The Signs of the Times


October 15, 1896

A Lesson From God's Chosen People


God chose Israel as his people, and gave them gracious promises on condition of obedience. He faithfully performed his promises. He demonstrated his power in their deliverance from Egypt; he opened them a path in the Red Sea, and caused them to pass safely over, while their enemies, in pursuit, perished beneath its waters. He subdued the nations before them; he guided them with his counsel; he enriched them with his bounties. ST October 15, 1896, par. 1

The mixed multitude who came up from Egypt with Israel were continually departing from God, and making themselves a snare to his people. God saw that Israel would, in their future intercourse with other nations, be in danger of following their example; and he provided for this. His law was to be read and explained to them as a nation; his dealings toward them were to be repeated; the warnings, the reproofs and counsels which the Lord gave them, were to be presented before them. His law was proclaimed from Mount Sinai, that all might hear. Point by point, it was explained to meet the minds of both the learned and the ignorant. It was necessary that all should become intelligent in regard to its binding claims, especially in reference to the Sabbath and intermarriage with other nations. ST October 15, 1896, par. 2

The Sabbath and marriage were instituted in Eden, when man was upright and innocent before God. They were established when the foundations of the earth were laid, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy. But men broke the rules which God gave respecting these institutions, and brought upon themselves condemnation and woe. ST October 15, 1896, par. 3

When the law was spoken, the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth, stood by the side of his Son, enshrouded in the fire and the smoke on the mount. It was not here that the law was first given; but it was proclaimed, that the children of Israel, whose ideas had become confused in their association with idolaters in Egypt, might be reminded of its terms, and understand what constitutes the true worship of Jehovah. ST October 15, 1896, par. 4

What condescension was this, that the infinite God should stand side by side with his Son, while the law, which is the foundation of his government, was given. He would give his people an intelligent knowledge of his will. He does not command men to obey him when they do not understand what he requires. Here was displayed his wisdom, power, and love. Man was so dear to the Creator of the world that he spoke to him through Jesus Christ, with an audible voice, giving unmistakable evidence of his presence and majesty. ST October 15, 1896, par. 5

But we have on this occasion an illustration of the power of temptation upon men. Satan with his host stood in the midst of the armies of Israel to exercise his influence over the people of God's choice. He tempted them, and many yielded to his suggestions; for while the holy law of God was still sounding in their ears; while the glory of God was displayed before their eyes, and God himself was guiding, guarding and sustaining them by his miraculous power, the children of Israel rebelled against him, and imitated the practices they had witnessed in Egypt. They turned their faces again toward Egypt; they turned from God to idols. ST October 15, 1896, par. 6

The Lord in his dealings with Israel always magnified his law before them, and promised them rich blessings if they would keep his precepts. And when he permitted their enemies to triumph over them, it was because he wanted them to draw nigh unto him, and find in him their friend and refuge. Their ingratitude and rebellion; their contempt of God's restrictions and reproofs; their persecution of those whom God sent to save them from utter degradation and ruin; their relapse into idolatry; their hardness and impenitence of heart in following a course Satan chose for them, rather than the way of obedience in the path of truth and true holiness, brought misery upon themselves. When in the grief and bitterness of bondage, suffering under the cruel tyranny of the heathen, they called upon God, he heard and pitied them. He did not cast them off. He did not permit them to become extinct. He wrought for them again and again, as only God could, that he might bring them into a closer relationship with himself. ST October 15, 1896, par. 7

This has been the history of God's people since the fall of Adam. The church has turned from his law, and followed fables of human devising. Frequently his requirements have been made a matter of convenience, and men have obeyed or disobeyed, as business or inclination dictated. But the Lord means what he says, and men can not set aside his law with impunity. He will not pass over any transgression more lightly now than he did in the day when he pronounced judgment against Adam. ST October 15, 1896, par. 8

Our Saviour, too, raised his voice in protest against those who regard the divine commandment with carelessness or indifference. He declared: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” ST October 15, 1896, par. 9

And yet God, instead of destroying a sinful race, has given his Son to die for them. His own people have been changeable and rebellious, and he has been obliged to withhold great blessings which he longed to bestow, because they chose their own way instead of his. But he is ever ready to hear their prayers, pardon their transgressions, and do them good, when, with contrition of soul, they return to him. The Saviour also is full of compassion and love. He never spurns the truly penitent, however great their guilt. But he requires strict obedience. “Sin is the transgression of the law;” and Jesus died, the just for the unjust, the innocent for the guilty, that the honor of God's law might be preserved, and yet man be restored to the favor of heaven. By repentance, faith, and obedience, he may perfect a righteous character, and, through the merits of Christ, become a son of God. ST October 15, 1896, par. 10