The Review and Herald

1482/1902

April 25, 1907

Return of the Exiles—No. 4

“The Adversaries of Judah and Benjamin”

EGW

From the time the foundation-stone of the second temple was laid, Satan brought to bear upon the builders many influences that greatly hindered the rapid prosecution of the work. The enemy did not have far to go in order to find men through whom to carry out his evil designs. Close by the Israelites, a few miles northward, dwelt the Samaritans. RH April 25, 1907, par. 1

More than a century before the beginning of the Babylonish captivity, the Assyrian kings had devastated Samaria and Galilee, and had taken into captivity many thousands of Israelites belonging to the ten tribes. The conquering kings repopulated Samaria with colonies of heathen peoples from widely separated parts of the Assyrian realm. These heathen intermarried with the Israelites who had been allowed to remain in the land; and thus originated a mixed race known as the Samaritans. RH April 25, 1907, par. 2

In later years, the Samaritans claimed to worship the true God; but in heart and practise they were idolaters. It is true, they held that their idols were only to remind them of the living God, the ruler of the universe; nevertheless the people were led to reverence their graven images. RH April 25, 1907, par. 3

These idolatrous Samaritans were “the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin.” About the time of the laying of the corner-stone, they “heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel.” Coming “to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers,” they expressed their desire to join them in its erection. “Let us build with you,” they proposed, “for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.” This privilege was refused them. “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God,” the leaders of the Israelites declared; “but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as King Cyrus of Persia hath commanded us.” RH April 25, 1907, par. 4

In the light of the circumstances surrounding the remnant people of God in the days of Zerubbabel, this decision reveals the character of the leaders of Israel at that time. Only a feeble remnant had chosen to return from Babylon; and now, as they undertake a work seemingly beyond their strength, their nearest neighbors come with an offer to help. The Samaritans refer to their worship of the true God, and express a desire to share in the privileges and blessings connected with the temple service. “We seek your God, as ye do,” they declared. “Let us build with you.” RH April 25, 1907, par. 5

Had the Jewish leaders accepted this offer of assistance, they would have opened a door for the entrance of idolatry. They discerned the insincerity of the Samaritans. They realized that all the help that could be gained through an alliance with men, would be as nothing in comparison with the prosperity that would accompany strict obedience to the plain commands of Jehovah. RH April 25, 1907, par. 6

Regarding their relations with surrounding peoples, the Lord had declared to ancient Israel through Moses: “Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them: neither shalt thou make marriages with them; ... for they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.” RH April 25, 1907, par. 7

“Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.... Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.” RH April 25, 1907, par. 8

The result that would follow a breaking of their covenant with God, and an entrance into covenant relation with surrounding nations, was plainly foretold through Moses: “The Lord shall scatter you among the nations,” he declared, “and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you. And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” Precious assurance! Then follows the promise to the penitent, that God would not forsake them, nor forget the covenant that he had made with their fathers. RH April 25, 1907, par. 9

Zerubbabel and his associates were familiar with these scriptures. Their fathers had lost sight of the sacred relationship that should ever exist between God and his chosen people. Forgetting their solemn covenant with the Lord of hosts, they had entered into covenant relation with heathen nations. The prophecies of Moses were literally fulfilled. The chosen nation was scattered among heathen nations. And only a remnant, “few in number,” had repented and turned to God. Only a few had renewed their covenant with him, and had returned to restore that which had been destroyed because of the disobedience of their fathers. And now, having solemnly rededicated themselves to the Lord at the ancient altar set up before the ruins of his temple, should they, at the very beginning of their work, enter into a covenant with a people who worshiped idols? RH April 25, 1907, par. 10

“Thou shalt make no covenant with them.” God's servants in responsibility realized that the line of demarcation between his people and the people of the world is ever to be kept unmistakably distinct. They refused to be guided by the counsel of those who for years had known the requirements of God's law, but who had refused to yield to its claims. RH April 25, 1907, par. 11

The principles set forth in Deuteronomy for the instruction of Israel, are to be followed by God's people to the end of time. Our prosperity is dependent on the continuance of our covenant relationship with God. In no instance can we afford to compromise principle by entering into covenant with those who fear not God. RH April 25, 1907, par. 12

There is constant danger that professed Christians will come to think that in order to have influence with worldlings, they must conform to the world to a certain extent. But although the propositions of Satan may appear to afford great advantages, as did the offer of the Samaritans to assist in the construction of the temple, they always end in spiritual ruin. God's people must guard against every subtle influence that is seeking entrance by means of flattering inducements from the enemies of his truth. RH April 25, 1907, par. 13

We are pilgrims and strangers in this world, traveling a path beset with dangers from those who have rejected the only One who can save them. Ingenious subterfuges and scientific problems will be held out before us, to tempt us to swerve from our allegiance, but we are not to heed them. Every one must seek God for himself. RH April 25, 1907, par. 14

It is not always open and avowed enemies that are most to be feared. We shall have enemies who come, like “the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin,” with smooth words and fair speeches, and who would deceive if possible the very elect. It is thus that Satan often works; and again, when it suits his purpose, he goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. RH April 25, 1907, par. 15

Let every soul be on the alert. The adversary is on your track. Vigilantly watch lest some carefully concealed and masterly snare take you unawares. Let the careless and indifferent beware lest the day of the Lord come upon them as a thief in the night. Many will wander from the path of humility, and, casting aside the yoke of Christ, will walk in strange paths. Blinded and bewildered, they will leave the narrow path that leads to the city of God. RH April 25, 1907, par. 16

A man can not be a happy Christian unless he is a watchful Christian. He who overcomes must watch; for with worldly entanglements, error, and superstition, Satan strives to win Christ's followers from him. It is not enough that we avoid glaring errors and perilous, inconsistent moves. We are to keep close to the side of Christ, walking in the path of self-denial and sacrifice. We are in an enemy's country. He who was cast out of heaven has come down with great power. With every conceivable artifice and device he is seeking to take souls captive. Unless we are constantly on guard, we shall fall an easy prey to his deceptions. RH April 25, 1907, par. 17

In the closing scenes of this earth's history, when intensity is taking possession of every earthly element, the Lord requires of us a vigilance that knows no relaxation. But we are not left to struggle alone. Amid the dangers increasing on every hand, those who walk humbly before God, distrustful of their own wisdom, will have angels as their helpers and protectors. In times of special peril they will know the power of God's keeping care. Those who do not realize their danger because they do not watch, will pay, with the loss of their souls, the penalty of their presumption and their wilful ignorance of Satan's devices. RH April 25, 1907, par. 18

Let us trust fully, humbly, unselfishly, in God. We are his children, and he deals with us as such. When we draw near to him, and renew our covenant with him, he mercifully preserves us from the assaults of the enemy. Never will he betray one who trusts in him as a child trusts in its parents. He sees the humble, trusting souls drawing near to him, and in pity and love he draws near to them, and lifts up for them a standard against the enemy. Touch them not, he says; for they are mine. I have graven them upon the palms of my hands. He teaches them to exercise unquestioning faith in his power to work in their behalf. With assurance they say, “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” RH April 25, 1907, par. 19