THE DETOUR AROUND EDOM
The second time at Kadesh-Barnea, "the gateway to the promised land," Israel was defeated in their effort to enter Canaan. At the waters of Meribah Satan had again triumphed in his plan to thwart the purpose of God for His people. "Ever since they left Egypt, Satan had been steadily at work to throw hindrances and temptations in their way, that they might not inherit Canaan. And by their own unbelief they had repeatedly opened the door for him to resist the purpose of God." —P.P. 423. The cause of the failure was the same that kept them out 38 years before. "They could not enter in because of unbelief." Hebrews 3:19.
The chief design of the wilderness sojourn was to teach the Israelites lessons of faith and patience to prepare them for the promised land. Their conduct at Kadesh-Barnea indicated that these lessons were not yet learned. "In Rephidim when the people thirsted for water, they were again proud, and showed that they still possessed an evil heart of unbelief, of murmuring, of rebellion, which revealed the fact that it would not yet be safe to establish them in the land of Canaan." —Vol. 2:107. The Israelites and their leaders failed to meet the tests of faith and patience and were turned back into the wilderness again.
It was God's purpose to lead His people through the land of Edom in a triumphant march to Canaan. The Lord would have given them favor with the Edomites who were the descendants of Esau and therefore their relatives. "Had they in this manner passed though Edom, as God had purposed, the passage would have proved a blessing, not only to themselves, but to the inhabitants of the land. … But all this the unbelief of Israel had prevented. God had given the people water in answer to their clamors, but He permitted their unbelief to work out its punishment. Again they must traverse the desert and quench their thirst from the miraculous spring, which, had they but trusted in Him, they would no longer have needed." —P.P. 424.
A Detour. Numbers 20:21, 22; 21:4
The second journey into the wilderness was not so much a retreat as a detour around Edom, through which God had purposed to lead them. "The Hebrews were forbidden to resort to force. They must make the long journey around the land of Edom. Had the people, when brought into trial, trusted in God, the Captain of the Lord's host would have led them through Edom, and the fear of them would have rested upon the inhabitants of the land, so that, instead of manifesting hostility, they would have shown them favor. But the Israelites did not act promptly upon God's word, and while they were complaining and murmuring, the golden opportunity passed." —P.P. 422, 423. "Accordingly the hosts of Israel again turned toward the south, and made their way over sterile wastes, that seemed even more dreary after a glimpse of the green spot among the hills and valleys of Edom." —Id. 424.
We can well imagine the gloom that settled over the hosts of Israel as they again turned their backs on the promised land with no knowledge of the length of their second wilderness sojourn or of the difficulties of their journey. Moses and Aaron must have been almost broken-hearted at the thought of the blighted anticipations and especially of their own failure to meet the tests of patiences. Then too, Miriam, their sister, had died at Kadesh-Barnea. The first encampment seems to have been at Mount Hor, one of the mountain peaks of Seir. Here at God's command, Aaron's priestly garments were taken from him and given to his son, Eleazar, and Aaron, with Moses and Eleazar, climbed to the top of the mountain and there he died and was buried by his brother and son. It may be that the bitter disappointment together with the remorse of his own failure hastened Aaron's death. The combination of events and circumstances together with the knowledge of his own approaching death without the privilege of leading Israel into the promised land doubtless saddened the life of Moses.
A Dreary March. Numbers 21:4
This text indicates that the journey around Edom was very dreary and discouraging. We are told that the route was over a stony, sandy, almost barren plain shut in by mountain walls on either side, and subject to sand-storms. —Pulpit Commentary. "As they continued their journey toward the south, their route lay through a hot, sandy valley, destitute of shade or vegetation. The way seemed long and difficult, and they suffered from weariness and thirst. Again they failed to endure the test of their faith and patience. By continually dwelling on the dark side of their experiences, they separated themselves farther and farther from God. They lost sight of the fact that but for their murmuring when the water ceased at Kadesh, they would have been spared the journey around Edom." —P.P. 428.
During the journey around Edom the Israelites had an experience that constituted a warning against boasting and self-confidence. They were attacked and defeated by a nation of the Canaanites. They were in retreat from Canaan at the time and were doubtless too discouraged to put up to a good fight, and too faithless to trust in God. Humbled by this defeat they sought God for divine aid and their enemies were defeated. Then they became over-confident and boastful and took the glory to themselves. "This victory, instead of inspiring gratitude, and leading the people to feel their dependence upon God, made them boastful and self-confident. Soon they fell into the old habit of murmuring. They were now dissatisfied because the armies of Israel had not been permitted to advance upon Canaan immediately after their rebellion at the report of the spies nearly forty years before. They pronounced their long sojourn in the wilderness an unnecessary delay, reasoning that they might have conquered their enemies as easily heretofore as now." —P.P. 428. See Numbers 21:1-3.
The second defeat of Israel at Kadesh did not annul the plan and purpose of God, but it did delay its fulfillment. The first failure resulted in a long delay or tarrying time which lasted almost forty years while Israel was wandering about in the wilderness. The second failure at the same place and for the same cause resulted in another delay or tarrying in the fulfillment of the purpose of God for Israel. This delay however was of brief duration compared to the first. It was the result of a detour rather than a retreat.
The hesitancy of the Advent people to fully accept the 1888 message as it is being repeated is defeating the purpose of God to pour out the Holy Spirit in the latter rain and "finish the work, cut it short in righteousness." Not only have God's remnant people been hesitant about accepting the heaven-sent message that is to prepare them for translation, but many have manifested decided and even in some cases bitter opposition. As predicted, some of the opposers of the same message in 1888 have revealed "the same spirit" again and have manifested the same "hateful characteristics" as led them to reject the message and despise the messengers in that eventful crisis. For more than twelve years now the message to the Laodicean church has been preached with emphasis on the need of the imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ, and thus far the acceptance has been half-hearted and the rich spiritual experience called for has been received by but few.
There can be no question but the repetition of the message that brought the Advent Movement to the borders of the heavenly Canaan in 1888, led God's remnant people back to the same place again. The same message also brought us face to face with the same issues and test of faith. It was therefore the purpose of God to quickly finish His work and lead the Advent Movement triumphantly into the heavenly rest. Those who preached the message and those who accepted it were confident that the work would be finished in a very few years. The Laodicean message so completely explained the spiritual state of the church and the reasons for the long delay in the coming of Christ, and the Laodicean remedy so adequately meets the spiritual needs of God's remnant people, that no true Seventh-day Adventist can doubt that it is Christ's last call to His people.
The repetition of the message of 1888 brought a repetition of the blessed results in the lives of those who accepted it and entered into the experience of the imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ. The recognition of our wretched Laodicean condition and the acceptance by faith of the gold of faith and love and truth, the garments of Christ's righteousness, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, brought great revivals in all parts of the world where the message was preached. The message brought new hope and cheer to the weary Advent pilgrims, many of whom were becoming "much discouraged because of the way" and were casting away their confidence. The call for "a spiritual revival and a spiritual reformation" on the basis of the Laodicean message clears away doubts, explains many puzzling questions, and shows the way out of the dreadful wilderness of sin in which the Advent Movement has so long been wandering in a "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" spiritual state.
Waters of Strife
We are told that the Laodicean message and the call for a revival and reformation will stir up the wrath of the enemy who will make every effort to stop it by causing it to be opposed and rejected. "There is nothing that Satan fears so much as that the people of God shall clear the way by removing every hindrance, so that the Lord can pour out His Holy Spirit upon a languishing church and an impenitent congregation. If Satan had his way, there would never be another awakening, great or small, to the end of time. But we are not ignorant of his devices. It is possible to resist his power. When the way is prepared for the Spirit of God, the blessings will come. Satan can no more hinder a shower of blessings from descending upon God's people than he can close the windows of heaven that rain cannot come upon the earth." "Satan will do his utmost to keep them in a state of indifference and stupor." —R.H. March 22, 1887, and Nov. 22, 1902. Quoted in "Christ our Righteousness," pp. 149, 160. The Laodicean message therefore always brings God's people to "the waters of strife."
It is opposition to the Laodicean message that produces the shaking among God's people and separates the chaff from the wheat. "I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen, and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God's people. I saw that the testimony of the True Witness has not been half heeded. The solemn testimony upon which the destiny of the church hangs has been lightly esteemed, if not entirely disregarded. This testimony must work deep repentance; all who truly receive it will obey it, and be sanctified." —E.W. 270.
Satan knows that his time is short and he is therefore becoming desperate in his efforts to delay the final triumph of the Advent Movement. He knows that the acceptance of the Laodicean message with its complete remedy is the only means by which God's remnant people can receive the latter rain and enter the heavenly Canaan. He therefore hates the Laodicean message and all who accept and preach it, and especially the latter. "Satan's snares are laid for us as verily as they were laid for the children of Israel just prior to their entrance into the land of Canaan. We are repeating the history of that people" —Vol. 5:160. Is it any wonder that the repetition of the message of 1888 brought the Advent Movement to "the waters of strife?"
There is nothing that genuine Christians dislike more than strife and division, and this is especially true of church leaders. While we know that there must be a shaking in the church before the latter rain can come and the work be completed, and that this shaking is the result of the preaching of the Laodicean message, it is only natural that we should dread to see it come. There is therefore a strong temptation to avoid that which produces opposition and strife, or to tame down the "straight testimony" so as to appease the wrath of the enemy and soothe the ruffled waters of strife and opposition. This temptation is so great that many cease preaching the message altogether, or, seeing what happens to those who do preach it, they never begin. One of the most discouraging features of the present situation is that hundreds and even thousands of our ministers acknowledge that the Laodicean message is the only hope of God's remnant people, but they do not preach it, or if they do, it is only occasionally and then with great timidity and with an apologetic attitude. Our leaders and ministers need courage commensurate with their convictions.
Pray for Courage
It is for this reason that ministers are told to pray earnestly for courage to preach the Laodicean message. "Will you not seek God most humbly, that you may give the Laodicean message, with clear, distinct utterance? Where are God's watchmen who will see the peril, and give the warning? Be assured that there are messages to come from human lips, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 'Cry aloud, spare not, … show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins.' Yet they seek Me daily, … as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinances of their God." —T.M. 296. This statement indicates that the great "transgression" of God's remnant people is the Laodicean condition, and that it is the preachers of the Laodicean message who "cry aloud" and "spare not" in revealing to them their sins. See Isaiah 58:1,2. The acceptance of this message will bring the blessings predicted in verse 8. This is the latter rain.
Must be Preached
The Laodicean message is absolutely essential and must be proclaimed. It is the message "upon which the destiny of the church hangs." We dare not neglect our duty as God's watchmen. "I was shown that the pointed testimony must live in the church. This alone will answer to the message to the Laodiceans. Wrongs must be reproved, sin must be called sin, and iniquity must be met promptly and decidedly, and put away from us as a people." —Vol. 3:260. "The plain, straight testimony must live in the church, or the curse of God will rest upon His people as surely as it did upon ancient Israel because of their sins. … If the leaders of the church neglect to diligently search out the sins which brings the displeasure of God upon the body, they become responsible for these sins." —Id. 269. "Ministers who are preaching present truth should not neglect the solemn message to the Laodiceans. The testimony of the True Witness is not a smooth message. … The True Witness declares that when you suppose you are really in a good condition of prosperity, you are in need of everything." —Id. 257.
The hesitancy of both leaders and people of the Advent Movement to accept the second call for a revival and reformation, has resulted in a second delay or tarrying time. The rejection has not been so complete nor the crisis so great as that which took place forty years ago. The result could hardly be called a retreat, but it is at least a detour that temporarily defeats God's purposes and delays the triumph of the movement. We may be cheered by the fact that in the type the delay was not long and that the journey around Edom brought experiences to ancient Israel that prepared them for a triumphant march to the promised land. The Laodicean message is again being sounded and is gaining headway throughout the Advent Movement and we may be assured that brighter days are ahead; that soon "there will be delay no longer" and in 'a little while, He that shall come will come, and will not tarry, or, will not longer tarry.' Cheer up weary Advent pilgrim "for you redemption draweth nigh."
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