By Mrs. E. G. White
"Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not; for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour; I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee; therefore will I give men for thee; and people for thy life."
God brought his chosen people out of Egypt with mighty signs and wonders. He laid the land desolate by plagues, and slew the firstborn of the Egyptians in order to bring deliverance to his people. He opened to them a path through the Red Sea, and in the pillar of cloud and fire he stood as a wall of protection between his people and Pharaoh, who with his armies, chariots, and horsemen came in pursuit of Israel. At the word of command the Red Sea rolled upon the hosts of the Egyptians, while Israel sang songs of triumph and praise.
The Lord brought his chosen people out of Egypt in order that they might keep holy the Sabbath day, and fulfill the precepts of his law. He fed them with manna in the wilderness, and by a double miracle placed his seal upon the sacredness of the Sabbath institution. In awful grandeur the Lord came down on Mount Sinai and proclaimed his law to the people. The Israelites had so long lived in the midst of idolatry that they were shaping their religious life after the idolatrous customs of the land of their bondage. The Son of God gave to them his law of Ten Commandments, and proclaimed to them the rules and statutes of God in heaven and earth.
He represented his people as a wild vine that he had taken from Egypt, and planted in Canaan, where he nourished and cared for it; but when he looked for it to bring forth grapes, it brought forth wild grapes. His people forgot God, and went into rebellion, but he did not withdraw his love. He sent his prophets to warn them, he instituted the sacrificial system so that they might have before their minds the one great Sacrifice, the one efficient Offering that was prefigured in their typical system. But for all his love and care, Israel abused their privileges from age to age, and their religion became a hollow formalism. Christ saw Pharisaical pride, self-exaltation, cruel, Satanic attributes, developed and cherished by the people who bore his name. They would not accept his invitation of mercy, and from national apostasy came a spirit of cruel persecution that ended in killing the very messengers that he sent to warn them of the result of their evil course. Christ saw his vineyard spoiled through cruel husbandmen until it became fruitless through ingratitude, through grace resisted, through their refusal to accept the opportunities and privileges which the God of compassion and love provided for them. For a thousand years they multiplied transgression upon transgression, and even rejected the Son of God, and were ready to put him to death. The cloud of God's retributive judgment was about to burst upon them in unrestrained fury.
Jesus had dealt with Israel as would a loving father with a son. His love to Israel was represented in the parable of the prodigal son; but they had beaten back the waves of mercy, and, knowing what would fall upon Jerusalem, as he stands upon the mount of Olivet, his form is shaken with sobs of anguish. His heart is breaking with yearning. Tears flow forth from his eyes as he says, "How can I give thee up?"
The careless and the impenitent go on in their reckless course of disobedience, and harden themselves in rebellion against God; but they do not consider the value of the human soul. The world's Redeemer was constantly seeking to lead men to a true appreciation of the value of the soul. He asked the question, "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" A world sinks into insignificance in comparison with the soul. When Christ wept upon the mount of Olivet, he beheld with prophetic eye, not only the loss of one soul, but the destruction of a nation.
The world's Redeemer had come from his royal courts, stepped down from his royal throne, had clothed his divinity with humanity, and for our sake had become poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich. In accepting Christ the sinful nations who were about to be destroyed might have accepted the riches of heaven, obtained an eternal weight of glory. Must his offering be in vain? In his mission on earth among men he had displayed the same power as he had displayed in delivering the nation from Egyptian bondage, in opening a path through the Red Sea, and in discomforting the army of Pharaoh. He had revealed enough of his divinity to show them that he was the Son of God, and that he was able to deliver them from the Roman yoke, if it so pleased him, and to give them temporal triumph; but it was the fact that he did not exercise his power in bringing to them temporal benefits in the way they desired, that led the scribes and the Pharisees to reject the world's Redeemer. He bore a message denouncing every abomination in the land. He exposed their hypocrisies, and revealed the fact that their sanctity was only a cloak to iniquity.
The untainted purity of his life, the faultless character of his words and works, was a bitter reproof to the self-righteous but unclean pretenders to religion. He rebuked their course in weaving human traditions and the maxims of men into the laws of God, so that men were confused in regard to the laws of God's government, and were led to make void his law through following human inventions. He said to them: "This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, ... making the word of God of none effect through your tradition." He charged the religious teachers with being ignorant both of the Scriptures and of the power of God.
The Jews hated Christ because he bore a beautiful, spotless character. He could hate but one thing, and that was sin. This hatred of sin on his part provoked their bitterest hostility. If he had given license to their pride, had fostered their ambition, and passed over their evil passions, their injustice, their fraud, their robbery of the poor, they would have applauded Jesus. They would not have been displeased that he healed the sick, that he had compassion on the suffering, that he raised the dead; but they were displeased because he condemned their evil works, and put them to an open shame by exposing their evil motives. He rebuked their long prayers on the corners of the streets, and the wearing of their long robes for the purpose of making people think they were very pious, when at the same time they would devour with exactions widows' houses. They would not consent to reform and to be transformed in character; but they were determined by any possible means to get rid of Him who revealed their true character to the people, and paid no regard to their claims of superior sanctity. The fiercest and most inveterate enmity was put between Christ and these bigoted pretenders. The whole energy of the ranks of apostasy was called forth, and evil men conspired with evil angels for the destruction of the Champion of God and truth.
On the mount of Olivet Christ took a retrospective view of the ages and centuries that had passed, and realized what would be the crowning act in the nation's apostasy. In putting to death the Son of the Infinite God they would add the last figure to the sum of their guiltiness. Can we wonder that the heart of Christ was filled with grief, and that while he wept in agonizing sobs, his form swayed as a tree before the tempest? He saw the retribution that would fall upon Jerusalem, and exclaimed: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."
The sheep gate was before Christ, and the path which led to the temple, and for centuries the victims had been conducted thither for sacrifice. The lambs that had been slain had been a representation of the great anti-typical sacrifice that in a few hours would be made for those who rejected his grace and compassion, the refusers of his offers of mercy. The only-begotten Son of the Infinite God would be led through the sheep gate as a lamb to the slaughter, while through the priests and rulers and through the common people would be manifested Satanic attributes. For a few moments the Son of God stands upon Mount Olivet, expressing the intense yearning of his soul that Jerusalem might repent in the last few moments before the westering sun shall sink behind the hill. That day the Jews as a nation would end their probation. Mercy, that had long been appointed as their guardian angel, had been insulted, despised, and rejected, and was already stepping down from the golden throne, ready to depart. But, O, that the rejecters of God's mercy, full of zeal to sustain themselves in their own way, might yet turn from their man-made inventions, repent, and seek reconciliation with God! The shadows of twilight are beginning to gather, and, O, that Jerusalem might know the things that belong unto her peace! But now the irrevocable sentence is spoken, because "she knew not the time of her visitation."
Jesus hears the tramp of the besieging army. He sees the temple in ruins. He sees famine and distress in the city. His prophetic eye sees Calvary, the hill upon which he shall be lifted up, planted with crosses as thick as the forest trees. He sees the very ones nailed thereon who clamored for his condemnation, and who cried out under their Satanic delusion, "His blood be on us and on our children." The retribution that has fallen upon them is most terrible; for they are left to the mercy of the leader they have chosen, and Satan and his confederacy of evil angels wreak their spite upon the human family.
All this Jesus sees as the result of their refusal to accept his offers of mercy. Thus they have worked their own present and eternal ruin, and as a nation divorced themselves from God. He could say to the whole nation as he had said to Philip, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me?" They had refused the messages of warning, of reproof, and mercy, that had been sent to them through the prophets, God's delegated servants, tho these messengers had been sent to save them from taking such steps as would prove their ruin. At last God had sent his Son, and they had said, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours."
"Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me?" These words are applicable to very many in our own day. Many do not know him, tho he has been lifted up for us and crucified. They do not know him, tho a mighty angel from heaven parted the darkness from his track, and rolled back the stone from the door of the sepulcher, and Jesus, the Lord of light and glory, came forth from the rent sepulcher proclaiming himself the resurrection and the life.