God’s people have rarely had a good relationship with their prophets. In fact, those called to the prophetic ministry have often been reluctant to accept the call, mindful that people usually rejected the messenger along with the message. Thus bringing God’s prophetic word has always been a costly business for prophets. Jesus pointed out that Christians would be mistreated “in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before” them (Matt. 5:12, NIV). And Stephen questioned the Jewish Sanhedrin, “Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute?” (Acts 7:52, NIV).
This is the kind of poor reception that prophets have had to face. Animosity toward the prophetic word, however, was not the only rejection that prophets have endured at the hands of God’s people. Violent opposition during a prophet’s lifetime resulted in an increasing indifference, which ended with the prophetic message fading into oblivion—from which it often did not manage to escape. And typically, in the wake of the people’s disregard for the prophetic Word, ruin and apostasy followed.
A Genuine Revival
In the worst seasons of apostasy or national disgrace, God rescued the prophetic message from oblivion to generate a revival. Thus, during the restoration of God’s Temple in the time of Josiah, Hilkiah told the chronicler Shaphan, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord” (2 Chron. 34:15). It sounds like a science-fiction story that God’s prophetic message had been gathering dust in some abandoned corner of the Temple!
On hearing what this prophetic scroll said, Josiah acknowledged, “Great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book” (verse 21). And the rest is history. Josiah summoned all the people to listen to the Word; the king and the people renewed their covenant with God; and they celebrated perhaps the most memorable Passover ever, since “none of the kings of Israel had ever celebrated such a Passover as did Josiah, with the priests, the Levites and all Judah and Israel who were there with the people of Jerusalem” (2 Chron. 35:18).
Something similar happened in the time of Nehemiah, when Ezra read the Law before the people. On the same day of the year (the first day of the seventh month—perhaps wanting to repeat the experience of Josiah), “Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly. . . . He read it aloud from daybreak till noon. . . . And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law” (Neh. 8:2, 3). Three weeks later, the revival continued: “The Israelites gathered together, fasting. . . . They . . . read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord” (Neh. 9:1-3).
That revival was followed by a reformation: They “joined their leaders and bound themselves with an oath. They swore a curse on themselves if they failed to obey the Law of God. . . . They solemnly promised to carefully follow all the commands . . . of the Lord” (Neh. 10:29).1 They promised not to mingle with heathen nations, to keep the Sabbath according to the commandment, to help others, to sustain the Temple and its services, and to return tithes and offerings (verses 30-39).
All this happens when we dust off the prophetic Word and put God’s will into practice in our lives.
Dusting Off the Prophets
According to the Global Church Member Survey 2018, 48 percent of Seventh-day Adventists around the world study the Bible daily.2 Although this statistic might suggest a glass-half-full/glass-half-empty scenario, depending on whom you talk to, it is clear that as a church we have room for improvement concerning our Bible-reading habits. Amid the darkness of this world the Bible can bring light and hope to our lives, help us lead others to Jesus, and lighten our way to heaven: “We have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19, NLT).
Our natural tendency is to rely on our own intelligence, strength, or wisdom, forgetting that our heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:9). Hence, our only safeguard is to trust in the prophetic Word: “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed” (2 Chron. 20:20, NLT). Yes, the Scriptures can rekindle our souls, make us wise, bring joy to our hearts, and give us the right attitude toward life: “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living” (Ps. 19:7, 8, NLT).
Three Shema Principles
Few—if any—of us are exempt from a dysfunctional family past. Unhealthy interpersonal interactions can be traced back to someone who chose to depart from divine counsel. That generates pain and suffering, even when God’s love is a palliative that brings healing and forgiveness to our lives. No one needs to perpetuate those negative inherited patterns, however. We can all be transformed in our character and, over our lifetime, change the trend of an entire genealogy if we decide to break with those negative attitudes and behaviorial patterns in order to live by faith in the light of the prophetic word.
Living by faith means doing the will of God without doubting its direction, even if we do not understand its purpose in the past and cannot discern the path that lies ahead. How is this achieved? “In order to live in the light, you must come where the light shines.”3 The key is to allow ourselves to “be saved by [the light], fully live up to it, and transmit it to others in darkness.”4
When we decided to start our family, we sought to obey the Shema mandate in our daily lives:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut. 6:4-9).
This text embraces three principles to keep the light of the prophetic word shining in our life.
First, it talks about priorities. God should come first in our hearts (verse 5).
Second, it prompts us to spend time with the Word of God. We should read it and talk about it from morning to night (verses 6, 7).
Third, it speaks of influences. The Word of God must always be at hand and be the main influence that enters into our minds through the avenues of the soul (verses 8, 9).
Thus if we devote enough time to the right influences from the Word of God, we will get our priorities straight, and God will reign in our life and our homes.
Sure Guidance for Our Time
As Seventh-day Adventists we have a twofold privilege: we have not only the Bible—which is our standard of faith and practice—but also the modern manifestation of the prophetic gift in the testimony of Ellen White. Why is it a privilege? Because almost 2,000 years after the biblical text was finished, we have divine guidance in how to apply the Scriptures to our modern context and mission in the end time.
As a family we have benefited from reading and applying Ellen White’s writings to our lives. Messages to Young People and Letters to Young Lovers encouraged us to pray intelligently for a marriage based on the fear of God. Child Guidance, Education, and The Adventist Home continue to be a source of solid guidance amid so many human theories about child rearing that are currently swarming all around. In addition, we give full credit to her century-old advice on food and health for our healthy lifestyle.
Plunging into Steps to Christ and The Desire of Ages has been one of the most refreshing, Christ-centered devotional experiences of our spiritual journey; while Mind, Character, and Personality prompted us to raise the bar to strengthen our self-control and keep our habits of thought at bay to please God.
Ellen White’s homiletic applications and biblical interpretations have shaped and substantiated our sermons, while her unique theological approach continues to surprise us for its depth, bearing in mind also that it has helped keep our denomination together under the enemy’s blows throughout the years.
Challenges for the Future
While we continue the struggle to follow the sure prophetic guidance of the Bible and the writings of Ellen White, a whole generation is ready and waiting to be conquered out there. The low reading rate of new generations, added to the fierce competition of smartphones and other screens, makes this challenge more severe.
On the threshold of eternity, however, in a world that is drifting in all kinds of winds of ideas and doctrines, we have a sure anchor in the prophetic Word, as well as the precise coordinates to reach a safe harbor. Let its light shine on our pathway, and that of others, until the Morning Star appears.
Amid the darkness of this world the Bible can bring light and hope to our lives, help us lead others to Jesus, and lighten our way to heaven.
SUGGESTIONS FOR PRAYER
1. Pray to the Lord about your own attitude toward His law and your willingness to obey.
2. Praise God, in the style of David’s psalms, for the light that He brings to your path with His guidance and commands.
3. Ask God in prayer to bring His light to bear on the world and its travails, especially through the prophetic word of the Bible and the writings of Ellen White.
¹ Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
² See “Reaching the World: How Did We Do?” a partial report of the key findings of the Global Church Member Survey 2018, www.adventistresearch.org/sites/default/files/files/AC2018%20-%20Global%20Church%20Member%20Survey%20Data%20Report.pdf.
³ Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 4, p. 106.
⁴ Ibid., vol. 2, p.123.