The Wisdom of the People of God
The Wisdom of the People of God
Signs of the Times Articles
By Ellen G. White January 6, 1888
"Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. Your eyes have seen what the Lord did because of Baal-Peor; for all the men that followed Baal-Peor, the Lord thy God hath destroyed them from among you. But ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day."
The claim has been made that the commandments of God are a yoke of bondage, that it is impossible for man to keep them, and that ancient Israel found them unendurable, and failed to fulfill their righteous obligations; but such a claim is proven to be false by the words we have presented. The commandments were not grievous while the people were firm in their allegiance to God; but when they separated from him and gave their powers to the service of the prince of evil, they became aware of their inability to execute the holy enactments of Heaven. The law that had once been their delight, became an unendurable weight, because they had deprived themselves of the love and power of God, and had taken a willful course to resist the authority of the Most High.
The ancient Israelites had not too much will,--it needs will to be a servant of God,--but when they fixed it on the side of self-indulgence, and in opposition to the direct commands of God, it only wrought for their destruction. They placed their will on the side of the first great rebel, and followed his example in complaining of the precepts of Heaven. All murmuring against the law of God is instigated by the lawless one who first created dissatisfaction in the courts of Jehovah, and incited rebellion among the ranks of the angels.
Satan is ever on the alert for the first word of complaint against God and his service. He takes advantage of a spirit of murmuring, and fills the mind with his dark doubts and suggestions. He is constantly seeking to sow the seeds of dissatisfaction in the heart, concerning the requirements of God, presenting them as unjust in their restraints, and unreasonable in their demands. It is the work of Satan to belittle the law that condemns him, and all who love sin show the characteristics of their commander. Many of the people of God had fallen under his temptations and left their allegiance to God, but here was a living testimony, presented by the faithful servant of the Most High, setting forth the blessedness of obedience. It was transgression that had brought disaster, and laid the nation under the curse of God. Those who had left their loyal service and turned to idolatry, were smitten with disease and death. In contrast to the fate of the transgressor, Moses points out the prosperity of those who had kept the commandments of the Lord; no harm had befallen them; they were alive every one of them that day.
All who have determined to serve God will seek to know and to do his will, at whatever cost to themselves. The true servants of God will be made manifest by their willing obedience to all the commandments of their Master. They will not be murmuring and finding fault with the law, but will declare by word and action, "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous." In obeying the law, they are doing that which is well-pleasing in the sight of Heaven, and all the promises of the word of God are pledged to the support of the faithful and obedient. They may hope in his mercy, build on his immutable counsels, obtain the desires of their hearts, because their wills are placed on the side of God's will. It is their meat to do the will of God and to finish his work. The gates of the eternal city shall open for the nation that has kept the truth. The servants of God shall eat of the tree of life, and enjoy the unsearchable riches of eternity.
What astonishing benevolence on the part of God to make conditions for the re-instatement of rebel man to his divine favor! Oh that the mercy of God might not be lightly esteemed! Oh that we might appreciate the forbearance of the great God of the universe, comply with his requirements, and receive the great reward that he has promised to those who love him! Should we not from humble and grateful hearts present our services to him who "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life"? We may become the sons of God, the heirs of an eternal inheritance, partakers of the divine nature, kings and priests unto God. The most exalted privileges are offered to the obedient. Shall we turn away in rebellion and unbelief, and propose to go back to Egypt? Never! Our march should be onward, toward the heavenly Canaan. Every step should be from faith to a greater faith, from obedience to a more perfect obedience, from light to a brighter light; for "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
We are the Israel that God is leading out of the errors of the world in these last days to live by every word that proceedeth out of his mouth. The truth for this time will not fail to sanctify the soul that receives the love of it and obeys it from the heart. It will enable us to overcome every besetting sin, and to surmount every difficulty in our onward march. We can run and not be weary, walk and not faint.
"Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." (Deut. 4:5,6)
The wisdom and understanding of ancient Israel before all the nations, was their obedience to God's law. This doing of God's commandments worked an elevation of character and life that even the heathen world recognized and commended. Those who have rendered obedience to God in all ages, have been transformed in character, and in these last days, when iniquity abounds on every hand, our wisdom and understanding before all people will consist in our obedience to the standard of righteousness. The servants of God will not be foolish, ignorant, uncourteous, and coarse; but as they conform their lives to the holy laws of Heaven, they become like Jesus Christ, who was a living example of perfect obedience to the statutes of Jehovah. They will become refined, ennobled, elevated, and will manifest that courtesy that forgets the interests of self, that others may be blessed and benefited.
The follower of Jesus will place his will on the side of his Master's will. He will have a consciousness of the nearness of God's presence. Doubts will vanish before the beams of the Sun of Righteousness, as the shadows fly before the morning. The true Christian identifies his interest with the interest of Christ, wears the yoke of his Master, lifts his burden, bears his reproach; but no murmur escapes his lips. No, he rejoices that he is counted worthy to suffer for His sake who suffered for him. You may expect complaint, but you will hear only the language of thanksgiving from Christ's burden-bearers. They do not bear the load alone; for He whom their soul loveth, walks with them, and the heaviest weight is borne by his loving and mighty heart. Those who come to Christ, weary and heavy-laden, find rest unto their souls. Those who learn of him and take his yoke upon them, find that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever," promises, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Yes, this God is our God forever and ever. Then why should we chafe and fret under the commandments of our God? He who leadeth us and teacheth us to profit, declares, "I have kept my Father's commandments;" and those who follow Christ will do as he has done. Their steps will fall in his foot-prints all along the path of obedience that he has trodden before them as their example. The law of our God "is holy, and just, and good," and it is to our highest interest that we come into perfect harmony with its precepts. It is ordained unto life. The world knows that it is wisdom to serve the God of Heaven. However reluctant men may be to acknowledge it, they look upon the obedient children of God as favored of Heaven.
Moses asks: "For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life; but teach them thy sons, and thy son's sons."
Here is the solemn charge that was given to ancient Israel, and it comes echoing down the ages to us, with accumulated force; for we are under greater obligation and increased responsibility, because we have the record of their experiences to teach us to avoid their errors and profit by their mistakes. Their departures from God, their backslidings, their murmuring, their sins "are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." The judgment of God in the destruction of the guilty is marked before us, that we may take heed to the warnings, and escape from the paths of transgression. The rich rewards and blessings bestowed upon the obedient are recorded as encouragements to those who will follow the way of the Lord and delight in his testimonies.
In the commendation of God to the faithful among ancient Israel, is unmistakable evidence that he highly appreciates those who are peculiar in character, because they render perfect obedience to his holy laws. The spiritual excellency of these people is manifested in their words and works. They are branches of the living vine, and partakers of the divine nature.
Like seeks like. Like appreciates like. Christ recognizes his own Spirit and image in his followers. As they become more like him, they seek a closer association with him. His character shines with new attractions. They see matchless charms in their Redeemer, and he becomes "the chiefest among ten thousand," and the one "altogether lovely." His ways are precious to them, and it is their delight to do his will.
The words of Jesus test the profession we make. He declares: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. . . . If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings; and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me." "If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever: even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
The conditions and promises are the same in the Old Testament as they are in the New. The favor of God is promised only to those who obey him. "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love," says the Master. If we would claim the rich promises, if we would have the pardon of our sins, and eternal life at last, we must yield a royal service to the God of Heaven. In our faithful performance of his requirements consists our prosperity as a church and as individuals. Not in great talents, not in great possessions, not in grand appearances, but in humble service to our Maker is our strength, wisdom, and understanding.
We must not take a feeble, vacillating course; but with unchangeable purpose, place our wills on the side of God's will, become rich in faith, rich in the knowledge of his word, and rich in the power of his Spirit. If we do those things that are pleasing in the sight of our God, we may hold the keys of the invisible world. We may unlock Heaven's storehouses, and draw upon their inestimable treasures.
Then let none of us entertain the thought that it is of little moment whether we heed the commandments of God, or pass them by with indifference. When the great books of Judgment are opened, and the motives of every heart are laid bare, there will be no excuse for those who trifle with God's plain words. "The wages of sin is death." This is the awful and inevitable sentence pronounced upon the transgressor. But the righteous shall enter into life. Says the Son of God, "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."