The Signs of the Times


August 11, 1881

A Backsliding People


After the death of Abimelech, the usurper, the Lord raised up Tola to judge Israel. His peaceful reign presented a happy contrast to the stormy scenes through which the nation had been passing. It was not his work to lead armies to battle and to achieve victories over the enemies of Israel, as the former rulers had done; but his influence effected a closer union among the people, and established the government upon a firmer basis. He restored order, law, and justice. ST August 11, 1881, par. 1

Unlike the proud and envious Abimelech, Tola's great desire was, not to secure position or honor for himself, but to improve the condition of his people. A man of deep humility, he felt that he could accomplish no great work, but he determined to perform with faithfulness his duty to God and to the people. He highly valued the privilege of divine worship, and chose to dwell near the tabernacle, that he might oftener attend upon the services there performed. ST August 11, 1881, par. 2

Devotion and humility have ever characterized the men with whom God has intrusted important responsibilities in his work. The divine call to Moses in the desert found him distrustful of self. He realized his unfitness for the position to which God had called him; but having accepted the trust, he became a polished instrument in the hand of God to accomplish the greatest work ever committed to mortals. ST August 11, 1881, par. 3

Had Moses trusted to his own strength and wisdom, and eagerly accepted the great charge, he would have evinced his entire unfitness for such a work. The fact that a man feels his own weakness, is at least some evidence that he realizes the magnitude of the work appointed him, and this gives room for hope that he will make God his counselor and his strength. Such a person will move no farther nor faster than he knows God is leading him. ST August 11, 1881, par. 4

A man will gain power and efficiency as he accepts the responsibilities which God places upon him, and with his whole soul seeks to qualify himself to bear them aright. However humble his position or limited his ability, that individual will attain true greatness who cheerfully responds to the call of duty, and, trusting to the divine strength, seeks to perform his work with fidelity. He will feel that he has a sacred commission to battle against wrong, to strengthen the right, to elevate, comfort, and bless his fellow-men. Indolence, selfishness, and love of worldly approbation must yield to this high and holy calling. ST August 11, 1881, par. 5

Engaged in such a work, the weak man will become strong; the timid, brave; the irresolute, firm and decided. Each sees the importance of his position and his course, inasmuch as Heaven has chosen him to do a special work for the King of kings. Such men will leave the world better for their having lived in it. Their influence is exerted to elevate, to purify, and to ennoble all with whom they come in contact, and thus they help to prepare their fellow-men for the heavenly courts. ST August 11, 1881, par. 6

Tola governed Israel twenty-three years, and was succeeded by Jair. This ruler also feared the Lord and endeavored to maintain his worship among the people. In conducting the affairs of the government he was assisted by his sons, who acted as magistrates, and went from place to place to administer justice. ST August 11, 1881, par. 7

To some extent, during the latter part of Jair's reign, and more generally after his death, the Israelites again relapsed into idolatry. The sacred record states, “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the Lord, and served not him.” ST August 11, 1881, par. 8

The divine judgments followed close upon the transgressions of Israel. The Ammonites made war upon them in the east, and the Philistines in the west. Other nations, also, united with these in the oppression of Israel, until they seemed again to be shut in by relentless foes. In the days of prosperity, God's people had forsaken him, and now he seemed to have forsaken them, and they knew not which way to turn for help. Thus was again fulfilled the word of the Lord by the mouth of Joshua, that the heathen nations, if not promptly destroyed, would prove to Israel as snares for their feet, and as thorns in their eyes. ST August 11, 1881, par. 9

When the sins of a nation are punished, the innocent often suffer with the guilty. Among apostate Israel, the Lord still had faithful servants. These labored to show Israel their transgressions, and that all their troubles were but the results of their apostasy. But the words of warning seemed for a time to fall unheeded. ST August 11, 1881, par. 10

We repeat what has been so often said before, that among the people of God today are dangers similar to those that well-nigh destroyed Israel. The command, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” was spoken from Sinai for every soul that should live upon the earth. We can no more free ourselves from the claims of God's law than we can hide from his all-seeing eye. Its precepts reached every case, and its claims rest upon all the children of men to the close of time. ST August 11, 1881, par. 11

Idolatry has separated the people of God from him; he has not the first place in their thoughts and affections. Professed Christians fail to realize their accountability to God. They forget that he is ever present, to assert his supreme authority, and to take cognizance of all their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil. ST August 11, 1881, par. 12

Satan once presented all the attractions of the world to Christ, to allure him from the path of duty. Having failed in this, the arch-deceiver tries the same device with the followers of Jesus, and meets with much better success. Thus Satan receives the devotion which God claims. How many employ all the Creator's gifts merely to glorify themselves. How many set their affections upon their worldly possessions, or seek above all else the applause of men. How many choose the atmosphere of vanity and worldliness, rather than that of sobriety, purity, and godliness. They are so far from God that they cannot discern the true value of eternal things. And there are some who glory in their unbelief, making this an excuse for their defects of character. Unbelief is the idol which they worship. They willfully grope in darkness constantly diffusing mist and fog to shadow their own path and the path of others. But still the voice from Sinai sounds in our ears, addressing this class no less than all others, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” ST August 11, 1881, par. 13

Many who profess to be the disciples of Jesus seem as indifferent and careless in their religious life, as though no responsibility rested upon them to deny self and bear the cross. They do not realize their duty, by personal example and earnest effort to help others to follow in the same path. God would be to us the very help we need, if we would make him first, and last, and best, in all the purposes and events of life. Every plan devised should bear the high signet of Heaven, rather than the seal of worldly commendation. ST August 11, 1881, par. 14

The reason why so many are walking in darkness is that they pursue a path which leads directly away from God. Christ came to give the world an example of a pure and perfect life. He sacrificed himself for the joy of saving the lost. Whoever follows Christ will work the works of Christ. Pride and selfishness will not be cherished, every sinful indulgence will be put away, the soul temple will be cleansed from every idolatrous shrine. Until this shall take place, we cannot claim to be free from Israel's great sin of idolatry. ST August 11, 1881, par. 15