90th Anniversary article, reprinted from The Ministry, March 1970, pages 17-19.
Isaiah 58:12 is a well-known Seventh-day Adventist text. For years we have included it as one of our strong texts in presenting the Sabbath truth. "They that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breath, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
The word "restorer" is derived from a Hebrew root meaning "to turn (back)," "to bring back home," "to recover," "to rescue," "to cause to return." It is the same original from which the verb in Psalm 23:3 comes: "He restoreth my soul."
The Advent message is a message of restoration restoration of obscured, forgot ten, or ignored truth. The Advent message calls men and women back to "the old paths." "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls" (Jer. 6:16).
Seventh-day Adventists are more restorers, as was Elijah, than we are initiators, as was Moses. "Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things" (Matt. 17:11). The work of the Elijah message in a sense is a message that calls men and women to restore truths that have long been neglected, ignored, or forgotten.
Christ's Work as a Restorer Foretold
Jesus Christ was a restorer. He was more than a restorer of truth that had been obscured beneath ceremonialism, truth that had been forgotten, truth that had been ignored. Note these words of the gospel prophet foretelling the work of our Master. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified" (Isa. 61:1-3).
The Master Restorer
The Master fulfilled all the gospel prophet foretold. His, indeed, was a ministry of restoration. See Jesus on the Sabbath day confronted with a needy man and an accusing band of Pharisees. When challenged to heal a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day, Jesus said to the man, "Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other" (Matt. 12:13).
How the "oil of joy" must have flowed in that man's being, how the act must have clothed him with "the garment of praise." His poor, lame hand was restored; it was whole, full of life and strength. He could use it again because he had come in contact with the Great Restorer.
Pause by the Master's side as a crowd brings to Him a blind man in Bethsaida. The sightless one's friends "besought him to touch him" (Mark 8:22). "And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly" (verses 24, 25).
"He was restored." Who could know the joy this act of love kindled in the healed man's heart. No wonder he must have loved the Saviour the first face he had ever seen was the lovely countenance of his great Benefactor, his great Restorer. So it was everywhere the Saviour went He restored peace to troubled hearts; He restored hope to lost souls. He restored confidence to the discouraged. He even restored life to the dead. Such was His ministry of restoration.
Jesus is our example. We are to follow in His steps. (See 1 Peter 2:21.)
Workers and Leaders Are Restorers
The Rotherham translation of Isaiah 58:12 is, "Restorer of paths leading home." Seventh-day Adventist ministers and leaders are to be restorers restorers of paths leading home. "The work of beneficence enjoined in this chapter [Isaiah 58] is the work that God requires His people to do at this time. It is a work of His own appointment." Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 265. Our lay activities leaders remind us of the relationship of this statement to the welfare work that needs to be done today. This is true. Might it not also refer to a needed work of restoration that Seventh-day Adventist workers and leaders are called to do?
How much repairing and restoring is needed in the world! There are many forgotten or ignored truths of God's Word that need restoring. But there is more! It is this "more" that is the burden of my heart in this message.
The world is filled with broken lives, broken homes, broken careers, broken promises, broken confidence, broken faith, broken hearts. How much restoring these lonely, bitter, faithless lives need.
There are needs within our own church! In too many troubled hearts there is frustration, sorrow, disappointment, discouragement, hopelessness, and perhaps even bitterness and hatred. How much these poor hearts need faith and hope, joy, courage and confidence, and love. In such moments God calls each worker, each leader, regardless of the post he fills, to be a restorer. We are the ones "to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness . . . , that he might be glorified." This is your work; this is my work. We are to be restorers. We may be administrators or department leaders or institutional workers, but if the hands of ordination have been laid upon us we are first shepherds of the flock, shepherds with hearts. And the shepherd's first work is to restore!
The Spiritually Fallen Need Restoring
How many wanderers need to be shown the "paths leading home." Someone told me recently there were more than a thousand former Seventh-day Adventists in the vicinity of one of our colleges. The conference' president urged me to come and hold a decision effort in the city. I hope I can someday. I can think of other areas with a large concentration of Adventists where, no doubt, this number of backslid den members could be equaled or surpassed. In too many places our apostasies have been high. How much these places need restorers, shepherds with hearts filled with love who will go in search of the lost and bring them back to the safety of the fold! God is looking for all of us to be restorers.
I can still see the appealing eyes looking into mine. They were the.eyes of the first baptismal candidate I had personally laid beneath the waters many years ago. His experience had been up and down some times spiritually abounding and in the church, sometimes discouraged and out on the fringes. He was a brilliant man of talent but highly emotional. Here he was, sitting beside me thirty years since I had last seen him.
"Elder," he said sadly, "the church members want to give me Bible studies. They want to explain the 2300 days and the state of the dead." He faltered, then continued, "I know those doctrines as well, perhaps better, than they do. It is not doctrine that I need; it is love and understanding."
"Love and understanding"---here are two important tools of the restorers. Usually when persons leave this message it is not because they have changed their mind about the doctrine. Many times they leave because they are lonely, discouraged, or just plain bored. They need help. They need a friendly visit. They need encouragement. They need a Calvary more than they need a Sinai. They need a restorer. They need you. They need me.
Those Who Have Made Mistakes Need Restoring
I was attending one of our large meetings not long ago. As I made my way through that great mass of people following the service I was conscious of a hand on my arm. Turning, I saw a familiar face. It was the face of a worker I had had part in saving many years before. The man had made a mistake. We could have dismissed him from the work, but the committee gave him another chance.
"Elder," he said, his face lightened with joy. "I drove 150 miles to this meeting to day to tell you I haven't let you down. I've made good."
We are here to save men, not to crush them. Wherever we can do so, as leaders, we should save men restore them and let them make good. Sometimes the conduct of an individual is such that we can not save him to the church or to the work, but where we can let us do so. Let us restore him. "Brethren, if a man be over taken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1).
The New English Bible translates the apostle's word: "You who are endowed with the Spirit must set him right again very gently."* (Italics supplied.) We as workers, as leaders, should be known for our gentleness. Christianity makes a man a gentleman!
"Workers may make mistakes, but you should give them a chance to correct their errors, give them an opportunity to learn caution, by leaving the work in their hands." Testimonies to Ministers, p. 300. Sometimes conditions make it imperative to move men. Sometimes it is best to leave them right where they are giving them opportunity to demonstrate their ability to make good on the spot where they failed. As leaders we may restore their determination to succeed as workers and Christians. We are to do this "very gently."
Restorers of comfort. Restorers of faith. Restorers of confidence. Restorers of truth. Restorers of peace. Restorers of joy. This is "the work that God requires His people to do at this time." It is "a work of His own appointment." This is true revival and reformation. This is your work and my work as leaders in God's church. May God help us to be faithful to our calling and may the world be a happier, holier place in which to live because of our ministry of restoration!