Thus far their words had been spoken in faith; but see what followed. After describing the beauty and fertility of the land, all but two of the spies enlarged upon the difficulties and dangers that lay before the Israelites, should they undertake the conquest of Canaan.
"The people be strong that dwell in the land," they said, "and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan." Verses 28-29.
Their unbelief cast a gloomy shadow over the congregation. A wail of agony arose, and mingled with the confused murmur of voices. Caleb comprehended the situation, and did all in his power to counteract the evil influence of his unfaithful associates. He did not contradict what had been said. The walls were high and the Canaanites strong. But God had promised the land to Israel.
"Let us go up at once, and possess it," urged Caleb, "for we are well able to overcome it." Verse 30. But the ten, interrupting him, pictured the obstacles in darker colours than at first. "We be not able to go up against the people," they declared, "for they are stronger than we. . . . And all the people we saw in it are men of great stature. And there we saw giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight." Verses 31-33.
It is right that human beings should be considered as grasshoppers when compared with the Lord God of Israel. But it showed a lack of faith for the spies to speak of the Israelites thus in comparison with the people they had seen in Canaan. The children of Israel had on their side the mighty powers of Heaven. The One who, enshrouded in the pillar of cloud, had led them through the wilderness, was fighting for them. They had seen His power displayed at the Red Sea, when at His word the waters parted, leaving a plain path for them through the sea. Nevertheless, when the spies saw the walled cities in the Promised Land, they allowed unbelief to enter their hearts, and returned to the congregation with a faithless report. By the words they spoke, they leavened the minds of the people with unbelief. The record tells us what effect their murmuring had.
The Fruit of Unbelief
"And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!" Numbers 14:1-2.
This shows us to what desperation unbelief will bring people. My brethren and sisters, when thoughts of unbelief and distrust come to you, remember that silence is eloquence. Speak no word of unbelief; for such words are as seeds that will spring up and bear fruit. There is among us altogether too much talking and too little praying. We think and speak of the difficulties that exist, and forget to trust the Lord. God's Spirit would work mightily in behalf of His people, if they would give Him opportunity. What they need to do is to open the door of the heart and let Jesus enter.
After the children of Israel had begun to murmur, they began to question God's wisdom. "Wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey?" they said. "Were it not better for us to return to Egypt?" Verse 3. So weak was their confidence in God, notwithstanding the miracles He had wrought in their behalf.
As the complaints of the people arose on every side, Caleb and Joshua attempted to quiet the tumult. "The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceedingly good land," they cried. "If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it to 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 defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not." Verses 7-9.
"But all the congregation bade stone them with stones." Verse 10. They stood with stones in their hands, ready to throw at Caleb and Joshua, as they stood in defence of the truth, declaring that the Lord was with them, and that with His strength they could go up and possess the land. In a few minutes these faithful men would have been killed, but "the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel." Verse 10. God was watching their plottings, and He delivered His servants from their hands.
"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 make of thee a greater nation, and mightier than they." Verses 11-12.
What a temptation this was! But Moses said, "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 the 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 cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if thou wilt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness." Verses 13-16.
"And now I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying"--and then he repeated the Lord's own words; and this it is our privilege also to do. We can cite His promises. "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 to 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 harkened 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. . . . Tomorrow turn ye you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea." Verses 17-25.
The Lord had fulfilled the word that He spoke to Abraham when He declared that after the children of Israel had been in bondage four hundred years, He would deliver them. He visited Egypt with fearful judgements, and brought His people forth. And when the Egyptian host pursued the Israelites, He destroyed Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea. Yet here, on the border of the Promised Land, they dishonoured Him by giving way to unbelief.
Trust and Obey
We shall be brought into strait places; but we do not want to wait until then before we learn to trust and obey. Now, just now, is our day of opportunity and privilege. When the light of truth is shining upon us, we are to learn the lesson. Let us plead with God to give us a true conception of His character and a willingness to obey Him.
We are to stand in the strength and power of Israel's God. Shall we do it, brethren? Or shall we murmur and complain, looking at the obstacles in the way, and making a mountain out of a mole-hill? Today God gives His people, to confirm their faith, evidences of His power such as He gave to Israel. Will they make these evidences of no effect? Will they act as if God had not wrought in their behalf? The Lord wants us to acknowledge His power and His grace and His great salvation which He has brought us at an infinite cost--in the death of His only-begotten Son.
We are living in a day of trial, a day of probation, a day of test. God is proving His people, to see whether He can work in their behalf. He cannot work for them if they open their hearts to the impulses of the enemy. He cannot co-operate with them if they trust in men in the place of looking to Jesus, and rejoicing in His goodness and His love. He wants to make of us a people through whom He can reveal His grace, and He will do this if we will only give Him opportunity, if we will open the windows of the soul heavenward and close them earthward, against human rabble, against murmuring, complaining, and fault-finding.
But just as surely as we fail to heed the messages that for the last fifty years the Lord has been giving, just as surely as we turn from these messages to human impulses and human science, framing laws that are directly opposed to God's Word, so surely will we reap the consequence.
"And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me. I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel which they murmur against me." Numbers 14:26-27. Those who today murmur against God's appointed agencies, weakening the confidence of the people in them, are doing the same work that the children of Israel did. The Lord hears every murmuring word. He hears every word that detracts from the influence of those whom He is using to proclaim the truth that is to prepare a people to stand in the last days.
"How long shall I bear with this evil congregation? . . . Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do unto you: your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old, and upward, which have murmured against me, doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware unto you to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun." Verses 27-30.
"And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcasses be wasted in the wilderness. After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise. I the Lord have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die. And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land, even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the Lord. But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still. And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly." Verses 33-39.
The lesson of this record is for us. The Lord had prepared the way before His people. They were very near the Promised Land. A little while and they would have entered Canaan. They themselves delayed the entering. In the first place, it was they who requested that spies should be sent up to search the land. Rehearsing to them the history of the unbelief and the trouble that it brought to them, Moses said, "And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come." Deuteronomy 1:22.
The request that the spies be sent into Canaan showed a lack of faith: for God had told the people plainly that they were to take possession of the land. Why then did they need to send spies to search it? Had they put their trust in God, they could have gone straight in. God would have gone before them. He knew the best way in which to lead them through their difficulties. But they wanted to know what was before them, and when Moses took their request to the Lord, He told him to let them have their own way.
Brethren and sisters, from the light given me, I know that if the people of God had preserved a living connection with Him, if they had obeyed His Word, they would today be in the heavenly Canaan. Oh, how sad it makes me to see the way hedging up before us, and to know that it is becoming more and more difficult to carry the message to the people! We have not done a hundredth part of the evangelical work that God desires us to do among our neighbours and friends. In every city in this land there are those who know not the truth. There are many new fields in which we must plough the ground and sow the seed. God says to us: "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins." Isaiah 58:1. We are to make known to the men and women of the world what God's test is, that if they will they may refuse to receive the seal of the Papacy.
God told the people that for forty years they were to wander in the wilderness. But they were determined to enter Canaan. "Lo, we be here," they said, "and will go up unto the place which the Lord hath promised; for we have sinned." Numbers 14:40.
"And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the Lord? but it shall not prosper. Go not up, for the Lord is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword; because ye turned away from the Lord, therefore the Lord will not be with you. But they presumed to go up to the hilltop; nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites, which dwelt in that hill, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah." Verses 41-45.
When we see what God can and will do for us, when we know that His church is the supreme object of His regard in this world, why are we not willing to believe His Word? The powers of darkness will assail us, but we have a God who is above all. He can take care of His people. He can make a refuge for His people wherever they are. What He wants us to do is to stand where He can reveal His glory through us, that it may be known that there is a God in Israel, and that in behalf of His people He will manifest His power.
I look at these flowers, and every time I see them I think of Eden. They are an expression of God's love for us. Thus He gives us in this world a little taste of Eden. He wants us to delight in the beautiful things of His creation, and to see in them an expression of what He will do for us. He wants us to live where we can have elbow room. His people are not to crowd into the cities. He wants them to take their families out of the cities, that they may better prepare for eternal life. In a little while they will have to leave the cities. These cities are filled with wickedness of every kind--with strikes and murders and suicides. Satan is in them, controlling men in their work of destruction. Under his influence they kill for the sake of killing, and this they will do more and more. Every mind is controlled either by the power of Satan or the power of God. If God controls our minds, what shall we be?--Christian gentlemen and Christian ladies. God can fill our lives with His peace and gladness and joy. He wants His joy to be in us, that our joy may be full.
If we place ourselves under objectionable influences, can we expect God to work a miracle to undo the results of our wrong course?--No, indeed. Get out of the cities as soon as possible, and purchase a little piece of land, where you can have a garden, where your children can watch the flowers growing, and learn from them lessons of simplicity and purity. "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." Matthew 6:28-29. Parents, point your children to the beautiful things of God's creation, and from these things teach them of His love for them. Point them to the lovely flowers--the roses and the lilies and the pinks--and then point them to the living God.
The Work Before Us
God wants to work for His people and for His institutions--for every sanitarium, every publishing house, and every school. But He wants no more mammoth buildings erected; for they are a snare. For years He has told His people this. He wants plants made in many places. Let the light shine forth. Do not try to show what great things you can do. Let God work through you. Do all in your power to establish a memorial for God in every city where such a memorial has not been established.
God wants the Southern field worked. He wants this work taken up in earnest. All the means in the treasury is not to be sent into foreign lands. In our own land there is a field and a people needing help. The barrenness of this field, the ignorance and destitution of the people, rise as a reproach against us. And yet we profess to be serving the God of heaven. The Lord calls upon every man to do his appointed work. He calls upon us to stand in the place where He can use us as His instruments. He wants us to go to Him for help. We are not to lean upon human beings, but upon the living God. Our question is to be, What can I do to proclaim the third angel's message? Christ came to this world to give this message to His servant to give to the churches. It is to be proclaimed to every nation and kindred and tongue and people. How are we to give it? If we cannot gain entrance to the churches, we must give the message in our camp meetings. The distribution of our literature is another means by which the message is to be proclaimed. Let the workers scatter broadcast tracts and leaflets and books containing the message for this time. We need men who will stand with unswerving faith in Israel's God. We need colporteurs who will go forth to circulate our publications everywhere.
The Lord needs printing offices. But He has shown us that He is not pleased with the way in which the work has been carried forward. Something is wrong. He wants to bring us into the place where we can understand His will concerning us. He is speaking to us. Let us strive to understand what He wants us to do.
Brethren and sisters, we have no time to dwell on little differences. For Christ's sake, to your knees in prayer! Go to God, and ask Him to give you a clean heart. Ask Him to help you to stand where He wants you to be. Labour in harmony with one another, even though you are not alike. Do you not know that of the leaves on a tree there are no two exactly alike? From this God would teach us that among His servants there is to be unity in diversity.
Bring all the pleasantness that you can into your lives. Do not make your mind a depository for the enemy's rubbish. Do not let trifling differences destroy your fellowship with one another. Do not say that because your brethren differ with you in some particular you cannot stand by their side in service. They do not differ with you any more than you differ with them.
We are commanded to love one another as Christ has loved us. So great was His love for us that He willingly gave His life for us. And our love for one another is to make us willing to sacrifice our feelings and ideas, if by so doing we can help them.
Are we standing on the platform of eternal truth? Are we giving the message that is to prepare a people to stand in the day of trial before us? God is calling upon every one of us to stand in his lot and in his place. He is calling upon us to plant the standard of truth in the places that have not heard the message.
For years the word has been coming to this people telling them what to do. In every city in America the truth is to be proclaimed. In every country of the world the warning message is to be given. Remember that when churches are raised up in America, there are brought into the truth those who can enter God's service as workers. When the work is done that should be done in America, there will be brought into the truth those who will help with their talents of intellect and with their means to carry forward the work for these last days.
Centralising in Battle Creek, putting up so many buildings there, has robbed other places of light. Means has been used in this way that should have been used in proclaiming the truth in other cities, thus raising up workers of talent and ability.
Brethren, shall we have faith in God? Shall we make an individual preparation to meet Him in peace, or shall we spend our time looking for defects in our fellow workers? When self is crucified, when the heart is purified from all dross, the words and actions will be as pure gold. During this meeting, instead of going to one and another and talking unbelief, will you not speak when God tells you to speak, and then hold your peace? Will you not ask, as Moses did, for a revelation of God's character. "Show me thy glory," he pleaded. Exodus 33:18. And God granted his request, and made all His goodness pass before him. When you catch a glimpse of the goodness of God, you will have a tongue of wisdom. You will have words to speak in season to those that are weary. You may never have learned the different languages of this earth, but God will teach you the language of Heaven.
My brethren and sisters, humble your hearts before God. You have reason to. His work is hindered. As yet, it has been established in a few places only, and God declares that it is to extend over the whole world.
I ask you to do all that you can for the work in America. In this country workers are to be raised up who will help with their means and their talents to carry forward the work of God. I pray that there will be brought into the truth those who will refuse to be moulded by the spirit of covetousness and pride and self-sufficiency that has been coming in. God's rebuke is upon this spirit.
In the church of God there is to be done a work of cementing heart to heart. It is the divisions among us that stand in the way of our advancement. God calls upon us to come into line. To every man is given his work. But though our work is different, we need the help of one another. No one is to gather around him a party of men who will think as he thinks, and say, Amen, to everything that he says. God uses different minds. What one mind lacks will be made up by what another mind has.
My brethren and sisters, think of these things. Seek the Lord with the whole heart, that you may find Him. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Humble your hearts before Him, and pray more than you do. Pray for the impartation of the Holy Spirit. When this Spirit fills the heart, the praise of God will be in the congregation, and it will be reflected from your faces. Love for God will be shown by your love for one another, and this will give you power for service. Let your hearts break before God. Repent that you have so poorly glorified Him. Bear witness to the truth. If you had been in the habit of doing this, it would have removed many difficulties. Begin to work in right lines, and God will help you.
The General Conference Bulletin, March 30, 1903.