Changing Leaders: Understanding the Times (part 2)

Elijah Loses His Kingdom

 As a homeschool mom, I prayed to “understand the times” of parenting, for meaningful ways to discipline our son Elijah out of pride, presumption and rebellion, to prevent an Endor in his future. The idea came to simulate God’s demotion of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel Chapter 4.

 The next time Elijah rebelled, I informed him his punishment was to “lose his kingdom” and his face fell as he grasped my point. I withheld an outing with friends he had especially looked forward to. That reached his heart better than a spanking.

 Another time I forbade him to give go-cart rides to visiting playmates. Often he lost the chance to steer when I was driving, and to sit in Dad’s seat at lunch. Each time Elijah “lost his kingdom,” his attentive obedience improved. When he humbled himself, I reinstated him and continued teaching him to obey. I wanted him to grasp the bigger picture. He must not lose his eternal kingdom.

 Daniel Prays “Thy Kingdom Come”

 When considering church leadership challenges, we can appeal to the highest court as Daniel did. In Chapter 45 of Prophets and Kings, “The Return of the Exiles”  the prophet was studying Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s prophecies, he prayed to understand the times. He had already witnessed the seven-year discipline of proud Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4). He saw the end of Babylon’s kingdom as the dissipated Belshazzar was weighed and found wanting (Daniel 5). After nearly 70 years of captivity for Israel’s rebellion, he wanted the kingdom restored.

 “With faith founded on the sure word of prophecy, Daniel pleaded with the Lord for the speedy fulfillment of these promises. He pleaded for the honor of God to be preserved. In his petition he identified himself fully with those who had fallen short of the divine purpose, confessing their sins as his own,” (PK 554.3).

I Daniel understood by books the number of the years...And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth and ashes: And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession...We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled...Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets...Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws....Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law...therefore the curse is poured upon us...that is written in the law of Moses...O Lord,...we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. (Daniel 9:2-18).

Recall how speedily Gabriel appeared as Daniel prayed thus. Ellen White’s Review and Herald article, “The Prayer That God Accepts,” describes how Daniel moved heaven. “Daniel’s example of prayer and confession is given for our instruction and encouragement,” she wrote (par. 4). Daniel’s prayer life merged earthly and heavenly kingdom concerns and acknowledged the transformations needed in both realms. Even more, he made intercession as a fellow suppliant before God. He prayed the publican’s prayer that alone justifies (Luke 18:10-14).

 While We Wait

It is hard to stomp our feet in impatience when our knees are on the floor in prayer. While we wait for God to move upon those best suited to effect the needed leadership changes in our church...in our world, let us be “redeeming the time because the days are evil,” (Ephesians 5:16). Let us take Paul’s counsel to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling...that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke,” (Philippians 2:12,15, emphasis supplied).

Seventh-day Adventist doctrine is based upon an understanding of the sanctuary service in type and antitype. We believe we are living in the antitypical Day of Atonement. If so, do we have time to rant and rail against our leadership? Isn’t this incompatible with the Leviticus 16 injunction to fasting and afflicting of soul? If I want results like Daniel got, I might follow the same formula.

 In this our day, prayers offered in like manner will prevail with God. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” As in ancient times, when prayer was offered, fire descended from heaven, and consumed the sacrifice upon the altar, so in answer to our prayers, the heavenly fire will come into our souls. The light and power of the Holy Spirit will be ours. (RH February 9, 1897, par. 8)

I admit the hours I have spent reading, writing and talking about church affairs vastly outnumber the hours I have spent praying over these topics, though I am often in prayer. How is it with you? I must make time for heart-rending prayer. My home and church must be in order. The Son of David must be enthroned in my heart. How is it with you?

Brethren in responsible positions in the Lord’s work for this time, have not we as great need to call upon God as had Daniel? I address those who believe that we are living in the very last period of this earth’s history. I entreat you to take upon your own souls a burden for our churches, our schools, and our institutions. That God who heard Daniel’s prayer will hear ours when we come to him in contrition. Our necessities are as urgent, our difficulties are as great, and we need to have the same intensity of purpose, and in faith roll our burden upon the great Burden-bearer. There is need for hearts to be as deeply moved in our time as in the time when Daniel prayed. (RH February 9, 1897, par. 9)

 After Daniel prayed and Gabriel came, was the sanctuary cleansed immediately? Was the kingdom restored right away? Are you kidding! Daniel 10 unveils the spiritual battles Daniel could not see, the spiritual intervention of God’s forces against Satan’s which would allow Jewry to return and rebuild. Today we still “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” (Ephesians 6:12). We must be fully armed (verses 11-18).

I am so glad for the new Sabbath School quarterly (sorry, Adult Bible Study Guide) on Ezra and Nehemiah. If we ever needed to understand the continual opposition to the rebuilding of God’s kingdom and the installation of godly leadership, it is now, and diligent study will help us focus our minds on eternal realities and make personal application.

As spiritual Israel (Romans 9), as the Church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22), we must not “lose our kingdom” during the investigative judgment because we fail to respond to God’s counsel, warnings, judgments and chastisements. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire,” (Hebrews 12:28-29).

Onward, Adventist Soldiers!

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Instead, let us anticipate God’s final kingdom triumphs as noble soldiers, a united and well-disciplined army under Christ’s command. Saul’s evil traits must not be ours. In her 1886 counsel to the church members in Switzerland Mrs. White speaks candidly:

“Unless we have understanding of the times, we may, though we have the best intentions, stand in the way of our own interest and that of our brethren and do very bungling work,” (Ms37-1886.6).

 God’s soldiers must move in order, with concentrated action, seeking in humble prayer the counsel of God and the counsel of one with another. If there is one of age, of discernment and caution, that one above all others should have a voice in every important action, that each may influence the others beneficially. All the plans are to be submitted to the officers and the ones in command, else there will be no concentrated action. There must be obedience to the ones who are set to bind the soldiers to the great center in all their plans and actions, that there may be no strange movements that will bring one spot or shadow of a stain upon the cause of God (Ms37-1886.18).

None must act independently of the center….They do not render that efficient service to the cause of God when—whether from too great haste or too high an appreciation of their own wisdom and their own powers and plans—they refuse to act in concert; they will do harm and bring in a disorderly state of things. There is need of self-restraint and caution; these are positively necessary for concerted action. Soldiers of Christ must not be determined that they will carry out their wishes and preferences independently of the common good of the cause of God. The noblest leaders in Christ’s army consult together and plan, devise, and pray and watch unto prayer lest Satan shall, through someone who is not consecrated to God, introduce some plan that will eventually bring defeat in the place of victory. God can be glorified only by well-directed, concentrated effort (Ms37-1886.20, emphasis supplied).

 In our day, Prophet Samuel will not appear to deliver judgment when church leaders are out of line. But God’s Messenger wrote with an understanding of the times, hers and ours. Read Mrs. White’s last message to the General Conference, given in 1913 and read by her son, W.C., as we anticipate church meetings today.

Sister White began with the reminder from 2 Corinthians 4 that we bear the gospel treasure in “earthen vessels” as we battle unseen temporal realities (2SM 398). She encouraged “a spirit of hopefulness and courage” (2SM 399): “Turn your eyes away from that which is dark and discouraging, and behold Jesus, our great Leader, under whose watchful supervision the cause of present truth, to which we are giving our lives and our all, is destined to triumph gloriously,” she wrote (2SM 399.2).

 The attitude that our representative men maintain during the conference will have a telling influence upon all throughout the field, as well as upon the delegates themselves. Oh, let it be seen, my brethren, that Jesus is abiding in the heart, sustaining, strengthening, comforting. It is your privilege to be endowed, from day to day, with a rich measure of His Holy Spirit….Wait before Him with humility of heart. Pray most earnestly for an understanding of the times in which we live, for a fuller conception of His purpose, and for increased efficiency in soulsaving.  (2SM 399.3, emphasis supplied).

 Almighty Father, help me be like Issachar and like David, understanding the times and obedient after Your own heart, no matter how long Saul is on the throne. May I pray like Daniel, confessing first my own sins, that your kingdom may come in my heart, then in my church.

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Holly Joers is a lifelong Seventh-day Adventist who lives in North Central Arkansas with her husband Skip and son Elijah. She is learning to trust God’s timing while praying and working (Zephaniah 4:6) for His church and its leaders.