Of the various types of prophetic messages recorded in the Bible, the most important are those that have come as instruction in the will of God for His people. Prediction is vital because it confirms God's ability to penetrate the future in a fashion that cannot be duplicated by man or idols, and because it guides Christians in their relation to the plan of salvation. Rebuke is necessary because of the natural perverseness of the sinful human being and because of his tendency to wander from the pattern of Christian living. History gives an insight into the way God has dealt with His people in the past; and in a sense it serves the dual purpose of providing information and, by example, instruction for God's faithful ones. Each kind of communication serves its own peculiar function, and when the various types are combined they constitute a comprehensive picture of God's relation to manpast, present, and future. But to God's people, instruction as to what God expects of them and how they can fulfill His expectations is the most important contribution of the Scriptures.
For example, the Bible record of the origin of sin, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the atonement for sin, and the predictions of His second advent to destroy sin would, by themselves, accomplish little except give information and perhaps send fear into the hearts of human beings. The denunciation of Matthew 23, if it stood alone, would not enlighten men and women as to what they might do to avoid coming under the same condemnation. Observing the fulfillment of predictions would be an interesting and, under some circumstances, an awe-inspiring
occupation; but one would have no idea how he could prepare to escape the destruction to come. These and other phases of the Bible account have significance and value to the individual only as they are considered in the light of God's instruction. In this instruction He makes clear His great objectives for human beings and for the earth, and He prescribes clearly and simply the course that will lead to the achievement of the objectives.
A quick review of some of the changes that came about in man's thinking as a result of sin (see chapter 2) will remind one of the problem God faced in trying to restore human beings to their original sinless state. The plan of salvation provided for instruction so that man could be led step by step to fulfill God's requirements. While redemption through the sacrifice of Christ is the only means by which we have eternal life, and the transformation of the human heart is a miracle brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit, the introduction of man to the plan, his knowledge of how to accept it, and his information about how to grow as a Christian are all part of an educational program. In this sense the objectives of the plan of salvation and those of Christian education are the same.
Not long before His crucifixion Jesus expressed the aim of the plan of salvation: That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us. John 17:21. Oneness of human beings with each other and with God is the goal to be reached, and the human family can achieve unity only as they meet in Usthat is, in God and Christ. In His plans for the revelation of His will to us through the Bible, the Lord took into consideration all that was essential to accomplish His purposes. A partial restoration of man to harmony with God will not prepare him to live with heavenly beings throughout eternity. God's plan is to lead His people into perfect concord with Himself. This harmony must be known in every phase of human life and endeavor. It does not involve merely a preparation of the mind to understand and
appreciate heavenly things; but it comprehends every power, every attitude, and every relationship of life. Guiding principles for the growth of spiritual experience, the balanced development of the mind, proper attitudes toward, and the care of, the physical being, social contact with all its ramifications, were needed in order that the process of restoration might be carried out successfully. All these the Lord has made available in the Scriptures. A way of life is revealed there. The Lord's interest in the minute details of our daily living is as thoroughly made known as are the great outlines of history and prophecy. All this was pointed out through the prophets and placed in a setting that would render it most usefulthe daily lives of men and women in centuries past.
Of course, the instruction given was not intended to apply only to the persons or groups to whom it was originally sent. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 1 Corinthians 10:11. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. The incidents that took place in the lives of God's people have been used by the Lord to illustrate the working of the principles of life. If, as Paul declares, the whole Bible is profitable for our study, it is obvious that these are principles that apply to human beings in every age. The basic principles of right and truth never change.
The Bible is concerned with two vital elementswhat we believe, and how we act. Right action stems from right belief and understanding. Both belief and action must be based on principle. In the realm of belief, a principle is a fundamental truth from which other truths are derived; by its very nature it is unchangeable. This does not imply that the application and understanding of the principle are the same for each individual, or at all times. If we take the Bible declaration, God is
love (1 John 4:8), we may readily discern that this fundamental proposition has endless meanings. Each person's understanding of the love of God is conditioned by his knowledge of the Bible and his own experience in spiritual matters. To the reclaimed drunkard the love of God means rescue from bondage, satisfaction of an insatiable appetite, recovery of self-respect and community esteem. It means that there is One who is not only interested in his welfare, but who has the power to bring about a transformation in mind and body. It means the assurance of continued victory, of companionship. But to the youth who has been reared in a Christian home, daily advancing in a knowledge of God and growing in personal spiritual life, the love of God means something vastly different. Through his life there has been a growing awareness of the presence of the Lord, an increasing sense of fellowship. If these two persons were to write down what the love of God has meant to them, the two lists would have little in common. But this would in no wise affect the principle that God is love.
Similar illustrations might be given concerning the understanding of great Bible principles. Here are a few of them:
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:12.
Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:4.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:21.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Romans 8:14.
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything. Ecclesiastes 9:5.
These are basic, unchangeable truths, belonging to all future generations as well as to the one to whom they were first stated. We will give attention to only the first principle in this listall salvation is through Christ. That was true before the first
advent of Christ as well as afterward. It was as true for Adam and Eve as for John the revelator. No other means of salvation can be provided for heathen, or for the civilized and educated. If some men are saved who have never heard the name of Christ,and it seems apparent that some will be,it will be through the salvation that was provided by Jesus Christ, of whom they knew nothing. His sacrifice has brought about the reconciliation of man to God. The price He paid with His own life is ransom for any and all who permit Him to apply the price for their purchase. The wages of sin is death. Had it not been for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, every sinner would have to die the second time. Anyone who is granted immortal life will receive it only because Christ died to make it possible. There can be no deviation from this principle, even though men are called by different means. Their understanding of the plan may vary, but that does not change the divine principle.
What is true of principles involved in belief is also true of those pertaining to action. In this connection a principle is to be understood as a settled rule of action or a governing law of conduct. Again we must recognize that the principle may not guide every life into exactly the same channel. The golden rule is fundamental, but it can scarcely be followed by everyone in exactly the same fashion. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. Matthew 7:12. The wealthy man, because of his love for God and his desire to serve Him by serving his fellow men, may provide a hospital, finance education for young people, clothe and house the unfortunate, and make great strides in fulfilling Christ's command. The poor man who perhaps has received some of the rich man's favors cannot duplicate the work of his benefactor. But it may be that his kind word, his cheery smile, his expression of gratitude will be as useful in the hands of God to lead someone to a decision to accept Christ as are the actions of the rich man. The responsibility to act in harmony with this principle is as binding today as it was when
Cain killed Abel. No person is excluded from its claims.
Once more it is possible to gather from the Bible, examples of the principles which reveal God's purposes for His children.
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. 1 John 1:7.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. James 1:5.
Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33.
In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:6.
Again let us notice 1 John 1:7, in regard to walking in the light. No two minds are enlightened to exactly the same degree. Each individual's heredity, environment, and opportunities help to determine to a large extent the light he can or does receive. Therefore, walking in the light does not mean exactly the same thing to any two persons. Human beings are incapable of evaluating another's light and knowing just how the Lord views his response to the light he has been given. That was why Jesus counseled, Judge not, that ye be not judged. Matthew 7:1. The African native, or the Australian aborigine, is as responsible to walk in the light he obtains as is the man who has had the advantage of Christian education throughout his lifetime. The amount of light differs, but the obligation to walk in the light remains constant. It is an unchanging principle from whose note of urgency none may escape.
A correct use of the messages of the prophets depends upon a grasp of this fact. Truth can be made to apply in the life of every person regardless of his age or location, or the century in which he lives. From every page of Scripture there are lessons
to be learned, lessons that bring light and truth to the conscientious seeker. No page is obsolete or uninstructive to the twentieth-century Christian. We turn our attention now to several of the general lines of instruction given in the Bible. In these we see something of the Lord's interest in our daily life and the counsel He gave us based upon eternal principles.
In one sense all Bible instruction has to do with the spiritual life, but for our present purpose we will give attention to some of the teachings that bear directly on what is usually thought of as religious experience. In each case note the specific nature of the instruction, and also the general applicability of these steps in Christian birth and growth.
|Come||Matthew 11:28, 29. Come unto Me . Take My yoke: and ye shall find rest.|
|Confess||1 John 1:9. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.|
|Repent||Acts 2:38. Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ.|
|Be Born Again||John 3:5. Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.|
|Study||2 Timothy 2:15. Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. (Study in this case means more than to search for knowledge. It means to put forth an earnest, reasoned effort to show oneself approved of God. A part of this is the study of God's instruction.)|
|Develop Faith||Romans 10:17. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.|
|Pray||1 Thessalonians 5:17. Pray without ceasing. Matthew 6:9. After this manner therefore pray ye.|
|Meet With Others||Hebrews 10:25. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together; but exhorting one anther: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.|
|Overcome by Faith||1 John 5:4. And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.|
|Look for Coming||Hebrews 9:28. Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time.|
|Go to Others||Matthew 28:19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.|
|Endure||Matthew 24:13. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.|
Thousands of related verses might be brought together to form a complete picture of what God intends the spiritual life of the Christian to be. In many of the texts, as in the ones cited, it is possible to discover a principle of truth which makes it applicable at all times. The instruction is so detailed and so easily understand that none need mistake the way.
The Bible presents no plan for teaching the three R's or any of the other subjects that are today considered basic in elementary education. By no means does this imply that education was lacking among the Israelites in Bible times, but simply that the problem is not formally treated in the Scriptures. Isaiah refers to the ability of a child to write (Isaiah 10:19), and makes a distinction between one who is learned (literally,
knoweth letters) and one who is not (Isaiah 29:11, 12). Jesus had not attended the schools of the Jews, so when He appeared before them obviously better educated than they, it amazed them, and they asked, How knoweth this Man letters, having never learned? John 7:15. The selection of such men as Daniel and his companions to receive training in the Babylonian schools indicates that they had already been well educated in their own land. Sons of the prophets were brought together in groups for educational purposes. 2 Kings 2:3-5; 4:38. In the Bible these groups are not called schools of the prophets, but it is easily recognizable that they served that purpose. Had we no other evidence of the high standard of Jewish education in ancient times, the quality of the writings of the prophets would be sufficient. Still recognized as masterpieces of literature entirely apart from their spiritual value, these writings could only have been the product of a people of considerable educational accomplishments.
Church and civil government were one in ancient Israel. So, also, were religion and education. As it is viewed in the Bible, religion is not something added to life; it is life itself. Paul's admonition in harmony with this principle is, Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Colossians 3:17. Life, for the genuine Christian, permits of no compartments in which he may separate his religion, his education, and his business. Thus the Bible recognizes only that education which acknowledges God as its author and His instruction as its basis. The Lord's interest in this kind of education, and some of the principles it involves, are made clear in numerous Bible passages.
Objectives. The aims of the Bible plan of education are well summarized in Solomon's words as he tells of the objectives of the Proverbs. To know wisdom and instruction; to discern the words of understanding; to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness and justice and equity; to give prudence to
the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion: that the wise man may hear, and increase in learning; and that the man of understanding may attain unto sound counsels. Proverbs 1:2-5, A.R.V.
|Source||Proverbs 1:7. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.|
|Teacher||Isaiah 54:13. And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord.|
|Nature||James 3:17. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated.|
|Spiritual Quality||Deuteronomy 6:6, 7. These words shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.|
|Repeated||Deuteronomy 6:7. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.|
|Balanced||Luke 2:52. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.|
Details as to how the educational program was to be adapted to each age and situation are not included; but the principles are clear, and God, by His Spirit, has guided men so that they may know how to put the principles into practice at the right time and place.
In God's plan human beings cannot exist apart from their physical body. When the body perishes, the mind also ceases to function. There is no intelligence that continues to live after
the physical being dies. But during the lifetime of an individual there exists a close relationship between the working of the body and the mind. Because of this relationship, and because God is the Creator and owner of the whole man, He is intensely interested in what men do with their bodies. For the most part, the Bible deals with principles rather than with details in this matter, although there are a few specific commands and prohibitions.
|Temple||1 Corinthians 6:19,:20. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.|
|Subject to Mind||1 Corinthians 9:27. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.|
|Mind Affects Body||Proverbs 17:22. A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.|
|Care of Body||Eating. 1 Corinthians 10:31. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.|
|Deuteronomy 14:3. Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.|
|Drinking. 1 Corinthians 10:31. Do all to the glory of God.|
|Proverbs 20:1. Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging.|
|Dressing. 1 Peter 3:3, 4. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of|
|apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.|
|Medical care and sanitation. Deuteronomy 24:8. Levites gave instruction.|
|Leviticus 13 to 15. Instruction for the diagnosis of certain diseases and how the patient should be dealt with.|
|Leviticus 13:54, 57. Washing or burning for cleansing.|
|Leviticus 15:13. Running water for cleansing.|
|Isaiah 38:21. Fig poultice suggested for Hezekiah's boil.|
|Leviticus 15:5, 6, 9-12. Methods of contamination.|
|Leviticus 13:46. Isolation.|
Few specific remedies and few details as to the proper food and clothing of the body are given in the Bible, but fundamental principles are indicated. These principles may be adapted to the age and condition of people anywhere. With the prompting of the Holy Spirit, who will guide men into all truth, it is not difficult to apply Scriptural principles to the individual life or to the life of the church.
It has never been God's plan that men should live hermit lives or seek to perfect character away from the regular round of daily activity. While Enoch was walking with God for three hundred years, he continued to carry on normal family relationships. Genesis 5:21-24. Social contact is one means for the development of character and for bringing blessing to others. Men cannot fully accomplish God's purposes by living to themselves.
The Family. Of all social groups the family ties are the strongest and most intimate. Two of the Ten Commandments are aimed at preserving the integrity of the home (Honor thy father and thy mother, and Thou shalt not commit adultery). Another command recognizes the potent influence of parents on children (Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments). The Lord's interest in the family and the basic principles for its conduct are made plain in passages like the following:
|Separate Unit||Genesis 2:24. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.|
|Like Christ and the Church||Ephesians 5:22-26. Wives, submit . For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church . Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it. See also Colossians 3:18.|
|High Regard||Ephesians 5:28-33. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies . Even as the Lord the church . And the wife see that she reverence her husband.|
|Purity||Matthew 5:27, 28. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.|
|Regard for Parents||Exodus 20:12. Honor thy father and thy mother. See also Colossians 3:20.|
|Consideration for Children||Colossians 3:21. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger.|
|Being a Responsible Person||1 Timothy 5:8. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.|
The family relationship has been used by the Father to illustrate our relationship to Him, His relationship to Christ, and Christ's to us. Under inspiration, Paul pictures the inhabitants of heaven and the children of God on earth as all one family. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. Ephesians 3:14, 15. Much instruction has been given through the prophets to help God's family on earth represent aright the heavenly portion of the family and prepare to be part of a united family.
The family forms only a small part of the circle of acquaintances and associates of the Christian. For some the circle widens daily, while for others it may be much more restricted. Nevertheless, dealing with other persons outside the family is an important phase of everyday living. God has demonstrated His interest in these associations by enunciating fundamental principles to serve as guides. As in the other instances, these principles are for the most part stated in connection with specific instruction, but their general application is easily discerned.
|Love to Neighbor||Leviticus 19:18. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.|
|Service||Matthew 25:40. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.|
|Golden Rule||Matthew 7:12. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.|
|Forgiveness||Luke 23:34. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.|
|Patience and Goodness||1 Thessalonians 5:13-15. Esteem them [spiritual leaders] very highly . Be at peace . Warn, comfort, support, be patient . Follow that which is good.|
|Love Enemies||Matthew 5:44. Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.|
The religious experience of a professed Christian is frequently judged by the character of his business dealings. Even men who are not strictly honest expect to find honesty and fair dealing among Christians. The Lord's intention is that in business, as well as elsewhere, scrupulous honesty and justice shall be maintained. Note a few Bible principles.
|Honest Measures||Leviticus 19:35, 36, R.S.V. You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin.|
|Not Slothful||Romans 12:11. Not slothful in business.|
|Diligent||Proverbs 22:29. Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings.|
|Fair With Servants||Deuteronomy 24:14, 15. Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant. See also James 5:1-6.|
|Give Good Service||Ephesians 6:5-7. Servants, be obedient; not with eyeservice; but as the servants of Christ; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.|
|Avoid Lawsuits||1 Corinthians 6:7. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong?|
No phase of the Christian life has been overlooked, and God has given principles to guide one in making decisions. In order to show the practical working of the principles, most of them have been given in connection with specific problems rather than being stated theoretically. With regard to the statement of the clear principles that He desires to be carried out in the lives of His people, the Lord might ask, as He did concerning His care for the children of Israel, What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it? Isaiah 5:4.
Since the operation of the gift of prophecy through chosen men is God's appointed method of communicating His will to the world, it follows that the relation of the individual or the nation to the prophet and to the instruction given is a clear indication of the relation of the individual or the nation to the God who sent the messages. Prophets were spokesmen for the Lord, and God felt justified in holding His people responsible for whatever attitude they might assume toward these men. The importance and results of accepting or rejecting the messages is perhaps best pointed out by the contrast between two verses of Scripture found in 2 Chronicles. On the positive side are the
words of Jehoshaphat: Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper. 2 Chronicles 20:20. In marked contrast are the words of the messenger regarding the fate of the people who had ignored the work of the prophets: And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy. 2 Chronicles 36:15, 16.
A secure way of life with prosperity added were promised to those who would believe God and the word of His prophets. They might be weak, faulty, or misguided; but if they placed their confidence in the Lord and His work, God could bring about a transformation in due time that would make them the wonder of the world. On the other hand, what could He do for any who rejected the only means provided for their help? The study of several examples of individuals and nations will show the results of a variety of attitudes toward the prophets. Again it should be emphasized that all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 1 Corinthians 10:11. Each case will be considered as a separate unit for the purpose of discovering the attitudes involved and the results reached.
Pharaoh. When Moses and Aaron gave Pharaoh God's message, Let My people go, his retort was, Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go. Exodus 5:2. His inquiry, Who is the Lord? was not a request for enlightenment, but a defiant disclaimer of any knowledge of the Lord that would cause a king to respect His wishes as expressed by the two messengers. It is impossible to say how much truth there was in his statement
that he did not know the Lord. Obviously he had no personal acquaintance with God, but the records of the works of Joseph, and the presence of the children of Israel among the Egyptians, must have given him some knowledge of the God they served. On the other hand, it must be remembered that Israel had largely stopped their Sabbath observance, and had in many other ways drifted from God. Then, too, forty years before, Moses, the crown prince, had taken the life of an Egyptian and was forced to flee the country. Since the days of Joseph the witness of God's people had been weak. Conflicting influences and his own reluctance to lose the services of the Israelites caused him to deny Moses' repeated requests that Israel be permitted to leave Egypt.
But God did not leave Pharaoh without a knowledge of Himself and a clear demonstration of His power. One plague after another gave him opportunity to recognize the Lord and follow His instruction. During the plague of the locusts, Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and entreat the Lord your God, that He may take away from me this death only. Exodus 10:16, 17. His good intention was soon forgotten, however, and it was not until after death struck the first-born of Egypt that the monarch was willing that Israel leave. Then it was not in response to the command of God, but because of fear that all the land would be destroyed. When Pharaoh's defiance caused him to reject Moses' message, there was nothing more the Lord could do for him.
Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Rebellion took place also within the ranks of Israel. Jealousy caused Korah, Dathan, and Abiram to reject the appointment of Moses as their leader, and to claim that any one of them had as much right to lead the people as he did. Numbers 16:1-3. Moses made a special appeal to Korah as a Levite, but apparently accomplished nothing.
Verses 8-11. Then he sent for Dathan and Abiram, but they refused to recognize his leadership or come to talk with him. Verses 12-14. Their rebellion and insolence placed God in a position where He could do nothing more for them. They were destroyed when the earth opened and swallowed them up. Verses 24-33.
Achan. Through Joshua the Lord had instructed the children of Israel that none of the treasures of Jericho were to be taken for themselves, in order that all credit might be given God for the conquest of the city. Achan's disobedience resulted in a stinging defeat for the nation at Ai and eventually his sin brought the punishment of death by stoning. Joshua 6:18, 19; 7:1-26.
Saul. Through Samuel the Lord delegated Saul to destroy the nation of the Amalekites. Israel's king carried out part of the command, but he failed to complete his task. When challenged by the prophet, his response was, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 1 Samuel 15:20. The king of Israel blamed the soldiers for wanting to bring back sheep and oxen, but apparently Saul was persuaded in his own mind that he had completed his mission. A partial fulfillment of the commandment was insufficient, and excuses were unacceptable. On that day the prophet announced to Saul that his kingdom was to be taken from him and given to another.
David. Despite God's special blessing on him from the days of his youth, David committed a heinous sin. Nathan the prophet faced the king first with a parable to arouse him to see the sinfulness of his act, and then spoke a direct accusation, Thou art the man. 2 Samuel 12:7. David confessed his guilt, returned to the Lord, and was fully accepted. God's spokesman had been used to bring conviction that led to transformation.
Nebuchadnezzar. Records of the conversion of heathen kings are few in the Scriptures. It happened in the days of Jonah, and in the book of Daniel we find another instance. Step by step Nebuchadnezzar was led to the truth by divine revelations given directly to him and interpreted by Daniel the prophet, and by messages given to him by Daniel. His thinking was changed, and in his proclamation to the nation he declared his conviction and conversion. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride His is able to abase. Daniel 4:37. Early in his association with Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged the power of God, but many years passed before he permitted that power to bring a complete change in his own life. Finally the work of the prophet, combined with divine interposition to reduce the king's pride, accomplished the divine purpose.
Ninevites. Jonah was much more reluctant to take the message of God to the people of Nineveh than they were to receive it. The proclamation of the impending destruction of the city led the inhabitants to believe in God and repent of sin. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. Jonah 3:5.
Israel. The Lord continually held before the children of Israel the high destiny that was theirs if they were obedient to the instruction He sent them through His prophets. They would be exalted in the eyes of the nations round about, who would exclaim, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. Deuteronomy 4:6. Again He promised, And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath. Deuteronomy 28:13. But the favored nation refused to accept the counsel of the prophets. In some of His parables the Saviour indicated
how rejection of the prophets was only a step toward the rejection of the Son of God Himself. He told of the householder who went to a far country, leaving his property in the hands of husbandmen. At the harvesttime he sent servants to receive the harvest, but the servants were beaten and stoned. After repeated attempts to gather what was his own, he decided to send his son to deal with the husbandmen, saying, They will reverence my son. Matthew 21:37. But the son fared no better, for they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. Verse 39. In another place Jesus summarized the situation thus: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. Luke 16:31. Taking into consideration the total reaction of Israel to the messages of the prophets, as the Lord viewed the case, we can agree that there was no remedy. 2 Chronicles 36:16.
It mattered little on what basis or with what attitude ancient Israel or others rejected a message of any of the prophets. Some were defiant, others accepted only part of the counsel, still others were simply careless or slow about putting the instruction into practice; but in each instance the practical result was rejection. God regarded the attitudes they took toward the instruction given through the prophets as their attitudes toward Him.
1. Instruction from God to men forms the most important single phase of the Bible record.
2. The Bible provides a basis for making a correct decision in every situation man may face.
3. The Bible gives principles to guide in correct thinking and right conduct.
4. The instruction was intended not only for those to whom it was originally given, but, in principle, for every generation.
5. Since the messages of the prophets are God's counsels to the human family, disregarding them is equivalent to disregarding God.
6. The Bible well illustrates the results of certain attitudes toward the prophets. These results are clearly contrasted in 2 Chronicles 20:20; 36:15, 16.
1. List several general classes of instruction given in the Bible other than those mentioned in this chapter.
2. Select two or three Bible principles for the guidance of conduct, and show how they operate in present-day situations. Make application in specific instances.
3. Discuss the implications of Paul's statement that all Scripture is profitable.
4. Distinguish clearly between a principle and the application of a principle.
5. Is God justified in using our attitude toward His prophets and their messages as a guide in determining our attitude toward Him?
6. Find additional examples of principles in the fields of belief and conduct.
7. Are there reasons why the Bible as an ancient Book can be of greater value to us than if it had been written in recent times?
8. Can you think of reasons why God would need to help us adapt anciently stated Bible principles to fit present-day needs?
Young, Edward J., My Servants the Prophets, pp.