the right words to say to break open the subject. As I walked into his apartment on the South side of Chicago, he seemed excited. He showed me the book that I had left with him the week before Steps to Christ. "Kent," he said, "did this Ellen White write anything else? She is obviously inspired!" That Bible study taught me more than it taught him. People hunger for the Testimony of Jesus!
Yes, the gift of prophecy was active in the ministry of Ellen G. White, one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist church. She has given inspired instruction for God's people living during the time of the end. The world of the early nineteenth century, when Ellen White began to deliver God's messages, was a man's world. Her prophetic call put her under critical scrutiny. Passing the Biblical tests of a prophet, she went on to minister through her spiritual gift for 70 years. From 1844, when she was 17, until 1915 the year of her death she had more than 2,000 visions. The material that she wrote fills more than 80 books, 200 tracts and pamphlets, and 4,600 periodical articles. Sermons, diaries, special testimonies, and letters make up another 60,000 pages of manuscript materials. All with a third grade education. (Notice She started at 17 years old! Teenagers, beware of thinking that you can't serve the church. You started it! I challenge our nominating committee to remember our youth).
Ellen White was known as a kind and loving individual with a warm and happy personality. She was known to have a wholesome sense of humor (even in the pulpit). Many have thought of her as a stern person because of all the pictures of her without a smile. Have you noticed that very few pictures from that era have smiling faces? There is a technological reason for this called slow shutter speed. Have you tried to hold a smile for a while and keep it looking natural? Photographers in that day instructed their subjects not to smile so that they wouldn't look silly.
Others may think of Ellen White as stern because of the way she has been misused. DO THIS, DON'T DO THAT. Some have used her as a weapon to prove this or that point. I sometimes cringe when people whip out Ellen White quotes to settle arguments or to prove points (Yes, I've been guilty too). People even did it to her when she was living! Some read her writings just to justify positions that they already have (skipping over what seems to go against their pre-established views).
So, how should we study the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy?
Start by remembering her purpose: To lead us all to the Bible. She referred to herself as the lesser light leading to the Greater Light. Then begin with prayer and a plan. If you are new to her writings, start with Steps to Christ or Desire of Ages. Move on to the rest of the Conflict of the ages series. Then read what she wrote on other topics such as the book Education. Then get into the Testimonies or authorized compilations of her writings.
Focus on central themes and issues that you find rather than minute points. Avoid extreme interpretations by balancing everything against all she has to say on a topic. Keep it all in context. Who was she writing to and why? Take time and place and purpose into consideration.
This is helpful when you come across statements like "Every woman should know how to harness a horse." In her day, that was teaching practicality and independence. A literal application to your life today would not be practical. BUT the principle is! Today, she would probably encourage you to know the basic mechanics of your car (how to change a flat tire, etc.). (This goes for men too!)
One Sabbath after noon it was pouring rain in Alanta, Georgia. I was relaxing in my home, and I got a phone call, "Pastor Crutcher, come and help me, please. I've had a flat tire." It was a lady in the church that I knew, and I didn't mind. She was only four miles away and I went out in the rain and I drove and found her in a little bit. She'd been on a cell phone. I found her little white Mercedes, an old beat-up car there beside the road, and I felt so sorry for her. The ox was in the ditch. And then I... "Wait a minute" because her three sons were in the car with her. One of them was a teen-ager. So I thought, I'm not going to be in the rain by myself. I got the oldest boy, "Come out here. We're going to learn something today." When I took off the hub cap of the wheel, he said, "What's that round thing?" The teen-age boy did not know what a hub cap was! He learned that day. We need to be practicle. That's what she was saying. We need to be independant.
The impact of Ellen White's writings is profound. A few years ago, the Institute of Church Ministry of Andrews University did a study comparing the Christian attitude and behavior of Adventists who regularly read her books and those who do not. Their research strongly underscores the impact that her writings have on those who read them. The study reached these conclusions: "Readers have a closer relationship with Christ, more certainty of their standing with God, and are more likely to have identified their spiritual gifts. They are more in favor of spending for public evangelism and contribute more heavily to local missionary projects. They feel more prepared for witnessing and actually engage in more witnessing and outreach programs. They are more likely to study the Bible daily, to pray for specific people, to meet in fellowship groups, and to have daily family worship. They see their church more positively. They are responsible for winning more converts." Does this make you more interested in the Spirit of Prophecy?
Suppose we are about to start upon a voyage. The owner of the vessel gives us a book of directions, telling us that it contains instructions sufficient for our whole journey, and that if we will heed them, we shall reach in safety our port of destination. Setting sail, we open our book to learn its contents. We find that its author lays down general principles to govern us in our voyage, and instructs us as far as practicable, judging the various contingencies that may arise till the end; but he also tells us that the latter part of our journey will be especially perilous; that the features of the coast are ever changing by reason of quicksands and tempests; "but for this part of the journey," says he, "I have provided you a pilot, who will meet you, and give you such directions as the surrounding circumstances and dangers may require; and to him you must give heed." With these directions we reach the perilous times specified, and the pilot, according to promise, appears. But some of the crew, as he offers services, rise up against him. "We have the original book of direction," say they, "and that is enough for us. We stand upon that, and that alone; we want nothing of you." Who now heeds that original book of directions? those who reject the pilot, or those who receive him, as that book instructs them? Judge ye. (Uriah Smith 1863 Review and Herald)
Revelation's prophecy that the "testimony of Jesus" would manifest itself through the "spirit of prophecy" in the last days of earth's history challenges every one not to take an attitude of indifference or disbelief, but to "test everything" and "hold on to the good." Jehsoshaphat said in 2 Chronicles 20:20 "Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful." His words ring true today as well.
We read in Revelation 19:9,10 Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God." At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Let's study the Spirit of Prophecy and allow it to guide us to the Bible. The wedding supper is being laid on the table. Let's not ignore the invitation!
Opening Song: #348, The Church Has One Foundation Scripture: Revelation 19:9-10 Closing song: #599, Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers Crutcher SPIRIT~1.wpd
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last updated 7/15/98 by Bob Beckett.