Love Under Fire


A Message Given by Humble Men

If scholarly theologians had been faithful watchmen, searching the Scriptures diligently and prayerfully, they would have known the time. The prophecies would have revealed to them the events about to happen. But instead, humble people gave the message. Those who neglect to seek the light when it is within their reach are left in darkness. But the Savior says, “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). God will send some star of heavenly radiance to that person to guide him into all truth. LF 131.6

At the time of Christ's first coming, the priests and scribes of the Holy City could have recognized “the signs of the times” and announced the coming of the Promised One. Micah identified His birthplace, and Daniel, the time of His arrival (Micah 5:2; Daniel 9:25). The Jewish leaders had no valid excuse if they did not know. Their ignorance was the result of sinful neglect. LF 132.1

With deepest interest the elders of Israel should have been studying the place, the time, the circumstances, of the greatest event in the world's history—the coming of the Son of God. The people should have been watching so that they could welcome the world's Redeemer. But at Bethlehem two weary travelers from Nazareth walked the length of the narrow street to the eastern edge of town without finding shelter for the night. No doors were open to receive them. In a crude stall prepared for cattle, they finally found refuge, and there the Savior of the world was born. LF 132.2

God appointed angels to carry the happy news to those who were ready to receive it and who would joyfully tell others. Christ had stooped to take human nature on Himself, to bear infinite agony as He made Himself an offering for sin. Yet angels wanted the Son of the Highest, even in His humiliation, to appear before the world with a dignity and glory suitable for His character. Would the great men of earth assemble at Israel's capital to greet His coming? Would angels present Him to those waiting for His arrival? LF 132.3

An angel visited the earth to see who were prepared to welcome Jesus. But he heard no voice of praise that the time of Messiah's coming had arrived. The angel hovered over the chosen city and temple where God's presence had appeared for ages, but even there he found the same indifference. In pomp and pride the priests offered polluted sacrifices. With loud voices the Pharisees addressed the people or made boastful prayers at the corners of the streets. Kings, philosophers, rabbis, all were ignorant of the wonderful fact that the Redeemer was about to appear. LF 132.4

In amazement the angel messenger was about to return to heaven with the shameful news, when he discovered a group of shepherds watching their flocks. As they gazed into the starry heavens, they thought about the prophecy of a Messiah to come, and they longed for the arrival of the world's Redeemer. Here was a group prepared to receive the heavenly message. Suddenly celestial glory flooded the entire plain, revealing an immeasurable company of angels. Then, as if the joy were too great for one messenger to bring from heaven, many voices broke out in the anthem that someday all the nations of the saved will sing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). LF 132.5

What a lesson this wonderful story of Bethlehem is! How it rebukes our unbelief, our pride and self-sufficiency. How it warns us to watch out, so that we will not also fail to recognize the signs of the times and therefore not know our time of opportunity. LF 132.6

It was not just among lowly shepherds that angels found people watching for Messiah's coming. In heathen lands there were also those who looked for Him—rich, noble wise men—the philosophers of the East. From the Hebrew Scriptures they had learned about the Star that would rise out of Jacob. Eagerly they waited for the coming of the One who would be not only the “Consolation of Israel,” but “a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,” and “for salvation to the ends of the earth” (Luke 2:25, 32; Acts 13:47). The Heaven-sent star guided Gentile strangers to the birthplace of the newborn King. LF 132.7

It is “to those who eagerly wait for Him” that Christ will “appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28). Like the news of the Savior's birth, God did not commit the message of the Second Advent to the religious leaders of the people. They had refused light from heaven, and so they were not part of the group that the apostle Paul described: “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all the sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:4, 5). LF 133.1

The religious leaders should have been the first to catch the news of the Savior's coming, the first to announce that He was near. But they were careless and inattentive, while the people were asleep in their sins. Jesus saw His church, like the barren fig tree, covered with a show of leaves, yet without any precious fruit. They lacked the spirit of true humility, penitence, and faith. In its place they had pride, religious forms, selfishness, and oppression. A backsliding church closed their eyes to the signs of the times. They left God and separated themselves from His love. Because they refused to accept the conditions, His promises were not fulfilled to them. LF 133.2

Many of those who said they were followers of Christ refused to receive the light from heaven. Like the Jews of long ago, they did not know their time of opportunity. The Lord passed them by and revealed His truth to those who, like the shepherds of Bethlehem and the Eastern Magi, had followed all the light they had received. LF 133.3