Yearning For Home And Adventist Living

A friend of mine asked me about the Negro Spiritual “Deep River” and its connection to Adventist living. This was a very interesting question that I began to think about. The singer of the Spiritual said:

Deep River
My Home Is Over Jordan
Deep River, Lord
I Want To Cross Over Into Campground

The singer of this spiritual has a deep yearning for home that you can feel even in the words as well as the music that accompanied it. But there is something that is standing in the way of home. That is this deep chasm. There is a barrier to going home. We know that the singer of this spiritual was someone who was either removed from home, or never saw home in that the singer was one who was born in an alien land that every day reminded her that she was not home.

Whether it was the daily indignities of slavery or the threat of violence and even having family forcibly removed, there was no home for the slave. I definitely do not wish to minimize that alienation that was felt by the slave in making this comparison, but in some sense all of us who are pilgrims passing through this land deal with this alienation. We realize that we are not home.

The early Advent people must have felt a close kinship with the singer of this song on that October 23, 1844 when the day had past and Christ had not returned. They must have felt this “yearning” for home. They must have felt that there was this deep chasm between them and “home” and they just simply wanted to cross over into camp ground.

This yearning has been kept alive amongst the Second Advent people through the years. Listen to some of the old saints talk and you can still catch a glimsp of this “deep river feeling.” They speak of being in the “Last Days.” They speak of “wanting to go home.” They speak of “last day events.” Yes the still sing “Lift up the trumpet and loud let it ring, Jesus is coming again.” They still have that yearning for home that was a part of this movement.

I wonder if this “yearning for home” is something that is deep within the psyche of Adventists. Some have theological issues with this mindset. They say it promotes an otherworldly religion that does not deal with real issues of here and now. There probably is some truth to that. We have not always been at the forefront of calls for justice in this world. But, I wonder what will become of an Adventism that has lost this “yearning for home?” The slave who loses that yearning either loses “home” or has to change the definition of “home” to a place that does not look like “home.” I wonder if the movement is at that crossroads now. Certainly it has been a long time. Certainly it is difficult to hold on to the hope of the coming. But at the end of the day, just like the slave, this yearning is what makes us who we are, and more than that, it keeps us from being comfortable with any “home” that is not really “home.”

Steps to a Cross-less Christianity

Perusing the best selling books of popular Christianity provides some interesting information. While there are certainly exceptions, it seems as though a “cross-less” Christianity has come into the drivers seat. There seems to be little difference between popular Christianity and the “present evil world.” (Galatians 1:4). It appears that there is a minimization of holiness that comes from an appreciation and participation in the cross.

What Will Draw Humanity

When the cross is removed or minimized which draws all men unto it (John 12:32), then we must play games or engage in all kinds of chicanery to “draw” humanity to our religion. While true evangelism should be based in the cross, without the cross we must emphasize a religion that is simply about “what you will get.”

In this religion, we talk forever about “God hooking you up.” We marginalize those who would speak of the importance of the Cross and Cross-living as legalists or unloving. And perhaps one of the biggest perversions, we make Christianity solely about “personal fulfillment.”

How Far Does Your Christianity Go?

This religion starts and ends with speaking of doing better at work and being a better father and parent. All are worthy goals, but devoid of the cross and its principle of “self denial” we end up with preachers spouting regurgitated pop-psychology. And then we end up with a religion that is indistinguishable from the living of the status-quo.

Is this all there is to Christianity? If it is, then let’s toss it on the trash heap of history. I want a Christianity that will turn the world upside down again! (Acts 17:6) I want a Christianity that will not only make me a better citizen, but also mold me into the image of Christ! Don’t remove the cross, you will not like what kind of Christianity you have left.

A Bad Argument For The Sabbath

Let me preface my remarks by saying that I am a Seventh Day Sabbath keeper, however, from time to time I hear absolutely terrible arguments from Seventh Day Sabbatarians. I am not talking about debatable points or arguments where reasonable people could come to different understandings, but I mean poor argumentation.

One of these poor arguments came from an Adventist local elder reading the King James Version and it was based on Hebrews 4:8. The Biblical text reads, “For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day?”

After reading the text, the Sabbath defender told me, this is the best text I have found against those who would say that the Sabbath has been changed. I then asked the individual, how so? The individual said, “the text plainly says that if the day would be changed from the Seventh Day of the week then why didn’t Jesus tell us of the new day? This is why the ‘Sabbath remains’ in Hebrews 4:8 because he didn’t tell them of another day.”

It really looks like the awkward rendering in the KJV version of the Bible might be tripping up the individual who does not really understand the argument of the book of Hebrews.

The book clearly says that the rest (Sabbatismos) remains. It is also noteworthy that the book says that the Sabbatismos remains while so many other things connected to the Jewish economy has been done away. That is an interesting argument that I think is a strong defense of the validity of a literally keeping of the Sabbath, but that is not the argument presented by the elder.

But simply put, the argument of the elder is that the rest remains because “Joshua (Jesus) didn’t tell them of another day to take the place.” But the book of Hebrews argues that the rest remains because Joshua (Jesus) DID tell of another day, namely the day described as “Today” before this text. But let’s read the text in context.

Context Solves A Lot Of Problems

The first thing I would say about this argument is that one must always look at the text in context. I think it is reasonable to argue that if Jesus had changed the day he would have told us about it. Just because that is reasonable and this text seems to say that does not mean that this text says what we want it to say. It ain’t talking about the change of a day. And furthermore the very argument in the text is that Jesus (Joshua) DID speak of another day.

OK, let us attempt to look at the text. First we must recognize that the name Jesus and Joshua are equivalent names in Hebrew. So it is interpretation to decide whether to interpret this as Jesus or Joshua. But let us go on.

Hebrews 4:1 says the we should fear that a promise of “entering rest” has come to us and we don’t go into it. We are told in Hebrews 4:2 that the promise was preached to the readers of Hebrews as well as the ancient Isrealites to enter the rest. The ancients didn’t, according to Hebrews 4:2, didn’t have faith.

Now Hebrews 4:3 makes the argument that we today enter that rest by faith. In Hebrews 4:4-5, the author quotes that God rested on the Seventh day. The author then quote that it is still possible to “enter into God’s rest.” In Hebrews 4:6 the author then argues that because the ancients didn’t enter then the “rest” still needs to be entered into.

In Hebrews 4:7, the author now quotes Joshua, “Today if you hear my voice harden not your heart.” This is proof to the writer that the “day” to enter into rest “still remains.”

Then comes our text. In Hebrews 4:8, the author argues, “If Joshua (Jesus) had given them rest, then why did he talk about another day.” Namely the “Today” when we all must come to Jesus and accept the salvation that he has provided.

So the author concludes in Hebrews 4:9, “therefore a rest remains for the people of God.” So The author is arguing that because the Bible writer spoke of another day to accept this rest, then the acceptance of that rest is still applicable to us.

The Text Says The Opposite

Turning back the page. So the text says the very opposite of what the one who is arguing is saying. But what is interesting however is the nature of this “rest” and what it means. I will get back to that at some point, but my point in this article is that context is everything. Don’t argue any point simply becuase you heard someone say it in a pulpit or anywhere else. Read the text yourself!!

Now in case you think I am playing with the text, read the text in another translation, which is always a good step. If the original person had read the text in a translation that she or he understood there would have been no difficulty. Please note how it is written in the NIV Hebrews 4:7-8

7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”[a]

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.


It is important that we use good arguments for whatever position we hold. If someone had read the text in context they would be less likely to hear what you have to say about this and other issues in the future. We all make mistakes, and I know I have as well, so let us move forward from where we are to where we should go.