THE REWARD OF UNBELIEF
Cause of Failure. Hebrews 3:16-19; 4:1
There can be no question but these verses have special reference to the Kadesh-Barnea experience when the majority of the hosts of Israel "did provoke" God. In verse 8 this experience is called "the provocation" and "the day of temptation in the wilderness." Not only did this great manifestation of unbelief and rebellion "provoke" God, but He was "grieved" for forty years while they were wandering in the wilderness "under the divine rebuke." It was because of what happened at Kadesh-Barnea that the Lord decreed that their "carcasses" should fall "in the wilderness." It was at that place they tried to "enter in" to the promised inheritance but "could not" because of unbelief. We are told that there were "some" or a few who did not provoke and grieve God. Caleb, Joshua, Moses, Aaron and doubtless many others did not take part in the rebellion. Then follows an admonition to those who have part in the Advent Movement to follow their example.
God's Plan Altered
We have already produced the evidence that the Lord was compelled to alter His plan and purpose to lead ancient Israel directly into the promised land by way of Kadesh-Barnea because of their unbelief and insubordination. But the Kadesh-Barnea experience of the Exodus Movement has had its antitype in the Advent Movement. There has been a long delay because of our unbelief. The Lord purposed to finish the work long ago and especially soon after the 1888 revival began. In 1898 the prophet of the Advent people wrote: "Had the church of Christ done her appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would before this have been warned, and the Lord Jesus would have come to our earth in power and great glory." D.A. 633-634. Several similar statements have been previously quoted.
A Long Delay
"The history of ancient Israel is a striking illustration of the past experience of the Adventist body. God led His people in the Advent Movement even as He led the children of Israel from Egypt. In the great disappointment their faith was tested as was that of the Hebrews at the Red Sea. Had they still trusted to the guiding hand that had been with them in their past experience, they would have seen the salvation of God. If all who had labored unitedly in the work of 1844, had received the third angel's message and proclaimed it in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts. A flood of light would have been shed upon the world. Years ago the inhabitants of the earth would have been warned, the closing work completed, and Christ would have come for the redemption of His people.
It was not the will of God that Israel should wander forty years in the wilderness; He desired to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there, a holy, happy people. But they could not enter in because of unbelief. Because of their backsliding and apostasy, they perished in the desert, and others were raised up to enter the promised land. In like manner, it was not the will of God that the coming of Christ remain so many years in this world of sin and sorrow. But unbelief separated them from God. As they refused to do the work which He had appointed them, others were raised up to proclaim the message. In mercy to the world, Jesus delays His coming, that sinners may have an opportunity to hear the warning, and find in Him a shelter before the wrath of God shall be poured out." G.C. 457, 458. This delay was foretold in the parable of the ten virgins and the tarrying time during which "they all slumbered and slept."
Because of Insubordination
When the calls came, through the spirit of prophecy, to move the college out of Battle Creek, some of the leaders were perplexed. They felt that the end was so near that it was too late to try to establish another college, and in fact would be a denial of their faith in the soon coming of Christ. Dr. P. T. Magan had these convictions and wrote them to Sister White and asked for counsel. Her reply was dated Dec. 7, 1901, and its number in the files is184-1901. In the letter were the following statements: "The hand of providence is holding the machinery. When that hand starts the wheel then all things will begin to move. How can finite men carry the burden of responsibility for this time. His people have been far behind. Human agencies under the divine planning may recover some thing of what is lost because the people who had great light did not have corresponding piety, sanctification, and zeal in working out God's specified plans. They have lost to their own disadvantages what they might have gained to the advancement of the truth if they had carried out the plans and will of God. Man cannot possibly stretch over the gulf that has been made by the workers who have not been following the divine Leader."
Many More Years. The letter continues:
"We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel, but for Christ's sake, His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequences of their own wrong course of action. Now, have men who claim to believe the Word of God learned their lesson that obedience is better than sacrifice? 'He hath showed thee (this rebellious people) O man, what is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.' You, nor any other agency, can not heal the hurt that has come to God's people by neglect to lift up His standard, and occupy new territory. But if all now would only see and confess and repent of their own course of action in departing from the truth of God, and following human devisings then the Lord would pardon. Warnings have been coming, but they have been unheeded, but a few who may now seek to bridge the gulf that stands so offensively before God must make haste slowly, else the standard bearers will fail, and who will take their place?"
Plan Delayed But Not Disannulled. Isaiah 14:24, 27
The Lord's purpose for Israel was finally fulfilled and He led them into the promised land. Satan was able only to delay the carrying out of God's purpose; he could not disannul it. The same is true of the Advent Movement. Satan has succeeded in delaying the finishing of the work but it will be finished triumphantly and the eternal purpose of God will be fulfilled. "Not by any temporary failure of Israel, however, was the plan of the ages for the redemption of mankind to be frustrated. Those to whom the prophet was speaking, might not heed the message given; but the purposes of Jehovah were nevertheless to move steadily forward to their complete fulfillment." "Thus God's purpose for Israel will meet with literal fulfillment. That which God purposes, man is powerless to disannul. Even among the working of evil, God's purposes have been moving steadily forward to their accomplishment. It was thus with the house of Israel; it is thus with spiritual Israel today." P.K. 705, 706, 720.
A Remarkable Letter
Neither the retiring or the newly elected General Conference president was present at the Minneapolis Conference in 1888. Elder George T. Butler was unable to be present because of sickness, and Elder O. A. Olsen was in Europe. Under date of Sept. 1, 1892, Sister White wrote Elder O. A. Olsen a very remarkable letter regarding the crisis that began in 1888, at which time he was elected president. From this long letter I will quote quiet freely. Its file number in the vault at Elmshaven is O. 19 d' 92. "I wish that all would see that the very same spirit which refused to accept Christ, the light that would dispel the moral darkness, is far from being extinct in this age of the world. There are those in our day who are no more ready to recognize and acknowledge light than were the people when the prophets and the apostles came with the message from God, and many rejected the message and despised the messenger. Let us beware that this spirit is not entertained by us." Then follows the quoting of the message of Christ to the church of Ephesus and its application to us.
A Long Journey
After quoting 1 John 1:5-10; 2:9-11, Sister White continued: "Could any description be more sharp and clear than John has given us? These things are written for us; they are applicable to the churches of Seventh-day Adventists. Some may say, 'I do not hate my brother; I am not so bad as that.' But how little they understand their own hearts. They may think they have a zeal for God in their feelings against their brother if his ideas seem in any way to conflict with theirs; feelings are brought to the surface that have no kinship with love. They show no disposition to harmonize with him; they would as leave be at swords point with their brother as not, and yet he may be bearing a message from God to the people, just the light we need for this time."
Why do not brethren of like precious faith consider that in every age, when the Lord has sent a special message to His people, all powers of the confederacy of evil are set at work to prevent the word of truth from coming to those who should receive it. If Satan can impress the mind and stir up the passions of those who claim to believe the truth, and thus lead them to unite with the forces of evil, he is well pleased. If once he can get them to commit themselves to the wrong side, he has laid his plans to lead them on a long journey: Through his deceptive wiles he will cause them to act upon the same principle he adopted in his disaffection in heaven. They take step after step in the false way, until there seems to be no other course than for them to go on, believing they are right in their bitterness of feeling against their brethren. Will the Lord's messenger bear the pressure brought against him? If so, it is because God bids him stand in His strength, and vindicate the truth that he is sent of God."
Message From Heaven
"When men listen to the Lord's message, but through temptation allow prejudice to bar the mind and heart against the reception of truth, the enemy has the power to present the most precious things in a distorted light. Looking through the medium of prejudice and passion, they feel too indignant to search the Scriptures in a Christlike spirit, but repudiate the whole matter because points are presented that are not in accordance with their own ideas. When a new view is presented, the question is often asked, 'Who are its advocates? What is the position or influence of the one who would teach us, who have been students of the Bible for many years?' God will send His words of warning by whom He will send. And the question to be settled is not what person it is who brings the message; this does not in any way affect the word spoken. In regard to the testimony that has come to us through the Lord's messengers we can say, 'We know in whom we have believed; we know that Christ is our righteousness, not alone because He is so described in the Bible, but because we have felt His transforming power in our hearts."
"Now although there has been a determined effort to make of no effect the message God has sent, its fruits have been proving that it was from the source of light and truth. Those who have cherished unbelief and prejudice, who in place of helping to do the work the Lord would have them do, have stood to bar the way against all evidence, cannot be supposed to have clearer spiritual eyesight for having so long closed their eyes to the light God sent to the people. If we are to bear a part in this work to its close, we must recognized the fact that there are good things to come to the people of God in a way that we have not discerned; and that there will be resistance from the very ones we expected to engage in such a work."
Messengers May Fail
Then follows a statement indicating that the men who preached that message under such great opposition might not be able to stand up under the pressure but become discouraged and fail. If so, it would not effect in the least the truthfulness of the message they preached. "How long will the Lord have patience with men in their blindness, how long will He wait before leaving them to grope their way to final darkness, we cannot determine. Should the Lord's messengers, after standing manfully for the truth for a time, fall under temptation, and dishonor Him who has given them their work, will that be proof that the message is not true? No, because the Bible is true. Sin on the part of the messenger of God would cause Satan to rejoice, and those who have rejected the message and the messenger would triumph; but it would not at all clear the men who are guilty of rejecting the message of God." It seems that God's servant was given foreknowledge regarding what happened twelve or thirteen years later to Elder Jones and Waggoner, of whom these statements were written.
"If ever a people needed true and faithful watchmen, who will not hold their peace, who will cry day and night, sounding the warnings God has given, it is Seventh-day Adventists. I wish to plead with our brethren who shall assemble at the General Conference to heed the message given to the Laodiceans. What a condition of blindness is theirs; this subject has been brought to your notice again and again; but your dissatisfaction with your spiritual condition has not been deep and painful enough to work a reform. 'Thou sayest I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.' The guilt of self-deception is upon our churches. The religious life of many is a lie. Jesus has presented to them the precious jewels of truth, the riches of His grace and salvation, the glistening white vesture of His own righteousness, woven in heaven's loom, and containing not one thread of human invention. Jesus is knocking; open the door of the heart and buy of Him the precious heavenly treasure. Shall His pleadings fall upon ears that are dull of hearing if not entirely closed? Shall Jesus knock in vain?"
"I ask, what means the contention and strife among us? What means this hard, iron spirit, which is seen in our churches, in our institutions, and which is so utterly unchristlike? I have deep sorrow of heart because I have seen how readily a word or action of Elder Jones or Elder Waggoner is criticized. How readily many minds overlook all the good that has been done by them in the few years past, and see no evidence that God is working through these instrumentalities. They hunt for something to condemn, and their attitude toward these brethren who are zealously engaged in doing a good work, shows that feelings of enmity and bitterness are in the heart. What is needed is the converting power of God upon hearts and minds. Cease watching your brethren with suspicion. There are many in the ministry who have no love for God or for their fellow men. They are asleep, and while they sleep, Satan is sowing his tares. The flock of God is in need of help from heaven, and the sheep and lambs are perishing for food."
"Many have been convinced that they have grieved the Spirit of God by their resistance of light, but they hated to die to self, and deferred to do the work of humbling their hearts and confessing their sins. They would not acknowledge that the reproof was sent of God, or the instruction was given from heaven until every shadow of uncertainty was removed. They did not walk out in the light. They hoped to get out of difficulty in some easier way than by confession of sin, and Satan has kept hold of them and tempted them, and they have had but feeble strength to resist him. Evidence has been piled upon evidence, but they have not been willing to acknowledge it. By their stubborn attitude they have revealed the soul-malady that was upon them, for no evidence could satisfy them. Doubt, unbelief, prejudice, and stubbornness killed all love from their souls. They demanded perfect assurance, but this was not compatible with faith.
What Might Have Been
"If the rays of light which shone at Minneapolis were permitted to exert their convincing power upon those who took their stand against light, if all had yielded their ways, and submitted their will to the Spirit of God at that time, they would have received the richest blessings, disappointed the enemy, and stood as faithful men, true to their convictions. They would have had a rich experience; but self said, No. Self was not willing to be bruised; self struggled for the mastery, and everyone of those souls will be tested again on the points where they failed then. They will have less clearness of judgment, less submission, less genuine love for God or their brethren now than before the test and trial at Minneapolis. In the books of heaven they are registered as wanting. Self and passion developed hateful characteristics. Since that time, the Lord has given abundance of evidence in messages of light and salvation. No more tender calls, no better opportunities could be given them in order that they might do that which they ought to have done at Minneapolis."
Forsaken of God
"The light has been withdrawing from some, and ever since they have been walking in the sparks of their own kindling. No one can tell how much may be at stake when neglecting to comply with the call of the Spirit of God. The time will come when they will be willing to do anything and everything possible in order to have a chance of hearing the call which they rejected at Minneapolis. God moved upon hearts, but many yielded to another spirit which was moving upon their passions from beneath. O that these poor souls would make thorough work before it is everlastingly too late. Better opportunities will never come, deeper feelings they will not have. God will not be trifled with."
A Terrible Sin
"The sin committed in what took place at Minneapolis remains on the record books of heaven, registered against the names of those who resisted light, and it will remain upon the record until full confession is made, and the transgressors stand in full humility before God. The levity of some, the free speeches of others, the manner of treating the messenger and the message when in their private stopping places, the spirit that stirred action from beneath, all stand registered in the books of heaven. And when these persons are tried, and brought over the ground again, the same spirit will be revealed. When the Lord has sufficiently tried them, if they do not yield to them, He will withdraw His Holy Spirit. Those who are commanded to bear a message must move out although obstacles of a forbidding character are in the way. Those who claim to know the truth, and yet lay every obstacle in the way, so that light shall not come to the people, will have an account to settle with God that they will not be pleased to meet. God manages His own work, and woe to the man who puts his hand to the ark of God."
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