UNDER THE DIVINE REBUKE
Sad Spiritual State
Notwithstanding the fact that the children of Israel greatly increased their membership and improved their organization during their wilderness wandering, they were in a deplorable spiritual condition. This is evident from many Scriptures of which the following are samples: Deuteronomy 9:7, 8, 23, 24; Psalm 78:17, 18, 36-41. Their entire journey was marked by disobedience and rebellion. "Yet the only records of their wilderness life are instances of rebellion against the Lord. The revolt of Korah had resulted in the destruction of fourteen thousand of Israel. And there were isolated cases that showed the same spirit of contempt for the divine authority. —P.P. 407.
Destitute of Faith. Deuteronomy 31:27; 32:16-20
The secret of their backslidden spiritual state is found in the statement that they were "children in whom is no faith." In Hebrews 3:17-19 we are told that unbelief or lack of faith was the reason for their failure to enter Canaan and was the thing that especially grieved and provoked God. Between the crossing of the Red Sea and the capture of Jericho there was no exhibition of faith that was worthy of mention in the divine record. Hebrews 11:29,30. The very purpose of the wilderness sojourn was to teach them lessons of faith and obedience but they were slow to learn.
During the wilderness wandering, Israel was not only under the divine rebuke but they were a partially rejected people. Numbers 32:13; Deuteronomy 2:14, 15. "For nearly forty years the children of Israel were lost to view in the obscurity of the desert. … During these years the people were constantly reminded that they were under the divine rebuke. In the rebellion of Kadesh they had rejected God; and God had, for the time, rejected them. Since they had proved unfaithful to His covenant they were not to receive the sign of the covenant, the rite of circumcision. Their desire to return to the land of slavery had shown them to be unworthy of freedom, and the ordinance of the Passover, instituted to commemorate the deliverance from bondage, was not to be observed." —P.P. 406.
Period of Rejection
The divine rebuke or partial rejection continued till the crossing of the Jordan into the promised land. Joshua 5:7-10. On that day the "reproach of Egypt" was rolled away, the divine rebuke removed, the period of rejection ended, and the covenant of grace renewed. Here Joshua "circumcised the children of Israel," and "the children of Israel encamped at Gilgal, and kept the Passover." Since the rebellion at Kadesh the Lord had forbidden the Israelites the privilege of celebrating these two ordinances because their rebellion had made them void of meaning. Their desire to return to Egypt and the fact that in their hearts they did return to Egypt made the Passover of none effect. The Passover also pointed forward to Calvary and that event also was lost sight of. Circumcision was a symbol of the cutting off of sins from the heart and was therefore a sign of righteousness by faith. Rom. 2:28, 29; 4:11. Without this inward experience circumcision was a farce. Jeremiah 4:4; 9:26; Ezekiel 44:7.
The rejection of divine leadership through the prophet of the Exodus Movement together with the abundance of evidence that the Israelites were not separated from their sins, knew nothing of righteousness by faith as an experience, and were still lusting after the things of Egypt and were not therefore delivered from their former bondage, made the rite of circumcision and the ordinance of the Passover meaningless. "The suspension of the rite of circumcision since the rebellion at Kadesh had been a constant witness to Israel that their covenant with God, of which it was the appointed symbol, had been broken. And the discontinuance of the Passover, the memorial of their deliverance from Egypt, had been an evidence of the Lord’s displeasure at their desire to return to the land of bondage. Now, however, the years of rejection were ended. Once more God acknowledged Israel as His people, and the sign of the covenant was restored." —P.P. 485.
Reminded of Sins
There are many texts that indicate that Moses constantly reminded the Israelites of their sins during their period of partial rejection and he especially did not permit them to forget their rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea. "Moses faithfully set before them their errors, and the transgression of their fathers. They had often felt impatient and rebellious because of their long wandering in the wilderness; but the Lord had not been chargeable with this delay in possessing Canaan. He was more grieved than they because He could not bring them into immediate possession of the promised land, and thus display before all nations His mighty power in the deliverance of His people. … Had their fathers yielded in faith to the direction of God, being governed by His judgments, and walking in His ordinances, they would long before have been settled in Canaan, a prosperous, holy, happy people. Their delay to enter the goodly land dishonored God, and detracted from His glory in the sight of surrounding nations." —P.P. 464.
"It was the design of God that Moses should frequently remind Israel of their transgressions and rebellion, that they might humble their hearts before God in view of their sins. The Lord would not have them forget the errors and sins which had provoked His anger against them. The rehearsal of their transgressions, and of the mercies and goodness of God to them, which they had not appreciated, was not agreeable to their feelings. Nevertheless, God directed that this should be done." —Vol. 3:320. We are told that Korah flattered the people and criticized Moses for being too pessimistic. He declared that the people should not be constantly reminded of their sins because they were really a good people and that their leader should talk courage and cheer them along. This was the reason for the large following of Korah and his fellow rebels. See P.P. 349.
Their Enemies Mocked. Numbers 14:13-16
This is exactly what happened when Israel was turned back into the wilderness from Kadesh, the gateway into the promised land. "Heathen nations had reproached the Lord and His people because the Hebrews had failed to take possession of Canaan, as they expected, soon after leaving Egypt. Their enemies had triumphed because Israel had wandered so long in the wilderness, and they had mockingly declared that the God of the Hebrews was not able to bring them into the promised land." —P.P. 486. "Their delay to enter the goodly land dishonored God and detracted from His glory in the sight of surrounding nations." —Id. 464. It was at this time that the heathen said: "Where is their God?"
The Advent Movement
Notwithstanding the fact that the Advent Movement has steadily increased its membership, improved its organization, extended its influence, and has prospered in material things along all lines, God’s remnant people are in a sad spiritual state. They have lost their first love and are lukewarm and are spiritually wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. Revelation 2:1-5; 3:14-22. We are said to be under the divine forbearance. "I saw that at present we are under divine forbearance; but no one can say how long this will continue. No one knows how great the mercy that has been exercised toward us. But few are heartily devoted to God. There are only a few who, like the stars in a tempestuous night, shine here and there among the clouds. Many who complacently listen to the truth from God’s word are dead spiritually, while they profess to live. For years they have come and gone in our congregation, but they seem only less and less sensible of the value of revealed truth. They do not hunger and thirst after righteousness. They have no relish for spiritual or divine things. They assent to the truth, but are not sanctified through it. Neither the word of God nor the testimonies of His Spirit make any lasting impression upon them. … The entreaties of the Spirit of God, like divine melody, the promises of His word so rich and abundant, its threatenings against idolatry and disobedience, —all are powerless to melt the world-hardened heart." —Vol. 5:76.
The Divine Rebuke. Revelation 3:19
"As many as I love I rebuke and chasten," indicates that the Laodicean church is under the divine rebuke because of her spiritual state. The Laodicean message is a divine rebuke. It is evidence of a partial rejection or separation. The union between Christ and the church is not complete as is evident from the fact that He is outside the door knocking and pleading to be invited in. He is not in the innermost sanctuary of the hearts of His people and He does not have full possession of His church-temple. "Since the time of the Minneapolis meeting, I have seen the state of the Laodicean church as never before. I have heard the rebuke of God spoken to those who feel so well satisfied, who know not their spiritual destitution. … Like the Jews, many have closed their eyes lest they should see; but there is a great peril now, in closing the eyes to light and in walking apart from Christ, feeling need of nothing as there was when He was upon earth." —R.H. Aug. 26, 1890. The Laodicean message is here called "the rebuke of God" and Laodiceans are said to be "walking apart from Christ."
The Rebuke of God
"The rebuke of God is upon us because of our neglect of solemn responsibilities. His blessings have been withdrawn because the testimonies He has given have not been heeded by those who profess to believe them. O, for a religious awakening! The angels of God are going from church to church, doing their duty; and Christ is knocking at the door of your hearts for entrance. But the means that God has devised to awaken the church to a sense of their spiritual destitution, have not been regarded. The voice of the True Witness has been heard in reproof, but has not been obeyed. Men have chosen to follow their own way, instead of God’s way, because self was not crucified in them. Thus the light has had but little effect upon their minds and hearts. … If you wait for light to come in a way that will please everyone, you will wait in vain. If you wait for louder calls or better opportunities, the light will be withdrawn, and you will be left in darkness." —Vol. 5:719, 720.
Not in Midst
The following statement is a comment on Revelation 3:20 and shows that as long as Christ is kept outside the door, He is not in the midst of Zion and He is excluded from His own temple: "The church is in the Laodicean state. The presence of God is not in her midst. … What a terrible thing it is to exclude Christ from His own temple! What a loss to the church! Our Redeemer sends His messengers to bear a testimony to His people. He says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with Me.’ But many refuse to receive Him, because they fear that He will be an expensive guest. The Holy Spirit waits to soften and subdue hearts, but they are not willing to open the door and let the Saviour in; for they fear that He will require something of them. And so Jesus of Nazareth passes by. He longs to bestow on them His rich blessings and gifts of grace, but they refuse to accept them" —Brown Leaflet Series, Education, No. 6, 1898.
Cause of Weakness
The cause of the present spiritual weakness of God’s remnant people is declared to be their Laodicean condition which makes the church "a place whence the divine presence and glory have departed! For this cause there is weakness, and strength is lacking. Unless the church, which is now being leavened with her own backsliding, shall repent and be converted, she will eat of the fruit of her own doing, until she shall abhor herself." That the situation is not hopeless is indicated by the promise of a revival: "When purification shall take place in our ranks, we shall no longer rest at ease, boasting of being rich and increased with goods, in need of nothing." —Vol. 8:250.
Just as Israel of old wandered aimlessly about in the wilderness during the time of their partial rejection while they were under the divine rebuke, so modern Israel is said to be "drifting" as though they were "without chart or compass." … "The solemn question should come home to every member of our churches, How are we standing before God, as the professed followers of Jesus Christ?. … Spiritual death has come upon the people that should be manifesting life and zeal, purity and consecration by the most earnest devotion to the cause of the truth. The facts concerning the real condition of the professed people of God, speak more loudly than their profession, and make it evident that some power has cut the cable that anchored them to the Eternal Rock, and that they are drifting away to sea, with chart or compass." —R.H. July 24, 1888.
While we are in the Laodicean condition the ministration of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary is being hindered and retarded. "To those who are indifferent at this time Christ’s warning is, ‘Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold or hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.’ The figure of spewing out of His mouth means that He cannot offer up your prayers or your expressions of love to God. He cannot endorse your teaching of His word or your spiritual work in any wise. He cannot present your religious exercises with the request that grace be given you." —Vol. 6:408. Our Laodicean attitude has brought the priestly ministration of Christ to virtually a standstill which has delayed His return. The Bridegroom tarries while the church slumbers and sleeps.
Through the spirit of prophecy the Lord has constantly reminded the Advent people of their sins and especially of their Laodicean condition and the great sin of rejecting the message of 1888. "The Lord directed Moses to recount to the children of Israel His dealings with them in their deliverance from Egypt and their wonderful preservation in the wilderness. He was to call to mind their unbelief and murmurings when brought into trial, and the Lord’s great mercy and loving-kindness, which had never forsaken them. … It is just as essential that the people of God in this day should bear in mind how and when they have been tested, and where their faith has failed; where they have imperiled His cause by their unbelief, and also by their self-confidence. … As God’s people thus review the past, they should see that the Lord is ever repeating His dealings. They should understand the warnings given, and should beware not to repeat their mistakes." —Vol. 7:210.
Reproof Not Agreeable
But this reproof and reminding of their mistakes has been no more acceptable to modern Israel during their wilderness wanderings than to ancient Israel while they were under the divine rebuke. "The apostle Paul plainly states that the experience of the Israelites in their travels has been recorded for the benefit of those living in this age of the world, upon whom the ends of the world are come. We do not consider that our dangers are any less than those of the Hebrews, but greater. There will be temptations to jealousies and murmurings, and there will be outspoken rebellion, as are recorded of ancient Israel. There will ever be a spirit to rise up against reproof of sins and wrongs. But shall the voice of reproof be hushed because of this?. … There will be men and women who despise reproof, and whose feelings will ever rise up against it. It is not pleasant to be told of our wrongs." —Vol. 3:358, 359. This prophecy was fulfilled following the 1888 meeting when year after year the prophet of the Advent Movement reminded the church and her leaders of what happened at Minneapolis and the terrible consequences of that rebellion against heavenly light and divine leadership.
During all the years the church has been boasting of her progress and prosperity in increased members, facilities, institutions and world-wide mission enterprises, the Lord through the spirit of prophecy has been rebuking the members of the church for their sins and backsliding, for the loss of their first love which has resulted in lukewarmness and spiritual poverty. The reproof has not been understood or appreciated by those under the Laodicean deception, and therefore the Testimonies have been practically set aside and by many virtually rejected. Not being able to understand the manifest contradiction between the attitude of the church and the prophetic agency of the movement through whom God speaks, the tendency has been to question the authority of the latter and conclude that God’s prophet was altogether too pessimistic.
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