The Signs of the Times


August 18, 1881

Judgment and Mercy


Exposed to the power of their enemies, the children of Israel at last realized the perils of their situation, and the futility of all their efforts against the oppressor. Then they began to seek help from Him whom they had so forsaken and insulted. They saw in some measure, how far they had separated themselves from the only One who could help them. “And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim.” ST August 18, 1881, par. 1

But infinite wisdom saw that they sorrowed because of the consequences of their sin—the suffering which it had brought upon themselves,—rather than because they had offended God. The Lord answered them, through one of his faithful prophets: ST August 18, 1881, par. 2

“Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods; wherefore I will deliver you no more.” ST August 18, 1881, par. 3

Thus the Lord presented before them his goodness, his long suffering, his pity for their distress, and the wonderful deliverances which he had wrought for them again and again. Notwithstanding all his love and care, they had once more forsaken him, and had sinned more grievously than ever before, choosing the service of idols, instead of the worship of the living God. Now, in their distress, he bade them, “Go and cry unto the Gods which ye have chosen. Let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.” ST August 18, 1881, par. 4

But there was hope for Israel as soon as they began sincerely to repent and humbly cry unto God. They had been led to see what would be their condition, should the Lord leave them to be delivered by the gods in whom they trusted. They would be subdued by the very nations that in God's strength they had once conquered. Had Israel preserved their connection with God, they would have derived honor, dignity, and power from this relationship. ST August 18, 1881, par. 5

Allied to the King of kings, the Lord of life and glory, the vilest sinner may become a partaker of the divine nature, and an heir of eternal riches. “To them gave he power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” Oh, what condescension, what amazing love, to make fallen man a member of the royal family, a child of the Heavenly King! How can the world's Redeemer look upon those who stubbornly refuse to receive the gifts of a Saviour's love, or who, having professedly accepted him, cast aside as worthless trifles the honor and dignity offered them as his followers! ST August 18, 1881, par. 6

Multitudes turn with contempt from the pleadings of divine grace and infinite love, to satisfy their desire for forbidden pleasures which prove as the apples of Sodom, beautiful without, but ashes within. Israel had no love for the holy character of God, and they rejected and despised his friendship. Scorning the Creator, they adored the creature; and when, in their distress, they sought unto the long-insulted Jehovah, he pointed them to the gods of their choice, and bade them cry to these deities for help. ST August 18, 1881, par. 7

The Israelites well knew that their idols were powerless to save or to destroy. They knew that the heathen worship was contrary to reason and sound judgment. But they had gradually departed from God, and had indulged in sin until their moral perceptions were dulled, and they were led astray by Satan. ST August 18, 1881, par. 8

As we ponder the solemn words of warning addressed to Israel, we are in imagination brought before the great white throne, where in the presence of the assembled universe, every man will be judged according to the deeds done in the body. Then will be seen the true value of a Christian life and character. There must they render an account who have devoted their God-given talents of time, of means, or of intellect, to serving the gods of this world. The searching eye of Jehovah will rest upon all; and that voice which amid the thunders of Sinai spake to man, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”—that voice will answer the sinner's imploring cry for pardon, “Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen. Let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.” ST August 18, 1881, par. 9

None then to pity the folly of those who have despised and forsaken God. None to relieve their distress. They have forsaken their true and loving Friend, to follow the path of convenience and worldly pleasure. They intended at some time to return to God. But the world, with its follies and deceptions, absorbs the attention. Frivolous amusements, pride of dress, indulgence of appetite, harden the heart and benumb the conscience, so that the voice of truth is not heard. Duty is a despised word. Things of infinite value are lightly esteemed, until the heart loses all desire to sacrifice for Him who has given so much for man. But in the reaping time they must gather the crop sown. ST August 18, 1881, par. 10

“Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you: then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me; for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord; they would none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof. Therefore they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” ST August 18, 1881, par. 11

God speaks to us today, in the warnings, counsels, and reproofs given to ancient Israel. If we depart from him, our condemnation will be greater than theirs; for we have their experience as a warning, and all the instruction which God has given since their time. Many and varied are the idols which we cherish; idols that engross the mind and harden the heart, so that sacred things are not rightly valued. Oh that the lessons given to ancient Israel might so impress our hearts and affect our lives that we would fully turn from idols, to serve the living God. ST August 18, 1881, par. 12

We must not trifle with our present privileges and opportunities, and expect that when lost they will be restored whenever we desire. It is impossible to abuse the powers with which our Creator has endowed us, and yet find them clear and vigorous, to call to our aid whenever we wish to devote them to a nobler, better purpose. The chains of habit, like ropes of steel, are not easily broken. Then how careful should we be to cherish only those traits which we would have to form the texture of character. ST August 18, 1881, par. 13

The children of Israel had forfeited all right to expect help from God, and they had begun to feel this. They knew not where to turn for human help, and God had apparently forsaken them. His words thrilled their guilty souls with the anguish of remorse. They knew that they deserved to suffer the divine judgment, and to this they were willing to submit, if they might hope once more to be forgiven and restored to the favor of God. ST August 18, 1881, par. 14

“And the children of Israel said unto the Lord, We have sinned; do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day. And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the Lord; and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.” ST August 18, 1881, par. 15

Oh, the long-suffering mercy and condescension of our God! The Lord had been trying his people. When they humbled themselves before him, and repented with sincerity of soul, he heard their prayers, and at once began to deliver Israel. ST August 18, 1881, par. 16