Daniel Peters : Insights No. 5
"From Complaints to Apostasy"
Monday's lesson rightly points out that the "Pressure is on the Leadership." Jesus Himself has sent a message to the angel of the Church of Laodicea. This message would put the pressure on anyone receiving it. Who wants to admit to being blind, naked, pitiful, and wretched? How difficult to admit to something while claiming the opposite! The sad history of the Jews serves as a reason to repent quickly and accept the "complaint" of Jesus against us as a people.
The lesson for this week lies in the history.
(1) While encamped at Mt. Sinai, God gave the Law and instructions to build a Sanctuary. But why was the tabernacle built? "It is in Ex. 25:8 that we find the reason why the tabernacle was built. ... why it was to be built, is one of the most sorrowful things to be found in the Scriptures. 'Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them!' What a sad thing! that God's people, whom He had delivered from bondage for the express purpose of dwelling not simply among them, but in them, had to have a house made with hands in order that His glory might be seen among them. Thus the tabernacle was at once a witness of God's presence and of the unfaithfulness of the children of Israel. ... It was called by Stephen 'the tabernacle of witness,' because both it and the tables of the law within it were witnesses against the unbelief of the Israelites" (Ellet J. Waggoner, "The Tabernacle of Witness").
It was here at Mt. Sinai that the golden calf (Ex. 32) was made and worshipped as the god that brought them out of Egypt. "Satan does not ask the people at first to become atheists, but he asks them to place alongside of the true God other gods also" (Waggoner, American Sentinel, "Let There Be No Alliance with Rome," Aug. 1888).
(2) Numbers 11: This history occurred only three days from Mt. Sinai at a place named Kibroth Hattaavah, because here they buried the dead who yielded to craving. This is a most pitiful account. "When the people complained, it displeased the LORD; for the LORD heard it" (vs. 1). The Bread of Life (manna) was distasteful to them and they had no appetite for it, but longed for the food of Egypt. God gave them the meat they wanted and death was in the first bite. Likewise, God sent a message to His people in 1888 and there has been little appetite for it either. The message sent through His chosen messengers, with credentials from heaven, was kept back from many due to the actions of those attending the conference. Satan has a personal hatred for this message of Christ and His righteousness and will employ any method or person possible to silence it. The reason is that this is the ONLY message that gives victory over sin and sets his captives free.
(3) Numbers 12: "At Hazeroth, the next encampment after leaving Taberah" (Kibroth Hattaavah), Aaron's and Miriam's "jealousy was excited against Moses. ... God had chosen Moses, and had put His Spirit upon him; and Miriam and Aaron, by their murmurings, were guilty of disloyalty, not only to their appointed leader, but to God Himself. ... 'And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them; and He departed.' The cloud disappeared from the tabernacle ... and Miriam was smitten" and "shut out of the camp for seven days. Not until she was banished from the encampment did the symbol of God's favor again rest upon the tabernacle. In respect for her high position, and in grief at the blow that had fallen upon her, the whole company abode in Hazeroth, awaiting her return" (Patriarchs and Prophets, chapter 33).
In 1888 God chose Waggoner and Jones and gave them a special message for His people. Complainers excited jealousy against them. This disloyalty to God caused a delay in God pouring out the fullness of His Holy Spirit. We are told that the beginning of the outpouring of the Latter Rain began at Minneapolis when His message was given.
(4) Numbers 13 & 14: Our last stop is the Wilderness of Paran. Here the land of Canaan is within sight and 12 spies are sent to look over the land--they returned after 40 days. Ten spies lied and stirred up the people, and two spies told the truth. The people attempted to kill the two spies, and the people refused to enter Canaan.
Similarities to Minneapolis are clear. Caleb and Joshua spoke the truth and the prophet Moses witnessed this truth. In 1888, Waggoner and Jones spoke the truth and the prophet Ellen White witnessed this truth. Both events have two men and a prophet, a group that rejected the messengers and the message, and both contained a consequence. Note carefully, Caleb and Joshua were to stay with the congregation while they wandered for the next 40 years. God never sanctioned them to split from the church because they were right. Stay with the church, it will enter Canaan when pride and self-sufficiency have been overcome through the faith of Jesus.
God's antidote guards against eventual apostasy:
"The third angel's message is the proclamation of the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ. The commandments of God have been proclaimed, but the faith of Jesus Christ has not been proclaimed by Seventh-day Adventists as of equal importance, the law and the gospel going hand in hand. I cannot find language to express this subject in its fullness" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 217; emphasis added).
The faith of Jesus is equal in importance to the commandments of God. Ellen White shares this good news: "All that man can possibly do toward his own salvation is to accept the invitation" (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 343). And, "Let it be made known that in man dwells no good thing and that all must be received as a gift, and straightway someone is offended" (Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 113; emphasis added).
In Acts 7 Stephen traces the history of the Jews, a history of complaining, pride, and self-sufficiency, from Abraham to the cross. He concluded his lesson with these words to the then compromised leaders of Israel: "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you."
God's voice is still speaking while the rebellion rolls on, however, today if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as one would do if they were in rebellion.