Lessons From Israelís Departure From God

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December 30, 1880 Israel Depart From God.

 

By Mrs. E. G. White.

 

†††† While Balak and his counselors were plotting to entice God's people into sin and thus secure their overthrow, the Israelites, all unconscious of their danger, were enjoying ease and quiet in their tents among the acacia groves in the vale of Shittim. They had little to occupy their minds or their time, and they felt little anxiety for the future. They had prevailed against the warlike inhabitants of the surrounding country, and they felt that they had only to cross the Jordan and the goodly land would be all their own. Their condition of ease and inactivity was unfavorable to moral and physical vigor, as well as to purity of thought and life, while a knowledge of the licentious character of the surrounding nations had to some extent familiarized their minds with thoughts of vice and lessened their abhorrence of crime. {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 1}

 

†††† At this time, Midianitish women were seen stealing into the camp, singly and in little companies. Their appearance excited no alarm, and so quietly were their plans conducted, that the attention of Moses was not called to the matter. It was the object of these women in their association with the Hebrews to first draw their attention from the God of Israel to heathen traditions, rites, and customs, and then to allure them into transgression of the divine law. These motives were studiously concealed under the garb of friendship, so that they were not suspected, even by the great leader. These heathen women feared to excite the indignation of Moses, but they did not consider that no evil work could be concealed from the all-seeing eye of God. {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 2}

 

†††† Their hellish plans were all too successful. It was not long before the poison of licentiousness and idolatry had spread like a deadly infection through the congregation of Israel. The people seemed to be infatuated. The rulers and leading men were among the first to step over the line; and so general was the defection, that it is recorded in the Sacred Word, that "Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor." Alas that the people who had been so signally protected from Satan's power, should now deliberately walk into the net which he had laid for them! {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 3}

 

†††† Suddenly Moses was aroused to perceive the mighty evil in the camp, and he was horrified as he discovered its nature and extent. So successful had been the plots of these vile, artful women, that his own people were participating in the abominable scenes enacted at the worship of Baal, and the sacrifice and sacrilegious feasts were becoming established among the Israelites. The aged leader was filled with indignation, and the wrath of God was kindled against the people. By divine authority, Moses addressed to the rulers of Israel the command: "Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor." {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 4}

 

†††† This order was promptly obeyed. The people had already been awakened to the enormity of their sin, by the swift judgments of God. A terrible pestilence had broken out in the camp, and twenty-four thousand of the congregation fell a prey to its ravages. None knew where this visitation would end, yet they felt that their punishment was just. Overwhelmed with terror, they hastened to the tabernacle, and with tears and deep humiliation, confessed their sin. {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 5}

 

†††† While the people were thus weeping before God, at the door of the tabernacle, while the plague was still doing its work of death, and the magistrates executing their terrible commission, one of the nobles of Israel came boldly into the camp, accompanied by a Midianitish princess, whom he gallantly escorted to his tent. This daring outrage stirred the indignation of all Israel, and swift retribution followed the offenders. Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the high priest, rose up from among the congregation, and slew them both. This prompt and determined act evinced a just abhorrence of the sins which had brought so great calamities upon Israel. God approved the course of Phinehas, and the plague was stayed; while the priest who had so zealously executed the divine judgment was honored before all Israel, and the priesthood was confirmed to him and to his house forever. {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 6}

 

†††† As we read this history, it seems almost incredible that a man could be so blinded by the bewitching power of woman as to indulge such stubborn and Heaven-daring rebellion, in face of the most terrible visitations of divine wrath. But human nature is the same in every age. The temptations of Satan are no less strong today than in the days of ancient Israel. {ST, December 30, 1880par. 7}

 

†††† Satan has ever achieved his greatest successes through the neglect of God's people to maintain their separation from the world,--its customs, its practices, and principles. There are but two great parties among men,--the servants of Christ, and the servants of Satan. Their leaders are opposites in every particular. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to conquer the prince of darkness, says, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." Here Christ makes a marked distinction between his followers and the world. Those who are of the world are in direct opposition to those who love God and keep his commandments. The heart must be kept with all diligence, that the human be not exalted above the divine. If those who profess to love and serve God, follow blind impulse, rather than reason and conscience, they will fall by the artifice of Satan. The affections should be guarded and controlled, lest they be placed upon unworthy objects, that are forbidden in the word of God. {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 8}

 

†††† Samson, that mighty man of valor, was under a solemn vow to be a Nazarite during the period of his life; but, becoming infatuated by the charms of lewd woman, he rashly broke that sacred pledge. Satan worked through his agents to destroy this ruler of Israel, that the mysterious power which he possessed might no longer intimidate the enemies of God's people. It was the influence of this bold woman that separated him from God, her artifices that proved his ruin. The love and service which God claims, Samson gave to this woman. This was idolatry. He lost all sense of the sacred character and work of God, and sacrificed honor, conscience, and every valuable interest, to base passion. {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 9}

 

†††† The life of Solomon should prove a beacon of warning to God's people in every age. The Lord had erected a barrier between Israel and other nations. He had made that people the depositaries of his law, and their safety lay in preserving their peculiar, holy character. But as King Solomon's heart was lifted up in pride, he became eager for still greater wealth and power. To secure these, political alliances were formed with idolatrous nations. {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 10}

 

†††† Honor and riches flowed in to him as the result; but these temporal advantages were dearly purchased at the sacrifice of principle. His kingdom was enriched with the gold of Tarshish, but the fine gold of character was tarnished by the corrupting influence of paganism. Once over the wise barrier which God had erected, the king took, one after another, the fatal steps that led him away from hope, and happiness, and Heaven. From the wisest of the rulers, Solomon became a despot. Satan triumphed as this man, who had thrice been called the beloved of his God, became a slave of passion, and sacrificed his integrity to the bewitching power of woman.{ST, December 30, 1880 par. 11}

 

†††† The cases mentioned are sufficient to show the danger of corrupting the soul by mingling with God's enemies. These examples are placed on record for the benefit of those who live amid the perils of the last days. The devices of Satan are no less now than in ancient times. Indeed, as we near the period of Christ's second coming, Satan redoubles his efforts to work with all deceivableness of unrighteousness. The youth especially are in constant and fearful danger of being overcome by his temptations. {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 12}

 

†††† In the judgments that followed Israel's sin, we may see with what abhorrence God looks upon worldliness, idolatry, and licentiousness. The same dangers exist today that threatened the prosperity, and even the existence, of his ancient people. Temptations to licentiousness have been steadily increasing from that time to the present, and similar scenes are constantly enacted, with similar efforts at concealment. A bewitching power is brought to bear on every soul not fortified by firm principle. Warnings of fathers and mothers and of God's embassadors are all unheeded. The affections which should be centered upon God are given to the idolatry of unworthy objects. {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 13}

 

†††† Watchfulness and vigilance are needed now. The lustful eye must be turned off from beholding vanity. Boldness and immodesty must be met with a decided rebuke. Let none yield to a spirit of self-confidence, and feel that they are in no danger. As long as Satan lives, his efforts will be constant and untiring to make the world as wicked as before the flood, and as licentious as were the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. The prayer may well be offered daily by all who have the fear of God before them, that he will preserve their hearts from evil desires, and strengthen their souls to resist temptation. Those who, in their self-confidence, feel no need of watchfulness and unceasing prayer, are near some humiliating fall. All who do not feel the importance of resolutely guarding their affections will be captivated by those who practice their arts to ensnare and lead astray the unwary. {ST, December 30, 1880par. 14}

 

†††† Satan exulted to see Samson, a man whom God could have used to his glory, so infatuated that he could betray his strength into the hands of Delilah. Satan knew that he had taken Samson captive. Few who go thus far, again see clearly the aggravated character of sin. Reputation, strength, and usefulness are sacrificed for sinful indulgence. Blind infatuation leads men on in the way to destruction. The power of Satan, his arts and machinations --who can know them? Those who, in defiance of all the warnings and entreaties of God's word, venture to indulge in sin, are sleeping on the very brink of eternal ruin. Because God bears long with transgressors of his law, because he sends them warnings and entreaties, because punishment does not immediately follow their evil deeds, they abuse his mercy and forbearance, and blindly rush on in a course of crime. {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 15}

 

††† If those who now depart from the straight line of virtue and integrity were as promptly rebuked by the swift judgments of God as were the offenders in Israel's day, crime of this character would be less prevalent. When assailed by temptation, many have not moral strength to say, as did Joseph, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" They do not give a decided refusal to the first invitation to transgress the law of God; and soon unlawful indulgence becomes habitual, and they are ready to deny that it is a sin. {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 16}

 

†††† Unwise marriages are the curse of this age. Such an alliance can but be disastrous to both parties. That love which has no better foundation than mere sensual gratification will be headstrong, blind, and uncontrollable. Honor, truth, and every noble, elevated power of the mind, is brought under the slavery of passions. The man who is bound in the chains of this infatuation is too often deaf to the voice of reason and conscience; neither argument nor entreaty can lead him to see the folly of his course. {ST, December 30, 1880par. 17}

 

†††† Men and women professing godliness should tremble at the thought of entering into a marriage covenant with those who do not respect and obey the commandments of God. It was this that opened the flood-gates of sin to the antediluvians. Such a connection with the world is a direct departure from God's express requirements,--"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." {ST,December 30, 1880 par. 18}

 

†† ††In these alliances the creature receives the love which should be given to the Creator. There is danger in entering into any intimate relation with those who have no connection with Heaven. This is the friendship which Inspiration calls enmity with God. We cannot be too jealous of ourselves, lest by associating with worldlings we fall into the same habits. It was for this reason that the Israelites were commanded to dwell alone, as a people separate from all other nations. The friendship of the Lord's enemies is more to be dreaded than their enmity; for Satan is constantly working through pleasing, intelligent unbelievers, to tempt the people of God to sin. {ST,December 30, 1880 par. 19}

 

†††† When one commandment of the decalogue is broken, the downward steps are almost certain. When once the barriers of female modesty are removed, the basest licentiousness does not appear exceeding sinful. Alas, what terrible results of woman's influence for evil may be witnessed in the world today! Through the allurements of "strange women," thousands are incarcerated in prison cells, many take their own lives, and many cut short the lives of others. How true the words of Inspiration, "Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold on hell." {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 20}

 

†††† Beacons of warning are placed on every side in the pathway of life, to prevent men from approaching the dangerous, forbidden ground; but notwithstanding this, multitudes choose the fatal path, contrary to the dictates of reason, regardless of God's law, and in defiance of his vengeance. {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 21}

 

†††† Those who would preserve physical health, a vigorous intellect, and sound morals must "flee youthful lusts." Those who will put forth zealous and decided efforts to check the wickedness that lifts its bold, presumptuous head in our midst, are hated and maligned by all wrong-doers, but they will honored and recompensed of God. {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 22}

 

†††† The judgments visited upon Israel for their sin at Shittim, destroyed the survivors of that vast company, who, nearly forty years before, had provoked the Lord to swear in his wrath that they should not enter Canaan. When, at the command of God, the people were numbered just prior to the death of Moses, it was found that "there was not left a man of them, save Caleb, the son of Nun, the son of Jephunneh." Thus had the word of God been strictly fulfilled. {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 23}

 

January 14, 1873 Life and Mission of John

 

By Ellen G. White.

 

 

†††† As John looked forward to the ministry and miracles of Christ, he appealed to the people, "saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand." He was successful in his ministry. Persons of all rank, high and low, rich and poor, submitted to the requirements of the prophet, as necessary for them in order to participate in the kingdom he came to declare. Many of the scribes and Pharisees came to him, confessing their sins, and were baptized of him in Jordan. The confessions made by the Pharisees astonished the prophet; for they had exalted themselves as better than other men, and had maintained a high opinion of their own piety and worthiness. As they sought to obtain remission of their sins, and revealed the secrets of their lives, which had been covered from the eyes of men, the prophet was amazed. "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance. And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father; for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 1}

 

†††† The whole Jewish nation seemed to be affected by the mission of John. The threatenings of God on account of their sins, repeated by the prophet, for a time alarmed them. John knew that they cherished the idea that, because they were of the seed of Abraham, they were securely established in the favor of God, while their course of action was abhorred of him. Their conduct was, in many respects, even worse than that of the heathen nations to whom they felt so much superior. The prophet faithfully presented to them the ability of God to raise up those who would take their place, and would become more worthy children of Abraham. He told them plainly that God was not dependent upon them to fulfill his purposes; for he could provide ways and means independent of them to carry forward his great work which was to be accomplished in purity and righteousness. John further adds: "And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." He impresses upon them that the value of the tree is ascertained by the fruit it produces. Though a tree may bear an exalted name, yet if it produces no fruit, or if its fruit is unworthy of the name, the name will avail nothing in saving the tree from destruction. "Of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes." {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 2}

 

†††† The prophet of God was impressed by the Holy Spirit that many of the Pharisees and Sadducees who asked baptism had no true convictions of their sins. They had selfish motives. They thought that if they should become friends of the prophet, they would stand a better chance to be personally favored of the coming Prince. In their blindness they believed that he was to set up a temporal kingdom, and bestow honors and riches upon his subjects. {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 3}

 

†††† John rebuked their selfish pride and avarice. He warned them of their unbelief, and condemned their hypocrisy. He told them that they had not fulfilled the conditions of the covenant on their part, which would entitle them to the promises God made to a faithful and obedient people. Their proud boasts of being children of Abraham did not make them really such. Their exhibitions of pride, their arrogance, jealousy, selfishness, and cruelty, stamped their characters as a generation of vipers, rather than the children of obedient and just Abraham. Their wicked works had disqualified them to claim the promises God made to the children of Abraham. John assured them that God would raise up children unto Abraham from the very stones, to whom he could fulfill his promise, rather than to depend on the natural children of Abraham who had neglected the light God had given them, and had become hardened by selfish ambition and wicked unbelief. He told them that if they were really the children of Abraham, they would do the works of their father Abraham. They would have Abraham's faith, love, and obedience. But they did not bear this fruit. They had no claim to Abraham as their father, or the promises God made to the seed of Abraham. "Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." While they were professing to be God's commandment keeping people, their works denied their faith, and without true repentance for their sins they would have no part in the kingdom of Christ. Justice, benevolence, mercy, and the love of God would characterize the lives of his commandment-keeping people. Unless these fruits were seen in their daily life, all their profession was of no more value than chaff which would be devoted to the fire of destruction. {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 4}

 

†††† The Jews had deceived themselves by misinterpreting the words of the Lord through his prophets, of his eternal favor to his people Israel. {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 5}

 

†††† "Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; the Lord of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me forever. Thus saith the Lord: If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord." Jer. 31:35-37. {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 6}

 

†††† These words the Jews applied to themselves. And because God had shown them so great favor and mercy, they flattered themselves that, notwithstanding their sins and iniquities, he would still retain them as his favored people, and shower especial blessings upon them. They misapplied the words of Jeremiah, and depended for their salvation upon being called the children of Abraham. If they had indeed been worthy of the name of Abraham's children, they would have followed the righteous example of their father Abraham, and would have done the works of Abraham. {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 7}

 

†††† This has been the danger of the people of God in all ages; and especially is this the danger of those living near the close of time. We are cited by the apostle to the unbelief, blindness, rebellion, and repeated sins of the Hebrews, as a warning. Paul plainly states that "all these things happened unto them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." If, in these last days of peril, for the encouragement of persons in responsible positions, God in mercy gives them a testimony of favor, they frequently become lifted up, and lose sight of their frailties and weaknesses, and rely upon their own judgment, flattering themselves that God cannot accomplish his work without their especial aid. They trust in their own wisdom; and the Lord permits them, for a time, to apparently prosper, to reveal the weakness and folly of the natural heart. But the Lord will, in his own time, and in his own way, bring down the pride and folly of these deceived ones, and show to them their true condition. If they will accept the humiliation, and by confession and sincere repentance, turn unto the Lord, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, he will renew his love to them. But if they shut their eyes to their own sins, as did the Jews, and choose their own ways, the Lord will give them up to blindness of mind, and hardness of heart, that they cannot discern the things of the Spirit of God. {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 8}

 

†††† God cannot do much for man, because he misinterprets his blessings, and concludes that he is favored on account of some goodness in himself. It is not safe to speak in the praise of mortals; for they cannot bear it. Satan has the special work to do of flattering poor souls, and he needs not the help of the Lord's servants in this matter. How few realize the weakness of human nature and the subtlety of Satan. Many in these last days are preparing themselves for affliction and sorrow, or for complete separation from the favor of God, because of their pride and self-righteousness. They will fall, through self-exaltation. {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 9}

 

†††† The prophet John impressed upon the people the necessity of their profession being accompanied with good works. Their words and actions would be their fruit, and would determine the character of the tree. If their works were evil, the truth of God would testify against them. God would in no wise excuse sin in a people who had been enlightened, even if he had, in their days of faithfulness and purity, loved them, and given them especial promises. These promises and blessings were always upon condition of obedience upon their part. {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 10}

 

†††† The Lord pronounced, by the mouth of Moses, blessings upon the obedient, and curses upon the disobedient. "Ye shall make you no idols," was the command of God. "Ye shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary. I am the Lord. If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit." Many and great blessings are enumerated, which God would bestow; and then, above all the other blessings, he promised, "I will set my tabernacle among you; and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people." "But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; and if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant, I also will do this unto you: I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart; and ye shall sow your seed in vain; for your enemies shall eat it. And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies. They that hate you shall reign over you, and ye shall flee when none pursueth you." {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 11}

 

†††† The Jews were experiencing the fulfillment of the threatened curse of God for their departure from him, and for their iniquity; yet they did not lay these things to heart, and afflict their souls before God. A people that hated them ruled over them. They were claiming the blessings God had promised to confer upon them should they be obedient and faithful. But at the very time they were suffering under the curse of God because of disobedience. John declared to them that unless they bore fruit, they would be hewn down and cast into the fire. {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 12}

 

†††† He specified the fruit they were required to bear in order to become the subjects of Christ's kingdom; which were works of love, mercy, and benevolence. They must have virtuous characters. These fruits would be the result of genuine repentance and faith. If blessed with plenty, and they saw others destitute, they should divide with them. They must be workers. "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages." {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 13}

 

†††† John gave his disciples lessons in practical godliness. He showed them that true goodness, honesty, and fidelity, must be seen in their daily life, and that they should be actuated by unselfish principles, or they would be no better than common sinners. {RH,January 14, 1873 par. 14}

 

†††† Unless others should be made better within the sphere of their influence, they would be like the fruitless tree. Their wealth was not to be used merely for selfish purposes. They were to relieve the wants of the destitute, and to make free-will offerings to God to advance the interests of his cause. They should not abuse their privileges, to oppress, but should shield the defenseless, redress the wrongs of the injured, and thus give a noble example of benevolence, compassion, and virtue, to those who were inferior and dependent. If they made no change in their conduct, but continued to be extravagant, selfish, and void of principle, they would correctly represent the tree bearing no good fruit. This lesson is applicable to all Christians. The followers of Christ should evidence to the world a change in their life for the better, and by their good works show the transforming influence of the Spirit of God upon their hearts. But there are many who bear no fruit to the glory of God; they give no evidence of a radical change in their life. Although they make high profession, they have not felt the necessity of obtaining a personal experience for themselves, by engaging in Christian duties with hearts of love, intensified by their new and holy obligations, feeling a weight of their responsibility in doing their Master's work with readiness and diligence. {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 15}

 

†††† The people thought that John might be the promised Messiah. His life was unselfish, and marked with humility and self-denial. His teachings, exhortations, and reproofs, were fervent, sincere, and courageous. In his mission, he turned not to the right or to the left to court the favors or applause of any. He did not aspire to worldly honor or worldly dignity, but was humble in heart and life, and did not assume honors that did not belong to him. He assured his followers that he was not the Christ. {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 16}

 

†††† John, as a prophet, stood forth as God's representative, to show the connection between the law and prophets, and the Christian dispensation. His work and ministry pointed back to the law and the prophets, while he, at the same time, pointed the people forward to Christ, as the Saviour of the world. He raised his voice and cried to the people, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." {RH, January 14, 1873 par. 17}

 

†††† Multitudes followed this singular prophet from place to place, and many sacrificed all to obey his instruction. Kings, and the noble of the earth, were attracted to this prophet of God, and heard him gladly. As John saw that the attention of the people was directed to him, thinking that he might be the Coming One, he sought every opportunity to direct the attention of the people to One mightier than himself. ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

{RH, January 14, 1873 par. 18}