The Signs of the Times


July 28, 1881

One Wrong Step


The people of Israel, filled with joy and gratitude at their deliverance from the Midianites, proposed to Gideon that he should become their king, and that the throne should be confirmed to his descendants. His answer shows how true and noble were the motives by which he was actuated. “I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you. The Lord shall rule over you.” At the divine command, Gideon had willingly gone forth to battle for Israel; he had not shrunk from duty, nor hesitated in the face of danger; but he nobly refused to accept from the people those honors which the Lord had reserved to himself the right to bestow. ST July 28, 1881, par. 1

God had manifested special favor to Gideon, in selecting him as the instrument through whom to deliver Israel. While great responsibilities rested upon him in this important crisis, Gideon's course was marked with humility and faithful obedience. God accepted his work, and crowned his efforts with success. But now Gideon was assailed by temptation in a new form. When the reprover of wrong has done his work, in obedience to God's commands, the period of inactivity which succeeds the struggle, is often the most dangerous. This danger Gideon now experienced. A spirit of unrest was upon him. Hitherto he had been content to execute the commands given him of God; but now, instead of calmly waiting for divine instruction, he began to devise and execute plans for himself. He had not learned to wait as well as to labor—to suffer God's will as well as to do it. ST July 28, 1881, par. 2

Satan is never idle. He is filled with hatred against God, and is constantly enticing men into a wrong course of action. After the armies of the Lord have gained a signal victory, the great adversary is especially busy. He comes disguised as an angel of light, and as such he endeavors to overthrow the work of God. Thus thoughts and plans were suggested to the mind of Gideon, by which Israel were led astray. ST July 28, 1881, par. 3

The tribes on the east side of the Jordan were quite a distance from the tabernacle at Shiloh, to which all the men of Israel were required to repair three times a year, to attend the great annual feasts. This of course, required a considerable outlay of time and means. The thought was suggested to Gideon that it would be a great advantage to these tribes to have a place at home, for sacrifice and worship. ST July 28, 1881, par. 4

Without waiting for the divine sanction, he determined to provide a suitable place and to institute a system of worship similar to that carried on at the tabernacle at Shiloh. He had refused the urgent solicitations to become king of Israel, but he now determined to take advantage of the popular feeling in his favor to carry out the plan he had devised. As his share of the spoil taken from the Midianites, he asked that all the ear-rings of gold might be given him, promising that he would put them to a wise use. ST July 28, 1881, par. 5

As is natural, even at the present day, the people of Israel were more ready to ascribe the honor of the victory to Gideon than to the Lord. They readily complied with the request, and also collected many other costly materials, together with the richly adorned garments of the princes of Midian. ST July 28, 1881, par. 6

The total value of the spoil thus contributed was not less than fifteen thousand dollars. From the material thus furnished, Gideon constructed an ephod and a breastplate of judgment in imitation of those worn by the high priest. ST July 28, 1881, par. 7

Gideon led the people to look upon this ephod and the breastplate as possessing special sacredness in themselves. In this he erred. All that could make them sacred was the fact that they were employed in the solemn service of God as he had directed. The high priest alone was authorized to wear them when he went in before the Lord. ST July 28, 1881, par. 8

Because he had been commanded to offer a sacrifice upon the rock where the angel appeared to him, Gideon concluded that he had been divinely appointed to officiate as a priest, and that by instituting a service there, he might save the people the trouble and expense of their journeys to Shiloh. ST July 28, 1881, par. 9

The Lord was not pleased with this arrangement, for it was contrary to the order which he had established. It was an assumption of authority on the part of Gideon which proved disastrous to himself and to all Israel. God designs that his people shall place a high estimate upon every provision for their salvation. He desires them to appreciate his great mercy and condescension, and to manifest gratitude and zeal proportionate to the value of the great gift of the Son of God. But we are disposed to shun sacrifice and self-denial for our eternal interest, while we readily devote time and strength to seeking temporal advantage. Thus our conduct too often shows that we place a higher estimate upon earthly things than upon the heavenly treasure. ST July 28, 1881, par. 10

It is the work of God's true people to advance his glory in the earth. Through connection with him, they will be imbued with divine wisdom, which will lead them to place a right estimate upon eternal things. The Lord desired his people to go up to the tabernacle at Shiloh, at the stated seasons, even though it might require considerable sacrifice. That very effort would lead them to place a higher value upon their religious privileges. ST July 28, 1881, par. 11

In seeking to bring the worship of God nearer home, Gideon was but providing to indulge the people in their indolence. This would have no beneficial influence upon them. All plans based upon human reasoning should be looked upon with a jealous eye, lest Satan insinuate himself into the position which belongs to God alone. The course pursued by Gideon proved a snare, not only to himself and family, but to all Israel. The irregular and unauthorized worship led the people finally to forsake the Lord altogether, to serve idols. The ephod and the breastplate were regarded with pride, because of their costly material and exquisite workmanship; and after a time were looked upon with superstitious reverence. The services at the place of worship were celebrated with feasting and merriment, and at last became a scene of dissipation and licentiousness. Thus Israel were led away from God by the very man who had once overthrown their idolatry. ST July 28, 1881, par. 12

If men could foresee the result of their course, if they could realize the influence which they exert upon their own families and upon society, they would move with greater caution, and would maintain a firmer reliance upon God. The misconduct of parents frequently produces the most ruinous effects upon their children and associates, after the actors themselves have been laid in the grave. There is no evil which man should so much dread, as being given up to his own lusts. This was the fate of Israel. After Gideon's death, the people, especially his own house, plunged into the grossest idolatry. ST July 28, 1881, par. 13

Thus the snare which Gideon had so unwittingly set, entrapped the unwary feet of thousands. A snare,—how many snares are to be found in our path today! There is need that light from above be constantly shed upon our way, that we may see the snares laid for our feet. Oh, that fathers and mothers could realize the dangers that beset their path and the path of their children! ST July 28, 1881, par. 14

Those who are placed in the highest positions may lead astray, especially if they feel that there is no danger. The wisest err; the strongest grow weary. Excess of caution is often attended with as great danger as excess of confidence. To go forward without stumbling, we must have the assurance that a hand all-powerful will hold us up, and an infinite pity be exercised toward us if we fall. God alone can at all times hear our cry for help. ST July 28, 1881, par. 15

It is a solemn thought that the removal of one safeguard from the conscience, the failure to fulfill one good resolution, the formation of one wrong habit, may result not only in our own ruin, but in the ruin of those who have put confidence in us. Our only safety is to follow where the steps of the Master lead the way, to trust for protection implicitly to Him who says, “Follow me.” Our constant prayer should be, “Hold up my goings in thy path, O Lord, that my footsteps slip not.” ST July 28, 1881, par. 16

The Israelites needed the benefits of assembling for worship and entering into covenant together to serve the Lord. In separating themselves from the place of worship divinely appointed, they lost much. God had servants whose lips he unsealed to speak words of warning, encouragement, and reproof, so that the light received from Heaven by one shone not for himself alone, but to lighten the path of others. God knows best what his people need. His words come down to us, in warning and instruction,—“Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.” ST July 28, 1881, par. 17

At the present day, as in ancient times, the people of God plead their own ease or convenience as an excuse for neglecting divine service. They will devise means to preserve the Christian name without making any sacrifice of time or means. God requires his people to maintain his worship. And those who are burdened with care and responsibility, should be the last to excuse themselves from religious privileges. They need wisdom from above. They need to be constantly reaching upward to lay hold on the divine arm, lest they stumble and fall. They can walk safely, only as they fear God, and obey his voice. Those whom God has burdened with a place in his work, need not be left to their own judgment, as was Gideon, to lead men away from the right path. The feet that God is guiding will press on in a way which leads straight forward, ever ascending, and ever brightening, until it reaches the brightness of eternal day. ST July 28, 1881, par. 18

All wrong-doing is forsaking the path where Jesus leads, turning aside to the crooked ways of darkness. Those who are determined in the strength of Jesus to make the most of their opportunities, seizing every ray of light that Heaven sheds on their pathway, will go straight forward, fulfilling their duty to God and to their fellow-men. They will not fall, nor stumble. A divine Guide goes before the faithful, encouraging them with his voice, aiding them with his hand, and they need never mistake the way. ST July 28, 1881, par. 19