We would present before you the difficulties through which the church in the wilderness passed. They did not have faith, and when they were tested, they murmured and rebelled. They were stubborn. While Moses was in the mount, the people who had been brought out of Egypt that they might serve God, were dishonoring him by worshiping the golden calf. Aaron, who feared to offend them by refusing their request to make for them a god to worship, had permitted this idolatry. Aaron manifested weakness of character in this. He stood in Moses's place, and had charge of the congregation, but he did not guide them. He did not refuse to accede to their demand for an idol. In worshiping the golden calf, Israel sinned greatly, and the Lord punished the people, and 3,000 of the most guilty were slain.
Moses said to Israel, “Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin. And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, O, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the Lord saith unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.” It will be well to read this history carefully, and take heed to the lessons taught on this particular occasion. (Read the Exodus 32:1, Exodus 33:1, and Exodus 34:1) The Lord did not destroy his people, but those who had sinned were punished. But he revealed himself to Moses, declaring his character.
In Numbers 12 is the account of Aaron and Miriam's conduct when they spoke against Moses. “And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it.” Every envious feeling, every jealousy cherished, is known to the Lord; for he reads the heart, and he hears every word spoken against those upon whom he has laid the burden of the work. How much of evil speaking is done even by those who have had but little experience in the work, little knowledge of the things of God, little realization of the holy requirements of his cause. Those who have not drunk deeply at the fountain of truth, and have not obtained an experimental knowledge of holy things, feel at liberty to criticise those whom the Lord is using in a special manner to do his work. Even youth, young men and women, have but a small stock of respect and reverence, and they make flippant remarks in regard to God's chosen messengers, and bring their names into their idle talk and gossip. They dissect their words, and pass judgment upon them while associating together. Do they not know that this is an offense to God? If they would remember that there is a Witness to every word spoken, and that “God heard it,” they would be less fluent in speaking of those whom God is using to do his work, and to carry the load of responsibilities that he has laid upon them. But respect and reverence may be cultivated. The Spirit of the Lord alone can work a reformation in those who do not respect sacred things, so that they shall have reverence for those whom God is using to do his work.
“And the Lord spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out. And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them; and he departed. And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.”
But God heard the prayer of Moses, whom they had criticised and envied, and Miriam was healed.
Shall not these lessons be of profit to those who are tempted to criticise, think evil of, speak evil of, and judge and condemn those whom God is leading and favoring? And how much worse it is to criticise and give judgment against the church that God has chosen to magnify his name and vindicate his honor, than to speak simply against an individual member. (Read carefully the history of the spies in Numbers 13 and 14.) A ruler from each of the twelve tribes of Israel was chosen to go up and spy out the land into which they were to come. Forty days were consumed in fulfilling their charge. God sent them into the land for a special purpose, but the spies brought back an evil report, full of unbelief and complaint. Before the congregation they exaggerated the difficulties to be met. But Caleb's clear, ringing voice was heard before Moses and the people, saying, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.” The exaggerated report of the unfaithful spies filled the people with discouragement, and they gave up in the abandonment of despair, and the leaven of murmuring spread throughout the camp of Israel. And they said one to another:
“Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: and they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not. But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.”
The people were ready to batter down the men who made their voices to be heard to change the current of feeling in the congregation of the children of Israel, and it was now time for God to work.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have showed among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.”
Moses was then tested and proved of God. Forsake Israel? Come out from among them, and leave them in their rebellion and sin?—No, never.
We have never had the prophecy concerning Babylon applied to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, or been informed that the "loud cry" consisted in calling God's people to come out of her
“And Moses said unto the Lord, Then the Egyptians shall hear it (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;), and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou Lord art among this people, that thou Lord art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by daytime in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if thou shalt kill all people as one man, then the nations that have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which ye sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness. And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt until now. And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word: but as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it.”
Mark the whole tenor of this chapter, and learn the lesson it conveys to modern Israel. These things are written for our ensamples upon whom the ends of the world are come. We see the unbelief, and the stout resistance of some who have had great light, and although evidence has been piled upon evidence, they have kept themselves in stubborn resistance. The Lord has sent messages of warning and entreaty, messages of reproof and rebuke, and they have not been in vain. But we have never had a message that the Lord would disorganize the church. We have never had the prophecy concerning Babylon applied to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, or been informed that the “loud cry” consisted in calling God's people to come out of her; for this is not God's plan concerning Israel.
In the example of Moses pleading for the children of Israel, is represented the position that we should take in regard to the people of God, however erring, or weak, or defective they may be. By the mighty cleaver of truth, the Lord has brought out a people from the quarry of the world, as he brought out of Egypt a people to keep his commandments, and at every step he has shown them that he is leading them in paths of truth and righteousness. He has sent his light and his counsels, instructing them to build institutions of learning, to provide sanitariums and publishing houses, and success has attended the carrying out of these plans. The money of the Seventh-day Adventists has not been hoarded in order that they might live delicately, but self-denial and self-sacrifice have marked their history, and still their work is to make progress, and to be aggressive. The world have a light constantly shining upon them, because this people honor God in keeping his commandments. Now can we expect that a message would be true that would designate as Babylon the people for whom God has done so much? Hell would triumph should such a message be received, and the world would be strengthened in iniquity. All the reproaches which Satan has cast upon the character of God, would appear as truth, and the conclusion would be made that God has no chosen or organized church in the world. O, what a triumph would this be to Satan and his confederacy of evil! God does not work in this way. He does just what he said he would do in the 58th chapter of Isaiah:
“And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
Review and Herald, vol. 3, 85-86 (October 3, 1893)