Ellen G. White Writings

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The Youth’s Instructor

July 18, 1901

In the Wilderness With God

Obedient to the onward movement of the pillar of cloud, the children of Israel left Rephidim, and began their march to the desert of Sinai. They wound their way through narrow defiles, with high cliffs rising abruptly on either side. They climbed steep ascents, and descended into deep valleys.

With intense interest the Israelites watched the movements of the cloud, which was leading them over plains of desolation, broken by rugged mountains. Often the question arose in their minds, Where will this weary march end? Was God leading them through the wild passes of the wilderness to their destruction? Again and again, when passing through the mountain fastnesses, they came to a place where their way appeared to be entirely hedged in. Then a passage would open before them.

What a sight was this!—More than a million persons marching through the desert, led by day by a pillar of cloud, and guarded at night by a pillar of fire!

Thus God led his people. The wilderness was their school. Christ was their Instructor. He desired to teach them to depend on him in all the circumstances of life.

During all their march through the wilderness, the children of Israel were sustained by bread from heaven. The hoary-topped mountains, could they speak, would bear witness to the way in which the people were fed by the miraculous power of God. As the people lay in their tents, wrapped in slumber, bread from heaven fell quietly round the encampment.

At length the people came in their march to a long range of mountains, with one lofty peak towering above the rest. Here the pillar of cloud rested, overlooking the plain where the people were to encamp.

The encampment was placed in order. In harmony with God's direction, captains were appointed over different companies. The elders and judges chosen to relieve Moses of some of his many burdens, were given their work, that order and harmony might be preserved in the camp.

I would that those who today rebel against rules and regulations could realize that it is God's plan to have all things done with order and discipline.

In the morning, as the sun began to rise behind the ridge of eastern mountains, filling with light the dark gorges, it seemed as if golden beams of mercy from the throne of God were shining upon the weary, almost discouraged travelers.

The encampment was soon astir, and the busy activities of the day began. With anxious eyes the people looked upon the pillar of cloud resting over the mountain, wondering where next it would lead them. Around them lay a country strange and solemn. Immense piles of rugged rock, stretching upward into the heavens, looked like the ruins of a world. Frequently the people contrasted the verdant valleys of Egypt with these dark and cheerless ravines.

God had a purpose in leading his people to this place. He had gathered them to himself, apart from the world, that he might talk with them. In these mountain solitudes, where there was nothing to lead the mind away from the Creator, God was to give the people his law. Everything in this wild region tended to make the people feel their own nothingness, and the greatness of him who weigheth the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance.

God has left these hoary sentinels to stand through all the ages as a memorial of the time when the Infinite held communication with mortal man, giving him the law which was to rule the nations of the world through all time.

God called Moses to come up into the mount, and Moses immediately obeyed. Placing his feet in steps made without hands, he ascended the mount, and entered the presence of God. Here the Lord told him that it was his design to take Israel into close connection with himself. They were to be his church, a nation governed and controlled by him.

For three days before the giving of the law, the people were encamped before the mount. They were given ample opportunity to review their past experiences, and to repent of their continual distrust and unbelief.

God commanded Moses to sanctify the people, to instruct them, to point out to them what God required. Much was included in this command, and great responsibility was laid upon Moses. Faithfully he was to point out to the people their past wrongs, and show them their need of humbling the heart before God.

The people were to spend their time in fasting and prayer. All outward impurity was to be put away, and their hearts were to be cleansed from all iniquity. Had there been one in that vast multitude who was defiling himself by the use of tobacco, he would have been required to cleanse himself from all filthiness. Had he failed to do this, he would have been slain by the bolts of God's wrath at the first revelation of his glory.

The children of Israel were to do all in their power to cleanse themselves from inward and outward defilement. This is the work God requires us to do if we would be brought into close communion with him. The battle with wrong habits and sinful indulgence will be long and severe, but it must be undertaken. Through Christ, victory is sure.

The divine presence of Christ could bring to the aid of the Israelites a power which, when combined with human effort, would sanctify them to God. So today this Presence can bring us power to consecrate ourselves wholly to God.

Many look upon the days of Israel as a time of darkness, when men were without Christ, without repentance and faith. Many hold the erroneous doctrine that the religion of the children of Israel consisted in forms and ceremonies, in which faith in Christ had no part. But men in that age were saved by Christ as verily as men are saved by him today. They were under a discipline of mercy, and had special privileges in their day, even as we have in ours. Christ was shadowed forth in the sacrifices and symbols, which were to last till type should reach antitype in his coming to our world. The Hebrews rejoiced in a Saviour to come. We rejoice in a Saviour who has come, and who is coming again.

Shrouded in the pillar of cloud, the world's Redeemer held communion with Israel. Let us not say, then, that they had not Christ. When the people thirsted in the wilderness, and gave themselves up to murmuring and complaint, Christ was to them what he is to us,—a Saviour full of tender compassion, the Mediator between them and God. After we have done our part to cleanse the soul-temple from the defilement of sin, Christ's blood avails for us, as it did for ancient Israel.

Mrs. E. G. White

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