Ellen G. White Writings

<< Back Forward >>

«Back «Prev. Pub. «Article   Article» Next Pub.» Forward»

The Signs of the Times

October 21, 1880

The Journey From Mount Hor

By Mrs. E. G. White

The nations of Canaan had watched with jealous eye the movements of the vast hosts of Israel. They remembered with many forebodings the visit of the Hebrew spies forty years before, and were now continually on the alert to prevent any invasion of their territory. Being informed by spies of the encampment of the children of Israel near Mount Hor, Arad, one of the Canaanite kings, went out with a large army, to make war upon them. He gained a decided victory, and took a number of prisoners. The Israelites were deeply humbled at this defeat, and with prayer and fasting, they sought help from God. They made a solemn vow that if the Lord would deliver these enemies into their hands, they would utterly destroy them and their cities. The Divine Protector of Israel was pleased to hear and answer the prayer of his people, and the Canaanites were completely routed.

This victory should have filled the hearts of the Israelites with gratitude. It should have led them to fear and trust the Lord, and to shun the sins which had separated them from his favor. But, elated with success, they became boastful and self-confident, and soon fell into the old habit of murmuring. They were now dissatisfied because the armies of Israel had not been permitted to advance upon Canaan immediately after their cowardly rebellion at the report of the spies forty years before. They pronounced their long sojourn in the wilderness an unnecessary delay, reasoning that they might have conquered their enemies as easily heretofore as now. They flattered themselves that if God and Moses had not interfered, they might now have been in possession of the promised land. Thus they cherished bitter thoughts concerning the dealings of God with them, and finally they became discontented with everything.

As they continued their journey toward the south, following the guidance of the cloudy pillar, their route lay through a hot, sandy valley, destitute of shade or vegetation. The way seemed long and difficult; they were sometimes thirsty, and often weary. Their sojourn in the wilderness should have taught them that help could come alone from God; but when again brought into circumstances of difficulty and trial they failed to endure the test of their faith and patience. By continually dwelling on the dark features of their travels, they separated themselves farther and farther from God, until a defiant, rebellious spirit made them almost Satanic.

A long preparatory process, unknown to the world, goes on in the hearts of God's people before they commit open sin. There is first a gradual decline of spirituality; God is not cherished in the thoughts; prayer is neglected; selfish thoughts and feelings have a controlling power; carnal desires slowly but surely gain the ascendency; and a spirit of proud self-sufficiency takes possession of the soul.

Had the children of Israel, as they journeyed, called to mind the wonderful deliverance which God had wrought for them in breaking from their necks the yoke of Egyptian bondage, had they dwelt upon the many precious and miraculous revelations of divine power in their behalf, they might have strengthened the courage of the faint-hearted and unbelieving, and thus averted the terrible judgments which had fallen upon them. But light had become darkness to them, and darkness light. Egypt looked brighter and more desirable than liberty and the land to which God was leading them.

Thus it is with many professed Christians at the present day. They become weary of self-denial and humiliation. They desire an easier path, in which there is less self-restraint, in which there is no necessity for a constant, individual effort. Their hearts are ever pleading, “I pray thee, have me excused.” They have no love for duty, no affinity for wholesome restraint and discipline. They act over the experience of ancient Israel, in doubting and murmuring. They dwell upon the objectionable features in their experience, and with their spiritual sight dimmed, everything pertaining to their religious life wears a dark, forbidding aspect. They begin to turn toward the world, as the hearts of the Israelites were constantly turning back to Egypt. In conversation, in dress, in deportment, this class manifest a conformity to the world. How dwelleth the love of Christ in them?

The word of God draws a dividing line between his followers and the worldling. Over that line, toward Egypt, is the life of self-indulgence, fashion, frivolity, and the veriest slavery to sin. Over that line, God is forgotten. When the professed followers of Christ should be fighting the Lord's battles, how often are they out of the path of duty, on Satan's ground. Christ is wounded when any who bear his name are found there; he is crucified afresh, and put to an open shame by those who profess to love him.

In hearing the earnest prayers of Israel, and granting them a great victory over their enemies, the Lord had given a fresh token of his willingness to help his people when they should seek him. How cruel, then, was their unbelief and murmuring. The great sin of Israel was their jealousy that God meant them harm; that he was restricting their liberty, and surrounding them with denials and severities. Yet in all the way of God's leading, they had found water to refresh the thirsty, bread from heaven to satisfy their hunger, and peace and safety under the shadowy cloud by day and the fiery pillar by night. Angels were ministering to them as they climbed the rocky heights, or threaded the rugged paths of the wilderness. It is a mistake to entertain the thought that God is pleased to see his children suffer. All Heaven is interested in the happiness of man. It is in the path that leads away from God to darkness and death that there are pains and griefs, disappointments and sorrows. These are placed by the hand of Infinite Love to warn man not to go on in disobedience and destroy themselves.

God does not close the avenues of joy to any of his creatures. The divine requirements call upon man to shun those indulgences which would bring suffering and disappointment, and would close to him the door of happiness and Heaven. The world's Redeemer accepts men as they are, with all their wants, imperfections, and weaknesses; and he will not only cleanse from the defilement of sin, and grant redemption through his blood, but will satisfy the heart-longings of all who consent to wear his yoke, to bear his burden. It is his purpose to impart peace and rest to all who come to him for the bread of life. He only requires of men to perform those duties which will lead his steps to heights of bliss to which the disobedient can never attain.

The true, joyous life of the soul is to have Christ formed within, the hope of glory. Then will the servants of the Master feel that it is safe to follow where he leads. They may climb the mountain steeps or tread the burning desert sands singing over the hardest paths, because Jesus is their companion. Had ancient Israel but cherished gratitude to God for his preserving care for his divine companionship in the shadowy cloud and the fiery pillar; had they, instead of murmuring, recounted the blessings which God had bestowed upon them; had they cherished faith, and laid aside their fears and anxieties—they might ever have had the presence of the Divine Helper, and he would have lifted the burden from every weary soul.

The hindrances which keep many from advancing in a life of purity and holiness are created by themselves. The cross which every Christian must bear if he follows Christ, gives increased spiritual strength. In lifting the burdens of Christ, heavier burdens are removed. To all who are willing and obedient, to all who are reaching out to feel the guiding hand of God, the moment of the greatest discouragement and difficulty is the time when divine help is nearest. When the path of duty is obstructed by difficulties the most formidable, when it seems that the soul must give up in despair, the glory hidden behind the cloud that has darkened the way shines forth in all its brightness.

Those who press on in the path of duty will look back with joy and thankfulness upon the darkest part of the way, where trials and difficulties seemed like a heavy cloud to hide every ray of God's sunshine. The Lord conceals himself from us in the cloudy pillar, as from ancient Israel. His ways are past finding out. Yet all that he makes known of himself, all that he can reveal to the most elevated mind, only convinces us of an infinity beyond, of wisdom, purity, and love.

«Back «Prev. Pub. «Article   Article» Next Pub.» Forward»