The Signs of the Times


June 9, 1881

Idolatry Punished


Of the generation that arose after the death of Joshua, the Sacred Record states that “they knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger.” ST June 9, 1881, par. 1

Notwithstanding their apostasy and great wickedness, the Lord did not utterly forsake his people. From time to time he raised up faithful and valiant men to deliver them from the oppression of their enemies. But the hearts of the people had become so corrupted by an evil course that it was not an easy task to restore purity of faith or of worship. When the deliverer was dead, and the people were released from his authority, they would return to their idolatry. ST June 9, 1881, par. 2

“They ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way. And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice; I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died.” ST June 9, 1881, par. 3

The Lord sought to bring his people into a position where he could manifest his power in their behalf; but their hearts were set to depart from God, and they would not submit to his requirements. What blindness! what inexplicable folly! and equally incomprehensible is the course of those whom God has endowed with intellectual gifts and surrounded with temporal blessings, yet who will prefer worldly gain, and even the indulgence of debasing passions, to the favor of God and his infinite love. ST June 9, 1881, par. 4

Although the Israelites, as a nation, departed from God, yet there was ever a remnant who resolutely withstood the evil influences surrounding them, and maintained their allegiance to Jehovah. These were constantly growing in courage and true godliness. They clung to the Lord more firmly as they saw the apostasy of their brethren. Their faith grew stronger, with every conflict. ST June 9, 1881, par. 5

It is through the infinite mercy of God that his people at the present day are granted the high honor of being sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. But unless we give ourselves unreservedly to his service, and walk in obedience to his commandments, we can bring no proof that we are members of the royal family. Would that we could ever realize the love which God has manifested toward us fallen sinners, in giving his only Son for our salvation! We should never lose sight of the fact that those whom Christ redeems at such an infinite price are to be purified, that they may be unto him a peculiar people, zealous of good works. We should feel that Christ has placed upon us special honors in thus distinguishing us from the world, when he might have left us to perish in our sins. ST June 9, 1881, par. 6

God would have his people present a marked contrast, in character and conduct, to the unbelieving world. We are to be “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, to show forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Only by constant watchfulness and earnest prayer, mingled with faith, can we preserve our peculiar, holy character as sons and daughters of God. ST June 9, 1881, par. 7

It is far more easy to profess and resolve than to perform. Like ancient Israel, many covenant to cleave unto the Lord, and serve him, and then soon forget their vows, and join with the ungodly in the pursuits of worldly gain or pleasure. We should be jealous of ourselves, lest we depart from God. “For if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from Heaven?” The blessings and privileges which we enjoy place us under the most solemn obligation to improve these gifts to the glory of our Creator. They should inspire in our hearts love to God, and an earnest determination to obey his requirements. Let us not become self-confident or presumptuous, but rather fear lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of us should seem to come short of it. ST June 9, 1881, par. 8

The cause of Israel's weakness lay in their departure from God by disobedience to his commandments. The reason of the weakness and backsliding of modern Israel is their neglect to obey the divine law. God requires from all mankind obedience to his commandments. The whole world will be judged by the moral law according to their opportunity of becoming acquainted with it, whether by reason, or tradition, or the written word. ST June 9, 1881, par. 9

God's law is spiritual. It takes cognizance of our most secret thoughts, purposes, and motives. The judgment, the will, and the affections must be controlled by its precepts. Its principles require love to God and to man; without this love, external compliance will not be accepted. This law is the standard of Christian character. Like a faithful mirror, it reveals to the children of men the defects in their moral character. It makes them watchful against temptation. It teaches them to be exact in judgment, and correct in spiritual discernment. The law of God is holy, just, and good. When our lives conform to this standard we are happy. ST June 9, 1881, par. 10

The Lord was constantly seeking to impress upon ancient Israel their duty to obey his law; and those words of warning and reproof apply with as much greater force to this generation as our light and privileges are greater than were those of Israel. We have seen how the disregard of God's requirements brought trouble upon his ancient people, and finally resulted in their entire separation from him. Their sad history should be a lesson to us that nothing should be permitted to rival God in our affections. He alone can give rest, and peace, and happiness to the soul. God alone is entitled to our supreme love, to our entire confidence. He should be the object of our gratitude and adoration, our reverence and unquestioning submission. If we fail to love him with all the heart, we rob him of the service which is his due. ST June 9, 1881, par. 11

Through his pride and ambition, Satan became the enemy of God and man. Though he forfeited his position in Heaven, he has succeeded in his presumptuous efforts to become the god of this world. Satan used the Canaanites as his instruments to allure Israel from God, and lead them to give honor to himself. It was to secure their own safety and happiness that the Lord commanded his people to extirpate those wicked nations. ST June 9, 1881, par. 12

In their prosperity, Israel forgot God, as they had been warned that they would do. But reverses came. The Hebrews were subdued by the king of Mesopotamia, and held in severe bondage for eight years. In their distress, they found that their idolatrous connections could not help them. Then they remembered the wonderful works of God, and began to cry unto him, and the Lord raised up a deliverer for them, Othniel, Caleb's younger brother. The spirit of the Lord rested upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war, and the Lord delivered the king of Mesopotamia into his hand. ST June 9, 1881, par. 13

When Othniel was designated as the man whom God had chosen to lead and deliver Israel, he did not refuse to take the responsibility. In the strength of God he at once commenced to repress idolatry as the Lord had commanded, to administer justice, and to elevate the standard of morality and religion. As Israel repented of their sins, the Lord manifested his great mercy toward them, and wrought for their deliverance. ST June 9, 1881, par. 14

For forty years Othniel ruled in Israel. During this time the people remained faithful to the divine law, and consequently enjoyed peace and prosperity. But when his judicious and salutary control ceased with his death, the Israelites again relapsed into idolatry. And thus the story of backsliding and chastisement, of confession and deliverance, was repeated again and again. ST June 9, 1881, par. 15

Had Israel been true to God, their example of faithfulness would have been followed by their children; but the sins of after generations testified to the indolence, and slothfulness, and neglect of the parents. A solemn responsibility still rests upon parents in the education of their children, to mould their characters after the pattern which God has approved, and not after the pattern of the world. Christian parents should teach their children the solemn and momentous truths of God's word, especially those truths which particularly relate to the present time. Faithful, earnest, and frequent prayer should be offered that these children may be fitted for any position of trust to which God shall call them, in society or in the church. They should be taught to love righteousness and to hate evil. ST June 9, 1881, par. 16

One family educated according to the Bible rule may exert an influence directly upon thousands, and through them upon others, until multitudes shall be brought to fear and honor God, and a glorious company of white-robed ones shall stand round about the throne,—a precious harvest from the seed sown by those faithful parents. But Satan is determined that this mighty influence for God and Heaven shall not be exerted in the home circle. He will deceive the parents if possible. He will make them careless, inattentive, indolent, in the service of God. He will make them negligent in training their children according to the Bible standard, negligent in conforming their own lives to the life of Christ; for Satan knows that in most cases he can thus secure the parents and children also, and through them can ruin many souls. ST June 9, 1881, par. 17

As the Israelites were prone to idolatry, so are the people of the present age. The same adversary that succeeded in leading them astray, is now at work with ten-fold power to entice God's professed people from their simplicity, their sincerity, their earnestness and piety. His devices are all too successful. Worldly things are allowed to attract the attention and absorb the interest. Professed Christians unite with the ungodly, and Christ ceases to be a welcome guest. ST June 9, 1881, par. 18

The only safety for God's people is to put away the impious ambition to make a league with the world, to imitate her customs and practices. They must seek a closer connection with God, and give diligent heed to his word in counsels, reproofs, and promises. ST June 9, 1881, par. 19

By their family government, parents are laying the very foundation of the child's character. God has committed to parents a solemn and responsible work. The mother of Moses trained her child for God. So patiently and perseveringly did she plant religious principles in his soul, that although afterward surrounded with great temptations, he was not corrupted. A prospective crown could not entice him from his allegiance to God. What our children may become we cannot tell; the future we cannot read; but God has appointed our work, and bidden us perform it with both worlds in view, that our children may be a blessing to the church and to the world here, and may shine forever in the courts of the Lord hereafter. ST June 9, 1881, par. 20

Our earthly life, however long, honored, or useful it may be, is but childhood, frail, imperfect, and undeveloped. Manhood, with its full, perfect, glorious development, will come, when, freed from the taint of sin, we stand among the redeemed throng. Then we shall enjoy a life which measures with the life of God, and through everlasting ages we shall go on increasing in wisdom and knowledge. ST June 9, 1881, par. 21