It is our privilege to study the signs of the times every day. Every day we need to think twice about our future and our future depends on our present.
Every week in 2019 you should make a careful examination to learn what heaven requires of you; do this at least once every week during this year 2019.
The solemn warning is given below in clear lines in Testimonies to Ministers: “‘Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.’ The experience of Israel, referred to in the above words by the apostle, and as recorded in the one hundred fifth and one hundred sixth psalms, contains lessons of warning that the people of God in these last days especially need to study. I urge that these chapters be read at least once every week.” –Testimonies to Ministers, p. 98 (emphasis mine)
At least once every week—why?
Have you ever not only read, but studied earnestly, 1 Corinthians 10, Psalms 105 and 106? History records how God’s people were privileged to have His knowledge, protection and guidance, which would hopefully prevent them from falling into sin and would help them reach their destination.
The privileges they received were:
“Baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” This cloud was the symbol of the presence of God and they would go wherever He directed them. They followed the cloud, day and night. Following this cloud means to have living faith, and they had to go by faith. They were to wait for its sign to move or stop, so that they would either continue their journey or would camp for awhile. The presence of the Lord was among His people.
“And did all eat the same spiritual food,” the manna. The Lord, in His love, provided them with heavenly food. We are warned that we should not lust after evil things, as they lusted. They rejected God’s food and lusted after flesh meat, fish, and other Egyptian foods.
They “did all drink the same spiritual drink;” their privileges were shared. None could say that he did not drink from the rock. This work symbolized the Holy Spirit which cleanses us.
“They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” Before His birth on earth, Christ was guiding His chosen people. The Rock is hereby symbolizing Christ Himself, from which they drank water.
In summary: The cloud (presence of Jehovah) directed them and their duty was to obey and follow by faith. The manna was the food God, in His wisdom, chose to feed them with. The Rock was Christ and the Ten Commandments (remember, they were written by God’s own finger on the tables of stone). Christ could help them to be faithful if they would look to Him for help. Their water was to be drunk from the true Rock, Jesus. They were all “baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Everything for their good was provided for them during the journey in the wilderness. God is love. Those privileges are also available for us just as they were for the children of Israel to help them reach the Promised Land.
But “with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.” In Exodus 12:37 we read that the number which started at the beginning of journey was “about six hundred thousand on foot [that were] men, beside children.” This was a large number. Unfortunately, only two of them that crossed the Red Sea (Joshua and Caleb) reached the Promised Land. The important question is: why was God not well pleased with so many of them that they were overthrown in the wilderness? What did they do?
Since many thousands perished in the wilderness, why did the Lord allow them to start the difficult journey knowing how it would end for them? They did not die in Egypt neither in the Red Sea. Is the God of love accountable for their extermination?
We read further that “these things were our examples.” 1 Corinthians 10:6. “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 Corinthians 10:11. Let us identify the reasons why they perished in the wilderness.
“We should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” 1 Corinthians 10:6. “Evil things” here refers to the flesh food they coveted and they perished for that. “The mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again. . . . They manifested their discontent with the food provided for them by their Creator.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 379
“Satan tempted them to regard the restriction of food as unjust and cruel. He caused them to lust after forbidden things, because he saw that the unrestrained indulgence of appetite would tend to produce sensuality, and by this means the people could be more easily brought under his control. The author of disease and misery will assail men where he can have the greatest success. Through temptations addressed to the appetite he has, to a large extent, led men into sin from the time when he induced Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. It was by this same means that he led Israel to murmur against God.” –Ibid., p. 378. In the wilderness, all who lusted after the fish, meat, and ate accordingly, died the same night. Many of them died. “While the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague. And the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.” Numbers 11:33–34. How many died there?
Says the psalmist: “They tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust. Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people? Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth.” Psalm 78:18–21
“Murmuring and tumults had been frequent during the journey from the Red Sea to Sinai, but in pity for their ignorance and blindness God had not then visited the sin with judgments. But since that time He had revealed Himself to them at Horeb. They had received great light, as they had been witnesses to the majesty, the power, and the mercy of God; and their unbelief and discontent incurred the greater guilt. Furthermore, they had covenanted to accept Jehovah as their king and to obey His authority. Their murmuring was now rebellion.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 379
“Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” 1 Corinthians 10:7. In the Book of Exodus chapter 32, at Sinai, we read of a great apostasy in Israel. “The mighty miracles in Egypt and at the Red Sea were designed to establish faith in Him as the invisible, all-powerful Helper of Israel, the only true God. And the desire for some visible manifestation of His presence had been granted in the pillar of cloud and of fire that guided their hosts, and in the revealing of His glory upon Mount Sinai. But with the cloud of the Presence still before them, they turned back in their hearts to the idolatry of Egypt, and represented the glory of the invisble God by the similitude of an ox!. . . . ‘These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.’ [said Aaron.] . . . . His course in giving his influence to sin in Israel cost the life of thousands.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 316–317, 323
“Only a few days had passed since the Hebrews had made a solemn covenant with God to obey His voice. They had stood trembling with terror before the mount,
listening to the words of the Lord, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.’ The glory of God still hovered above Sinai in the sight of the congregation; but they turned away, and asked for other gods. ‘They made a calf in Horeb, and worshiped the molten image. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox.’ Psalm 106:19, 20. How could greater ingratitude have been shown, or more daring insult offered, to Him who had revealed Himself to them as a tender father and an all-powerful king! . . . Their sins had already forfeited the favor of God, and justice called for their destruction. The Lord therefore proposed to destroy them. ” –Ibid., p. 317–318
“In the name of ‘the Lord God of Israel,’ Moses now commanded those upon his right hand, who had kept themselves clear of idolatry, to gird on their swords and slay all who persisted in rebellion. ‘And there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.’ Without regard to position, kindred, or friendship, the ringleaders in wickedness were cut off; but all who repented and humbled themselves were spared. Those who performed this terrible work of judgment were acting by divine authority, executing the sentence of the King of heaven.” –Ibid., p. 324
“Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.” 1 Corinthians 10:8
“It was by associating with idolaters and joining in their festivities that the Hebrews were led to transgress God’s law and bring His judgments upon the nation. . . . Israel’s sin at Beth-peor brought the judgments of God upon the nation, and though the same sins may not now be punished as speedily, they will as surely meet retribution. . . . When Balaam was called to curse the Hebrews he could not, by all his enchantments, bring evil upon them; for the Lord had not ‘beheld iniquity in Jacob,’ neither had he ‘seen perverseness in Israel.’ Numbers 23:21, 23. . . . But when through yielding to temptation they transgressed God’s law, their defense departed from them.” –Ibid., p. 458, 461, 457
What took place? “At first there was little intercourse between the Israelites and their heathen neighbors, but after a time Midianitish women began to steal into the camp. Their appearance excited no alarm, and so quietly were their plans conducted that the attention of Moses was not called to the matter. It was the object of these women, in their association with the Hebrews, to seduce them into transgression of the law of God, to draw their attention to heathen rites and customs, and lead them into idolatry. These motives were studiously concealed under the garb of friendship, so that they were not suspected, even by the guardians of the people.” –Ibid., p. 454
“The lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a twoedged sword.” Proverbs 5:3–4. “Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house: Lest thou give thine honor unto others, and thy years unto the cruel: Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours be in the house of a stranger; And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed.” verses 8–11. “Her house inclineth unto death.” “None that go unto her return again.” Proverbs 2:18–19. “Her guests are in the depths of hell.” Proverbs 9:18. This is the gate of perdition to which Israel yielded.
“During the time of their encampment beside Jordan, Moses was preparing for the occupation of Canaan. . . . At the same time, Balaam who was regarded as a prophet of God suggested a grand festival and great numbers of the people joined him in witnessing the festivities. They ventured upon the forbidden ground, and were entangled in the snare of Satan. Beguiled with music and dancing, and allured by the beauty of heathen vestals, they cast off their fealty to Jehovah. As they united in mirth and feasting, indulgence in wine beclouded their senses and broke down the barriers of self-control. Passion had full sway; and having defiled their consciences by lewdness, they were persuaded to bow down to idols. . . .
“It was not long before the poison had spread, like a deadly infection, through the camp of Israel. Those who would have conquered their enemies in battle were overcome by the wiles of heathen women. The people seemed to be infatuated. The rulers and the leading men were among the first to transgress, and so many of the people were guilty that the apostasy became national. ‘Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor.’. . . The aged leader was filled with indignation, and the wrath of God was kindled. A terrible pestilence broke out in the camp, to which tens of thousands speedily fell a prey. God commanded that the leaders in this apostasy be put to death by the magistrates. This order was promptly obeyed. The offenders were slain, then their bodies were hung up in sight of all Israel that the congregation, seeing the leaders so severely dealt with, might have a deep sense of God’s abhorrence of their sin and the terror of His wrath against them. . . . The judgments visited upon Israel for their sin at Shittim, destroyed the survivors of that vast company, who, nearly forty years before, had incurred the sentence, ‘They shall surely die in the wilderness. . . .’ The women also, who had been made captives by the attacking army, were put to death at the command of Moses, as the most guilty and most dangerous of the foes of Israel.” –Ibid., p. 454, 455, 456
- Tempting God
“Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.” 1 Corinthians 10:9
“As they continued their journey toward the south, their route lay through a hot, sandy valley, destitute of shade or vegetation. The way seemed long and difficult, and they suffered from weariness and thirst. Again they failed to endure the test of their faith and patience. By continually dwelling on the dark side of their experiences, they separated themselves farther and farther from God. They lost sight of the fact that but for their murmuring when the water ceased at Kadesh, they would have been spared the journey around Edom. God had purposed better things for them. Their hearts should have been filled with gratitude to Him that He had punished their sin so lightly. But instead of this, they flattered themselves that if God and Moses had not interfered, they might now have been in possession of the Promised Land. After bringing trouble upon themselves, making their lot altogether harder than God designed, they charged all their misfortunes upon Him. Thus they cherished bitter thoughts concerning His dealings with them, and finally they became discontented with everything.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 428 (emphasis mine)
With this behaviour they tempted God. But, how? “Egypt looked brighter and more desirable than liberty and the land to which God was leading them. As the Israelites indulged the spirit of discontent, they were disposed to find fault even with their blessings. ‘And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.’” –Ibid., p. 428. Was the manna really light bread? They tempted God because, firstly, they cried in Egypt to be delivered, but then after the deliverance they regretted coming to the wilderness. They preferred Egypt again.
“Moses faithfully set before the people their great sin. It was God’s power alone that had preserved them in ‘that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water.’ Deuteronomy 8:15. . . . Their feet had not swollen in their long journeys; neither had their clothes grown old. . . .
“Because they had been shielded by divine power they had not realized the countless dangers by which they were continually surrounded. In their ingratitude and unbelief they had anticipated death, and now the Lord permitted death to come upon them. The poisonous serpents that infested the wilderness were called fiery serpents, on account of the terrible effects produced by their sting, it causing violent inflammation and speedy death. As the protecting hand of God was removed from Israel, great numbers of the people were attacked by these venomous creatures.” –Ibid., p. 428–429
What followed? “No murmuring now escaped their lips. Now there was terror and confusion throughout the encampment. In almost every tent were the dying or the dead. None were secure. Often the silence of night was broken by piercing cries that told of fresh victims. All were busy in ministering to the sufferers, or with agonizing care endeavoring to protect those who were not yet stricken. . . . The people now humbled themselves before God. They came to Moses with their confessions and entreaties. ‘We have sinned,’ they said, ‘for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee.’ Only a little before, they had accused him of being their worst enemy, the cause of all their distress and afflictions. But even when the words were upon their lips, they knew that the charge was false; and as soon as real trouble came they fled to him as the only one who could intercede with God for them. ‘Pray unto the Lord,’ was their cry, ‘that He take away the serpents from us. . . .’
“Many had already died, and when Moses raised the serpent upon the pole, some would not believe that merely gazing upon that metallic image would heal them; these perished in their unbelief. Yet there were many who had faith in the provision which God had made.” –Ibid., p. 429–320
May God help us not to make the same mistakes as Ancient Israel did. The record of their history was written for us to learn from. Next month, we will conclude the account of the history in the wilderness with the subject of murmuring.
Victor Shumbusho, DR Congo