OPENING PRAYER THOUGHT
I shall read from The Mount of Blessing, pg. 155, beginning with the second paragraph.
M.B. pp. 155, 156 – “The very first step in approaching God is to know and believe the love that He has to us; for it is through the drawing of His love that we are led to come to Him.
“The perception of God’s love works the renunciation of selfishness. In calling God our Father, we recognize all His children as our brethren. We are all a part of the great web of humanity, all members of one family. In our petitions we are to include our neighbors as well as ourselves. No one prays aright who seeks a blessing for himself alone.
“'Which art in heaven.’ He to whom Christ bids us look as our Father,’ ‘is in the heavens; He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased.’ In His care we may safely rest, saying, What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.’“
What does the reading instruct us to pray for? – For an appreciation of God’s love and for better understanding of Him; for the right understanding of what it means to pray the Lord’s prayer; for wisdom to know why we address God as our Father, why we are members of one family, brethren of one household; for grace to remember to pray not for ourselves only but for our neighbors, and even for our enemies.
A number of brethren have written to me from time to time, wanting to know what makes them eligible to receive the Seal of God. Some want to know whether they will be sealed by doing this or by doing that. Others want to know whether they will be left without the seal by not doing this or not doing the other.
The questions are indeed very timely and commendable. Such vital questions deserve answers as concrete as are the questions themselves. And who can give a more concrete answer than those who have gone before us, those whose duties were similar to ours, those who were passing through a similar experience, those who traveled the same road that we are traveling, those who were preparing themselves for the Kingdom as are we.
In whom do we find such a parallel? – In no others than those who left Egypt and started for the promised land. No, in none others. They are our only type. Says Inspiration: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (1 Cor. 10:11.) Their duties, therefore, are our duties, and their failures should be our stepping stones to success. Thus it is that the deeds of those who entered into the promised land must be our deeds, and if we are to be sealed, then the deeds of those who failed to enter therein, we must shun as completely and as quickly as we would shun a lion’s den.
We are now to find out why some of them went into the promised land, and why others did not go in, for this is what Inspiration commands us to do. This scripture implies that if the experiences of ancient Israel had not been for ensamples, they would never have been written. How important, then, that we diligently study them. Yes, in order for us to know what we must do or must not do to receive the seal and to enter into the Promised Land, we must examine the deed of both those who entered it and of those who were left out of it.
Let us begin our examination by starting with Moses, with the human agent, the visible leader of the movement. Reared in the courts of Pharaoh, he received the highest education the world then offered. And having understood that he was the one to free his brethren from Egyptian bondage, he felt quite capable for the job.
You remember the story of how he started out to deliver them although he was not yet told to do so. He killed an Egyptian, fell into a quarrel with one of the Hebrews, and then fled for his life. So it was that in Midian he obtained a job, became a shepherd, and married his employer’s daughter. During those forty years of shepherd’s life he forgot the Egyptian language, and with it the Egyptian learning. In its place, though, he learned to tend well to sheep. He therefore dismissed from his mind the idea of ever delivering the people of God from their Egyptian bondage. Then it was that God saw him strong and well able, and commanded him to go back to Egypt and to bring out of it His groaning people. You recall that Moses protested against the idea and argued that he had failed at his first attempt, the time he was young and well-informed and that at that late hour of his life he was not trying again, that he could no longer even speak the language. After a prolonged conversation God removed his objections by promising to give him his brother, Aaron, to be his spokesman, and Moses finally consented to return to Egypt.
There with his shepherd’s rod he performed many signs and wonders before both the Egyptians and the Hebrews. And you remember what took place the night of the Passover, the night before they left Egypt: Moses had proclaimed throughout the land that in every dwelling where no blood was found on the doorpost, that very night the firstborn in each such dwelling would die.
Those who disobeyed the Divine injunction, were, on the day following busily moaning and burying their dead, while those who obeyed the command were joyously and orderly marching out of the cities. Yes, only those who were able to take orders were made free from slavery. It is, therefore, prerequisite that we learn to take orders if we are to receive the seal of God in our foreheads.
Let us not forget, though, that the children of Israel left Egypt with great zeal and high hopes. But when they saw the Red Sea ahead of them, and Pharaoh’s army behind them, they were filled with consternation. They saw themselves in a death trap although they were at the brink of another marvelous deliverance. Then they turned on Moses and accused him of bringing them to the sea, of making their escape from their enemies absolutely impossible.
Humanly viewing the situation, they were in a precarious predicament. In that moment they forgot their miraculous deliverance from Pharaoh’s taskmasters and their eyes closed to the wondrous cloud by day and pillar of fire by night that had led them all the way. As they saw it, the evidence against Moses’ ability to lead them safely was overwhelming. Insofar as they were concerned, the whole venture appeared doomed to failure. Their hopes of going ahead or of even going back left them, and all because they thought Moses, not God, was their deliverer! How shortsighted, unstable, doubting, and forgetful human beings are! Experience in the gospel work has taught me that God’s people of today have the same tempter to contend with, and similar temptations to overcome if they are to receive the seal of God.
What a great difference would there have been had the Israelites only believed that God, not Moses, was their Leader, that that which appeared to be their death trap, was their door of hope. Let their experience teach us to remember that God is either leading us altogether or not at all, that His ways are not; our ways, and that what may appear to be our greatest obstacle, may actually turn out to be our greatest blessing.
Israel’s real danger, we now see, was not in what Moses did, but in their unbelief of God’s having the reins in His hands, in not knowing that His ways are beyond finding out – contrary to ours. They failed to see that God could again and again perform miracle after miracle to deliver them from their enemy’s hand, that He could dry the ocean as easily as He could flood the earth.
Having their failures before us, we should make them our stepping stones to success. Let us therefore wholeheartedly believe that God is in charge of our salvation, of our lives and of our death, too. That He is able to take us to safety even if the earth should drop out of space, that we cannot die if He wants us alive, and that we cannot live if He wants us dead. Let us ever bear in mind that we of ourselves know nothing about God’s plans except as told through His appointed servants, the prophets, and as we witness them day by day. If we daily walk with God, if we commit all to Him, then the responsibility is all His.
God, in His wisdom, brought Israel to the Red Sea for their own good, and though they could not see it His way, He nevertheless for His Name’s sake divided the sea, took them safely across, and at the same time, by the same miracle, He destroyed their enemies!
Had Moses been as doubtful of God’s power and leadership as were the people that were with him, what effect would his rod have had as he struck the sea with it? – None whatsoever. If the Judgment of the Infinite were the same as the judgment of the finite, then Pharaoh’s army would have either killed or enslaved Israel anew.
Their mighty deliverances should, therefore, forever establish our confidence in God, and should stand as everlasting memorials that the wisdom of men is foolishness with God, and that faith in Him does actually remove mountains and seas, too.
Notwithstanding these ensamples, though, men still expect God to work in accordance with their judgment, and that is why sometimes He uses children in His work instead of wise and prudent men.
The Hebrew host well knew that they were led to the sea by following the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Yet none of these wonders seemed to have made any lasting impression on them. There is a danger that we, too, may forget the way the Lord has led us.
After Israel crossed the sea, and after the sea closed in on their enemies, they all sang and gave God the glory, but though Pharaoh’s army and the sea were no longer objects of fear but of interest, their trials, doubts, and fears were not yet at an end: Almost immediately after they saw the sea behind and the desert ahead they began to recriminate Moses for having brought them into the desert to starve there for want of water and food. It never entered their minds that if God can dry the sea, He can certainly flood the desert and make it blossom as a rose. Notwithstanding their doubts and their moanings God again performed an even greater miracle: He caused water to gush out of the rock and He brought manna from Heaven!
Today as in Moses’ day many are duplicating the sins of that people: Some are all on fire on day, and all on ice the next. Others praise God to the top of their voices while their ship is smoothly sailing, but when the sea becomes rough and the waves start beating against them, then they see only a man at the wheel and rather than expecting God to calm the sea they begin to hunt for a jumping off place. Still others are constantly trying to promote themselves by continual fault-finding against the ones that bear the whole burden of the load. So it is that there must be among us today – antitypical doubters, complainers office seekers and faultfinders, admitting one great truth one day and forgetting it the next day – yet expecting to be sealed with the seal of God and to stand with the Lamb on Mt. Zion!
The Lord fed His ancient people with Angel’s food, the kind their work and climate required. He delivered it fresh daily, and it did not cost them one cent. All they had to do was to bring it into their tents and to eat it. But they disliked the manna, and wished they were back in Egypt eating from its flesh pots, “the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick.” In their eyes, Moses was the greatest of sinners, and they blamed him for every trial of their faith. Had God given them something other than manna, they would have been just as dissatisfied with it because an evil spirit was in them. Let us gladly and with thanks eat and drink what the Lord gives us and when He gives it to us.
You recall that by craving flesh food they made the situation unbearable for Moses. So, to their great surprise quail filled the camp, and the multitude carried them into their tents. But at what a cost! Thousands of them died even while the flesh was yet between their teeth. Then they understood that the manna was the better food. It was a great lesson, but an expensive one. What about us Vegetarians?
Their murmuring, however, did not end even then. They found something else to murmur about. They grew jealous of Moses and of Aaron. “They are taking too much on themselves,” the office seekers complained. “We are just as much favored of God as are Moses and Aaron. God speaks with us as much as He speaks with them,” they said. And who were the chief complainers? – The princes of the nations, the men who were the most capable, the very ones who should have known better. Those who could have been the greatest help to Moses became the biggest hindrance to him. They wanted Aaron’s office; they wanted Moses’ office. They refused to be satisfied with anything less. The Lord Himself got nowhere with them. The only thing He could do was to cause the earth to swallow them. Thus in one day thousands – practically all the so-called wise – fell into the bowels of the earth. Are we, too, seeking office by which to exalt self and are we, too, endeavoring to usurp the seat of the Spirit of Truth?
Finally, the emancipated children of Israel came to the borders of the promised land. And though they had witnessed great miracles right along, yet they did not believe that God could procure the land for them! They had seen that He was able to deliver them from Pharaoh’s brick yards, to take them dryshod through the sea, to destroy their enemies, to give them food and water in the desert where there was none to be had, yet they did not believe that He was able to take the land for them and that He could finish what He had started!
There are thousands today who are doing virtually the same when they say, “Isaiah, chapter 2, Micah, chapter 4, Jeremiah, chapter 31 and Ezekiel, chapters 36 and 37 will never be fulfilled.” It was those who were of age, those who should have known better, that started the ball rolling down hill to destruction. The youth, of course, must have echoed the murmurings of their elders, but the Lord did not hold it against them. And in order to salvage the youth, God had to bury all their murmuring parents except the two faithful, trusting men who protested against the evil report of the other ten spies. Mark you, every adult that left Egypt, except Caleb and Joshua, had to be buried before the youth could cross the Jordan! Why? – Because though God did take them with ease out of Egypt, He could not get Egypt out of them. Are you still wondering why the prophet Elijah must “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers”? (Mal. 4:6.)
Christians often think that the Israelites were very wicked and unruly people, but after having their experiences to profit by, think how much worse we would be if we do as they did! If we do no better than they, how can we expect to be eligible for the seal and for the Kingdom since they were not eligible?
In the very prime of life, Moses thought himself capable of delivering the children of Israel. But Providence said: “You are not fit for the work, come out and I will make you fit.” And out Moses went.
He did not need Pharaoh’s training in order to do God’s work. It was a hindrance to him! Why? Because it made him self-sufficient, independent of God. Such a person would be the right one to lead God’s people away from Him and into sin, but the wrong one to lead them to God and away from sin.
How true the statement in Testimonies, Vol. 5, pg. 80: “…In the last solemn work few great men will be engaged. They are self-sufficient, independent of God, and he cannot use them. The Lord has faithful servants, who in the shaking, testing time will be disclosed to view.”
God can help only those who know that they are unequal to their task, those who know that they need His help. So, then, those who think that they can do wonders are the very ones who can do nothing but harm.
Plainly, those whom God is to use in His final work, in the time of the end, are not to be anything like the Egyptian crown prince, not anything like the learned Moses. Those who can learn to keep and feed sheep well and to readily take orders, are the ones who can be taught how to keep and feed God’s people.
Moses’ wife was the only Ethiopian in the entire company. For this reason some thought they were superior to her. They thought that Moses had committed the unpardonable sin by marrying out of his nation, as though race had anything to do with making people superior or inferior. Moses’ own sister, Miriam, was caught in that sin. There she was, trying to break up his family, yet Moses prayed for her recovery when she was stricken with leprosy.
Who went into the promised land? – All but the murmurers. Do you suppose that you can entertain the same spirit of murmuring and complaining, and in spite of it receive the seal? – How absurd the very thought! How unfair it would be for a just God to destroy the disobedient of that day, but to save the disobedient of this day.
What made one group eligible to cross the Jordan? – It was their trust in God, knowing that He was their Chief Leader. They recognized Moses and Joshua as the ones through whom God was communicating with them. They did not look upon them as being anyone other than who they actually were. They were satisfied with their lot. They took orders as the orders were given. So it was that they were the only ones who entered into the land.
Having these ensamples before us, this picture to go by, I can confidently tell whether I am headed for the Kingdom or whether I am headed for the bowels of the earth (Rev. 12:16). And I am sure that you, too, can tell which way you are headed. The Lord does not require more or less of us than He required of our types. There is therefore no mystery as to what we must do, and what we must not do to receive the seal of God.
We need not go into a land of wonderment, need not entertain the idea that we must have a mysterious feeling, exciting emotion, need not wallow in the dust or jump to the ceiling. No, we need not make fools of ourselves. All we need to do is be ourselves. Be calm, decent, respectable, heaven-like beings, endeavoring to do God’s will on earth as it is done in heaven. We need not make a display of ourselves, but we need to mind our God-given business and to keep our noses out of other people’s business.
Only when we have done all we can to comply with the requirements of the message for today, not of yesterday, shall we be sealed and stand with the Lamb on Mt. Zion.
Should we not be glad that while we are being invited to the Kingdom, we are also being told how to get there? Seeing all these, we must never let our confidence in God wane. We ought to be stable, firm in everything, lacking nothing. God’s eleventh-hour servants, says Inspiration, are to be “a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it.” Joel 2:2. They know what they believe, and believe what they know. Most important of all, they know that they are led by God, not by man.
They are not like the Pharisees who were building monuments in memory of the dead prophets (Matt. 23:29-31) and at the same time were slaying the living ones! With this light shining on our pathway, Hebrews, chapters 3, 4, 10 and 11 become self-interpreting.
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