Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

February 4, 1909

Lessons From the Apostasy at Sinai—No. 1

Mrs. E. G. White

Satan is the leader of every species of rebellion today, as he was the originator of rebellion in the courts of heaven. Standing next to Christ in power and glory, yet he coveted the honor that belonged to the Son. He desired to be equal with God. To carry out his purpose, he concealed his true designs from the angels, and worked deceptively to secure their allegiance and honor to himself. By sly insinuations, by which he made it appear that Christ had assumed the place that belonged to him, Lucifer sowed the seeds of doubt in the minds of many of the angels; and when he had won their support, he carried the matter to God, declaring that it was the sentiment of many of the heavenly beings that he should have the preference to Christ.

We shall not at this time follow the immediate results of Satan's rebellion and his expulsion from heaven, but let us consider how his deceptive work is being continued today among those who profess to be the loyal people of God. In the hearts of many church-members there is being carried on today the same work of rebellion and disaffection, and the result is injury and weakness to the church. The artful foe has found a place in many hearts that should have no room for the selfish, ambitious principles that are being promulgated. For years the enemy has been seeking to bring false theories into the churches; and God alone can help us to meet his work successfully.

Satan sought to produce the same results among the people of Israel as they journeyed from Egypt to Canaan. God took Israel from the bondage of slavery, and under his own guidance brought them into the promised land. Moses, their visible leader, received instruction for them directly from God. But in spite of the wonderful evidences the people received that God was working in their behalf, they continually murmured and rebelled. God gave positive evidence that he ruled in the heavens; again and again rebellion was punished with death. Only two of those who as adults left Egypt, saw the promised land. The wanderings of the people were extended until the rest were buried in the wilderness.

Today Satan is using the same devising to introduce the same evils, and his efforts are followed by the same results that in the days of Israel laid so many in their graves. Let us study the record of how Israel, in the sight of the mount on which they had shortly before seen so wonderful a display of God's power, were led into idolatry. While Moses was in the mount with God, receiving the sacred oracles, the people, in Aaron's charge, were worshiping a golden calf, while their leading men proclaimed the sacrilegious message, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”

“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

“And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt-offerings, and brought peace-offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves; they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said. These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”

From this record we may learn how little dependence can be placed in men who trust in men, and do not make God their reliance. Those who are living in these last days are in the greatest danger of placing their confidence in men rather than in the true and living God. The Lord has given instruction that the history of the apostasy of Israel is now to be presented, because men who in the past have had great light have become self-sufficient, and are looking to men, trusting in human leaders, who are themselves practising evil. Men who ought to stand as firm as a rock to principle are treading in the same path that the Israelites followed. “Some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” This is the snare that has come into our ranks. There are wrong sentiments that have to be met. There are men who are acting the part of Aaron at the very time when every soul should be working to seal the law among God's disciples. They are building up the very things that God has specified should not be built up.

A great deal of time and labor and anxiety are required to counterwork the ingenuity of satanic agencies that are pressing their way among those who are ready to accept wrong philosophy, to cause confusion and division. Every jot of influence is needed to discern the great evils of Satan's devisings, and to keep souls from being drawn into the net of the modern Aarons who are saying, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”

Long before, the Lord could have told Moses what was taking place. He could have revealed that Aaron could not be depended upon. But for wise and holy purposes he permitted the evil to develop. He suffered this shameful representation to come to its height. Then when the leading men had done all that it was in their power to do, he sent Moses down to punish the transgressors. The Lord sees what is in the hearts of men. At times he permits evils to take place that he may prevent still greater evils that would appear unless he permitted the designs hidden in human hearts to work out.

Mark God's words to Moses concerning this apostasy. They “have corrupted themselves,” he said: “they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them.” Every man is tempted when he is drawn aside by his own lusts.

The fact that Aaron had been blessed and honored so far above the people was what made his sin so heinous. It was Aaron, “the saint of the Lord,” that had made the idol and announced the feast. It was he who had been appointed spokesman for Moses, and concerning whom God himself had testified, “I know that he can speak well,” who had failed to check the idolaters in their heaven-daring purpose. He by whom God had wrought in bringing judgments both upon the Egyptians and upon their gods, had heard, unmoved, the proclamation. “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” It was he who had been with Moses in the mount, and had there beheld the glory of the Lord, and who had seen that in the manifestation of that glory there was nothing of which an image could be made,—it was he who had changed that glory into the similitude of an ox. He to whom God had committed the government of the people in the absence of Moses, was found sanctioning their rebellion. “The Lord was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him.” But in answer to the earnest intercession of Moses, his life was spared: and in penitence and humiliation for his great sin, he was restored to the favor of God.

If Aaron had had courage to stand for the right, irrespective of consequences, he could have prevented that apostasy. If he had unswervingly maintained his own allegiance to God, if he had cited the people to the perils of Sinai, and had reminded them of their solemn covenant with God to obey his law, the evil would have been checked. But his compliance with the desires of the people, and the calm assurance with which he proceeded to carry out their plans, emboldened them to go to greater lengths in sin than had before entered their minds.

Of all the sins that God will punish, none are more grievous in his sight than those that encourage others to do evil. God would have his servants prove their loyalty by faithfully rebuking transgression, however painful the act may be. Those who are honored with a divine commission, are not to be weak, pliant time-servers. They are not to aim at self-exaltation, or to shun disagreeable duties, but are to perform God's work with unswerving fidelity.

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