Saturday, December 15, 2007

Israel, Adventism, and A New Wheel

By Julie Smith

There’s an interesting lesson to be learned from the history of Israel. Coming out of a culture of slavery and domination after 400 years in Egypt, they found themselves ignorant of the principles of living a life connected to their Creator.

Moses had his hands full when it came to teaching a large group of people how to have a relationship with a loving God based on the concept of an indwelling Spirit. They were accustomed to having an external locus of control—one in which they were told what to do rather than going within to consult with Spirit as to the best course of action.

How could it have been any other way? They were born into slavery and knew nothing else. By understanding this in all its implications we can begin to understand the reasons why God communicated with the children of Israel in the manner that God did. They needed direct, concise, imperative-command type instructions on what to do and what not to do. They also needed freedom from bondage—not only physical freedom but also spiritual freedom as well.

The introduction of the Sabbath principle, one that was not new but that was forgotten, was to remind them of the need for physical rest after years of non-stop labor. The health principles were introduced to give them freedom from disease after years of ignorance and being subjected to poverty and making do with whatever was available to them. Thus, you can see that God intended to introduce them to all of the principles of freedom available to them in their newfound emancipation that had been unavailable to them during slavery.

Sadly, over the course of their history they made these freedom guidelines into a new form of slavery and entrapment. By the time of Christ, the meaning behind the Sabbath and healthful living had been lost. They were thoroughly entrenched in another form of slavery—living life according to a set of man-made rules.

The Apostle Paul addresses this issue in the book of Colossians in chapter 2 where he addresses the intentions of God to have us live a transformed life. This is a life different from slavery where one is told everything to do and when to do it. It is a life of freedom from rules. The new guiding system is a Christ that lives within (see Col. 1). He closes the chapter with powerful words about living a life that is only guided by rules and not an in-dwelling Christ. “These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.” (Col. 2:23 NLT)

Hopefully, it is not too large a stretch for us to see where we might possibly have made the same error in Adventism today as the children of Israel did in the past. God offers us the idea of a Sabbath rest to release us from the tyranny of too much doing. God offers us suggestions on healthful living to release us from the pitfalls of disease. We have turned these into a substitute for an in-dwelling Christ.

Paul’s words are still good counsel for us today. All of the pious self-denial in the world is not a substitute for a relinquishing of our cherished ego and submitting to the Spirit’s power and control over our lives. There is absolutely no place in the Christian walk for our petty arguments over doctrine and some of the other detours we have taken over the past several years.

The invitation of Christ still calls out to us today, “Look, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone will hear my voice, I will come in and eat with them.” Christ’s promise is one of restoration, rest, healing, and personal instruction. It is the in-dwelling Christ that allows us to enter into His rest. “Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

It is the in-dwelling Christ that allows us to become a light to the world. It is the in-dwelling Christ that insures that we will be the embodiment of the commands to love God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves. If we want to “re-invent the Adventist wheel” this might be a good place to start.


  1. Julie, any chance of getting this published in SDA publications that could reach a larger audience?

  2. Jeff,

    That's a good question! I might check out Adventist Today. Any other suggestions?


  3. Great stuff, Julie. I heard some similar thoughts on the value and misuse of ritual from Rob Bell recently. Keep up the good work.

  4. Besides the main three--Adventist Today, Spectrum, Review--I'm not sure what other options there are. Maybe a conference or union magazine. But I'd go for the first three. They'll have writing guidelines posted on their websites.

    Good luck!

  5. FABULOUS POST, Julie!! Thanks for sharing. :o)