Sabbath, September 24, 2011
“If we regard iniquity in our hearts the Lord will not hear us. He can do what He will with His own. He will glorify Himself by working in and through them who wholly follow Him, so that it shall be known that it is the Lord and that their works are wrought in God. Said Christ: ‘If any man serve Me, him will My Father honor.’ When we come to Him we should pray that we may enter into and accomplish His purpose, and that our desires and interests may be lost in His. We should acknowledge our acceptance of His will, not praying Him to concede to ours. It is better for us that God does not always answer our prayers just when we desire, and in just the manner we wish. He will do more and better for us than to accomplish all our wishes, for our wisdom is folly.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 148.
Asking for signs
1. Although the Lord had performed many great miracles, what did the Pharisees and Sadducees ask Him to do one day? What was behind this request?
Matthew 16:1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven.
Mark 8:11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him.
“A deputation of Pharisees had been joined by representatives from the rich and lordly Sadducees, the party of the priests, the skeptics and aristocracy of the nation. The two sects had been at bitter enmity. The Sadducees courted the favor of the ruling power in order to maintain their own position and authority. The Pharisees, on the other hand, fostered the popular hatred against the Romans, longing for the time when they could throw off the yoke of the conqueror. But Pharisee and Sadducee now united against Christ. Like seeks like; and evil, wherever it exists, leagues with evil for the destruction of the good.
“Now the Pharisees and Sadducees came to Christ, asking for a sign from heaven. When in the days of Joshua Israel went out to battle with the Canaanites at Bethhoron, the sun had stood still at the leader’s command until victory was gained; and many similar wonders had been manifest in their history. Some such sign was demanded of Jesus. But these signs were not what the Jews needed. No mere external evidence could benefit them. What they needed was not intellectual enlightenment, but spiritual renovation.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 405, 406.
2. If they could figure out what the weather would be from looking at the sky, what other basic things should they have been able to discern?
Matthew 16:2, 3 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
“‘O ye hypocrites,’ said Jesus, ‘ye can discern the face of the sky’–by studying the sky they could foretell the weather–‘but can ye not discern the signs of the times?’ Christ’s own words, spoken with the power of the Holy Spirit that convicted them of sin, were the sign that God had given for their salvation. And signs direct from heaven had been given to attest the mission of Christ. The song of the angels to the shepherds, the star that guided the wise men, the dove and the voice from heaven at His baptism, were witnesses for Him.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 406.
3. What made Jesus deeply sorrowful?
Mark 8:12, first part And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign?
Personal question: How do we also grieve Him?
“O how much we need a more intimate acquaintance with the Lord Jesus. We need to enter into His will and carry out His purposes, saying with the whole heart, ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ O how I long to see our churches in a condition different from the condition in which they now are–grieving the Holy Spirit day by day with their lukewarm religious life, a life neither cold nor hot. Christ says, ‘I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth.’ Revelation 3:15, 16.” –This Day with God, p. 64.
“Every miracle that Christ performed was a sign of His divinity. He was doing the very work that had been foretold of the Messiah; but to the Pharisees these works of mercy were a positive offense. The Jewish leaders looked with heartless indifference on human suffering. In many cases their selfishness and oppression had caused the affliction that Christ relieved. Thus His miracles were to them a reproach.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 406.
4. Why was Jesus displeased with their request that He perform a miracle? How did He rebuke their pride and unbelief?
Matthew 16:4, first part A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it,…
“When the message of truth is presented in our day, there are many who, like the Jews, cry, Show us a sign. Work us a miracle. Christ wrought no miracle at the demand of the Pharisees. He wrought no miracle in the wilderness in answer to Satan’s insinuations. He does not impart to us power to vindicate ourselves or to satisfy the demands of unbelief and pride. But the gospel is not without a sign of its divine origin. Is it not a miracle that we can break from the bondage of Satan? Enmity against Satan is not natural to the human heart; it is implanted by the grace of God. When one who has been controlled by a stubborn, wayward will is set free, and yields himself wholeheartedly to the drawing of God’s heavenly agencies, a miracle is wrought; so also when a man who has been under strong delusion comes to understand moral truth. Every time a soul is converted, and learns to love God and keep His commandments, the promise of God is fulfilled, ‘A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.’ Ezekiel 36:26. The change in human hearts, the transformation of human characters, is a miracle that reveals an ever-living Saviour, working to rescue souls. A consistent life in Christ is a great miracle. In the preaching of the word of God, the sign that should be manifest now and always is the presence of the Holy Spirit, to make the word a regenerating power to those that hear. This is God’s witness before the world to the divine mission of His Son.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 407.
Our desires and God’s answer
5. What was the only sign that Jesus gave these people? What did He do?
Matthew 16:4, last part … But the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
Mark 8:13 And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.
“As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, Christ was to be the same time ‘in the heart of the earth.’ And as the preaching of Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so Christ’s preaching was a sign to His generation. But what a contrast in the reception of the word! The people of the great heathen city trembled as they heard the warning from God. Kings and nobles humbled themselves; the high and the lowly together cried to the God of heaven, and His mercy was granted unto them. ‘The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation,’ Christ had said, ‘and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.’ Matthew 12:40, 41.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 406.
6. What earnest instruction did Jesus give His disciples in regard to the mind-set of the leading men of His day?
Matthew 16:6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Matthew 16:11, 12 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Thought question: What makes it so hard for some people to receive the truths of the holy Scriptures?
“The Jews had been accustomed since the days of Moses to put away leaven from their houses at the Passover season, and they had thus been taught to regard it as a type of sin….
“The leaven placed in the meal works imperceptibly, changing the whole mass to its own nature. So if hypocrisy is allowed to exist in the heart, it permeates the character and the life. A striking example of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, Christ had already rebuked in denouncing the practice of ‘Corban,’ by which a neglect of filial duty was concealed under a pretense of liberality to the temple. The scribes and Pharisees were insinuating deceptive principles. They concealed the real tendency of their doctrines, and improved every occasion to instill them artfully into the minds of their hearers. These false principles, when once accepted, worked like leaven in the meal, permeating and transforming the character. It was this deceptive teaching that made it so hard for the people to receive the words of Christ.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 408.
Not my will
7. What is especially important to learn from this incident? If we request something of the Lord without a contrite heart and spirit, what may we expect?
James 4:2, first part, 3 Ye lust, and have not:… Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.
“What God promises He is able at any time to perform, and the work which He gives His people to do He is able to accomplish by them. If they will live according to every word He has spoken, every good word and promise will be fulfilled unto them. But if they come short of perfect obedience, the great and precious promises are afar off, and they cannot reach the fulfillment.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 148.
“Let none deceive themselves with the belief that God will pardon and bless them while they are trampling upon one of His requirements. The willful commission of a known sin silences the witnessing voice of the Spirit, and separates the soul from God. Whatever may be the ecstasies of religious feeling, Jesus cannot abide in the heart that disregards the divine law. God will honor those only who honor Him.” –Messages to Young People, p. 114.
For additional study
• Matthew 12:38-45
• Luke 11:16, 29-32
• Isaiah 1:15-18
• The Desire of Ages, pp. 404-409
• Messages to Young People, p. 114
Summarize the most important concepts of this lesson:
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