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The Review and Herald Articles
for the Year 1915
(Vol. 92, #10)
Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. "With His stripes we are healed."
By His life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin. It was Satan's purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen. In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. Through the eternal ages He is linked with us. . . . Christ is our brother. Heaven is enshrined in humanity, and humanity is enfolded in the bosom of Infinite love. . . . By love's self-sacrifice, the inhabitants of earth and heaven are bound to their Creator in bonds of indissoluble union.
The work of redemption will be complete. In the place where sin abounded, God's grace much more abounds. The earth itself, the very field that Satan claims as his, is to be not only ransomed but exalted. Our little world, under the curse of sin the one dark blot in His glorious creation, will be honored above all other worlds in the universe of God. Here, where the Son of God tabernacled in humanity; where the King of glory lived and suffered and died,--here, when He shall make all things new, the tabernacle of God shall be with men, "and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself, shall be with them, and be their God." And through endless ages as the redeemed walk in the light of the Lord, they will praise Him for His unspeakable Gift, Immanuel, "God with us."-- Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #11)
The long reign of Uzziah (Azariah), in the land of Judah and Benjamin, was characterized by a prosperity greater than that of any other ruler since the death of Solomon, nearly two centuries before. For many years the king ruled with discretion. "He sought the Lord," and "God helped him." Under the blessing of Heaven, his armies regained some of the territory that had been lost in former years; cities were rebuilt and fortified, and the position of the nation among the surrounding peoples was greatly strengthened. Commerce revived, and the riches of the nations flowed into Jerusalem. Uzziah's name "spread far abroad: for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong."
This outward prosperity, however, was not accompanied by a corresponding revival of spiritual power. The temple services were continued as in former years, and multitudes assembled to worship the living God; but pride and formality gradually took the place of humility and sincerity. Uzziah, by precept and by example, might have inspired his subjects with reverence for God and for the sacred services of the temple; but "when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God."
The sin that resulted so disastrously to Uzziah was one of presumption. In violation of a plain command of Jehovah,--that none but the descendants of Aaron should officiate as priests, the king entered the sanctuary "to burn incense upon the altar." Azariah the high priest and his associates remonstrated, and pleaded with him to turn from his purpose. "Thou hast trespassed," they urged; "neither shall it be for thine honor." 2 Chron. 26: 5-18.
Uzziah was filled with wrath, that he, the king, should be thus rebuked. But he was not permitted to profane the sanctuary against the united protest of those in authority. While standing there in wrathful rebellion, he was suddenly smitten with a divine judgment. Leprosy appeared on his forehead. In dismay he fled, never again to enter the temple courts. Unto the day of his death, some years later, Uzziah remained a leper--a living example of the folly of departing from a plain "Thus saith the Lord." Neither his exalted position nor his long life of service could be pleaded as an excuse for the presumptuous sin by which he marred the closing years of his reign, and brought upon himself the judgment of Heaven.
God is no respecter of persons. "The soul that doeth aught presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people." Num. 15:30.
The judgment that befell Uzziah seemed to have a restraining influence on his son. Jotham bore heavy responsibilities during the remaining years of his father's reign, and succeeded to the throne after Uzziah's death. Of Jotham it is written: "He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord: he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Howbeit the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places." 2 Kings 15:34, 35. Had Jotham inaugurated a thorough reformation, and torn down these favorite meeting places, encouraging the people to engage unitedly in the temple services, he might have done much to strengthen faith in the true God. But although he failed of making a wise use of his opportunities, his rule was not without good results: he "became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God." 2 Chron. 27:6.
The reign of Uzziah was drawing to a close, and Jotham was already bearing many of the burdens of state, when Isaiah, of the loyal line, was called, while yet a young man, to the prophetic mission. The times in which Isaiah was to labor were fraught with peculiar peril to the people of God. The prophet was to witness the invasion of Judah by the combined armies of northern Israel and of Syria; he was to behold the Assyrian hosts encamped before the chief cities of the Promised Land. During his lifetime, Samaria was to fall, and the ten tribes of Israel were to be scattered among the nations. Judah was again and again to be invaded by the Assyrian armies, and Jerusalem was to suffer a siege that would have resulted in her downfall had not God miraculously interposed. Already these perils were threatening the peace of Israel. The divine protection was being removed from the southern kingdom, and the Assyrian forces were about to overspread the land of Judah.
But the dangers from without, overwhelming though they seemed, were not so serious as the dangers from within. It was the perversity of his people that brought to the Lord's servant the greatest perplexity and the deepest depression. By their apostasy and rebellion those who should have been standing as light bearers among the nations, were inviting the judgments of God. Many of the evils which were hastening the swift destruction of the northern kingdom, and which had recently been denounced in unmistakable terms by Hosea and Amos, were fast corrupting the kingdom of Judah.
The outlook was particularly discouraging as regards the social conditions of the people. In their desire for gain, men were adding house to house and field to field. See Isa. 5:8. Justice was perverted, and no pity was shown the poor. Of these evils God declared: "The spoil of the poor is in your houses. . . . Ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor." Chap. 3:14, 15. Even the magistrates, whose duty it was to protect the helpless, had turned a deaf ear to the cries of the poor and needy, the widows and the fatherless. Chap. 10:1, 2.
With oppression and wealth came pride and love of display. "The lofty looks" and "the haughtiness of men" are especially mentioned in the messages of reproof given in those days. "Every one that is proud and lofty," the Lord declared, and "every one that is lifted up . . . shall be brought low." Chap. 2:11, 12.
In the third chapter of Isaiah's prophecy mention is made of the prevailing pride of the "daughters of Zion," with "their tinkling ornaments, . . . the chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, . . . and the headbands, and the tabrets, and the earrings, the rings, and nose jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils." Chap. 3:18-23. How different this picture from that portrayed by the apostle Peter of the God-fearing woman, who, estimating at its real value the "outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel," chooses rather to cultivate beauty of soul, "even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." It was "after this manner in the old time" that "the holy women . . . who trusted in God, adorned themselves;" and their "chaste conversion coupled with fear" (1 Peter 3:1-5), as revealed in daily life, was ever a standing rebuke to their sisters who followed after folly. (To be concluded.) Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #12)
In the later years of the kingdom of Judah, pride and extravagance were accompanied by gross drunkenness and by a spirit of revelry. Upon those who gave themselves up to such sins, special woes were pronounced by the Lord through his chosen messenger. "Woe unto them," Isaiah declared, "that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink." Isa. 5:22. And again: "Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! . . . The harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine," the prophet said, "are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands." Verses 11, 12.
To this forgetfulness of their Maker may be traced many of the sins which characterized the chosen nation in Isaiah's day. Idolatry no longer provoked surprise. "Their land . . . is full of idols," exclaimed the prophet in an agony of spirit over the well-nigh universal apostasy. "They worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made: and the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself." Isa. 2:8, 9.
The Lord called heaven and earth to witness to his tender care for the chosen nation. "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth," he exclaimed; "the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider." "They have rebelled against me." Isa. 1:2, 3.
Iniquitous practices became so prevalent among all classes that the few who remained true to God were often tempted to lose heart, and to give way to discouragement and despair. It seemed as if God's purpose for Israel were about to fail, and that the rebellious nation was to suffer a fate similar to that of Sodom and Gomorrah.
In the face of such conditions it is not surprising that when, during the last year of Uzziah's reign, Isaiah was called to bear to Judah God's messages of warning and reproof, he shrank from the responsibility. He well knew that he would encounter obstinate resistance. As he realized his own inability to meet the situation, and thought of the stubbornness and unbelief of the people for whom he was to labor, his task seemed to him almost hopeless. Should he in despair relinquish his mission, and leave Judah undisturbed to their idolatry? Were the gods of Nineveh to rule the earth, in defiance of the God of heaven?
Such thoughts as these were crowding through Isaiah's mind as he stood under the portico of the temple. Suddenly the gate and the inner veil of the temple seemed to be uplifted, or withdrawn, and he was permitted to gaze within, upon the holy of holies, where even the prophet's feet might not enter. There rose up before him a vision of Jehovah sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, while the train of his glory filled the temple. On each side of the throne hovered the seraphim, their faces veiled in adoration, as they ministered before their Maker, and united in the solemn invocation, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory" (Isa. 6:1-3), until post and pillar and cedar gate seemed shaken with the sound, and the house was filled with their tribute of praise.
As Isaiah beheld this revelation of the glory and majesty of his Lord, he was overwhelmed with a sense of the purity and holiness of God. How sharp the contrast between the matchless perfection of his Creator and the sinful course of those who, with himself, had long been numbered among the chosen people of Israel and Judah! "Woe is me!" he cried; "for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." Verse 5. Standing, as it were, in the full light of the divine presence within the inner sanctuary, he realized that if left to his own imperfection and inefficiency, he would be utterly unable to accomplish the mission to which he had been called. But a seraph was sent to relieve him of his distress, and to fit him for his great mission. A living coal from the altar was laid upon his lips, with the words, "Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." Then the voice of God was heard saying, "Whom shall I send? and who will go for us?" and Isaiah responded, "Here am I; send me." Verses 7, 8.
The heavenly visitant bade the waiting messenger: "Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed." Verses 9, 10.
The prophet's duty was plain; he was to lift his voice in protest against the prevailing evils. But he dreaded to undertake the work without some assurance of hope. "Lord, how long? (verse 11) he inquired. Are none of thy chosen people ever to understand, and repent, and be healed?
His burden of soul in behalf of erring Judah was not to be borne in vain. His mission was not to be wholly fruitless. Yet the evils that had been multiplying for many generations could not be removed in his day. Throughout his lifetime he must be a patient, courageous teacher--a prophet of hope as well as of doom. The divine purpose finally accomplished, the full fruitage of his efforts, and of the labors of all God's faithful messengers, would appear. A remnant should be saved. That this might be brought about, the messages of warning and entreaty were to be delivered to the rebellious, the Lord declared, "until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land." Verses 11, 12.
The heavy judgments that were to befall the impenitent--war, exile, oppression, the loss of power and prestige among the nations,--all these were to come in order that those who would recognize in them the hand of an offended God, might be led to repent. The ten tribes of the northern kingdom were soon to be scattered among the nations, and their cities left desolate; the destroying armies of hostile nations were to sweep over their land again and again; even Jerusalem was finally to fall, and Judah was to be carried away captive; yet the Promised Land was not to remain wholly forsaken forever. The assurance of the heavenly visitant to Isaiah was: "In it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof." Verse 13.
This assurance of the final fulfillment of God's purpose brought courage to the heart of Isaiah. What though earthly powers array themselves against Judah? What though the Lord's messenger meet with opposition and resistance? Isaiah had seen the King, the Lord of hosts; he had heard the song of the seraphim, "The whole earth is full of his glory" (verse 3); he had the promise that the messages of Jehovah, to backsliding Judah would be accompanied by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit; and the prophet was nerved for the work before him. Throughout his long and arduous mission he carried with him the memory of this vision. For sixty years or more he stood before the children of Judah as a prophet of hope, waxing bolder and still bolder in his predictions of the future triumph of the church. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #14)
In Isaiah's day the spiritual understanding of mankind was dark through misapprehension of God. Long had Satan sought to lead men to look upon their Creator as the author of sin and suffering and death. Those whom he had thus deceived, imagined that God was hard and exacting. They regarded him as watching to denounce and condemn, unwilling to receive the sinner so long as there was a legal excuse for not helping him. The law of love, by which heaven is ruled, had been misrepresented by the archdeceiver as a restriction upon men's happiness, a burdensome yoke from which they should be glad to escape. He declared that its precepts could not be obeyed, and that the penalties of transgression were bestowed arbitrarily.
In losing sight of the true character of Jehovah, the Israelites were without excuse. Often had God revealed himself to them as one "full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth." Ps. 86:15. "When Israel was a child," he testified, "then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt." Hosea 11:1.
Tenderly had the Lord dealt with Israel in their deliverance from Egyptian bondage and in their journey to the Promised Land. "In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old." Isa. 63:9.
"My presence shall go with thee" (Ex. 33:14), was the promise given during the journey through the wilderness. This assurance was accompanied by a marvelous revelation of Jehovah's character, which enabled Moses to proclaim to all Israel the goodness of God, and to instruct them fully concerning the attributes of their invisible King. "The Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty." Ex. 34:6, 7.
Till the close of his long life of patient ministry. Moses continued his exhortations to Israel to keep their eyes fixed on their divine Ruler. "Hear, O Israel," he pleaded: "The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." Deut. 6:4, 5. "Thou art an holy people unto the Lord." Deut. 7:6. "What doth the Lord thy God require of thee," he asked, "but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him?" Deut. 10:12.
With what confidence had Moses assured the Israelites of the merciful attributes of Jehovah! Often during the wilderness sojourn he had pleaded with God in behalf of erring Israel; and the Lord had spared them. As in the days following the death of Elisha, when Hazael, king of Syria, was oppressing Israel, so in their earlier history, "the Lord was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence." 2 Kings 13:23.
It was upon this knowledge of the longsufferance of Jehovah and of his infinite love and mercy, that Moses based his wonderful plea for the life of Israel when, on the borders of the Promised Land, they refused to advance in obedience to the command of God. At the height of their rebellion, the Lord had declared, "I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them;" and he had proposed to make of the descendants of Moses "a greater nation and mightier than they." Num. 14:12. But the prophet pleaded the marvelous providences and promises of God in behalf of the chosen nation. And then, as the strongest of all pleas, he urged the love of God for fallen man. "I beseech thee," he prayed, "let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression. . . . Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now." Verses 17-19.
Graciously the Lord responded, "I have pardoned according to thy word." And then he imparted to Moses, in the form of a prophecy, a knowledge of his purpose concerning the final triumph of his chosen people. "As truly as I live," he declared, "all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord." Verses 20, 21. God's glory, his character, his merciful kindness and tender love,--all that Moses had pleaded in behalf of Israel was to be revealed to all mankind. And this promise of Jehovah was made doubly sure; it was confirmed by an oath. As surely as God lives and reigns, his glory should be declared "among the heathen, his wonders among all people." Ps. 96:3.
It was concerning the future fulfillment of this prophecy that Isaiah had heard the shining seraphim singing before the throne. "The whole earth is full of his glory." Isa. 6:3. The prophet, confident of the eternity of these words, himself afterwards boldly declared of those who were bowing down to images of wood and stone, "They shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God." Isa. 35.2.
Today this prophecy is meeting rapid fulfillment. The missionary activities of the church of God on earth are bearing rich fruitage, and soon the gospel message will have been proclaimed to all nations. "To the praise of the glory of his grace," men and women from every kindred, tongue, and people are being made "accepted in the Beloved," "that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." Eph. 1:6; 2:7. "Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name forever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory." Ps. 72:18, 19.
In the vision that came to Isaiah in the temple court, he was given a clear view of the character of the God of Israel. "The high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy," had appeared before him in great majesty; yet the prophet was made to understand the compassionate nature of his Lord. He who dwells "in the high and holy place" dwells "with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Isa. 57: 15. The angel commissioned to touch Isaiah's lips had brought to him the message, "Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." Isa. 6:7. In beholding his God, the prophet had found pardon and peace. (To be concluded.) Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #15)
None knew better than Isaiah the depths of sin into which Judah had fallen. None knew better than he their need of a Saviour. "Ah sinful nation," he exclaimed on one occasion, "a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward." Isa. 1:4. But when the prophet, like Saul of Tarsus at the gate of Damascus, had been given a view of his own unworthiness, there had come to his humbled heart the assurance of forgiveness, full and free, and he had arisen a changed man. He had seen his Lord. He had caught a glimpse of the loveliness of the divine character. He could testify of the transformation wrought through beholding Infinite Love. Henceforth he was inspired with longing desire to see erring Israel set free from the burden and penalty of sin. "Why should ye be stricken any more?" the prophet inquired. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well." Verses 5, 18, 16, 17.
The God whom they had been claiming to serve, but whose character they had misunderstood, was set before them as the great Healer of spiritual disease. What though the whole head was sick and the whole heart faint? what though from the sole of the foot even unto the crown of the head there was no soundness, but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores? Verse 6. He who had been walking frowardly in the way of his heart might find healing by turning to the Lord. "I have seen his ways," the Lord declared, "and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him. . . . Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him." Isa. 57:18, 19.
The prophet exalted God as creator of all. His message to the cities of Judah was, "Behold your God!" "Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it:" "I am the Lord that maketh all things;" "I form the light and create darkness;" "I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded." Isa. 42:5; 44:24; 45:7, 12.
"To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth." Isa. 40:25, 26.
To those who feared they would not be received if they should return to God, the prophet declared:--
"Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Isa. 40:27-31.
The heart of Infinite Love yearns after those who feel powerless to free themselves from the snares of Satan; and he graciously offers to strengthen them to live for him. "Fear thou not," he bids them; "for I am with thee: be not dismayed: for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. . . . I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee. Fear not; I will help thee. Fear not thou worm Jacob and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel." Isa. 41: 10-14.
The inhabitants of Judah were all undeserving, yet God would not give them up. By them his name was to be exalted among the heathen. Many who were wholly unacquainted with his attributes, were yet to behold the glory of the divine character. It was for his name's sake that he kept sending his servants the prophets with the message, "Turn ye again now every one from his evil way." Jer. 25:5. "For my name's sake," he declared through Isaiah, "will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off. . . . For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another." Isa. 48: 9-11.
The call to repentance was sounded with unmistakable clearness, and all were invited to return. "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found," the prophet pleaded; "call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." Isa. 55:6, 7.
Have you, reader, chosen your own way? Have you wandered far from God? Have you sought to feast upon the fruits of transgression, only to find them turn to ashes upon your lips? And now, your life plans thwarted, and your hopes dead, do you sit alone and desolate? That voice which has long been speaking to your heart, but to which you would not listen, comes to you distinct and clear, "Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction." Micah 2:10. Return to your Father's house. He invites you, saying, "Return unto me; for I have redeemed thee." Isa. 44:22. "Come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." Isa. 55:3.
Do not listen to the enemy's suggestion to stay away from Christ until you have made yourself better, until you are good enough to come to God. If you wait until then, you will never come. When Satan points to your filthy garments, repeat the promise of the Saviour, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." John 6:37. Tell the enemy that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. Make the prayer of David your own, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Ps. 51:7.
The exhortations of the prophet to Judah to behold the living God, and to accept his gracious offers, were not in vain. There were some who gave earnest heed, and who turned from their idols to the worship of Jehovah. They learned to see in their Maker love, and mercy, and tender compassion. And in the dark days that were to come in the history of Judah, when only a remnant were to be left in the land, the prophet's words were to continue bearing fruit in decided reformation. "At that day," declared Isaiah, "shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel. And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves, or the images." Isa. 17:7, 8.
Many were to behold the One altogether lovely, the chiefest among ten thousand. "Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty," was the gracious promise made them. Their sins were to be forgiven, and they were to make their boast in God alone. In that glad day of redemption from idolatry they would exclaim, "The glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams. . . . The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us." Isa. 33:17, 21, 22.
The messages borne by Isaiah to those who chose to turn from their evil ways, were full of comfort and encouragement. Hear the word of the Lord through his prophet:--
"Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me. I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. Sing, O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel." Isa. 44:21-23.
"In that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with Joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee." Isaiah 12. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #16)
The accession of Ahaz to the throne brought Isaiah and his associates face to face with conditions more appalling than any that had hitherto existed in the realm of Judah. Many who had formerly withstood the seductive influence of idolatrous practices, were now being persuaded to take part in the worship of heathen deities. Princes in Israel were proving untrue to their trust; false prophets were arising with messages to lead astray; even some of the priests were teaching for hire. Yet the leaders in apostasy still kept up the forms of divine worship, and claimed to be numbered among the people of God.
The prophet Micah, who bore his testimony during those troublous times, declared that sinners in Zion, while claiming to "lean upon the Lord," and blasphemously boasting, "Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us," continued to "build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity." Micah 3:11, 10.
Against these evils the prophet Isaiah lifted his voice in stern rebuke: "Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord. . . . When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? . . . Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear." Isa. 1:10-15.
Inspiration declares, "The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?" Prov. 21:27. The God of heaven is "of purer eyes than to behold evil," and cannot "look on iniquity." Hab. 1:13. It is not because he is unwilling to forgive, that he turns from the transgressor; it is because the sinner refuses to make use of the abundant provisions of grace, that God is unable to deliver from sin. "The Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." Isa. 59:1, 2.
Solomon had written, "Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child!" Eccl. 10:16. Thus it was with the land of Judah. Through continued transgression, her rulers had become as children. Isaiah called the attention of the people to the weakness of their position among the nations of earth; and he showed that this was the result of wickedness in high places. "Behold," he said, "the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water, the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counselor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator. And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. . . . For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory." Isa. 3:1-8.
"They which lead thee." the prophet continued, "cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." Verse 12. During the reign of Ahaz this was literally true; for of him it is written: "He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom;" "yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree." 2 Chron. 28:2, 3:2 Kings 16:3, 4.
This was indeed a time of great peril for the chosen nation. Only a few short years, and the ten tribes of the kingdom of Israel were to be scattered among the nations of heathendom. And in the kingdom of Judah also the outlook was dark. The forces for good were rapidly diminishing, the forces for evil multiplying. The prophet Micah, viewing the situation, was constrained to exclaim: "The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men." "The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge." Micah 7:2, 4. "Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant," declared Isaiah, "we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah." Isa. 1:9.
In every age, for the sake of those who have remained true, as well as because of his infinite love for the erring, God has borne long with the rebellious, and has urged them to forsake their course of evil, and return to him. "Precept upon precept; line upon line; . . . here a little, and there a little" (Isa. 28:10), through men of his appointment, he has taught transgressors the way of righteousness.
And thus it was during the reign of Ahaz. Invitation upon invitation was sent to erring Israel to return to their allegiance to Jehovah. Tender were the pleadings of the prophets; and as they stood before the people, earnestly exhorting to repentance and reformation, their words bore fruit to the glory of God.
Through Micah came the wonderful appeal: "Hear ye now what the Lord saith; Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice. Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord's controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel.
"O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me. For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
"O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye may know the righteousness of the Lord." Micah 6:1-5.
The God whom we serve is longsuffering: "his compassions fail not." Lam. 3:22. Throughout the period of probationary time his Spirit is entreating men to accept the gift of life. "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?" Eze. 33:11. It is Satan's special device to lead man into sin, and then leave him there, helpless and hopeless, fearing to seek for pardon. But God invites, "Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me." Isa. 27:5. In Christ every provision has been made, every encouragement offered.
In the days of apostasy in Judah and Israel, many were inquiring. "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil." The answer is plain and positive: "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Micah 6:6-8.
In urging the value of practical godliness, the prophet was only repeating the counsel given Israel centuries before. Through Moses, as they were about to enter the Promised Land, the word of the Lord had been: "And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?" Deut. 10:12, 13.
From age to age these counsels were repeated by the servants of Jehovah to those who were in danger of falling into habits of formalism, and of forgetting to show mercy. When Christ himself, during his earthly ministry, was approached by a lawyer with the question, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Matt. 22:36-40.
These plain utterances of the prophets and of the Master himself should be received by us as the voice of God to every soul. We should lose no opportunity of performing deeds of mercy, of tender forethought and Christian courtesy, for the burdened and the oppressed. If we can do no more, we may speak words of courage and hope to those who are unacquainted with God, and who can be approached most easily by the avenue of sympathy and love. (To be concluded.) Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #17)
Rich and abundant are the promises made to those who are watchful to bring joy and blessing into the lives of others. "If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." Isa. 58:10, 11.
The idolatrous course of Ahaz, in the face of the earnest appeals of the prophets, could have but one result. "The wrath of the Lord was upon Judah and Jerusalem, and he . . . delivered them to trouble, to astonishment, and to hissing." 2 Chron. 29:8. The kingdom suffered a rapid decline, and its very existence was soon imperiled by invading armies. "Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz." 2 Kings 16:5.
Had Ahaz and the chief men of his realm been true servants of the Most High, they would have had no fear of so unnatural an alliance as had been formed against them. But repeated transgression had shorn them of strength. Stricken with a nameless dread of the retributive judgments of an offended God, the heart of the king "was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind." Isa. 7:2.
In this crisis, the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, bidding him meet the trembling king, and say:--
"Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be faint-hearted. . . . Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, . . . thus saith the Lord God, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass." The kingdom of Israel, and Syria as well, declared the prophet, would soon come to an end. "If ye will not believe," he concluded, "surely ye shall not be established." Isa. 7:4-7, 9.
Well would it have been for the kingdom of Judah had Ahaz received this message as from heaven. But choosing to lean on the arm of flesh, he sought help from the heathen. In desperation he sent word to Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria: "I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, which rise up against me." The request was accompanied by a rich present from the king's treasure and from the temple storehouse. 2 Kings 16:7, 8.
The help asked for was sent, and King Ahaz was given temporary relief, but at what a cost to Judah! The tribute offered aroused the cupidity of Assyria, and that treacherous nation soon threatened to overflow and spoil Judah. Ahaz and his unhappy subjects were now harassed by the fear of falling completely into the hands of the cruel Assyrians.
"The Lord brought Judah low" because of continued transgression. In this time of chastisement, Ahaz, instead of repenting, trespassed "yet more against the Lord: . . . for he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus." "Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them." he said, "therefore will I sacrifice to them, that they may help me." 2 Chron. 28:19, 22, 23.
As the apostate king neared the end of his reign, he caused the doors of the temple to be closed. The sacred services were interrupted. No longer were the candlesticks kept burning before the altar. No longer were offerings made for the sins of the people. No longer did sweet incense ascend on high at the time of the morning and the evening sacrifice. Deserting the courts of the house of God, and locking fast its doors, the inhabitants of the godless city boldly set up altars for the worship of heathen deities on the street corners throughout Jerusalem. Heathenism had seemingly triumphed; the powers of darkness had well-nigh prevailed.
But in Judah there dwelt some who, amid the prevailing apostasy, maintained their allegiance to Jehovah, steadfastly refusing to be led into idolatry. It was to these that Isaiah and Micah and their associates looked in hope as they surveyed the ruin wrought during the last years of Ahaz. Their sanctuary was closed, but the faithful ones were assured: "God is with us. . . . Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary." Isa. 8:10, 13. 14.
In this time of "trouble and darkness" and "dimness of anguish" (verse 22), the future was made bright by means of many precious communications to the church of God concerning her future triumph. Judah was to suffer much from Assyrian oppression, and from the scourgings of other nations, and was finally to be carried away captive; yet this sore chastisement, grievous though it might seem at the time, would be used by a merciful Providence as a means of salvation. "By this," Isaiah declared, "shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin." Isa. 27:9. At the close of the period of captivity, those who had remained faithful, together with those who might choose henceforth to serve the living God, were to be permitted to return to the land of their fathers.
The promise of restoration was accompanied by many prophecies concerning the advent of the Messiah. In the fullness of time Immanuel, the promised Deliverer, was to appear, to dispel the darkness of centuries of apostasy. Those dwelling "in the land of the shadow of death" were to see "a great light." Isa. 9:2. The prophet, looking with rapture upon this glorious deliverance of those who had so long been groping in darkness, exclaimed: "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." Verses 6, 7.
"In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: when the Lord shall have . . . purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning." Isa. 4:2-4. "And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel." "They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine." Isa. 29:18, 19, 24.
"O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. . . . Thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. . . . And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined." Isa. 25:1, 4, 6.
"In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." Isa. 26:1-4. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #19)
There are books that are of vital importance that are not looked at by our young people. They are neglected because they are not so interesting to them as some lighter reading.
We should advise the young to take hold of such reading matter as recommends itself for the upbuilding of Christian character. The most essential points of our faith should be stamped upon the memory of the young. They have had a glimpse of these truths, but not such an acquaintance as would lead them to look upon their study with favor. Our youth should read that which will have a healthful, sanctifying effect upon the mind. This they need in order to be able to discern what is true religion. There is much good reading that is not sanctifying.
Now is our time and opportunity to labor for the young people. Tell them that we are now in a perilous crisis, and we want to know how to discern true godliness. Our young people need to be helped, uplifted, and encouraged, but in the right manner; not, perhaps, as they would desire it, but in a way that will help them to have sanctified minds. They need good, sanctifying religion more than anything else.
I do not expect to live long. My work is nearly done. Tell our young people that I want my words to encourage them in that manner of life that will be most attractive to the heavenly intelligences, and that their influence upon others may be most ennobling.
In the night season I was selecting and laying aside books that are of no advantage to the young. We should select for them books that will encourage them to sincerity of life, and lead them to the opening of the Word. This has been presented to me in the past, and I thought I would get it before you and make it secure. We cannot afford to give to young people valueless reading. Books that are a blessing to mind and soul are needed. These things are too lightly regarded; therefore our people should become acquainted with what I am saying.
I do not think I shall have more Testimonies for our people. Our men of solid minds know what is good for the uplifting and upbuilding of the work. But with the love of God in their hearts, they need to go deeper and deeper into the study of the things of God. I am very anxious that our young people shall have the proper class of reading; then the old people will get it also. We must keep our eyes on the religious attraction of the truth. We are to keep mind and brain open to the truths of God's Word. Satan comes when men are unaware. We are not to be satisfied because the message of warning has been once presented. We must present it again and again.
We could begin a course of reading so intensely interesting that it would attract and influence many minds. If I am spared for further labor, I should gladly help to prepare books for the young.
There is a work to be done for the young by which their minds will be impressed and molded by the sanctifying truth of God. It is my sincere wish for our young people that they find the true meaning of justification by faith, and the perfection of character that will prepare them for eternal life. I do not expect to live long, and I leave this message for the young, that the aim which they make shall not miscarry.
I exhort my brethren to encourage the young ever to keep the preciousness and grace of God highly exalted. Work and pray constantly for a sense of the preciousness of true religion. Bring in the blessedness and the attractiveness of holiness and the grace of God. I have felt a burden regarding this because I know it is neglected.
I have no assurance that my life will last long, but I feel that I am accepted of the Lord. He knows how much I have suffered as I have witnessed the low standards of living adopted by so-called Christians. I have felt that it was imperative that the truth should be seen in my life, and that my testimony should go to the people. I want that you should do all you can to have my writings placed in the hands of the people in foreign lands.
Tell the young that they have had many spiritual advantages. God wants them to make earnest efforts to get the truth before the people. I am impressed that it is my special duty to say these things. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #20)
In sharp contrast with the reckless rule of Ahaz was the reformation wrought during the prosperous reign of his son. Hezekiah came to the throne determined to do all in his power to save Judah from the fate that was overtaking the northern kingdom. The messages of the prophets offered no encouragement to halfway measures. Only by most decided reformation could the threatened judgments be averted.
In the crisis Hezekiah proved to be a man of opportunity. No sooner had he ascended the throne than he began to plan and to execute. He first turned his attention to the restoration of the temple services, so long neglected; and in this work he earnestly solicited the cooperation of a band of priests and Levites who had remained true to their sacred calling. Confident of their loyal support, he spoke with them freely concerning his desire to institute immediate and far-reaching reforms.
"Our fathers have trespassed," he confessed, "and done that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord our God, and have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord." "Now it is in mine heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that his fierce wrath may turn away from us." 2 Chron. 29:6, 10.
In a few well-chosen words the king reviewed the situation they were facing,--the closed temple and the cessation of all services within its precincts; the flagrant idolatry practiced in the streets of the city and throughout the kingdom; the apostasy of multitudes who might have remained true to God had the leaders in Judah set before them a right example; and the decline of the kingdom and loss of prestige in the estimation of surrounding nations. The northern kingdom was rapidly crumbling to pieces; many were perishing by the sword; a multitude had already been carried away captive; soon Israel would fall completely into the hands of the Assyrians, and be utterly ruined; and this fate would surely befall Judah as well, unless God should work mightily through chosen representatives.
Hezekiah appealed directly to the priests to unite with him in bringing about the necessary reforms. "Be not now negligent," he exhorted them; "for the Lord hath chosen you to stand before him, to serve him, and that ye should minister unto him, and burn incense." "Sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers." Verses 11, 5.
It was a time for quick action. The priests began at once. Enlisting the cooperation of others of their number who had not been present during this conference, they engaged heartily in the work of cleansing and sanctifying the temple. Because of the years of desecration and neglect, this was attended with many difficulties; but the priests and the Levites labored untiringly, and within a remarkably short time they were able to report their task completed. The temple doors had been repaired and thrown open; the sacred vessels had been assembled and put into place; and all was in readiness for the reestablishment of the sanctuary services.
In the first service held, the rulers of the city united with King Hezekiah and with the priests and Levites in seeking forgiveness for the sins of the nation. Upon the altar were placed sin offerings "to make an atonement for all Israel." "And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshiped." Once more the temple courts resounded with words of praise and adoration. The songs of David and of Asaph were sung with joy, as the worshipers realized that they were being delivered from the bondage of sin and apostasy. "Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people: for the thing was done suddenly." Verses 24, 29, 36.
God had indeed prepared the hearts of the chief men of Judah to lead out in a decided reformatory movement, that the tide of apostasy might be stayed. Through his prophets he had sent to his chosen people message after message of earnest entreaty,--messages that had been despised and rejected by the ten tribes of the kingdom of Israel, now given over to the enemy. But in Judah there remained a goodly remnant, and to these the prophets continued to appeal. Hear Isaiah urging, "Turn ye unto him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted." Isa. 31:6. Hear Micah declaring with confidence: "I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness." Micah 7:7-9.
These and other like messages revealing the willingness of God to forgive and accept those who turned to him with full purpose of heart, had brought hope to many a fainting soul in the dark years when the temple doors remained closed; and now, as the leaders began to institute a reform, a multitude of the people, weary of the thralldom of sin, were ready to respond. Through his prophets God had prepared the way, and by his Spirit had impressed King Hezekiah to act without delay.
Those who entered the temple courts to seek forgiveness and to renew their vows of allegiance to Jehovah, had wonderful encouragement offered them in the prophetic portions of Scripture. The solemn warnings against idolatry, spoken through Moses in the hearing of all Israel, had been accompanied by prophecies of God's willingness to hear and forgive those who in times of apostasy should seek him with all the heart. "If thou turn to the Lord thy God," Moses had said, "and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (for the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them." Deut. 4:30, 31.
And in the prophetic prayer offered at the dedication of the temple whose services Hezekiah and his associates were now restoring, Solomon had prayed: "When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name, and pray, and make supplication unto thee in this house: then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel." 1 Kings 8:33, 34. The seal of divine approval had been placed upon this prayer; for at its close fire had come down from heaven to consume the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord had filled the temple. See 2 Chron. 7:1. And by night the Lord had appeared to Solomon, to tell him that his prayer had been heard, and that mercy would be shown those who should worship there. The gracious assurance was given: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." Verses 14, 15.
These promises met abundant fulfillment during the reformation under Hezekiah. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #21)
The good beginning made at the time of the purification of the temple was followed by a broader movement, in which Israel as well as Judah participated. In his zeal to make the temple services a real blessing to the people, Hezekiah determined to revive the ancient custom of gathering the Israelites together for the celebration of the Passover feast.
For many years the Passover had not been observed as a national festival. The division of the kingdom after the close of Solomon's reign had made this seem impracticable. But the terrible judgments befalling the ten tribes were awakening in the hearts of some a desire for better things, and the stirring messages of the prophets were having their effect. The invitation to the Passover at Jerusalem was heralded far and wide, "from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh even unto Zebulun," and the royal couriers found some who were ready to respond. The bearers of the gracious invitation were usually repulsed. The impenitent "laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun," eager to seek God for a clearer knowledge of his will, "humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem." 2 Chron. 30:10, 11.
In the land of Judah the response was very general; for upon them was "the hand of God," "to give them one heart to do the commandment of the king and of the princes" (verse 12),--a command in accord with the will of God as revealed through his prophets.
The occasion was one of the greatest profit to the multitudes assembled. The desecrated streets of the city were cleared of the idolatrous shrines placed there during the reign of Ahab. On the appointed day the Passover was observed; and the week was spent by the people in offering peace offerings, and in learning what God would have them do. Daily the Levites "taught the good knowledge of the Lord;" and those who had prepared their hearts to seek God, found pardon. A great gladness took possession of the worshiping multitude; "the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with loud instruments" (verses 22, 21); all were united in their desire to praise him who had proved so gracious and merciful.
The seven days usually allotted to the Passover feast passed all too quickly, and the worshipers determined to spend another seven days in learning more fully the way of the Lord. The teaching priests continued their work of instruction from the book of the law; daily the people assembled at the temple to offer their tribute of praise and thanksgiving; and as the great meeting drew to a close, it was evident that God had wrought marvelously in the conversion of backsliding Judah, and in stemming the tide of idolatry which threatened to sweep all before it. The solemn warnings of the prophets had not been uttered in vain. "There was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem." Verse 26.
The time had come for the return of the worshipers to their homes. "The priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven." Verse 27. God had accepted those who with broken hearts had confessed their sins, and with resolute purpose had turned to him for forgiveness and help.
There now remained an important work, in which those who were returning to their homes must take an active part; and the accomplishment of this work bore evidence to the genuineness of the reformation wrought. The record reads: "All Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities." 2 Chron. 31:1.
Hezekiah and his associates instituted various reforms for the upbuilding of the spiritual and temporal interests of the kingdom. "Throughout all Judah" the king "wrought that which was good and right and truth before the Lord his God. And in every work that he began . . . he did it with all his heart, and prospered." Versus 20, 21. "He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; . . . and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; and he prospered." 2 Kings 18:5-7.
The reign of Hezekiah was characterized by a series of remarkable providences, which revealed to the surrounding nations that the God of Israel was with his people. The success of the Assyrians in capturing Samaria and in scattering the shattered remnant of the ten tribes among the nations, during the earlier portion of his reign, was leading many to question the power of the God of the Hebrews. Emboldened by their successes, the Ninevites had long since set aside the message of Jonah, and had become defiant in their opposition to the purposes of Heaven. A few years after the fall of Samaria, the victorious armies reappeared in Palestine, this time directing their forces against the fenced cities of Judah, with some measure of success, but they withdrew for a season because of difficulties arising in other portions of their realm. Not until some years later, toward the close of Hezekiah's reign, was it to be demonstrated before the nations of the world whether the gods of the heathen were finally to prevail. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #22)
In the midst of his prosperous reign, King Hezekiah was suddenly stricken with a fatal malady. "Sick unto death," his case was beyond the power of man to help. And the last vestige of hope seemed removed when the prophet Isaiah appeared before him with the message, "Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live." Isa. 38:1.
The outlook seemed utterly dark; yet the king could still pray to the One who had hitherto been his "refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Ps. 46:1. And so "he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, saying, I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore." 2 Kings 20:2, 3.
Since the days of David, there had reigned no king who had wrought so mightily for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God in a time of apostasy and discouragement as had Hezekiah. The dying ruler had served his God faithfully, and had done much to strengthen the confidence of the people in Jehovah as their Supreme Ruler. And, like David, he could now plead: "Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry; for my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave." "Thou art my hope, O Lord God: thou art my trust from my youth. By thee have I been holden up. . . . Forsake me not when my strength faileth. . . . O God, be not far from me: O my God, make haste for my help. . . . O God, forsake me not; until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come." Ps. 88:2, 3; 71:5-18.
He whose "compassions fail not" (Lam. 3:22) heard the prayer of his servant. "It came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake." 2 Kings 20:4-6.
Gladly the prophet returned with the words of assurance and hope. Directing that a lump of figs be laid upon the diseased part, Isaiah delivered to the king the message of God's mercy and protecting care.
Like Moses in the land of Midian, like Gideon in the presence of the heavenly messenger, like Elisha just before the ascension of his master, Hezekiah pleaded for some sign that the message was from heaven. "What shall be the sign," he inquired of the prophet, "that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the Lord the third day?"
"This sign shalt thou have of the Lord," the prophet answered, "that the Lord will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?" "It is a light thing," Hezekiah replied, "for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees."
Only by the direct interposition of God could the shadow on the sundial be made to turn back ten degrees; and this was to be the sign to Hezekiah that the Lord had heard his prayer. Accordingly, "the prophet cried unto the Lord: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz." 2 Kings 20:8-11.
Restored to his wonted strength, the king of Judah acknowledged in words of song the mercies of Jehovah, and vowed to spend his remaining days in willing service to the King of kings. His grateful recognition of God's compassionate dealing with him is an inspiration to all who desire to spend their years to the glory of their Maker:--
"I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years. I said, I shall not see the Lord, even the Lord, in the hand of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world. Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me. I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me. Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me. What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul. O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live. Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. . . . The Lord was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the Lord." Isa. 38:10-20. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #23)
In the fertile valleys of the Tigris and the Euphrates there dwelt an ancient race, which, though at that time subject to Assyria, was destined to rule the world. Among its people were wise men who gave much attention to the study of astronomy; and when they noticed that the shadow on the sundial had been turned back ten degrees, they marveled greatly. Their king, Merodach-baladan, upon learning that this miracle had been wrought as a sign to the king of Judah that the God of heaven had granted him a new lease of life, send ambassadors to Hezekiah to congratulate him on his recovery, and to learn, if possible, more of the God who was able to perform so great a wonder.
The visit of these messengers from the ruler of a far-away land gave Hezekiah an opportunity to extol the living God. How easy it would have been for him to tell them of God, the upholder of all created things, through whose favor his own life had been spared when all other hope had fled! What momentous transformations might have taken place had these seekers after truth from the plains of Chaldea been led to acknowledge the supreme sovereignty of the living God.
But pride and vanity took possession of Hezekiah's heart, and in self-exaltation he laid open to covetous eyes the treasures with which God had enriched his people. The king "showed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armor, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah showed them not." Isa. 39:2. Not to glorify God did he do this, but to exalt himself in the eyes of the foreign princes. He did not stop to consider that these men were representatives of a powerful nation that had not the fear nor the love of God in their hearts, and that it was imprudent to make them his confidants concerning the temporal riches of the nation.
The visit of the ambassadors to Hezekiah was a test of his gratitude and devotion. The record says, "Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart." 2 Chron. 32:31. Had Hezekiah improved the opportunity given him to bear witness to the power, the goodness, the compassion, of the God of Israel, the report of the ambassadors would have been as light piercing darkness. But he magnified himself above the Lord of hosts. He "rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up."
Disastrous were the results which were to follow. To Isaiah it was revealed that the returning ambassadors were carrying with them a report of the riches they had seen, and that the king of Babylon and his counselors would plan to enrich their own country with the treasures of Jerusalem. Hezekiah had grievously sinned; "therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem." Verse 25.
"Then came Isaiah the prophet unto King Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon. Then said he, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All that is in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not showed them.
"Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.
"Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken." Isa. 39:3-8.
Filled with remorse, "Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah." 2 Chron. 32:26. But the evil seed had been sown, and in time was to spring up and yield a harvest of desolation and woe. During his remaining years the king of Judah was to have much prosperity because of his steadfast purpose to redeem the past and to bring honor to the name of the God whom he served; yet his faith was to be severely tried, and he was to learn that only by putting his trust fully in Jehovah could he hope to triumph over the powers of darkness that were plotting his ruin and the utter destruction of his people.
The story of Hezekiah's failure to prove true to his trust at the time of the visit of the ambassadors, is fraught with an important lesson for all. We need to speak of the precious chapters in our experience, of the mercy and lovingkindness of God, of the matchless depths of the Saviour's love. When mind and heart are filled with the love of God, it will not be difficult to impart that which enters into the spiritual life. Great thoughts, noble aspirations, clear perceptions of truth, unselfish purposes, yearnings for piety and holiness, will find expression in words that reveal the character of the heart treasure.
Those with whom we associate day by day need our help, our guidance. They may be in such a condition of mind that a word spoken in season will be as a nail in a sure place. Tomorrow some of these souls may be where we can never reach them again. What is our influence over these fellow travelers?
Every day of life is freighted with responsibilities which we must bear. Every day our words and acts are making impressions upon those with whom we associate. How great the need that we set a watch upon our lips and guard carefully our steps! One reckless movement, one imprudent step, and the surging waves of some strong temptation may sweep a soul into the downward path. We cannot gather up the thoughts we have planted in human minds. If they have been evil, we may have set in motion a train of circumstances, a tide of evil, which we are powerless to stay.
On the other hand, if by our example we aid others in the development of good principles, we give them power to do good. In their turn they exert the same beneficial influence over others. Thus hundreds and thousands are helped by our unconscious influence. The true follower of Christ strengthens the good purposes of all with whom he comes in contact. Before an unbelieving, sin-loving world, he reveals the power of God's grace and the perfection of his character. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #25)
"Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: with him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles." 2 Chron. 32:7, 8. With these words of confidence in the power of Jehovah to deliver, Hezekiah inspired the people of Judah to resist with unfailing courage the advancing hosts of Assyria, when it seemed as if nothing could save Jerusalem from utter destruction.
It was not without reason that Hezekiah could speak with certainty of the outcome. The boastful Assyrian, while used by God for a season as the rod of his anger (see Isa. 10:5) for the punishment of the nations, was not always to prevail. "Be not afraid of the Assyrian," had been the message of the Lord through Isaiah some years before, to those that dwelt in Zion; "for yet a very little while, . . . and the Lord of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt. And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing." Verses 24-27.
In another prophetic message, given "in the year that King Ahaz died," the prophet had declared: "The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him underfoot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders. This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?" Isa. 14:28, 24-27.
The power of the oppressor was to be broken. Yet Hezekiah in the earlier years of his reign had continued to pay tribute to Assyria, in harmony with the agreement entered into by Ahaz. Meanwhile, the king had taken "counsel with his princes and his mighty men," and had done everything possible for the defense of his kingdom. He had made sure of a bountiful supply of water within the walls of Jerusalem, while without the city there should be a scarcity. "Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields in abundance. And he set captains of war over the people." 2 Chron. 32:3, 5, 6. Nothing had been left undone that could be done in preparation for a siege.
At the time of Hezekiah's accession to the throne of Judah, the Assyrians had already carried captive a large number of the children of Israel from the northern kingdom; and a few years after he had begun to reign, and while he was still strengthening the defenses of Jerusalem, the Assyrians besieged and captured Samaria, and scattered the ten tribes among the many provinces of the Assyrian realm. The borders of Judah were only a few miles distant, with Jerusalem less than fifty miles away; and the rich spoils to be found within the temple would tempt the enemy to return.
But the king of Judah had determined to do his part in preparing to resist the enemy; and having accomplished all that human ingenuity and energy could do, he had assembled his forces, and had exhorted them to be of good courage. "Great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee" (Isa. 12:6), had been the message of the prophet Isaiah to Judah; and the king with unwavering faith now declared, "With us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles." 2 Chron. 32:8.
Nothing more quickly inspires faith than the exercise of faith. The king of Judah had done his part in making ready for the coming storm; and now, confident that the prophecy against the Assyrians would be fulfilled, he stayed his soul upon God. And "the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah."-- Ib. What though the armies of Assyria, fresh from the conquest of the greatest nations of earth, and triumphant over Samaria in Israel, should now turn their forces against Judah? What though they should boast, "As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria; shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?" Isa. 10:10, 11. Judah had nothing to fear, for their trust was in Jehovah.
The long-expected crisis finally came. The forces of Assyria, advancing from triumph to triumph, appeared in Judea. Confident of victory, the leaders divided their forces into two armies, one of which was to meet the Egyptian army to the southward, while the other was to besiege Jerusalem.
Judah's only hope was now in God. All possible help from Egypt had been cut off, and no other nation was near to lend a friendly hand. (To be continued.) Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #26)
The Assyrian officers, sure of the strength of their disciplined forces, arranged for a conference with the chief men of Judah, during which they insolently demanded the surrender of the city. This demand was accompanied by blasphemous revilings against the God of the Hebrews. Because of the weakness and apostasy of Israel and Judah, and name of God was no longer feared among the nations, but had become a subject for continual blasphemy. Isa. 52:5.
"Speak ye now to Hezekiah," said Rabshakeh, one of Sennacherib's chief officers, "Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? Thou sayest, (but they are but vain words,) I have counsel and strength for the war. Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?" 2 Kings 18:19, 20.
The officers were conferring outside the gates of the city, but within the hearing of the sentries on the wall; and as the representatives of the Assyrian king loudly urged their proposals upon the chief men of Judah, they were requested to speak in the Syrian rather than the Jewish language, in order that those upon the wall might not have knowledge of the proceedings of the conference. Rabshakeh, scorning this suggestion, lifted his voice still higher, and continuing to speak in the Jewish language, said:--
"Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you. Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, The Lord will surely deliver us: this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria.
"Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me: and eat ye every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his own cistern; until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards.
"Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, The Lord will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arphad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim? and have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who are they among all the gods of these lands, that have delivered their land out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?" Isa. 36:13-20.
To these taunts the children of Judah "answered him not a word." Isa. 36:21. The conference was at an end. The Jewish representatives returned to Hezekiah "with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh." 2 Kings 18:37. The king, upon learning of the blasphemous challenge, "rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord." 2 Kings 19:1.
A messenger was dispatched to Isaiah to inform him of the outcome of the conference. "This is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy," was the word the king sent. "It may be the Lord thy God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God; and will reprove the words which the Lord thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are left." Verses 3, 4.
"For this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven." 2 Chron. 32:20.
God answered the prayers of his servants. To Isaiah was given the message for Hezekiah: "Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumor, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land." 2 Kings 19:6, 7.
The Assyrian representatives, after taking leave of the chief men of Judah, communicated direct with their king, who was with the division of his army guarding the approach from Egypt. Upon hearing the report, Sennacherib wrote "letters to rail on the Lord God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver his people out of mine hand." 2 Chron. 32:17.
The boastful threat was accompanied by the message, "Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed; as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Thelasar? Where is the king of Hamath, and the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, of Hena, and Ivah?" 2 Kings 19:10-13.
When the king of Judah received the taunting letter, he took it into the temple and "spread it before the Lord" (verse 14), and prayed with strong faith for help from heaven, that the nations of earth might know that the God of the Hebrews still lived and reigned. The honor of Jehovah was at stake: he alone could bring deliverance.
"O Lord God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims." Hezekiah pleaded, "thou art the God even thou alone of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth. Lord, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, Lord, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God. Of a truth, Lord, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O Lord our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even thou only." 2 Kings 19:15-19. "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; Thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, And come and save us. Turn us again, O God, And cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. "O Lord God of hosts, How long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people? Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; And givest them tears to drink in great measure. Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbors: And our enemies laugh among themselves. Turn us again, O God of hosts, And cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. "Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: Thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, And didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, And the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, And her branches unto the river. "Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, So that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, And the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: Look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, And the branch that thou madest strong for thyself. It is burned with fire, it is cut down: They perish at the rebuke of thy countenance. "Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, Upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself. So will not we go back from thee: Quicken us, and we will call upon thy name. Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts, Cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved." Psalm 80.
Hezekiah's pleadings in behalf of Judah and of the honor of their Supreme Ruler, were in harmony with the mind of God. Solomon, in his benediction at the dedication of the temple, had pleaded with the Lord to maintain "the cause of his people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require: that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and that there is none else." 1 Kings 8:59, 60. Especially was the Lord to show favor when, in times of war or of oppression by an enemy, the chief men of Israel should enter the house of prayer and plead for deliverance. (To be continued.) Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #27)
Hezekiah was not left without hope. Isaiah sent to him, saying: "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard. This is the word that the Lord hath spoken concerning him; The virgin the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee. Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel. By thy messengers thou hast reproached the Lord, and hast said, With the multitude of my chariots I am come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon, and will cut down the tall cedar trees thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the lodging of his borders, and into the forest of his Carmel. I have digged and drunk strange waters, and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of besieged places. Hast thou not heard long ago how I have done it, and of ancient times that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste fenced cities into ruinous heaps. Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up.
"But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me. Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest." 2 Kings 19:20-28.
The land of Judah had been laid waste by the army of occupation; but God has promised to provide miraculously for the needs of the people. To Hezekiah came the message: "This shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such things as grow of themselves, and in the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruits thereof.
"And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of Mount Zion: the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this.
"Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria. He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord. For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake." Verses 29-34.
That very night deliverance came. "The angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred fourscore and five thousand." Verse 35. "All the mighty men of valor, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria" were slain. 2 Chron. 32:21.
Tidings of this terrible judgment upon the army that had been sent to take Jerusalem, soon reached Sennacherib, who was still guarding the approach to Judea from Egypt. Stricken with fear, the Assyrian king hasted to depart, and "returned with shame of face to his own land." Verse 21. But he had not long to reign. In harmony with the prophecy that had been uttered concerning his sudden end, he was assassinated by those of his own home, "and Esar-haddon his son reigned in his stead." Isa. 37:38.
The God of the Hebrews had prevailed over the proud Assyrian. The honor of Jehovah was vindicated in the eyes of the surrounding nations. In Jerusalem the hearts of the people were filled with holy joy. Their earnest entreaties for deliverance had been mingled with confession of sin and with many tears; in their great need they had trusted wholly in the power of God to save, and he had not failed them. Now the temple courts resounded with songs of solemn praise:--"In Judah is God known: His name is great in Israel. In Salem also is his tabernacle, And his dwelling place in Zion. There brake he the arrows of the bow. The shield, and the sword, and the battle. "Thou art more glorious and excellent Than the mountains of prey. The stout-hearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep: And none of the men of might have found their hands. At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, Both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep. "Thou, even thou, art to be feared: And who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry? Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; The earth feared, and was still, When God arose to judgment, To save all the meek of the earth. "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain. Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God: Let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared. He shall cut off the spirit of princes: He is terrible to the kings of the earth." Psalm 76.
The rise and fall of the Assyrian Empire is rich in lessons for the nations of earth today. Inspiration has likened the glory of Assyria at the height of her prosperity to a noble tree in the garden of God, towering above the surrounding trees.
"The Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of a high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs. . . . Under his shadow dwelt all great nations. Thus was he fair in his greatness, in the length of his branches: for his root was by great waters. The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty. .. . . All the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him." Eze. 31:3-9.
But the rulers of Assyria, instead of using their unusual blessings for the benefit of mankind, became the scourge of many lands. Merciless, with no thought of God or their fellow men, they pursued the fixed policy of causing all nations to acknowledge the supremacy of the gods of Nineveh, whom they exalted above the Most High. God sent Jonah to them with a message of warning, and for a season they humbled themselves before the Lord of hosts, and sought forgiveness. But soon they turned again to idol worship, and to the conquest of the world.
The prophet Nahum, in his arraignment of the evildoers in Nineveh, exclaimed:--"Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery; The prey departeth not; "The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, And of prancing horses, and of the jumping chariots. The horsemen lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear: And there is a multitude of slain. . . ."Behold, I am against thee, Saith the Lord of hosts." Nahum 3:1-5.
With unerring accuracy the Infinite One still keeps account with the nations. While his mercy is tendered, with calls to repentance, this account remains open; but when the figures reach a certain amount which God has fixed, the ministry of his wrath begins. The account is closed. Divine patience ceases. Mercy no longer pleads in their behalf.
"The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth. The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him." Nahum 1:3-6.
It was thus that Nineveh, "the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me," became a desolation, "empty, and void, and waste," "the dwelling of the lions, and the feeding place of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion's whelp, and none made them afraid." Zeph. 2:15; Nahum 2:10, 11.
The pride of Assyria and its fall are to serve as an object lesson to the end of time. Of the nations of earth today who in arrogance and pride array themselves against him, God inquires, "To whom art thou thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? yet shalt thou be brought down with the trees of Eden unto the nether parts of the earth: thou shalt lie in the midst of the uncircumcised with them that be slain by the sword." Eze. 31:18.
"The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end" of all who endeavor to exalt themselves above the Most High. Nahum 1:7, 8.
"The pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the scepter of Egypt shall depart away." Zech. 10:11. This is true not only of the nations that arrayed themselves against God in ancient times but also of the nations of earth today who fail of fulfilling the divine purpose. In the day of final awards, when the righteous Judge of all the earth shall "sift the nations" (Isa. 30:28), and those that have kept the truth shall be permitted to enter the city of God, heaven's arches will ring with the triumphant songs of the redeemed. "Ye shall have a song," the prophet declares, "as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the Mighty One of Israel. And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard. . . . Through the voice of the Lord shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod. And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the Lord shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps." Isa. 30:29-32. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #30)
Throughout his ministry, Isaiah bore a plain testimony concerning God's purpose for the heathen. Other prophets had made mention of the divine plan, but their language was not always understood. To Isaiah it was given to make very plain to Judah the truth that among the Israel of God were to be numbered many who were not descendants of Abraham after the flesh. This teaching was not in harmony with the theology of his age; yet he fearlessly proclaimed the messages given him of God, and brought hope to many a longing heart reaching out after the spiritual blessings promised to the seed of Abraham.
The apostle to the Gentiles, in his letter to the believers in Rome, calls the attention of Christendom to this characteristic of Isaiah's teaching. "Esaias is very bold," Paul declares, "and saith, I was found of them that sought Me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me." Rom. 10:20.
Often the Israelites seemed unable or unwilling to understand God's purpose for the heathen. Yet it was this very purpose that had made them a separate people, and had established them as an independent nation among the nations of the earth. Abraham, their father, to whom the covenant promise was first given, had been called to go forth from his kindred, to the regions beyond, that he might be a lightbearer to the heathen. Although the promise to him included a posterity as numerous as the sand by the sea, yet it was for no selfish purpose that he was to become the founder of a great nation in the land of Canaan. God's covenant with him embraced all the nations of earth. "I will bless thee," Jehovah declared, "and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." Gen. 12:2, 3.
In the renewal of the covenant shortly before the birth of Isaac, God's purpose for mankind was again made plain. "All the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him" (Gen. 18:18), was the assurance of the Lord concerning the child of promise. And, later, the heavenly visitant once more declared, "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." Gen. 22:18.
The all-embracing terms of this covenant were familiar to Abraham's children and to his children's children. It was in order that the Israelites might be a blessing to the nations, and that God's name might be made known "throughout all the earth" (Ex. 9:16), that they were delivered from Egyptian bondage. If obedient to his requirements, they were to be placed far in advance of other peoples in wisdom and understanding; but this supremacy was to be reached and maintained only in order that through them the purpose of God for "all nations of the earth" might be fulfilled.
The marvelous providences connected with Israel's deliverance from Egyptian bondage and with their occupancy of the Promised Land, led many of the heathen to recognize the God of Israel as the Supreme Ruler. "The Egyptians shall know," had been the promise, "that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them." Ex. 7:5. Even proud Pharaoh was constrained to acknowledge Jehovah's power. "Go serve the Lord," he urged Moses and Aaron, "and bless me also." Ex. 12: 31, 32.
The advancing hosts of Israel found that a knowledge of the mighty workings of the God of the Hebrews had gone before them, and that some among the heathen were learning that he alone was the true God. In wicked Jericho the testimony of a heathen woman was, "The Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath." Joshua 2:11. The knowledge of Jehovah that had thus come to her, proved her salvation. By faith "Rahab perished not with them that believed not." Heb. 11:31. And her conversion was not an isolated case of God's mercy toward idolaters who should acknowledge his divine authority. In the midst of the land a numerous people--the Gibeonites--renounced their heathenism, and united with Israel, sharing in the blessings of the covenant.
No distinction on account of nationality, race, or caste is recognized by God. He is the Maker of all mankind. All men are of one family by creation, and all are one through redemption. Christ came to demolish every wall of partition, to throw open every compartment of the temple courts, that every soul may have free access to God. His love is so broad, so deep, so full, that it penetrates everywhere. It lifts out of Satan's influence those who have been deluded by his deceptions, and places them within reach of the throne of God, the throne encircled by the rainbow of promise. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free.
In the years that followed the occupation of the Promised Land, the beneficent designs of Jehovah for the salvation of the heathen were almost wholly lost sight of, and it became necessary for him to set forth his plan anew. "All the ends of the world," the psalmist was inspired to sing, "shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee." Ps. 22:27. "Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God." Ps. 68:31. "The heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory." "This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord. For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth; to hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death; to declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem; when the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord." Ps. 102:15, 18-22.
Had Israel been true to her trust, all the nations of earth would have shared in her blessings. But the hearts of those to whom had been intrusted a knowledge of saving truth, were untouched by the needs of those around them. God's purpose was lost sight of, and the heathen came to be looked upon as beyond the pale of his mercy. The light of truth was withheld, and darkness prevailed. The nations were overspread with a veil of ignorance; the love of God was little known; error and superstition flourished.
Such was the prospect that greeted Isaiah when he was called to the prophetic mission; yet he was not discouraged, for ringing in his ears was the triumphal chorus of the angels surrounding the throne of God, "The whole earth is full of his glory," Isa. 6:3. And his faith was strengthened by visions of glorious conquests by the church of God, when "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." Isa. 11:9. "The face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations" (Isa. 25:7), was finally to be destroyed. The Spirit of God was to be poured out upon all flesh. Those that hunger and thirst after righteousness were to be numbered among the Israel of God. "They shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses," said the prophet. "One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel." Isa. 44:4, 5.
To the prophet was given a revelation of the beneficent design of God in scattering impenitent Judah among the nations of earth. "My people shall know my name," the Lord declared; "they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak." Isa. 52:6. And not only were they themselves to learn the lesson of obedience and trust; in their places of exile they were also to impart to others a knowledge of the living God. Many from among the sons of the strangers were to learn to love him as their Creator and their Redeemer; they were to begin the observance of his holy Sabbath day as a memorial of his creative power; and when he should make "bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations," to deliver his people from captivity, "all the ends of the earth" should see of the salvation of God. Isa. 52:10, Ps. 98:4. Many of these converts from heathenism would wish to unite themselves fully with the Israelites, and accompany them on the return journey to Judea. None of these were to say, "The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people" (Isa. 56:3), for the word of God through his prophet to those who should yield themselves to him and observe his law, was that they should thenceforth be numbered among spiritual Israel--his church on earth.
"The sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him." Isa. 56:6-8. (To be concluded.) Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #31)
The prophet was permitted to look down the centuries to the time of the advent of the promised Messiah. At first he beheld only "trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish." Isa. 8:22. Many who were longing for the light of truth were being led astray by false teachers into the bewildering mazes of philosophy and spiritism; others were placing their trust in a form of godliness, but were not bringing true holiness into the life practice. The outlook seemed hopeless; but soon the scene changed, and before the eyes of the prophet was spread a wondrous vision. He saw the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and, lost in admiration, he exclaimed: "The dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." Isa. 9:1, 2.
This glorious Light of the world was to bring salvation to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Of the work before Him, the prophet heard the Eternal Father declare: "It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. . . . In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; that thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves. . . . Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim." Isa. 49:6-12.
Looking on still farther through the ages, the prophet beheld the literal fulfillment of these glorious promises. He saw the bearers of the glad tidings of salvation going to the ends of the earth, to every kindred and people. He heard the Lord saying of the gospel church, "Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream" (Isa. 66:12); and he heard the commission, "Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles." Isa. 54:2, 3.
Jehovah declared to the prophet that he would send his witnesses "unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, . . . to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off." "They shall declare my glory among the Gentiles," the prophet was assured by the divine messenger; "and they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations . . . to my holy mountain Jerusalem. . . . And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites." Isa. 66:19-21.
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" Isa. 52:7.
The prophet heard the voice of God calling his church to her appointed work, that the way might be prepared for the ushering in of his everlasting kingdom. The message was unmistakably plain:--
"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
"For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
"Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.
"Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. . . . They shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord."
"Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows? Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.
"And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favor have I had mercy on thee. Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought." Isa. 60:1-6, 8-11.
"Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it."
"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." Isa. 45:8, 22.
These prophecies of a great spiritual awakening in a time of gross darkness are today meeting fulfillment in the advancing lines of mission stations that are reaching out into the benighted regions of earth. The groups of missionaries in heathen lands have been likened by the prophet to ensigns set up for the guidance of those who are looking for the light of truth.
"In that day," says Isaiah, "there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people. . . . And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." Isa. 11:10-12.
The day of deliverance is at hand. "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him." 2 Chron. 16:9. Among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, he sees men and women who are praying for light and knowledge. Their souls are unsatisfied: long have they fed on ashes. See Isa. 44:20. The enemy of all righteousness has turned them aside, and they grope as blind men. But they are honest in heart, and desire to learn a better way. Although in the depths of heathenism, with no knowledge of the written law of God or of his Son Jesus, they have revealed in manifold ways the working of a divine power on mind and character.
At times those who have no knowledge of God aside from that which they have received under the operations of divine grace, have been kind to his servants, protecting them at the risk of their own lives. The Holy Spirit is implanting the grace of Christ in the heart of many a noble seeker after truth, quickening his sympathies contrary to his nature, contrary to his former education. The "Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9), is shining in his soul; and this Light, if heeded, will guide his feet to the kingdom of God. The prophet Micah said, "When I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me." Micah 7:8.
Heaven's plan of salvation is broad enough to embrace the whole world. God longs to breathe into prostrate humanity the breath of life. And he will not permit any soul to be disappointed who is sincere in his longing for something higher and nobler than anything the world can offer. Constantly he is sending his angels to those who, while surrounded by circumstances the most discouraging, pray in faith for some power higher than themselves to take possession of them, and bring deliverance and peace. In various ways God will reveal himself to them, and will place them in touch with providences that will establish their confidence in the One who has given himself a ransom for all, "that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments." Ps. 78:7.
"Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus saith the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered." Isa. 49:24, 25. "They shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods." Isa. 42:17.
"Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God." Ps. 146:5. "Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope." Zech. 9:12. Unto all the honest in heart in heathen lands--"the upright" in the sight of heaven--"there ariseth light in the darkness." Ps. 112:4. God hath spoken: "I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." Isa. 42:16. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #32)
In the darkest days of her long conflict with evil, the church of the living God has been given revelations of the eternal purpose of Jehovah. His people have been permitted to look beyond the trials of the present to the triumphs of the future, when, the warfare having been accomplished, the redeemed will enter into possession of the Promised Land. These visions of future glory, scenes pictured by the hand of God, should be dear to his church today, when the controversy of the ages is rapidly closing, and the promised blessings are soon to be realized in all their fullness.
Many were the messages of comfort given the church by Isaiah. "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people" (Isa. 40:1) was the prophet's commission from God; and with the commission were given wonderful visions that have been the believers' hope and joy through all the centuries that have followed. Despised of men, persecuted, forsaken, God's children in every age have nevertheless been sustained by his sure promises. By faith they have looked forward to the time when he will fulfill to his church the assurance, "I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations." Isa. 60:15.
Often the church militant is called upon to suffer trial and affliction; for not without severe conflict is the church to triumph. "The bread of adversity, and the water of affliction" (Isa. 30:20) are the common lot of all; but none who put their trust in the One mighty to deliver will be utterly overwhelmed. "Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee. O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee: and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom. Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life." Isa. 43:1-4.
There is forgiveness with God: there is acceptance full and free through the merits of Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. Isaiah heard the Lord declaring to his chosen ones: "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified." Verses 25, 26. "Thou shalt know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob." Isa. 60:16.
"The rebuke of his people shall he take away" (Isa. 25:8), the prophet declared. "They shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord." Isa. 62:12. He hath appointed "to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." Isa. 61:3.
"Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come unto thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion." Isa. 52:1, 2.
"O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression: for thou shalt not fear: and from terror: for it shall not come near thee. Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake. . . . No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord." Isa. 54:11-17.
Clad in the armor of Christ's righteousness,the church is to enter upon her final conflict. "Fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners" (Cant. 6:10), she is to go forth into all the world, conquering and to conquer.
The darkest hour of the church's struggle with the powers of evil, is that which immediately precedes the day of her final deliverance. But none who trust in God need fear; for "when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall," God will be to his church "a refuge from the storm." Isa. 25:4.
In that day the righteous only are promised deliverance. "The sinners in Zion are afraid," the prophet declares; "fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; he shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure." Isa. 33:14-16.
The word of the Lord to his faithful ones is: "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity." Isa. 26:20, 21.
In his vision of the great judgment day, Isaiah witnesses the consternation of those unprepared to meet their Lord in peace. "The day of the Lord is at hand," he exclaims; "it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt: and they shall be afraid." Isa. 13:6-8.
"The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols he shall utterly abolish. . . . In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth." Isa. 2:17-21.
The day of wrath to the enemies of God is the day of final deliverance to his church. The prophet declares:--
"Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you." Isa. 35:3, 4.
"He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it." Isa. 25:8. And as Isaiah beholds the Lord of glory descending from heaven, with all the holy angels, to gather the remnant church from among the nations of earth, he hears the waiting ones unite in the exultant cry, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." Verse 9.
The voice of the Son of God is heard calling forth the sleeping saints; and as the prophet beholds them coming from the prison house of death, he exclaims: "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead." Isa. 26:19.
"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing." Isa. 35:5, 6.
In the visions of the prophets, those who have triumphed over sin and the grave are seen happy in the presence of their Maker, talking freely with him as man talked with God in the beginning. "Be ye glad," the Lord bids them, "and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. Isa. 65:18, 19. "The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity." Isa. 33:24.
"In the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water." Isa. 35:6, 7. "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree." Isa. 55:13. "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." Isa. 35:8.
"Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins." Isa. 40:2.
As the prophet beholds the redeemed dwelling in the city of God, free from sin and from all marks of the curse, in rapture he exclaims: "Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her." Isa. 66:10.
"Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified." Isa. 60:18-21.
There man will be restored to his lost kingship, and the lower order of beings will again recognize his sway; the fierce will become gentle, and the timid trustful. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. . . . They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain" (Isa. 11:6-9), saith the Lord.
The prophet caught the sound of music there, and song,--such music and song as, save in the visions of God, no mortal ear has heard nor mind conceived. "The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." Isa. 35:10. "Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody." Isa. 51:3. "As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there." Ps. 87:7. "They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the Lord." Isa. 24:14.
In the earth made new, the redeemed will engage in the occupations and pleasures that brought happiness to Adam and Eve in the beginning. The Eden life will be lived, the life in garden and field. "They shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands." Isa. 65:21, 22..
There every power will be developed, every capability increased. The grandest enterprises will be carried forward, the loftiest aspirations will be reached, the highest ambitions realized. And still there will appear new heights to surmount, new wonders to admire, new truths to comprehend, fresh objects of study to call forth the powers of body and mind and soul.
The prophets to whom these great scenes were revealed longed to understand their full import. They "inquired and searched diligently; . . . searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify. . . . Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you." 1 Peter 1:10-12.
To us who are standing on the very verge of their fulfillment, of what deep moment, what living interest, are these delineations of the things to come,--events for which, since our first parents turned their steps from Eden, God's children have watched and waited, longed and prayed!
Fellow pilgrim, we are still amid the shadows and turmoil of earthly activities; but soon our Saviour is to appear to bring deliverance and rest. Let us by faith behold the blessed hereafter, as pictured by the hand of God. He who died for the sins of the world, is opening wide the gates of Paradise to all who believe on him. Soon the battle will have been fought, the victory won. Soon we shall see him in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered. And in his presence the trials and sufferings of this life will seem as nothingness. The former things "shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." Isa. 65:17. "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry." Heb. 10:35-37. "Israel shall be saved. . . . with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end." Isa. 45:17.
Look up, look up, and let your faith continually increase. Let this faith guide you along the narrow path that leads through the gates of the city into the great beyond, the wide, unbounded future of glory that is for the redeemed. "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." James 5:7, 8.
The nations of the saved will know no other law than the law of heaven. All will be a happy, united family, clothed with the garments of praise and thanksgiving. Over the scene the morning stars will sing together, and the sons of God will shout for joy, while God and Christ will unite in proclaiming, There shall be no more sin, neither shall there be any more death.
"And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord." Isa. 66:23. "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." Isa. 40:5. "The Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations." Isa. 61:11. "In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people." Isa. 28:5.
"The Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord." Isa. 51:3. "The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon." Isa. 35:2. "Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called my delight, and thy land Beulah. . . . As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." Isa. 62:4, 5, margin. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #34)
The kingdom of Judah, prosperous throughout the times of Hezekiah, was once more brought low during the long years of Manasseh's wicked reign, when paganism was revived, and many of the people were led into idolatry. "Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen." 2 Chron. 33:9. The glorious light of former generations was followed by the darkness of superstition and error. Gross evils sprang up and flourished,--tyranny, oppression, hatred of all that is good. Justice was perverted; violence prevailed.
Yet those evil times were not without witnesses for God and the right. The trying experiences through which Judah had safely passed during Hezekiah's reign, had developed in the hearts of many a sturdiness of character that now served as a bulwark against the prevailing iniquity. Their testimony in behalf of truth and righteousness aroused the anger of Manasseh and his associates in authority, who endeavored to establish themselves in evil doing by silencing every voice of disapproval. "Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another." 2 Kings 21:16.
One of the first to fall was Isaiah, who for over half a century had stood before Judah as the appointed messenger of Jehovah. "Others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." Heb. 11:36-38.
Some of those who suffered persecution during Manasseh's reign, were commissioned to bear special messages of reproof and of judgment. The king of Judah, the prophets declared, "hath done wickedly above all . . . which were before him." Because of this wickedness, his kingdom was nearing a crisis; soon the inhabitants of the land were to be carried captive to Babylon, there to become "a prey and a spoil to all their enemies." 2 Kings 21:11,14. But the Lord would not utterly forsake those who in a strange land should acknowledge him as their Ruler; they might suffer great tribulation, yet he would bring deliverance to them in his appointed time and way. Those who should learn to put their trust wholly in him, would find a sure refuge.
Faithfully the prophets continued their warnings and their exhortations; fearlessly they spoke to Manasseh, and to his people; but the messages were scorned; backsliding Judah would not heed. As an earnest of what would befall the people should they continue impenitent, the Lord permitted their king to be captured by a band of Assyrian soldiers, who "bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon," their temporary capital. This affliction brought the king to his senses. "He besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him: and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God." 2 Chron. 33:11-13. But this repentance, remarkable though it was, came too late to save the kingdom from the corrupting influence of years of idolatrous practices. Many had stumbled and fallen, never again to rise.
Among those whose life experience had been shaped beyond recall by the fatal apostasy of Manasseh, was his own son, who came to the throne at the age of twenty-two. Of King Amon it is written: "He walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshiped them: and he forsook the Lord God of his fathers" (2 Kings 21:21,22); he "humbled not himself before the Lord, as Manasseh his father had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more." The wicked king was not permitted to reign long. In the midst of his daring impiety, only two years from the time he ascended the throne, he was slain in the palace by his own servants; and "the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his stead." 2 Chron. 33: 23,25.
With the accession of Josiah to the throne, where he was to rule for thirty-one years, those who had maintained the purity of their faith began to hope that the downward course of the kingdom was checked; for the new king, though only eight years old, feared God, and from the very beginning "he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left." 2 Kings 22:2. Born of a wicked king, beset with temptations to follow in his father's steps, and with few counselors to encourage him in the right way, Josiah nevertheless was true to the God of Israel. Warned by the errors of past generations, he chose to do right, instead of descending to the low level of sin and degradation to which his father and his grandfather has descended. He "turned not aside to the right hand or to the left." As one who was to occupy a position of trust, he resolved to obey the instruction that had been given for the guidance of Israel's rulers; and his obedience made it possible for God to use him as a vessel unto honor.
At the time Josiah began to rule, and for many years before, the truehearted in Judah were questioning whether God's promises to ancient Israel could ever be fulfilled. From a human point of view, the divine purpose for the chosen nation seemed almost impossible of accomplishment. The apostasy of former centuries had gathered strength with the passing years; ten of the tribes had been scattered among the heathen; only a feeble remnant remained in the land of Judah, and even these now seemed on the verge of moral and national ruin. The prophets had begun to foretell the utter destruction of their fair city, where stood the temple built by Solomon, and where all their earthly hopes of national greatness had centered. Could it be that God was about to turn aside from his avowed purpose of bringing deliverance to those who should put their trust in him? In the face of the long-continued persecution of the righteous and of the apparent prosperity of the wicked, could those who had remained true to God hope for better days?
These anxious questionings were voiced by the prophet Habakkuk. Viewing the situation of the faithful in his day, he expressed the burden of his heart in the inquiry: "O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save! Why dost thou show me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention. Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth." Hab. 1:2-4.
God answered the cry of his loyal children. Through his chosen mouthpiece he revealed his determination to bring chastisement upon the nation that had turned from him to serve the gods of the heathen. Within the lifetime of some who were even then making inquiry regarding the future, he would miraculously shape the affairs of the ruling nations of earth, and bring the Babylonians into the ascendancy. These Chaldeans, "terrible and dreadful" (Hab. 1:7), were to fall suddenly upon the land of Judah as a divinely appointed scourge. The princes of Judah and the fairest of the people were to be carried captive to Babylon; the Judean cities and villages and the cultivated fields were to be laid waste; nothing was to be spared.
Confident that in this terrible judgment the purpose of God for his people would in some way be fulfilled, Habakkuk bowed in submission to the revealed will of Jehovah. "Art thou not from everlasting. O Lord my God, mine Holy One?" he exclaimed. And then, his faith reaching out beyond the forbidding prospect of the immediate future and laying fast hold on the precious promises that reveal God's love for his trusting children, the prophet added, "We shall not die." Hab. 1:12. With this declaration of faith he rested his case, and that of every believing Israelite, in the hands of a compassionate God.
This was not Habakkuk's only experience in the exercise of strong faith. On one occasion, when meditating concerning the future, he said, "I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me." Graciously the Lord answered him: "Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith." Hab. 2:1-4. (To be concluded.) Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #35)
The faith that strengthened Habakkuk and all the holy and the just in times of deep trial shortly before the Babylonian captivity, was the same faith that sustains God's people today. In the darkest hours, under circumstances the most forbidding, the Christian may stay his soul in harmony with the source of all light and power. Day by day, through faith in God, his hope and courage may be renewed. "The just shall live by his faith." Hab. 2:4. In the service of God there need be no despondency, no wavering, no fear. The Lord will more than fulfill the highest expectations of those who put their trust in him. He will give them the wisdom their varied necessities demand.
Of the abundant provision made for every tempted soul, the apostle Paul bears eloquent testimony. To him was given the divine assurance, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." In gratitude and confidence the tried servant of God responded: "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." 2 Cor. 12:9, 10.
We must cherish and cultivate the faith of which prophets and apostles have testified,--the faith that lays hold on the promises of God, and waits for deliverance in his appointed time and way. The sure word of prophecy will meet its final fulfillment in the glorious advent of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as King of kings and Lord of lords. The time of waiting may seem long; the soul may be oppressed by discouraging circumstances; many in whom confidence has been placed may fall by the way: but with the prophet who endeavored to encourage Judah in a time of unparalleled apostasy, let us confidently declare, "The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him." Hab. 2:20. Let us ever hold in remembrance the cheering message, "The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. . . . The just shall live by his faith." Hab. 2:3, 4.
"O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy. God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mt. Paran. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. And his brightness was as the light; he had bright beams out of his side: and there was the hiding of his power. Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet. He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting." "Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed." "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength." Hab. 3:2-6, 13, 17-19, margin.
Habakkuk was not the only one through whom was given a message of bright hope and of future triumph as well as of present judgment. During the reign of Josiah the word of the Lord came to Zephaniah, specifying plainly the results of continued apostasy, and calling the attention of the true church to the glorious prospect beyond. His prophecies of impending judgment upon Judah apply with equal force to the judgments that are to fall upon an impenitent world at the time of the second advent of Christ:--
"The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers." Zeph. 1:14-16.
"I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust. . . . Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land." Zeph. 1:17, 18.
"Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger come upon you. Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger." Zeph. 2:13.
"Behold, at that time I will deal with all them that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven away; and I will make them a praise and a name, whose shame hath been in all the earth. At that time will I bring you in, and at that time will I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I bring again your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord." Zeph. 3:19, 20, R. V.
"Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack. The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing." Zeph. 3:14-17. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #36)
The silent yet powerful influence set in operation by the messages of the prophets regarding the Babylonian captivity, did much to prepare the way for a reformation that took place in the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign. This reform movement, by which threatened judgments were averted for a season, was brought about in a wholly unexpected manner through the discovery and study of a portion of Holy Scripture that for many years had been strangely misplaced and lost.
Nearly a century before, during the first Passover celebrated by Hezekiah, provision had been made for the daily public reading of the book of the law to the people by teaching priests. It was the observance of the statutes recorded by Moses--especially those given in the book of the covenant, which forms a part of Deuteronomy--that had made the reign of Hezekiah so prosperous. But Manasseh had dared to set aside these statutes; and during his reign the temple copy of the book of the law, through careless neglect, had become lost. Thus for many years the people generally were deprived of its instruction.
The long-lost manuscript was found in the temple by Hilkiah, the high priest, while the building was undergoing extensive repairs in harmony with King Josiah's plan for the preservation of the sacred structure. The high priest handed the precious volume to Shaphan, a learned scribe, who read it, and then took it to the king with the story of its discovery.
Josiah was deeply stirred as he heard read for the first time the exhortations and warnings recorded in this ancient manuscript. Never before had he realized so fully the plainness with which God had set before Israel "life and death, blessing and cursing" (Deut. 30:19); and how repeatedly they had been urged to choose the way of life, that they might become a praise in the earth, a blessing to all nations. "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid," Israel had been exhorted through Moses; "for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." Deut. 31:6.
The book abounded in assurances of God's willingness to save to the uttermost those who should place their trust fully in him. As he had wrought in their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, so would he work mightily in establishing them in the Land of Promise, and in placing them at the head of the nations of earth. To Israel of old had been given the assurance: "There is none like unto God, . . . who rideth upon the heaven for thy help, and in his excellency on the skies. The eternal God is thy dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Deut. 33:26, 27, R. V.
The encouragements offered as the reward of obedience were accompanied by prophecies of judgments against the disobedient; and as the king heard the inspired words, he recognized in the picture set before him conditions that were similar to those actually existing in his kingdom. In connection with these prophetic portrayals of departure from God, he was startled to find plain statements to the effect that the day of calamity would follow swiftly, and that there would be no remedy. The language was plain; there could be no mistaking the meaning of the words. And at the close of the volume, in a summary of God's dealings with Israel and a rehearsal of the events of the future, these matters were made doubly plain. In the hearing of all Israel, Moses had declared:--
"Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak: and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. . . .
"Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will show thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord's portion is his people: Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye."
But Israel "forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten the God that formed thee.
"And when the Lord saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very forward generation, children in whom is no faith. They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. . . .
"I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: . . . for they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them. O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up? For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges. . . .
"Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures? To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste." Deut. 32:1-10, 15-35.
These and similar passages revealed to Josiah God's love for his people, and his abhorrence of sin. As the king read the prophecies of swift judgment upon those who should persist in rebellion, he trembled for the future. The perversity of Judah had been great; what was to be the outcome of their continued apostasy?
In former years the king had not been indifferent to the prevailing idolatry. "In the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young," he had consecrated himself fully to the service of God. Four years later, at the age of twenty, he had made an earnest effort to remove temptation from his subjects by purging "Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images. They brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them. And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem." 2 Chron. 34:3-5.
Not content with doing thorough work in the land of Judah, the youthful ruler had extended his efforts to the portions of Palestine formerly occupied by the ten tribes of Israel, only a feeble remnant of which now remained. "So did he," the record reads, "in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali." Not until he had traversed the length and breadth of this region of ruined homes, and "had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel" (2 Chron. 34:6, 7), did he return to Jerusalem.
Thus Josiah, from his earliest manhood, had endeavored to take advantage of his position as king to exalt the principles of God's holy law. And now, while Shaphan the scribe was reading to him out of the book of the law, the king discerned in this volume a treasure of knowledge, a powerful ally, in the work of reform he so much desired to see wrought in the land. He resolved to walk in the light of its counsels, and also to do all in his power to acquaint his people with its teachings, and to lead them, if possible, to cultivate reverence and love for the law of heaven.
But was it possible to bring about the needed reform? From all that he could learn from the reading of the volume before him, Israel had almost reached the limit of divine forbearance; soon God would arise to punish those who had brought dishonor upon his name. Already the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people. Overwhelmed with sorrow and dismay, Josiah rent his garments, and bowed before God in agony of Spirit, seeking pardon for the sins of an impenitent nation.
At that time the prophetess Huldah was living in Jerusalem, near the temple. The mind of the king, filled with anxious foreboding, reverted to her; and he determined to inquire of the Lord through this chosen messenger, to learn, if possible, whether by any means within his power he might save erring Judah, now on the verge of ruin.
The gravity of the situation, and the respect in which he held the prophetess, led him to choose as his messengers to her, the first men of the kingdom. "Go ye," he bade them, "inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us." 2 Kings 22:13. (To be concluded.) Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #37)
Through Huldah the Lord sent Josiah word that Jerusalem's ruin could not be averted. Even should the people now humble themselves before God, they could not escape their punishment. So long had their senses been deadened by wrongdoing, that if judgment should not come upon them, they would soon return to the same sinful course. "Tell the man that sent you to me," the prophetess declared, "Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read: because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched." 2 Kings 22:15-17.
But because the king had humbled his heart before God, the Lord would acknowledge his promptness in seeking forgiveness and mercy. To him was sent the message: "Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the Lord. Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, . . . and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place." Verses 18-20.
The king must leave with God the events of the future; he could not alter the eternal decrees of Jehovah. But in announcing the retributive judgments of Heaven, the Lord had not withdrawn opportunity for repentance and reformation; and Josiah, discerning in this a willingness on the part of God to temper his judgments with mercy, determined to do all in his power to bring about decided reforms. He arranged at once for a great convocation, to which were invited the elders and magistrates in Jerusalem and Judah, together with the common people. These, with the priests and Levites, met the king in the court of the temple.
To this vast assembly the king himself read "all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord." 2 Kings 23:2. The royal reader was deeply affected, and he delivered his message with the pathos of a broken heart. His hearers were profoundly moved. The intensity of feeling revealed in the countenance of the king, the solemnity of the message itself, the warning of judgments impending,--all these had their effect, and many determined to join with the king in seeking forgiveness.
Josiah now proposed that those highest in authority unite with the people in solemnly covenanting before God to cooperate with one another in an effort to institute decided changes. "The king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book." The response was more hearty than the king had dared hope for: "All the people stood to the covenant." 2 Kings 23:3.
In the reformation that followed, the king again turned his attention to the destruction of every vestige of idolatry that remained. So long had the inhabitants of the land followed the customs of the surrounding nations in bowing down to images of wood and stone, that it seemed almost beyond the power of man to remove every trace of these evils. But Josiah persevered in his effort to cleanse the land. Sternly he met idolatry by slaying "all the priests of the high places;" "moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord." 2 Kings 23:20, 24.
In the days of the rending of the kingdom, centuries before, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, in bold defiance of the God whom Israel had served, was endeavoring to turn the hearts of the people away from the services of the temple in Jerusalem to new forms of worship, he had set up an unconsecrated altar at Bethel. During the dedication of this altar, where many in years to come were to be seduced into idolatrous practices, there had suddenly appeared a man of God from Judea, with words of condemnation for the sacrilegious proceedings. He had "cried against the altar," declaring:--
"O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord: Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burned upon thee." 1 Kings 13:2. This announcement had been accompanied by a sign that the word spoken was of the Lord.
Three centuries had passed. During the reformation wrought by Josiah, the king found himself in Bethel, where stood this ancient altar. The prophecy uttered so many years before in the presence of Jeroboam, was now to be literally fulfilled.
"The altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.
"And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchers that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchers, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.
"Then he said, What title is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulcher of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel. And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria." 2 Kings 23:15-18.
On the southern slopes of Olivet, opposite the beautiful temple of Jehovah on Mt. Moriah, were the shrines and images that had been placed there by Solomon to please his idolatrous wives. See 1 Kings 11:6-8. For upward of three centuries the great, misshapen images had stood on the "Mount of Offense," mute witnesses to the apostasy of Israel's wisest king. These, too, were removed and destroyed by Josiah.
The king sought further to establish the faith of Judah in the God of their fathers by holding a great Passover feast, in harmony with the provisions made in the book of the law. Preparation was by those having the sacred services in charge, and on the great day of the feast, offerings were freely made. "There was not holden such a Passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah." 2 Kings 23:22. But the zeal of Josiah, acceptable though it was to God, could not atone for the sins of past generations; nor could the piety displayed by the king's followers effect a change of heart in many who stubbornly refused to turn from idolatry to the worship of the true God.
For more than a decade following the celebration of the Passover, Josiah continued to reign. At the age of thirty-nine he met death in battle with the forces of Egypt, "and was buried in one of the sepulchers of his fathers." "All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah: and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel: and, behold, they are written in the lamentations." 2 Chron. 35:24-27.
Like unto Josiah "was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him. Notwithstanding the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, . . . because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal." 2 Kings 23:25,26. The time was rapidly approaching when Jerusalem was to be utterly destroyed, and the inhabitants of the land carried captive to Babylon, there to learn the lessons they had refused to learn under circumstances more favorable. Mrs. E. G. White.
(Vol. 92, #52)
Selections from the Writings of Mrs. E. G. White.--"The condition of eternal life is now just what it always has been,--just what it was in Paradise before the fall of our first parents,--perfect obedience to the law of God, perfect righteousness. If eternal life were granted on any condition short of this, then the happiness of the whole universe would be imperiled. The way would be open for sin, with all its train of woe and misery, to be immortalized.
"It was possible for Adam, before the fall, to form a righteous character by obedience to God's law. But he failed to do this, and because of his sin our natures are fallen, and we cannot make ourselves righteous. Since we are sinful, unholy, we cannot perfectly obey a holy law. We have no righteousness of our own with which to meet the claims of the law of God. But Christ has made a way of escape for us. He lived on earth amid trials and temptations such as we have to meet. He lived a sinless life. He died for us, and now he offers to take our sins and give us his righteousness. If you give yourself to him, and accept him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for his sake you are accounted righteous. Christ's character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned.
"More than this, Christ changes the heart. He abides in your heart by faith. You are to maintain this connection with Christ by faith and the continual surrender of your will to him; and so long as you do this, he will work in you to will and to do according to his good pleasure. So you may say, 'The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.' So Jesus said to his disciples, 'It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.' Then with Christ working in you, you will manifest the same spirit and do the same works,--works of righteousness, obedience."-- "Steps to Christ," pages 67, 68.
"The faith essential for salvation is not mere nominal faith, but an abiding principle, deriving vital power from Christ. It will lead the soul to feel the love of Christ to such a degree that the character will be refined, purified, ennobled. This faith in Christ is not merely an impulse, but a power that works by love and purifies the soul. It accomplishes something, bringing the soul under discipline, elevating it from defilement, and bringing it into connection with Christ, till it appropriates his virtue to the soul's need. This is saving faith."-- Review and Herald Aug. 18, 1891.
"Where there is not only a belief in God's word, but a submission of the will to him, where the heart is yielded to him, the affections fixed upon him, there is faith,--faith that works by love, and purifies the soul. Through this faith the heart is renewed in the image of God. And the heart that in its unrenewed state is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, now delights in its holy precepts, exclaiming with the psalmist, 'O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.' And the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us, 'who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.'"-- "Steps to Christ," pages 68, 69.
"Many hold faith as an opinion. Saving faith is a transaction, by which those who receive Christ join themselves in covenant relation with God. A living faith means an increase of vigor, a confiding trust, by which, through the grace of Christ, the soul becomes a conquering power."-- "The Ministry of Healing," page 62.
"How often those who trusted the word of God, though in themselves utterly helpless, have withstood the power of the whole world,--Enoch, pure in heart, holy in life, holding fast his faith in the triumph of righteousness against a corrupt and scoffing generation; Noah and his household against the men of his time, men of the greatest physical and mental strength and the most debased in morals; the children of Israel at the Red Sea, a helpless, terrified multitude of slaves, against the mightiest army of the mightiest nation on the globe; David, a shepherd lad, having God's promise of the throne, against Saul, the established monarch, bent on holding fast his power; Shadrach and his companions in the fire, and Nebuchadnezzar on the throne; Daniel among the lions, his enemies in the high places of the kingdom; Jesus on the cross, and the Jewish priests and rulers forcing even the Roman governor to work their will; Paul in chains led to a criminal's death, Nero the despot of a world empire.
"Such examples are not found in the Bible only. They abound in every record of human progress. The Vaudois and the Huguenots. Wyclif and Huss, Jerome and Luther, Tyndale and Knox, Zinzendorf and Wesley, with multitudes of others, have witnessed to the power of God's word against human power and policy in support of evil. These are the world's true nobility. This is its royal line. In this line the youth of youth of today are called to take their places.
"Faith is needed in the smaller no less than in the greater affairs of life. In all our daily interests and occupations, the sustaining strength of God becomes real to us through an abiding trust. . . .
"As a shield from temptation and an inspiration to purity and truth, no other influence can equal the sense of God's presence. 'All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.' He is 'of purer eyes than to behold evil,' and cannot look on iniquity. This thought was Joseph's shield amidst the corruptions of Egypt. To the allurements of temptation his answer was steadfast: 'How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?' Such a shield, faith, if cherished, will bring to every soul. . . .
"Through faith in Christ, every deficiency of character may be supplied, every defilement cleansed, every fault corrected, every excellence developed.
"'Ye are complete in him.'
"Prayer and faith are closely allied, and they need to be studied together. In the prayer of faith there is a divine science; it is a science that every one who would make his life work a success must understand. Christ says, 'What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.' He makes it plain that our asking must be according to God's will; we must ask for the things that he has promised, and whatever we receive must be used in doing his will. The conditions met, the promise is unequivocal.
"For the pardon of sin, for the Holy Spirit, for a Christlike temper, for wisdom and strength to do his work, for any gift he has promised, we may ask; then we are to believe that we receive, and return thanks to God that we have received.
"We need look for no outward evidence of the blessing. The gift is in the promise, and we may go about our work assured that what God has promised he is able to perform, and that the gift, which we already possess, will be realized when we need it most."-- "Education," pages 254-258.
"We do not value the power and efficacy of prayer as we should. Prayer and faith will do what no power on earth can accomplish. We are seldom, in all respects, placed in the same position twice. We continually have new scenes and new trials to pass through, where past experience cannot be a sufficient guide. . . .
"The temptations to which we are daily exposed make prayer a necessity. Dangers beset every path."
"As workers for God, we must reach men where they are, surrounded with darkness, sunken in vice, and stained with corruption. But while we stay our minds upon him who is our sun and our shield, the evil that surrounds us will not bring one stain upon our garments. As we work to save the souls that are ready to perish, we shall not be put to shame if we make God our trust. Christ in the heart, Christ in the life, this is our safety. The atmosphere of his presence will fill the soul with abhorrence of all that is evil. Our spirit may be so identified with his that in thought and aim we shall be one with him."
"He whose trust is in God will with Paul be able to say, 'I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.' Whatever the mistakes or failures of the past, we may, with the help of God, rise above them. With the apostle we may say:--
"'This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.'"-- "The Ministry of Healing," pages 509, 511, 516. Mrs. E. G. White.