Ellen G. White Writings

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The Youth’s Instructor

January 25, 1894

Words to the Young

In Four Parts—Part 1.

“The show of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves. Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.” “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! ... Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.”

The eyes of the Lord God of Israel are too pure to behold iniquity, and these utterances of the Lord through his prophets need to be considered by all who claim to be his people. God requires that every man, woman, and youth should perfect a Christian character. The command is, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” Conformity to a low standard of Christianity is robbing the church of its vitality and power. The banner of piety, of Bible religion, has been trailing in the dust, because those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ follow their own ways, and conform to a standard which God has not given them, but one they have erected for themselves. But those who make a profession of Christianity, and yet fail to have true piety, are false lights, false sign-boards, pointing in a wrong direction. They call evil good, and good evil, darkness light, and light darkness. While claiming to be righteous, they indulge in loose practices after the order of the ungodly man, who has not the love or fear of God before his eyes. They fail to bring the principles of the truth they profess to believe into their life- practices, and regard their sins and errors as trifling things.

When Achan stole the golden wedge and the Babylonish garment, he also thought it was a trifling matter, although God had commanded that all the goods of Jericho should be devoted to utter destruction. Achan thought it was but a little thing to benefit himself by the goods that were to perish if he did not appropriate them. But history shows us that that which was of so little moment in his eyes, was in the eyes of God a matter of great importance; for he had disregarded the word of the Lord. One man of the tribe of Judah had sinned; for he took of the accursed thing, and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel. Because of this one man's sin, the presence of the Lord was withdrawn from the armies of Israel. The Lord would not serve with their sins. When the children of Israel went up against Ai, they were defeated, and came back discomfited; for thirty-six warriors had been slain, and the hearts of the people melted and became as water. They were astonished that the Lord had not given them the victory, as he had done in the past. The General of armies was not with them, the armies of heaven had been withdrawn, and the children of Israel had been left to plan for themselves, and to arrange for the battle as their own human wisdom might dictate.

When they came back in disgrace, overcome by the enemy, “Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, Alas! O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan. O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites, and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?”

You can see by the prayer of Joshua, if you have spiritual discernment, that that which was esteemed by Achan as a very little thing, was the cause of great anguish and sorrow to the responsible men of Israel; and this is always the case when it is manifest that the Lord is angry with his people. It is the men upon whom rests the burden of the work, who most keenly feel the weight of the people's sins, and who pray in agony of soul because of the rebuke of the Lord. Achan, the guilty party, did not feel the burden. He took it very coolly. We find nothing in the account to signify that he felt distressed. There is no evidence that he felt remorse, or reasoned from cause to effect, saying, “It is my sin that has brought the displeasure of the Lord upon the people.” He did not ask, “Can it be that it is because I stole that golden wedge and Babylonish garment, that we have been defeated in the battle?” He had no idea of making his wrong right by confession of sin and humiliation of soul.

Before the people had gone to take Jericho, they had been instructed what course to pursue. Joshua had said, “The city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the Lord.... And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord.” Achan had heard all this charge; but he had coveted the accursed thing of Jericho, appointed to destruction. He was even ready to steal the gold and silver that were to be consecrated to God, and put into the treasury of his house.

But there were devoted men in Israel who felt the reproach that had come upon them, in that the people were not sustained in the battle, but were discomfited before the enemy, who triumphed over their defeat. While Joshua was mourning in humiliation and keen anguish over the dishonor that had come upon the cause of God, the word of the Lord came to Joshua. “And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing [which had been appointed to destruction], and have also stolen [taken the golden wedge and the silver that had been consecrated to the Lord's treasury], and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed [in consequence of the sin of this one offender].” Now hear the words from the lips of Jesus Christ, who was enshrouded in the cloudy pillar: “Neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.”

The Lord did not specify who was the guilty party; but he gave directions as to what was to be done. He said, “In the morning therefore, ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the Lord taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the Lord shall take shall come by households; and the household which the Lord shall take shall come man by man. And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath trespassed the covenant of the Lord, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel.” And Achan confessed not; but braved it out as though he were innocent.

“So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: and he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: and he brought his household man by man: and Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.” In thus sifting the matter to the bottom, the Lord reveals the fact that he is acquainted with the hidden things of dishonesty, however men may think that they are hidden. In all the transaction, Achan manifested a determination not to acknowledge his sin; but now the Lord fastened his sin upon him. Had Joshua declared Achan's sin, many might have sympathized with the guilty one, as he protested that he was innocent, and they might, in their human judgment, have thought he was misused and maltreated. It is thus that many do today when men are reproved for sin; for they drop God out of their reckoning. This is the reason that Joshua addressed Achan as he did. He said, “My son, give, I pray thee, the glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done, hide it not from me.”

The Lord had told Joshua just what Achan had done; but so many are led by human sympathy, and the wrong-doer is so often excused, that the Lord meant to give Israel a lesson which should be also of benefit to us in our day. Therefore Joshua entreated the young man to tell him what he had done. Joshua would have the Lord God feared and honored, as one who knew all their works, and searched the hidden things of darkness, so that the people might always know that the Lord God was among them, and was acquainted with all their actions.

Mrs. E. G. White

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