The Signs of the Times


June 2, 1881

The Angel's Reproof


Although the last admonitions of Joshua, and the solemn covenant which Israel had made with God, seemed to make a deep impression upon them, yet time soon proved that the influence was not permanent. After the death of their leader and of the elders who were associated with him, the people began gradually to relapse into idolatry. ST June 2, 1881, par. 1

Joshua had not been permitted to drive out all the inhabitants of the land. A remnant of the heathen nations was spared for a time, that the Lord might through them test the faith and obedience of his people, and that those whose hearts were cherishing idolatry might be revealed and punished. ST June 2, 1881, par. 2

The generation that succeeded Joshua were directed to carry forward the work which he had left unfinished; but they did not obey the divine command to utterly destroy the heathen. Some of the tribes made war on the Canaanites, but failing to receive the help which they should have had from their brethren, they became weary of the conflict, and spared their most dangerous enemies. Frequent intercourse soon removed all fear of danger; and now the Israelites took another step in transgression, by connecting themselves in marriage with the heathen. When this was done, the difficulties of the situation were greatly increased. It was no easy matter to make war with relatives, and to extirpate or banish their own kindred. ST June 2, 1881, par. 3

By their disregard of God's command, the Israelites had woven for themselves a net in which their feet were soon entangled. Ere long, many of the Hebrews were induced to attend heathen festivals. Lascivious songs and licentious indulgence, formed a prominent part in the idolatrous worship. Exposed to these contaminating influences, the Israel of God steadily became corrupted. In imitation of the gods of the heathen, images were made to represent Jehovah, and thus idolatry spread like a plague throughout the land. ST June 2, 1881, par. 4

The evil made little headway until the generation was extinct which had made the covenant with God; but the parents had prepared the way for the apostasy of their children. God's commandments had been disregarded, his safeguards removed, his barriers broken down. ST June 2, 1881, par. 5

The correct and simple habits of the Hebrews had preserved them in physical health; but association with the heathen had led to the indulgence of appetite and sensual passions; and this had lessened physical strength, and enfeebled the mental and moral powers. God removed his protecting care and support, and the Israelites were no longer able to contend with their enemies. Soon they were brought into subjection to the very nations whom through God they might have subdued. ST June 2, 1881, par. 6

The Lord did not permit the sins of his people to pass without rebuke. There were still faithful worshipers in Israel; and many others, from habit and early association, attended the worship of God at the tabernacle. A large company were assembled upon the occasion of a religious feast, when an angel of God, having first appeared at Gilgal, revealed himself to the congregation at Shiloh. He addressed them in words of solemn reproof: ST June 2, 1881, par. 7

“I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars; but ye have not obeyed my voice. Why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.” ST June 2, 1881, par. 8

This angel, the same that appeared to Joshua at the taking of Jericho,—was no less a personage than the Son of God. It was he who had brought Israel out of Egypt, and established them in the land of Canaan. He showed them that he had not broken his promises to them, but they themselves had violated their solemn covenant. ST June 2, 1881, par. 9

“And it came to pass, when the angel of the Lord spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice and wept.” “And they sacrificed there unto the Lord.” But their repentance produced no lasting results. The people mourned because their sins had brought suffering upon themselves; but did not sorrow that God was displeased, and his name dishonored. True repentance includes more than sorrow for sin. It demands a resolute turning away from evil. We may profess to feel deep sorrow for our sins, we may weep over our wrong course; but if we make no change in that course, our sorrow will avail nothing. ST June 2, 1881, par. 10

Before they entered the promised land, the Israelites had been faithfully taught their duty toward the heathen. They were to make no league with the inhabitants, but to utterly destroy their idols, and to cast down their altars. Now the Angel solemnly declares, “Ye have not obeyed my voice.” And in sadness he asks, ``Why have ye done this?” ST June 2, 1881, par. 11

The people could now see the sinfulness and ingratitude of their course. This was the golden opportunity for them to return to their allegiance to God, and to bring forth fruit meet for repentance. Had they manifested a willingness to act when duty was made known; had they entered at once upon the performance of the work that had been neglected, then the curse of God might have been turned away from Israel. But they returned to their evil ways, and the Lord left them to suffer the consequence of their own neglect. ST June 2, 1881, par. 12

The experience of the Israelites is that of many at the present day. Warnings and reproofs from God are continually given to his people. Godly sorrow, which produces repentance unto salvation, would lead them to make an immediate and decided change. But here many fail. Confessions are made, sorrow is expressed, tears are shed; but there is no permanent change of life. Unless the heart is renewed by divine grace, and earnest effort is made to resist temptation, we shall be overcome again and again. ST June 2, 1881, par. 13

Among God's preferred people, there are men in responsible positions who are content to remain in a state of coldness and backsliding. Their piety vanishes at the approach of temptation. To gain the friendship of worldlings, they will risk the consequences of losing the favor of God. The Lord is trying his people as silver is tried. Closer and still closer will come the searching test, until the heart is wholly submitted to God, or hardened in disobedience and rebellion. God distinguishes between those who walk in the path of self-denial and obedience, which he has marked out, and that class who choose to follow their own ways. Too late we may see, as did the children of Israel, the folly of neglecting and disregarding God's commands. ST June 2, 1881, par. 14

As the Hebrews were warned not to assimilate to the heathen around them, so are we warned against conforming to the spirit and customs of the ungodly. Christ speaks to us in language that need not be misinterpreted: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Christ himself is the true pattern. His life of self-denial we are to imitate. His earnest labor for the salvation of souls we must copy. His purity and holiness must be reflected in us, or we shall never be permitted to sit with him in his throne. ST June 2, 1881, par. 15

It is not safe for Christians to choose the society of those who have no connection with God, and whose course is displeasing to him. Yet how many professed Christians venture upon the forbidden ground. Many invite to their homes relatives who are vain, trifling, and ungodly; and often the example and influence of these irreligious visitors produce lasting impressions upon the minds of the children in the household. The influence thus exerted is similar to that which resulted from the association of the Hebrews with the godless Canaanites. ST June 2, 1881, par. 16

God holds the parents accountable for disregarding his command to separate themselves and their families from these unholy influences. While we must live in the world, we are not to be of the world. We are forbidden to conform to its practices and fashions. The friendship of the ungodly is more dangerous than their enmity. It misleads and destroys thousands who might, by a proper and holy example, be led to become children of God. The minds of the young are thus made familiar with irreligion, vanity, ungodliness, pride, and immorality, and the heart not shielded by divine grace, gradually becomes corrupted. Almost imperceptibly, the youth learn to love the tainted atmosphere surrounding the ungodly. Evil angels gather about them, and they lose their relish for that which is pure, refined, and ennobling. ST June 2, 1881, par. 17

Professed Christian parents will pay the greatest deference to their worldly and irreligious guests, while these very persons are leading the children of those who pay them so much polite attention, away from sobriety and from religion. The youth may be trying to lead a religious life, but the parents have invited the tempter into their household, and he weaves his net about the children. Old and young become absorbed in questionable enjoyments, and the excitement of worldly pleasure. ST June 2, 1881, par. 18

Many feel that they must make some concessions to please their irreligious relatives and friends. As it is not always easy to draw the line, one concession prepares the way for another, until those who were once true followers of Christ, are in life and character conformed to the customs of the world. The connection with God is broken. They are Christians in name only. When the test hour comes, then their hope is seen to be without foundation. They have sold themselves and their children to the enemy. They have dishonored God, and in the revelation of his righteous judgments, they will reap what they have sown. Christ will say to them, as he said to ancient Israel, “Ye have not obeyed my voice. Why have ye done this?” ST June 2, 1881, par. 19

How are parents neglecting their precious opportunities? It is their privilege to serve and honor God in their household. They should reject every form of idolatry and corruption. They should keep the atmosphere of the home pure and healthful, thus attracting holy angels to be their guests. They should educate and discipline their children to be Bible readers and Bible Christians. ST June 2, 1881, par. 20

Abraham's course in controlling his children and his household, and instructing them to fear and obey God, was approved of Heaven. Because he had been faithful to the trust already given, God committed to him greater responsibilities, making him the depository of divine truth for all the generations to come. He had honored God in his household, and God honored him before the world. It was declared that through his posterity, all the nations of the earth should be blessed. ST June 2, 1881, par. 21

God would do great things for his people at the present day, if they would but imitate Abraham's example of faithfulness and obedience. The Lord is waiting and longing to reveal to us the right arm of his power. He will work mightily for us, if we will but faithfully improve the opportunities and blessings already given. ST June 2, 1881, par. 22

“Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation,” was the admonition of Christ to his disciples. We, too, have need of watchfulness and earnest prayer. We are surrounded by the perils of the last days. It is a time of special danger to the young. We should feel the most intense interest to secure the salvation of the children whom God has given us. When so much is at stake, how can we set up idols in our hearts? How can we be indolent and trifling, vain, proud, and careless? We have foes to fight within; we have victories to gain over our own sinful propensities. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, are seeking continually to weaken our spirituality. We must crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts. ST June 2, 1881, par. 23

Let us not yield to sloth, unbelief, and idolatry, as did the children of Israel. If the enemies of our souls are not driven out, they will increase in power, and will hold us in the slavery of sin. We can have no fellowship with the Lord's enemies, within or around us, without endangering our own souls, and the souls of those whom God has committed to our care. ST June 2, 1881, par. 24