In the Crucible with Christ
Meekness in the Crucible
Lesson #10 for September 3, 2022
Exodus 32:1-14: 1When the people saw that Moses had not come down from the mountain but was staying there a long time, they gathered round Aaron and said to him, “We do not know what has happened to this man Moses, who led us out of Egypt; so make us a god to lead us.”
2 Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold earrings which your wives, your sons, and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3So all the people took off their gold earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4He took the earrings, melted them, poured the gold into a mould, and made a gold bull calf. [Can you make a god out of melted earrings?]
The people said, “Israel, this is our god, who led us out of Egypt!”
5 Then Aaron built an altar in front of the gold bull calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to honour the LORD.” 6Early the next morning they brought some animals to burn as sacrifices and others to eat as fellowship offerings. The people sat down to a feast, which turned into an orgy of drinking and sex.
7 The LORD said to Moses, “Go back down at once, because your people, whom you led out of Egypt, have sinned and rejected me. 8They have already left the way that I commanded them to follow; they have made a bull calf out of melted gold and have worshipped it and offered sacrifices to it. They are saying that this is their god, who led them out of Egypt. 9I know how stubborn these people are. 10Now, don’t try to stop me. I am angry with them, and I am going to destroy them. Then I will make you and your descendants into a great nation.” [Would God talk like this?]
11 But Moses pleaded with the LORD his God and said, “LORD, why should you be so angry with your people, whom you rescued from Egypt with great might and power? 12Why should the Egyptians be able to say that you led your people out of Egypt, planning to kill them in the mountains and destroy them completely? Stop being angry; change your mind and do not bring this disaster on your people. 13Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Remember the solemn promise you made to them to give them as many descendants as there are stars in the sky and to give their descendants all that land you promised would be their possession for ever.” [sic] 14So the LORD changed his mind and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.CAmerican Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation* (2nd ed.,Exodus 32:1-14). New York: American Bible Society [abbreviated as Good News Bible].†‡
Malachi 3:6: “I am the LORD, and I do not change.”?Good News Bible.*†
Numbers 23:19: God is not like men, who lie;
He is not a human who changes his mind.
Whatever he promises, he does;
He speaks, and it is done.?Good News Bible.*†
Hebrews 13:8: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. [sic]?Good News Bible.*†‡
Numbers 12:4-15: 4 Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “I want the three of you to come out to the Tent of my presence.” They went, 5and the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud, stood at the entrance of the Tent, and called out, “Aaron! Miriam!” The two of them stepped forward, 6and the LORD said, “Now hear what I have to say! When there are prophets among you, I reveal myself to them in visions and speak to them in dreams. 7It is different when I speak with my servant Moses; I have put him in charge of all my people Israel. 8So I speak to him face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he has even seen my form! How dare you speak against my servant Moses?” [Was God’s voice coming from the cloud?]
9 The LORD was angry with them; and so as he departed 10and the cloud left the Tent, Miriam’s skin was suddenly covered with a dreaded disease and turned as white as snow. When Aaron looked at her and saw that she was covered with the disease, 11he said to Moses, “Please, sir, do not make us suffer this punishment for our foolish sin. 12Don’t let her become like something born dead with half its flesh eaten away.”
13 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “O God, heal her!”
14 The LORD answered, “If her father had spat in her face, she would have to bear her disgrace for seven days. So let her be shut out of the camp for a week, and after that she can be brought back in.” 15Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until she was brought back in.?Good News Bible.*† [Notice what God did when He was “angry”!]‡
Numbers 16:1-35: 1–2 Korah son of Izhar, from the Levite clan of Kohath, rebelled against the leadership of Moses. He was joined by three members of the tribe of Reuben—Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—and by 250 other Israelites, well-known leaders chosen by the community. 3They assembled before Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! All the members of the community belong to the LORD, and the LORD is with all of us. Why, then, Moses, do you set yourself above the LORD’s community?”
4 When Moses heard this, he threw himself on the ground and prayed….
11 [Moses said:] “When you complain against Aaron, it is really against the LORD that you and your followers are rebelling.”
12 Then Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, but they said, “We will not come!”...
19Then Korah gathered the whole community, and they stood facing Moses and Aaron at the entrance of the Tent. Suddenly the dazzling light of the LORD’s presence appeared to the whole community, 20and the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 21“Stand back from these people, and I will destroy them immediately.”
22 But Moses and Aaron bowed down with their faces to the ground and said, “O God, you are the source of all life. When one person sins, do you get angry with the whole community?”
23 The LORD said to Moses, 24 “Tell the people to move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.”…
27b Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing at the entrance of their tents, with their wives and children. 28Moses said to the people, “This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it is not by my own choice that I have done them. 29If these men die a natural death without some punishment from God, then the LORD did not send me. 30But if the LORD does something unheard of, and the earth opens up and swallows them with all they own, so that they go down alive to the world of the dead, you will know that these men have rejected the LORD.”
31 As soon as he had finished speaking, the ground under Dathan and Abiram split open 32and swallowed them and their families, together with all of Korah’s followers and their possessions. 33So they went down alive to the world of the dead, with their possessions. The earth closed over them, and they vanished. 34All the people of Israel who were there fled when they heard their cry. They shouted, “Run! The earth might swallow us too!”
35 Then the LORD sent a fire that blazed out and burnt up the 250 men who had presented the incense.?Good News Bible.*†‡
Numbers 26:9-11: 9And his sons Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. (These are the Dathan and Abiram who were chosen by the community. They defied Moses and Aaron and joined the followers of Korah when they rebelled against the LORD. 10The ground opened and swallowed them, and they died with Korah and his followers when fire destroyed 250 men; they became a warning to the people. 11But the sons of Korah were not killed.)?Good News Bible.*
Number 16:41-49: 41 The next day the whole community complained against Moses and Aaron and said, “You have killed some of the LORD’s people.” 42After they had all gathered to protest to Moses and Aaron, they turned towards the Tent and saw that the cloud was covering it and that the dazzling light of the LORD’s presence had appeared. 43Moses and Aaron went and stood in front of the Tent, 44and the LORD said to Moses, 45 “Stand back from these people, and I will destroy them on the spot!”
The two of them bowed down with their faces to the ground, 46and Moses said to Aaron, “Take your firepan, put live coals from the altar in it, and put some incense on the coals. Then hurry with it to the people and perform the ritual of purification for them. Hurry! The LORD’s anger has already broken out and an epidemic has already begun.” 47Aaron obeyed, took his firepan and ran into the middle of the assembled people. When he saw that the plague had already begun, he put the incense on the coals and performed the ritual of purification for the people. 48This stopped the plague, and he was left standing between the living and the dead. 49The number of people who died was 14,700, not counting those who died in Korah’s rebellion.?Good News Bible.*† [Nearly 15,000 died in this rebellion!]‡
Matthew 5:43-48: [Jesus said:] 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. 46Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! 47And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! 48You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect!”?Good News Bible.*†‡
2 Peter 2:18-22: 18They make proud and stupid statements, and use immoral bodily lusts to trap those who are just beginning to escape from among people who live in error. 19They promise them freedom while they themselves are slaves of destructive habits—for a person is a slave of anything that has conquered him. 20If people have escaped from the corrupting forces of the world through their knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and then are again caught and conquered by them, such people are in a worse state at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would have been much better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than to know it and then turn away from the sacred command that was given them. 22What happened to them shows that the proverbs are true: “A dog goes back to what it has vomited” and “A pig that has been washed goes back to roll in the mud.”?Good News Bible.*†
[From the writings of Ellen G. White=EGW:] Herod questioned Christ in many words, but throughout the Saviour maintained a profound silence. At the command of the king, the decrepit and maimed were then called in, and Christ was ordered to prove His claims by working a miracle. Men say that Thou canst heal the sick, said Herod. I am anxious to see that Thy widespread fame has not been belied…. [But, Jesus remained silent.]
Herod was irritated by this silence. It seemed to indicate utter indifference to his authority. To the vain and pompous king, open rebuke would have been less offensive than to be thus ignored. Again he angrily threatened Jesus, who still remained unmoved and silent.?Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages* 729.2-730.2.†‡
[From the Bible study guide=BSG:] So often the most proud people, the most arrogant and pushy, are those who suffer from low self-esteem. Their arrogance and pride?and total lack of meekness or humility?exist as a cover, perhaps even unconsciously, for something lacking inside. What they need is something we all need: a sense of security, of worthiness, of acceptance, especially in times of distress and suffering. We can find that only through the Lord. In short, meekness and humility, far from being attributes of weakness, are often the most powerful manifestation of a soul firmly grounded on the Rock.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Thursday, September 1.‡
[EGW:] Without cause men will become our enemies. The motives of the people of God will be misinterpreted, not only by the world, but by their own brethren. The Lord’s servants will be put in hard places. A mountain will be made of a molehill to justify men in pursuing a selfish, unrighteous course.... By misrepresentation these men will be clothed in dark vestments of dishonesty because circumstances beyond their control made their work perplexing. They will be pointed to as men that can not be trusted. And this will be done by members of the church. God’s servants must arm themselves with the mind of Christ. They must not expect to escape insult and misjudgment. They will be called enthusiasts and fanatics. But let them not become discouraged. God’s hands are on the wheel of his providence, guiding his work to the glory of his name.—Ellen G. White, Spalding and Magan Collection* 370.2 [undated]; The Upward Look*€ 177.3-4.†‡
[EGW:] The difficulties we have to encounter may be very much lessened by that meekness which hides itself in Christ. If we possess the humility of our Master, we shall rise above the slights, the rebuffs, the annoyances, to which we are daily exposed, and they will cease to cast a gloom over the spirit. The highest evidence of nobility in a Christian is self-control. He who under abuse or cruelty fails to maintain a calm and trustful spirit robs God of His right to reveal in him His own perfection of character. Lowliness of heart is the strength that gives victory to the followers of Christ; it is the token of their connection with the courts above.—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages* 301.3.†‡
[BSG:] Biblical religion, in both the Old and the New Testaments, is characterized by meekness. Moses is known for being the meekest person on earth (Num. 12:3). David declared that “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Ps. 37:11, NKJV). The prophets announced that God will bless the meek (Isa. 11:4; Isa. 29:19; Isa. 66:2; Zeph. 2:3; Zeph. 3:11, 12). God Himself is described as meek and as promoting meekness (Ps. 25:9,Ps. 45:4,Ps. 147:6). Jesus was meek (Matt. 11:29,Matt. 21:5, 2Cor. 10:1) and placed meekness at the foundation of Christianity (Matt. 5:5). The apostles were meek (2Cor. 10:1) and urged Christians to be meek (Gal. 5:23,Eph. 4:2,Col. 3:12, 1Tim. 6:11, 2Tim. 2:25,Titus 3:2,James 1:21,James 3:13,James 4:6, 1Pet. 3:15, 1Pet. 5:5). While the empires and kingdoms of the earth are constructed on such values as audacity, power, and military conquest, the religion of God builds and conquers with meekness, love, and grace. However, God’s meekness does not mean that He is powerless. Rather, meekness is an essential trait of God’s character and His way of relating to the universe and to us sinners.?Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 132.†‡§
[BSG:] Is Meekness Slave Morality?
One of the strongest attacks on Christianity and its concept of humility and meekness in the modern period came from the German existentialist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). Not only was suffering an integral part of Nietzsche’s life, but it also was an essential area of interest in his philosophy. At a very young age, he lost his father and many other members of his family. Throughout his life, Nietzsche struggled with debilitating health issues and was eventually isolated by a mental illness during the last 11 years of his life. As he studied classical languages and philosophy, Nietzsche became especially interested in ancient Greek culture and philosophy. From this lens, he concluded that Europe had lost its ancient vigor. The culprit? None other than Christianity! Nietzsche thought Christianity had robbed Europe of its classical Greek and Roman culture of heroism, power, and nobility. The West, indeed, humanity in its entirety, according to Nietzsche, needed to redeem that classical outlook if it wanted to survive and thrive.
According to Nietzsche, there are two types of morality: the morality of the masters, of the noblemen, of the strong-willed man, and the morality of the slaves or of the weak. Master morality sets its own values, decides on its own course of actions, and evaluates them through the prism of their consequences, such as helpful (good) or harmful (bad). Thus, autonomy, power, wealth, nobility, optimism, exuberance, and courage are regarded as good, while weakness and meekness are regarded as bad. By contrast, slave morality does not generate values or actions but merely reacts to, and opposes, the values or actions set by the master morality. While master morality focuses on action, slave morality is reactionary (or, as Nietzsche would put it, ressentiment); while master morality is oppressive, slave morality is subversive and manipulative; while master morality is more individualistic, slave morality is more communitarian.
Thus, because the weak are unable to overthrow the powerful by sheer force, they resort to reinterpreting and disparaging the value system of the masters. Instead of enjoying the morality of the strong man, the weak project their situation of humiliation into the absolute, universalizing their values. [Hitler loved Nietzsche!]
According to Nietzsche, Christianity is a religion of the weak, of slave morality. In his own words: “Christianity has taken the side of everything weak, base, failed; it has made an ideal out of whatever contradicts the preservation instincts of a strong life; it has corrupted the reason of even the most spiritual natures by teaching people to see the highest spiritual values as sinful, as deceptive, as temptations. The most pitiful example—the corruption of Pascal, who believed that his reason was corrupted by original sin when the only thing corrupting it was Christianity itself!”—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols and Other Writings, ed. Aaron Ridley and Judith Norman (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 5.
For Nietzsche, Christianity is another reaction of the poor and weak, designed to overthrow and control the powerful through manipulation. Christians have resigned themselves to their fate of slavery and do not have the will to become masters of their own destiny. For this reason, they hypocritically denounce as sinful what the powerful people have and exalt as virtue what Christians cannot have, imposing their new morality onto all humans. Thus, because Christians could not overpower the rich and the powerful by other means, they devised a way to control the strong with their morality. In this Christian morality, for instance, Christians would convert their inescapable weakness and submission to other people into the virtue of obedience. And the Christians’ inability to take revenge would impel Christians to invent the virtue of forgiveness. Likewise, they would design other virtues, such as piety, love, reciprocity, and equality. No matter how noble these virtues may seem to many, for Nietzsche, Christian morality was unacceptable, irrational, and repulsive, because, in his view, Christians used these virtues to reverse the morality of the strong and noble man of this world, to enslave and even oppress him. To Nietzsche, Christian morality keeps people under control, keeps them in obscurity, and makes them ordinary, unexceptional.
Obviously, Nietzsche’s criticism of Christian morality and its fundamental concept of meekness is a lamentably wrong understanding of Christianity. The Christian virtue of meekness does not spring out of powerlessness ?but out of God’s power, justice, and love. When Jesus was taken to the Jewish court and one official slapped Him, Jesus demanded an answer for that unjust act (John 18:23). The Gospels make it clear that Jesus died on the cross, not because He did not have any way of escaping (Matt. 26:53) but because He voluntarily and lovingly gave His life for our salvation (John 10:17, 18; John 18:4S11;John 19:11; Phil. 2:6S9). Christian meekness is the result not of fear but of love.?Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 132-134.†‡§ [Many believe that Nietzsche inspired Hitler!]‡
Philippians 2:5-11: 5The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had:
6He always had the nature of God,
but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God.
7Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had,
and took the nature of a servant.
He became like a human being
and appeared in human likeness.
8He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—his death on the cross.
9For this reason God raised him to the highest place above
and gave him the name that is greater than any other name.
10And so, in honour of the name of Jesus
all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below
will fall on their knees, [That will include Satan himself!]
11and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.?Good News Bible.*†‡
Romans 3:25-26: 25–26God offered him, so that by his blood [footnote: by his blood; or by his sacrificial death.] he should become the means by which people’s sins are forgiven through their faith in him. God did this in order to demonstrate that he is righteous. In the past he was patient and overlooked people’s sins; but in the present time he deals with their sins, in order to demonstrate his righteousness. In this way God shows that he himself is righteous and that he puts right everyone who believes in Jesus.?Good News Bible.*†‡§
Galatians 5:22-23: 22 But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these.?Good News Bible.*†
1 Corinthians 4:9: For it seems to me that God has given the very last place to us apostles, like people condemned to die in public as a spectacle for the whole world of angels and of humanity.?Good News Bible.*†
©2022, Kenneth Hart, MD, MA, MPH. Permission is hereby granted for any noncommercial use of these materials. Free distribution of all or of a portion of this material such as to a Bible study class is encouraged. *Electronic version. †Bold type is added. ‡Brackets and content in brackets are added. §Italic type is in the source. ¶Compared with the first source, this source has punctuation and/or capitalization differences only. €This source has minor wording differences compared with the first source and may also have punctuation and/or capitalization differences. [email protected]
Last Modified: July 24, 2022
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