Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were cast out, east of Eden (Genesis 3:24). After murdering his brother Abel, their son Cain was exiled to Nod, east of Eden (Genesis 4:16). They had to leave the Creator’s garden. They would have preferred to return, but could not; He had barred them. Humans had chosen another leader; now there were consequences. As His crowning act, God had made man for righteousness. Made in the divine image, our race was now distorted. Satan rejoiced! The first graffiti had been sprayed into God’s garden.
How will our Maker complete His original plan? How will man journey again, this time west from Nod?
Consider it in this way. Isaiah asks, “Who shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” Hear the inspired query:
The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? (Isaiah 33:14).
On first glance, Isaiah's prophetic speaking may seem a warning about burning hell, but no. The consuming fire is God. Who shall dwell with Him? Or, as 33:17 provides the answer,
Thine eyes shall see the king in His beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.
This is the plan. Someone will see the king!
He that walketh righteously, and speaking uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil (Isaiah 33:15).
There is the picture: six interrelated items. How do we become changed? Today, we will peruse mostly the Bible Jesus used, the Tanakh, or Old Testament.
Walking righteously means expressinging right acts into the world. What you choose manifests itself in right acts. Doing the right thing is very important. If we would dwell with the righteous presence of God, we will have to live by right acts.
Some of us are living but we are not walking. We may be physically moving but we are not walking righteously. Some think that they can sow whatever they would like and that, because they claim the title “Christian,” they will not reap the consequences. But the Bible is clear:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not (Galatians 6:7-9).
God is no fool and will not be fooled. While we are not “saved” by our behavior, our behavior shows whom we are patterning after—Christ or Satan. Our behaviors strengthen our behaviors. That is, the more we incline ourselves to right doing by right-doing, the more apt we are to respond to situations with right doing.
Some would have us think that Christianity is an eternal life insurance policy; we make payment by speaking magic words, then, whatever we do, we may be forgiven. God’s gospel becomes something like a permanent get-out-of-jail free card. His righteousness is counted to us. Whether we permit Him to conduct Carpenter work in our heart or not, whether we are converted anew each day or not, whether we walk righteously or not, we are “saved.” This is not what Isaiah says. Those preparing to dwell with everlasting burnings are those who live righteously here.
One area where we all repeatedly need to revisit and reform, is in our talking. Speaking uprightly does not mean tearing people down behind their back, misrepresenting character, hinting and insinuating evil in them. It does not mean dwelling on the negative.
We have heard the saying, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” But saying nothing at all is not speaking, is it? To speak uprightly means to tell the truth, tactfully. It means to say what should be said rather than what can be said.
The mouth was designed to glorify God, by verbal praise, yes, but also by kind, spiritual, uplifting speaking to other humans. This kind of talk is honest and yet cheerful. It is measured.; it is laced with wisdom and insight offered from life experience.
It is not random whining or joking, random chatter or random topics. It can be low key and general in nature; not every word must be spiritual. It is OK to talk about the weather. But speaking uprightly is using the ability to communicate so that friendly bridges are built, and to express our convictions in wise measure and manner. Upright speaking includes speaking about God in the right time. There are times when we are more ready to learn than others; when we must listen and process what another is saying before we can converse with them in the way that is the most spiritually productive.
Speaking uprightly means having something upright to say. Human insight will not suffice; we need to be filling ourselves with spiritual food. We should be praying, thinking on God’s Word, memorizing, pondering, weighing, applying that Word. Then we will have something to say that is right to the point. A true change in this area will glorify God and adorn His gospel. Isn’t it about time?
Despising the Gain of Oppressions
If it seems like there is some overlap in these six points, it is because really, here are three pairs. Hebrew thought often expresses itself in couplets, the same or similar thought, or even one thought offered, in pairs. Here, the second set is despising the gain of oppressions and separating oneself from bribery.
This prohibition means refusing to benefit oneself from the immoral acts of oneself or of others. Immoral acts have benefits, at least, those who do them derive some kind of satisfaction from doing them. Thus, benefit. Consider 1 Kings 21. King Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard, but Naboth refused to give it to him. Then Jezebel arranged for Naboth to be falsely accused so that Ahab might acquire the vineyard. Naboth was falsely accused and executed. Although Ahab did not do the deed, when the deed had been done on his behalf, Ahab went ahead and took possession of the vineyard. Oppression had been practiced and Ahab had gained. He desired the vineyard more than he cared for justice.
If someone does an unjust thing, something that oppresses others, will you go along if there is benefit in it for you? If your friend knows you wanted an automobile and he sees an opportunity and steals one for you, should you take it? If during WWII the property of an innocent American could be purchased by you at an excellent price because that American had been dsent to a detention camp, should you buy it, or refuse? If you purchase a car and discover that the condition of the vehicle was misrepresented to you and you go to resell it, should you join in the misrepresentation and hide the true information and sale it to the next unaware buyer? If you participate in any of these sorts of transactions, you do not despise the gain of oppressions.
Separation From Bribery
Along with loving the gain of oppressions, is bribery. The saying is that every man has his price. Is that true? Did Job have a price? Stephen? Paul?
In the consideration of outright bribery, at least three points come to mind. First, do not receive one. If you accept a bribe you will be beholden to the briber. He will—eventually—ask you for a favor, and it will not be a savory one. And you will feel obliged to accommodate him because he has benefited you. You feel a sense of obligation. How interesting that out of one’s sense of justice, he may be led to do injustice!
Consider the warning given in Proverbs:
When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat (Proverbs 23:1-3).
This is a call to self-awareness. Know your own weaknesses. Then you will know where your risk of bribery is found. You should know yourself well enough to be ready to stand aside from deceitful meat.
Secondly, do not offer a bribe. Bribery is illegal, incentives are not. If you offer a bribe, you are participating in a crime. Don’t be an agent in the corruption of others. And remember that to offer a bribe is to place your trust in the flesh. Trust rather in God, in deity rather than mammon.
Thirdly, if you are engaged in bribery you are encouraging a culture of bribery. By committing such acts, one is doing more than simply committing his own personal crimes; he is undermining the rule of law, that is, that whatever the agreed upon rules are, that they apply evenly, to everyone, across the culture. By participating in a bribe, exceptions and unfairness are promoted.
Typically we are involved in bribery and the gain of oppressions far more than we realize, through governments taking from one group to give to another. But we cannot address every piece of this today.
Scripturally, we know that the last generation will be composed of those who willingly, without coercion, choose to follow the Lamb Jesus wherever He goes (Revelation 14:4). They cannot be bribed. They do not have a price; they belong to Jesus and that has been settled. They have chosen to be sealed; they have sought out God’s instruction on how that is to be accomplished, and they have traveled that road. They have chosen the road West from Nod to Eden. They are like Job, Stephen, Paul, and even Jesus: they do not have a price. They value integrity and justice above all other things.
Ceasing to Listen to Murder
Isaiah’s third couplet is refusal to listen to murder, and to close our eyes from seeing evil. The text actually says the stopping of one’s ears from hearing blood. Hearing blood is to listen to false charges that would condemn the accused to death. In other words, participation in a scheme to condemn the innocent. Such may be accomplished more or less directly, more or less passively. It is when good men refuse to intervene that evil advances so quickly.
How is it for us? How easily we listen to character assassination and misrepresentation. We hear a bad word about a brother or a sister, or we hear that at the University in _____, _____ happened. Maybe so, maybe not, but take care before you assassinate or destroy reputation.
Hearing blood means listening to the report that one made in God’s image has done the unseemly. Satan seeks to assassinate God’s character. By making false charges about God, he has lured us to open our ears to hearing blood. His charges on their own may seem more or less plausible, but what really hurts and what has enormous power to mislead is when the actions of His professed followers appear to lend credibility to Satan’s charges.
When God’s people are seen to be closed-minded, bigoted, uninterested in truth, unwilling to think carefully about His Word or to consider changing deeply held ideas that are violently incompatible with His kingdom, then their actions are telling those around them about their belief system and the One they claim to follow. As Christians, we are disciples of Jesus. We claim to be representatives of the Master. When our behavior is understood to be representative of Jesus,’ and when it is repugnant, we join Satan in prompting others to hear blood—to hear false charges against God’s government.
But God’s followers will stop their ears from hearing blood; they will cease to listen to murder; they will cease to promote false charges, misrepresentations of others or of God’s institutions, and will cease to engage in character assassination of others. Most of all, they will cease, by word or act, to assassinate the character of God.
Closing Our Eyes From Seeing Evil
The last half of the third couplet is to close our eyes from seeing evil. Recall the linkage to the previous point.
Refusal to listen to blood does not mean to ignore what you hear. It means that you will not permit false charges to stand, it means to intervene on the behalf of the oppressed. When God’s people disregard their calling to actively and rightly represent Him by their actions, and to themselves vindicate His character, they are refusing to stop their ears from hearing blood. More than this, they join in with the character assassination of the one they claim to revere. They are loitering in Nod rather than journeying westward back to Eden.
Closing our eyes from seeing evil means to resolve that we will not permit Satan’s false charges against God to be amplified by what we do. If we think we can engage in “Christianity” as usual, which too often is an offense to God rather than a recommendation of Him, then we are sadly mistaken. Others can make what claims they may; we must be different. We must actively exemplify the Christian virtues. Our lives must show as unambiguously as the life of Jesus showed, what God is like.
In the first place, we are to be all that people expect Christians to be: upstanding, moral, pleasant, joyful, followers of truth, persons of integrity. More than this, they follow the biblical standards of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in terms of their specific behaviors. They refuse to eat unhealthfully, they refuse to partake of liquor, they refuse to eat unclean foods, listen to music that teaches immorality, or to watch mind-numbing entertainments.
They are wary even about how they listen and watch the radio or the news. There are poisons on every side, and they want to become discerning. They learn to choose what they hear and what they see. They begin to select what they hear. they find means of placing into their minds that which will shape them and uplift them in God’s line..
They learn to become their own news editors. They realize that it is unnatural to saturate oneself with the continuous despairing news of evil from all over the world, or to let commentators A and B, be they ever so sincere, to become their measure of truth.
Yes, as the last generation, we are to close our eyes from seeing evil. Only then shall we become clear-minded advocates for righteousness.
A Word From Someone Journeying West From Nod
We are fond of searching out the latest methods of Christian outreach. There are some good ideas out there, no doubt. We are not, just because we are the remnant church, granted a monopoly on good ideas. We should not condemn our leaders for trying to be thoughtful about God’s work.
Still, is true that sometimes there is insight—powerful insight—right under our noses. Eighty-one years ago, one of our leaders wrote the following.
The matter of greatest importance in the universe is not the salvation of men, important as that may seem. The most important thing is the clearing of God’s name from the false accusations made by Satan. The controversy is drawing to a close. God is preparing His people for the last great conflict. Satan is also getting ready. The issue is before us and will be decided in the lives of God’s people. God is depending upon us as He did upon Job. Is His confidence well placed?
It is a wonderful privilege vouchsafed this people to help clear God’s name by our testimony. It is wonderful that we are permitted to testify for Him. It must never be forgotten, however, that this testimony is a testimony of life, not merely of words. ‘In Him was life; and the life was the light of men’ (John 1:4). ‘The life was the light.’ It was so with Christ, it must also be so with us. Our life should be a light, as His life was. To give people the light is more than to hand them a tract. Our life is the light. As we live, we give light to others, Without life, without our living the light, our words abide alone. But as our life becomes light, our words become effective. It is our life that must testify for God.
May the church of God appreciate the exalted privilege given her! ‘Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord’ (Isaiah 43:10). There must be ‘no strange god among you: therefore ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God’ (Verse 12). May we be witnesses indeed, testifying what God has done for us!
All this is closely connected with the work of the Day of Atonement. On that day the people of Israel, having confessed their sins, were completely cleansed. They had already been forgiven; now sin was separated from them. They were holy and without blame. The camp of Israel was clean.
We are now living in the great antitypical day of the cleansing of the sanctuary. Every sin must be confessed and by faith be sent beforehand to judgment. As the high priest enters into the most holy, so God’s people now are to stand face to face with God. They must know that every sin is confessed, that no stain of evil remains.
The cleansing of the sanctuary in heaven is dependent upon the cleansing of God’s people on earth. How important, then, that God’s people be holy and without blame! In them every sin must be burned out, so that they will be able to stand in the sight of a holy God and live with the devouring fire. ‘Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge My might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; he shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure’ (Isaiah 33:13-16). (M. L. Andreasen, The Sanctuary Service, 1937, pp. 296-297).
The source? **The Sanctuary Service**. Author M. L. Andreasen understood. We shall not accidentally become the final generation. We must engage in the intentional, purposeful pursuit of Christian principle. Thankfully, wonderfully, this same book is still printed on our presses today, still sold in our denominational book stores today. The truth is alive.
The Uniqueness of Our Christianity
(Section added in 2018)
I have one last quotation I want to give you. This is not even written by an Adventist. It is from Joseph Boot, The Mission of God. It seems well to point out to us the great privileges in what God has been giving us. Can you imagine the great privileges God has been giving us? Can you understand how special and different the message God is giving us compared to other belief systems?
Virtually all the religions of the world are non-theistic; that is, they do not believe in God, in one supreme, absolute, and perfect God. In fact, most religions are atheistic. . . they do not believe in God although they may recognise many gods, or, more accurately. . . various powerful spirits and forces. The Kamis of Japanese Shintoism are sometimes called gods by foreigners, but they are more corrrectly described as powers. the word Kami means superior, and the word was applied to any object, thing, person, or spirit believed to have superior status or power. In Buddhism, Taosim, and Hinduism, not God but nothingness is ultimate. These are essentially atheistic religions and man's salvation is death and nirvana. Animism believes in the power of spirits and holds that even inanimate objects have a personal life or soul. It does not believe in God but rather in spirits. For in none of these religions is there the God in terms of whom man can say, 'Thus saith the Lord.' No religion has what claims to be the word of God except biblical faith. Nowhere in the ancient world was there any trace of such a faith or of such a book as the Bible.
What am I saying? What we believe is very different. You have a book in your hands, on your phone. “Everybody's got a book.” No! You have a book that is inspired! Your book has revelation from God to you to show you how to live at the end of time and in every other part of time. See, God is leading us.
Who then will journey west from Nod? Who will return to Eden? Who will prepare themselves so that they may, as Isaiah says, dwell with everlasting burnings? For there is where Jesus is. He whom our heart desires, there He is, with everlasting burnings. We all need to move toward the fire.
If your understanding of God is not leading you to this kind of preparation, if it is not guiding you into more and more holiness, God calls for a change. God asks this congregation, Who will dwell with everlasting burnings? More than this, He asks you individually: Are you preparing yourself? Shall you dwell with everlasting burnings?
Remember the words of His prophet:
The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaking uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil (Isaiah 33:14, 15).
O my brother, O my sister, do not be, in the end, a fearful, surprised hypocrite. Hear the warning of a holy God who has commanded us, “Be ye holy as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Do not be deceived by cheap substitutes in the church or out. There are souls to save in your own household. There is your Father’s work. Carry on, journey onward, west from Nod. Eden and the God of Eden, the ground of righteousness, the consuming fire, the person of everlasting burnings, awaits you. Then it will be that you may see Jesus at last. As the prophet says, “Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty” (Isaiah 33:17).
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