Sabbath, August 31, 2013

“It is when Christ is received as a personal Saviour that salvation comes to the soul. Zacchaeus had received Jesus, not merely as a passing guest in his home, but as One to abide in the soul temple. The scribes and Pharisees accused him as a sinner, they murmured against Christ for becoming his guest, but the Lord recognized him as a son of Abraham. For ‘they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.’ Galatians 3:7.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 556.

Sinner, but not insensitive

1. Who lived in Jericho? How was he considered by his countrymen?

Luke 19:1, 2 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho, And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

“Jericho was one of the cities anciently set apart for the priests, and at this time large numbers of priests had their residence there. But the city had also a population of a widely different character. It was a great center of traffic, and Roman officials and soldiers, with strangers from different quarters, were found there, while the collection of customs made it the home of many publicans.

“ ‘The chief among the publicans,’ Zacchaeus, was a Jew, and detested by his countrymen. His rank and wealth were the reward of a calling they abhorred, and which was regarded as another name for injustice and extortion. Yet the wealthy customs officer was not altogether the hardened man of the world that he seemed.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 552, 553.

2. What did he do when he heard that the Lord was going to visit Jericho? Was it mere curiosity that motivated him to climb a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus?

Luke 19:3, 4 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

“Beneath the appearance of worldliness and pride was a heart susceptible to divine influences. Zacchaeus had heard of Jesus. The report of One who had borne Himself with kindness and courtesy toward the proscribed classes had spread far and wide. In this chief of the publicans was awakened a longing for a better life. Only a few miles from Jericho, John the Baptist had preached at the Jordan, and Zacchaeus had heard of the call to repentance. The instruction to the publicans, ‘Exact no more than that which is appointed you’ (Luke 3:13), though outwardly disregarded, had impressed his mind. He knew the Scriptures, and was convicted that his practice was wrong. Now, hearing the words reported to have come from the Great Teacher, he felt that he was a sinner in the sight of God. Yet what he had heard of Jesus kindled hope in his heart. Repentance, reformation of life, was possible, even to him; was not one of the new Teacher’s most trusted disciples a publican?” –The Desire of Ages, p. 552.

3. While he feared that he would be unable to see Jesus, what wonderful surprise did he experience? Could he have ever imagined that Jesus would be interested in him?

Luke 19:5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.

“The streets were crowded, and Zacchaeus, who was small of stature, could see nothing over the heads of the people. None would give way for him; so, running a little in advance of the multitude, to where a wide-branching fig tree hung over the way, the rich tax collector climbed to a seat among the boughs, whence he could survey the procession as it passed below. The crowd comes near, it is going by, and Zacchaeus scans with eager eyes to discern the one figure he longs to see….

“Above the clamor of priests and rabbis and the shouts of welcome from the multitude, that unuttered desire of the chief publican spoke to the heart of Jesus. Suddenly, just beneath the fig tree, a group halts, the company before and behind come to a standstill, and One looks upward whose glance seems to read the soul. Almost doubting his senses, the man in the tree hears the words, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.’ ” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 553, 554.

An immediate, joyful response

4. How promptly did Zacchaeus respond to Jesus’ offer to visit him at his home? What kind of reception did he give the Master in his home?

Luke 19:6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

“The multitude give way, and Zacchaeus, walking as in a dream, leads the way toward his own home…. Zacchaeus had been overwhelmed, amazed, and silenced at the love and condescension of Christ in stooping to him, so unworthy.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 554.

5. How were publicans considered by the public? Therefore, what opportunity did the Pharisees take when they saw Jesus enter Zacchaeus’ home and eat with him, a sinner?

Matthew 9:11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

Luke 19:7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

“Of the Roman officials in Palestine, none were more hated than the publicans. The fact that the taxes were imposed by a foreign power was a continual irritation to the Jews, being a reminder that their independence had departed. And the taxgatherers were not merely the instruments of Roman oppression; they were extortioners on their own account, enriching themselves at the expense of the people. A Jew who accepted this office at the hands of the Romans was looked upon as betraying the honor of his nation. He was despised as an apostate, and was classed with the vilest of society….

“Among the publicans there was a confederacy, so that they could oppress the people, and sustain one another in their fraudulent practices. In their extortion they were but carrying out what had become an almost universal custom.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 272, 555.

A completely changed life

6. What reveals this man’s repentance under the influence of the Holy Spirit? What Biblical principle was he applying by restoring any stolen goods?

Luke 19:8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

Exodus 22:1 If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.

“Now love and loyalty to his new-found Master unseal his lips. He will make public his confession and his repentance….

“In the presence of the multitude, ‘Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.’…

“Before being accused by man, he had confessed his sin. He had yielded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and had begun to carry out the teaching of the words written for ancient Israel as well as for ourselves. The Lord had said long before, ‘If thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.’ ‘Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God.’ Leviticus 25:35-37, 17. These words had been spoken by Christ Himself when He was enshrouded in the pillar of cloud, and the very first response of Zacchaeus to the love of Christ was in manifesting compassion toward the poor and suffering.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 554, 555.

7. As in the wonderful experience of Zacchaeus, what will come into the home of every sincere and repentant sinner when Jesus enters it? What great result does the presence of Jesus produce in the life of one who repents?

Luke 19:9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

“… No sooner did Zacchaeus yield to the influence of the Holy Spirit than he cast aside every practice contrary to integrity.

“No repentance is genuine that does not work reformation. The righteousness of Christ is … a principle of life that transforms the character and controls the conduct. Holiness is … the entire surrender of heart and life to the indwelling of the principles of heaven….

“The Christian in his business life is to represent to the world the manner in which our Lord would conduct business enterprises. In every transaction he is to make it manifest that God is his teacher. ‘Holiness unto the Lord’ is to be written upon daybooks and ledgers, on deeds, receipts, and bills of exchange. Those who profess to be followers of Christ, and who deal in an unrighteous manner, are bearing false witness against the character of a holy, just, and merciful God. Every converted soul will, like Zacchaeus, signalize the entrance of Christ into his heart by an abandonment of the unrighteous practices that have marked his life. Like the chief publican, he will give proof of his sincerity by making restitution.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 555, 556.

For meditation

“If we have injured others through any unjust business transaction, if we have overreached in trade, or defrauded any man, even though it be within the pale of the law, we should confess our wrong, and make restitution as far as lies in our power. It is right for us to restore not only that which we have taken, but all that it would have accumulated if put to a right and wise use during the time it has been in our possession.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 556.

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To be read on Sabbath, August 31, 2013

The Special Sabbath School Offering will be gathered
on Sabbath, September 7, 2013

By the grace of God, the World Assembly of delegates meeting in South Africa in 2012 established the Family Department of the General Conference. We praise the Lord for the opportunity to be able to present the thought of Joshua 24:15–“… As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”–as the objective to pursue in this new department.

This new General Conference institution must give the nucleus of society–the family–assistance, counsel, support, and training so Christ-centered homes can be established, for “Christ … came to restore, elevate, purify, and ennoble every current of pure affection, that the family on earth might become a symbol of the family in heaven.” –(Manuscript 22, 1898) Christ Triumphant, p. 230.

The Family Department considers its primary responsibilities:

1. To restore the institution of the family in each one of its diverse areas–spiritual, interpersonal, filial, social, material, and cultural;

2. To raise the quality of the family’s relationship with God among its members, the church, and society;

3. To purify the affections and establish divine love as the vital principle of the family;

4. To ennoble every family relationship in accordance with the Biblical perspective and the Spirit of prophecy.

To proceed with the implementation of these responsibilities, seminars will be conducted, projects will be formulated, manuals and various publications will be prepared, activities will be coordinated with the other departments of the unions and fields, a family department will be established at each level of the church organization, and activities will be carried out to raise funds to perpetuate the department and support each family as a model of Christian life in a society in which this divine institution is becoming extinct.

We want to solicit the generous offerings of every heart to be able to put into practice the improvement, enrichment, restoration, and support of the family in the church and ultimately in society. The generous offerings received for this purpose will have an ennobling, beneficial influence on every one of us, for this area of the cause involves each of us, impels us to action, and makes us happy along with our loved ones. “For 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.

“By faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family.” Hebrews 11:7, Holman Christian Standard Bible. The salvation of our families and of all who desire to meet the Lord should be the concern of each one of us as parents. Therefore, let this offering be to save the family and support the good of society through the word and the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ our Saviour.

—Raquel Orce
General Conference Family Department Leader