The Serpent on the Pole – Faithful/Unfaithful Ministry
John Thiel mp3
We are gathered together here are we not to worship God? This is the hour of worship. Not just to study, but to worship. What is acceptable worship to God? Jesus announces that in His interview with the woman at the well. I am fascinated with the description given as the parallel is vivid to our time. At a time when the churches that claim to be held of God like in the time of Christ, there were the Samaritans, the Jews in Jerusalem, they were all claiming to be Israel. They were all claiming to be Gods church. Amongst them were the pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and different groups. Isn’t it the same today? There is this woman from Samaria and she is addressing Jesus and He is talking to her.
John 4:19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
Here is the answer to our question. What is the worship that is acceptable to God? Jesus said that God is a spirit and they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth. God is an intelligent person and if we are going to worship Him, we must worship Him intelligently and in truth. May God grant this to us as we do this.
This is a remarkable interview because if Jesus was here today, and if the Adventist mainstream church would come along and say; “how should we worship?” He may say to them, “you are bit like the fallen tribes of Israel. You don’t know what you’re worshipping anymore.” The original Adventist church, those who are reformers today, say salvation is of the Jews, they are reformers, not even there. It’s those who worship in spirit and in truth.
That is a very deep and meaningful medication. We are confronted with this parallel.
Isaiah 8:14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
The Samaritans, the ten fallen tribes and the Jews. He is a stumbling block to those.
Isaiah 8:15 And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. 16 Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.
Very interesting. The parallel is striking. We need to ask ourselves the question in today’s parallel, where do we find ourselves? Do we also wonder exactly where is the true worship?
It’s the voice of the shepherd, “now bids me return by the way where the footprints are lying.” The footprints of prophecy, the testimony of Jesus will show us the way. There was another interview that is just in the same vicinity of John.
John 3: 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
I find it interesting that as Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus. He throws this story into Nicodemus mind. This story about the children of Israel being bitten by the serpents in their journey and delay in their in the wilderness towards Canaan. Why did He cast this in; as Moses lifted the serpent in the interview? As Moses was lifted up, the serpent in the wilderness. Looking at it’s parallel to our time, is this a relevant introduction to understanding where we should be and what we should be doing?
As the Hebrews were travelling through the wilderness from Egypt to Canaan, we are travelling from the corruptions of Egypt around us to the heavenly Canaan. In our experience, we have a very, very similar situation. Picking up the story that Jesus alluded to Nicodemus.
Numbers 21:5 And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. 6 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
All these things happened for an example to those of us who are living at this time. 1 Corinthians 10:11 tells us that. Here is a very profound meditation. The people were going first in their antagonism, in their experience of having to travel through this wilderness and the discomforts of it. You know what it’s like camping, we can camp today in modern tents. But in those days, it was not a luxurious experience. There were no zips in the bottom of the tents to stop snakes from getting through. The people were uncomfortable. To be a follower of Jesus Christ today in our journey of Canaan, is it a comfortable experience? We suffer together with Christ.
In the story, the church that was led by God and Moses as the prophet and as the leader, and the ministry that were under him, the people were uncomfortable and they were starting to murmur against their experience they were making, against God and against Moses. What happens? God says fine, you make an experience then. The one who had protected them from the serpents in the wilderness said, “let go” and the serpents came and started their terrible attack.
You’re lying in your bed in your tent, and there is no zip to keep them out and they come from underneath the tent and they attack. Imagine the holocaust of their experience. Shocking. Lord, we have sinned against you, send these serpents away. Does God answer their prayer? Not at all. The serpents don’t stop. God says okay, if you want to be free of the poison serpents biting, they are still going to bite, they are still going to be there, I’m not going to take them away. Put a serpent on the pole, if you would look at the serpent on the pole, then the poison that has been injected into you, will be diffused. Interesting way of dealing with the prayer. I pray and hope the holy spirit will help us to grasp what is here for us.
The problem in todays’ situation, is that the story of the serpents biting in that symbolism there, is actually very relevant to us as the serpent Satan and his multitudinous angels are doing the same thing to us. They are injecting us with poison around us all the time. We can’t avoid it, it happens. This is directly after the dark ages and the time of tribulation which he mentioned in verse 21.
Matthew 24: 23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
Serpents biting, Satan and his false ministry. Aren’t we surrounded by it? So much so that as I watch this happening, it is so close, that even the very elect are beginning to ask questions, maybe we are wrong, maybe these people are right? I’ll never forget my conversation with an Adventist preacher in the Adventist church preaching good doctrine. He was in his old age. I met him at the camp in the Adventist church and he said, maybe I was wrong. I showed him that he wasn’t wrong. But can you see even the very elect could be deceived. That’s how close this gets. The biting of the false teachers that are affected by Satan is there in it’s detail.
The Faithful Ministry vs the Unfaithful Ministry
Matthew 24: 45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. 48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; 49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, KJV — Matthew 24:50
If we stand on the pure truth, what will our fellow servants who are eating and drinking with the drunken do? They will smite, they will use their skill to deceive, if possible, the very elect and this is going on around us today. As we go through these experiences of being bitten, it’s not only on a church level of doctrinal problems, but also in personal experiences where God is permitting Satan and his evil angels to affect us. He is not stopping them. We must keep looking at this. We can cry unto God as long as we like, the Lord has made provision to survive in this time, but it’s not taking away the troublemakers. It’s going to be there right to the very end. We can be suffering all kinds of internal traumas. I hear it from us and others that I minister to; “oh dear this and oh dear that and the ministry of the Adventist church is wrong.” There is continual lamenting of the problem we are suffering under. What are we meant to do?
Numbers 21:5 And the people spake against God, and against Moses,
Isn’t that the problem today? They speak against the Spirit of Prophecy; they speak against the pioneers who are represented both Sr White and the pioneers who are represented as the leaders. They speak against that and yes, the SDA apostasy of today is something that troubles genuine Seventh Day Adventists and they themselves have been affected by the poison. While they have a lot of truth, some have lots of original Adventist truth, but then there is poison of certain doctrines that have slipped in that they are harbouring. They enter debate on the doctrines that have been corrupted. What is this really in terms of the scenario that we are looking at? Learn the lessons of the people as they were travelling.
Many of the Israelites saw no help in the remedy which Heaven had appointed. PP 432.1
Many see no help. Do you know what is the remedy of the biting of serpents today? Sr White calls the atonement of Jesus, is the remedy for the transgression of sin. They see no value, no help in the remedy. They don’t understand anymore the beautiful remedial work of Jesus being in sinful flesh. Made to be sin for us as the serpent on the pole. That is a strange symbol Sr White calls that. That He Jesus, was a serpent on the pole? So much to meditate. They see no value in it today either.
The dead and dying were all around them, and they knew that, without divine aid, their own fate was certain; but they continued to lament their wounds, their pains, their sure death, until their strength was gone, and their eyes were glazed, when they might have had instant healing. If we are conscious of our needs, we should not devote all our powers to mourning over them. While we realize our helpless condition without Christ, we are not to yield to discouragement, but rely upon the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. Look and live. Jesus has pledged His word; He will save all who come unto Him. Though millions who need to be healed will reject His offered mercy, not one who trusts in His merits will be left to perish. PP 432.1
I want to embed our mediation into the concept of what are we doing when see the wrong around us? When we feel the wrong within us. When we struggle with the conviction that we are so sinful. I’ve heard it expressed many times; I don’t think I’m going to make it. What are we doing when we talk like that? What are we doing when we keep on lamenting and exercise all our powers and mourning over the errors around us. Don’t get me wrong, the people who are sealed sigh and cry for the abominations done in Israel. But don’t centre on that. Centre on the remedy. Focus on the remedy and the remedy is a truth as it is in Jesus.
Whatever is our experience, we have been poisoned and affected by the serpents in this modern spiritual wilderness in which we live. We can lament, I am such a sinner, oh dear I’m short of the mark and we are not looking to the beautiful remedy. Look at this person, his mistakes, his sins, we can be occupied with that and miss out on the remedy. We are not placing ourselves under the true Moses and the true God.
My Personal Testimony
It is a living experience I have been through which is connected with this message I am sharing with you. When I was only 16, I discovered with great joy the message of Waggoner and Jones in 1888. I studied it, I made it my own. I went into the institution of the Adventist church as I was born into this church and I did my nurses training and I was under their tuition in 1969 to 1970 and when I was there, the serpents were biting. Desmond Ford was at Avondale. I was being affected, my friend said you have to listen to this man and he gave me some tapes to listen to. I thought wow what a preacher, what a wonderful man. I listened to him personally before.
As I was putting the tapes in my player, the Lord said listen, and listen very carefully. As I listened, wonderful scripture enlargement, beautiful until about half way through, he made an assertion and used the scriptures perfectly. Halfway through he made an assertion and I was listening to the word of God regarding it. He made an assertion and I was waiting for scripture and it wasn’t there. Then I watched and listened to him actually building on the assertion that he made which was not substantiated by scripture. There was the beginning of the Lord showing me how to look to Jesus and not to man because when uses his own assertions and not scripture, you are leaning on man.
I decided from that time onwards, that in my own study of Gods word, I would depend upon a thus saith the Lord and that alone. I went through the confusions of the 1960’s and 1970’s being bitten myself as while I grew up in the Seventh Day Adventist church. I am German. German Adventists are very liberal. We still ate meat and had the world with us in a large measure and didn’t follow all of Spirit of Prophecy. I was bitten by the serpents myself but the message was to look to Jesus. I was there in the rising of independent ministries. After I did my nurses training, I saw I wasn’t in Gods church. They were letting down the standards. In 1951 onwards, they raised the book Questions on Doctrine which was a diabolical book. That’s what I was growing up in. I didn’t know with all this that was going on, there was different independents at that time. You could count them on your hand. There were so many of them. I thought, where do I go Lord, what do I do? I was pleading for help and the word came. Here are scriptures that we need to embrace so we can come away from the poison that surrounds us.
Isaiah 8:11 For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, 12 Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid
In other words, don’t join up with them. That‘s what he was saying, where am I going to go Lord, where will I go? Don’t confederate with them, don’t walk in the way of these people.
Isaiah 8:13 Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem
There I got my picture. Both houses of Israel
Isaiah 8:15 And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. 16 Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples
But where are his deisicpoles gthat I can be part of? Where are they? Can you see the hymn we sang that is so dear to me? Lord, where is your flock? Because I did believe what is written in Ephesians 4:11 & 16.
I believe very sincerely that God has a ministry and I needed to be part of that ministry.
Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
Isn’t this a description of our problem of our present stage? Tossed about by winds of doctrine in Adventism even. I needed to be under a ministry, under apostles, pastors, teachers because I needed perfecting. I needed the guidance of a ministry that God had provided, and I knew that. Where is that ministry Lord that I needed to depend upon? The Lord didn’t leave me long. Then came the answer as I was first of all needing a full dependence on the Spirit of Prophecy as I didn’t believe it all. The Lord led me to examine the prophet and lo and behold she passed all the test. The Spirit of Prophecy is my dependence. As I made that my dependence, there came the answer. It came as a wonderful balm on my heart that I was suffering under.
In the future, deception of every kind is to arise, and we want solid ground for our feet. We want solid pillars for the building. Not one pin is to be removed from that which the Lord has established. The enemy will bring in false theories, such as the doctrine that there is no sanctuary. This is one of the points on which there will be a departing from the faith. Where shall we find safety unless it be in the truths that the Lord has been giving for the last fifty years?—The Review and Herald, May 25, 1905. CW 53.2
That there is no sanctuary; that’s what I heard Des Ford preach about and I hear ministers coming from his school teaching this. Oh Lord, I better find out. I better make that my study. I was only 21 when this came to my consciousness. I made it my deliberation to search out all the publications of the pioneer years. I’m talking about the publications that the church publicly presented. Not individual pioneers writing their own thing. That which was held by the early Adventist church. I made that my study and I gained the platform of truth in which I could have solid ground for my faith to depend on. I made that very firmly my choice.
The Vietnam War
At the time just before all this, I was called into the services to go to Vietnam. I had one thing very clear in my mind is that Jesus didn’t want me to go to war. I didn’t get the full support of the Seventh Day Adventist church at all. Not at all. They will say you can do what you like. Either you go in there as a medic, or you be a conscientious objector, it’s your business.
But the the church had a stand and I discovered that. I took my stand without knowing the church had that. I wrote a very strong letter, and they deferred me indefinitely. Then I discovered in the first world war there were a people who remained faithful. They became the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement. I said praise the Lord I will become part of that. I was for 18 years. Until what is written in Great Controversy became a reality in my experience over those 18 years.
Has not the same process been repeated in nearly every church calling itself Protestant? As the founders, those who possessed the true spirit of reform, pass away, their descendants come forward and “new-model the cause.” While blindly clinging to the creed of their fathers and refusing to accept any truth in advance of what they saw, the children of the reformers depart widely from their example of humility, self-denial, and renunciation of the world. Thus “the first simplicity disappears.” A worldly flood, flowing into the church, carries “with it its customs, practices, and idols.” GC 385.1
That was my experience in the Reform. They were right, but the world came in. The children of the reformers and the new converts, they newmodelled the cause. I couldn’t stay there anymore as the doctrines were being changed. Lord, where do I go now? I don’t like independence and I had to stand alone and a group of people were with me. Lord I don’t want to be independent, where do I go? Like the hymn, follow the steps of the fathers. This is the way the Lord spoke to me time and time again. In different situations He would speak to me. He said, are you independent if you are relying on the pioneers? No I’m not. Phew. okay, so here is my platform I will stand on. I will depend on that and if I have to stand alone, fine. If there is a group of people who will stand with me, fine. Here is where we find ourselves today. no different. We are surrounded by the serpents that bite. Satan has bitten me. Has he bitten you too? Be honest. The poison has affected me and has affected us and I know it and I come to Jesus and I look upon Him and I am released from the poison.
As I am released from the poison, my focus is fully based on Gods beautiful answer to the problems that surround us, and I determine that I am going to stay loyal even if it means change. Doesn’t matter. If we will stand together with those who have gone before us, here is a beautiful quote that I want to let sink into our experience. Here is Jesus again lifted up in this beautiful quote.
After the great disappointment there were few who set themselves to seek the Word with all their heart. But some souls would not settle down in discouragement and deny that the Lord had led them. To these the truth was opened point by point, and entwined with their most hallowed recollections and sympathies. The searchers after truth felt that the identification of Christ with their nature and interest was complete. 11LtMs, Ms 32, 1896, par. 18
The atonement, they found it.
Truth was made to shine forth, beautiful in its simplicity, dignified with a power and invested with an assurance unknown before the disappointment. We could then proclaim the message in unity. But among those who had not held fast their faith and experience, there was great confusion. Every conceivable opinion was presented as the message of truth; but the Lord’s voice was, “Believe them not; for I have not sent them.” [See Jeremiah 12:6; 27:15.] 11LtMs, Ms 32, 1896, par. 18
Is this relevant to us? It’s very relevant to me. As we are surrounded by these pesky snakes that keep on biting, that keep on confusing, that keep on befogging the mind, there is a serpent on the pole. The identification with Christ with our nature and interest is there complete. Our invitation is to unite with them and form a present bond of unity as they had. They are no longer alive today, but we are to be alive with them.
There are profound quotes in the Spirit of Prophecy:
The very same Satan is at work to undermine the faith of the people of God at this time. There are persons ready to catch up every new idea. The prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation are misinterpreted. These persons do not consider that the truth has been set forth at the appointed time by the very men whom God was leading to do this special work. These men followed on step by step in the very fulfillment of prophecy, and those who have not had a personal experience in this work, are to take the Word of God and believe on “their word” who have been led by the Lord in the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages. 2SM 111.2
What are we to do? Believe their word? Now you are leaning on man they tell me. Sorry, I’m not leaning on men, these men are leaning on the word of God. We believe on their word who have been led by the Lord in the proclamation of the first, second and third angels messages.
These messages, received and acted upon, are doing their work to prepare a people to stand in the great day of God. If we search the Scriptures to confirm the truth God has given His servants for the world, we shall be found proclaiming the first, second, and third angels’ messages. 2SM 111.2
You want to be part of that company? This is what we are about. We want to draw the people to this spiritual experience of uplifting Jesus in the midst of the madness that surrounds us today. We want to answer the prayer of Jesus which these people back there wanted to answer that they would be in unity with Christ and fulfil His prayer of John 17:20&21. This is the unity that He is still praying for us to engage in. The precious fellowship that is contained in these words.
John 17:20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
The precious unity of the Godhead, the fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are invited to experience. That’s what Jesus is praying for and the brethren of the early Adventist years had it. It’s been lost and the mainstream Adventist movement today and all the little companies as well as there is no peace. God grant us that we will enter into this experience and bond together in answer to the prayer of Christ and we won’t lament the wounds any longer, will we? We will look to the cross, the uplifted saviour and enlarge him in our experience.