THERE are two chapters in the Bible of which the Lord's messenger declares, "I urge that these chapters be read at least once every week." --Testimonies to Ministers, p. 98. Notice that Mrs. White does not suggest that they be read, but urges it. And she is not content to say that they should be read once a week, but at least once every week.
These chapters must be important. What are they? They are "the one hundred fifth and one hundred sixth psalms." --Ibid.
What do these chapters consist of? and why are they so important? Read them over, and you will discover that they bring to us the history of ancient Israel. Why are they important? Because they contain "lessons of warning that the people of Cod in these last days especially need to study."--Ibid.
In this series of brief articles we are discussing source materials for preaching. We have a vast and extremely important reservoir of material in the history of God's people as recorded in the Scriptures. Paul declares: "These things happened to them to make them a lesson to others and were writ ten down to warn us who are living when the world is coming to an end" (1 Cor. 10:11, Beck's Translation).
The lessons God designed to teach ancient Israel are also for us. This being so, we must become familiar with them. Notice the following:
Through His people Israel, God designed to give to the world a knowledge of His will. His promises and threatenings, His instructions and reproofs, the wonderful manifestations of His power among them, in blessings for obedience, and judgement for transgression and apostasy, all were designed for the education and development of religious principle among the people of Cod until the close of time. Therefore it is important that we acquaint ourselves with the history of the Hebrew host, and ponder with care the dealings of God with them. --The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen C. White Comments, on Joshua 4:24, p. 994.
Sabbath sermons or a series of prayer meeting studies based on the experiences of Israel, their sojourn in Egypt, their period of wandering in the wilderness, or their final conquest of the land could be very helpful to us who have now wandered so long and must make the preparation to go in and possess the heavenly Canaan.
The later experiences of Israel in Canaan also teach precious lessons. Special study might well be given to the great revivals that came to them. Various approaches may be used in studies such as those here suggested. Psalms 105 and 106 may form the basis, with lessons drawn from the particular experiences recorded. Hebrews 11, the great faith chapter, may form the setting. The experiences and lessons would then be drawn from the great Biblical characters there portrayed.
The story of Israel's deliverance from Egypt and the wilderness wandering is recorded in the books of Moses. As a divine supplement or commentary to this subject study carefully the appropriate chapters in Patriarchs and Prophets. The Index to the Writings of Ellen C. White will lead you to many other helpful references.
Of special value to the remnant church today is the book of Joshua and the story of the conquest. Of these experiences Mrs. White declares:
Study carefully the experiences of Israel in their travels to Canaan. Study the third and fourth chapters of Joshua, recording their preparation for and passage over the Jordan into the promised land. We need to keep the heart and mind in training, by refreshing the memory with the lessons that the Lord taught His ancient people.--Ibid.
The book of Joshua is the "Acts" of the Old Testament. As Acts does, it tells the story of the accomplishment of impossible things through the power of the Holy Spirit. Above all else these two books Joshua and Acts teach the importance of relying completely upon divine power. This, in fact, is the grand theme of all the Bible.
The tenor of the Bible is to inculcate dis trust of human power and to encourage trust in divine power. --Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 717.
This is surely evident in the miraculous way in which Israel entered the Promised Land the crossing of the Jordan, the capture of Jericho, victory in the valley of Aijalon when the sun stood still.
The manner in which all their victories were achieved were such that they could never claim the credit for themselves. Before the battle of Jericho the Lord said to Joshua, "See, I have given into thine hand Jericho" (Joshua 6:2). Later, after the setback at Ai (the only record of failure in the entire book), the Lord said, "Arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land" (chap. 8:1).
God gave them the land. Through His power the enemy was routed and the impossible task accomplished. Likewise, it was through the power of the Holy Spirit that the early church went out on her divine assignment and the world was turned upside down for Christ. The lesson is clear. It is only as we come to recognize our own inability and come to trust God and Him alone for the victories we must gain and for the finishing of the task entrusted to us that the church will be made ready and the work will be completed. We are told:
The first thing to be learned by all who would become workers together with God is the lesson of self-distrust; then they are prepared to have imparted to them the character of Christ. -The Desire of Ages, p. 250.
These are but a few of the lessons to be drawn from the experiences of Israel of old. There are many, many more.