At my work, I made it clear from the beginning that I would not work during the Sabbath hours. Once in awhile the charge nurse forgets, and has asked me to work on Sabbath. I tell her, “no,” and then she replies, “Oh yes, I forgot, it is your Sabbath.”
The truth of the matter is, is it my Sabbath? I read in my Bible, that “the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” Mark 2:28. I did not create the Sabbath, nor make my personal decision to set that day aside. The Sabbath was from creation, before I was even born. It was “made for man.” Mark 2:27. Jesus did not say that Sabbath was made for the Jew, and the Seventh-day Adventist. No, He said it was made for man (mankind). Anyone who claims to belong to the species of mankind has the claims of the Sabbath placed upon them.
It is not God’s plan that one church keeps the Sabbath and another church keeps Sunday. Some Christians think erroneously that both are accepted by God; it does not matter what day you observe. Will their genuine belief excuse them? We do read, “And the times of this ignorance God winked.” Acts 17:30. But, then we also read, “when the commandment came, sin revived.” Romans 7:9. There is one standard of salvation for all mankind—for the Jew, all Christians, Islam, Buddhist, and even the atheist.
In the Bible we read of the punishments that God has pronounced, not only upon the nation of Judah and Israel for their disobedience, but we also how many of the surrounding nations were also punished. Throughout the prophetic books in the Old Testament, the minor and major prophets, you read of punishments against Moab, Edom, Assyria, Amalek, Philistia, Egypt, Ammon, Babylon, Midian, Damascus, and so on.
Sometimes there was peace between these nations and the nation of Israel, but other times God sent His people to war against them as punishment for their sins and iniquities. Is God fair? I do not believe He arbitrarily decided that it was time to destroy them without giving them opportunity for repentance and salvation. Once they had crossed the boundary of His mercy, it was really in the mercy and love of God that He put an end to their existence. Not only to preserve the faith of the Jewish nation, but also to limit the amount of sin and iniquity the heathen nations were partaking in and thus reducing the amount of suffering they will need to endure as punishment in the lake of fire. Everything that God does is for the love of humanity. He is a God “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4. But those who choose not to be saved, He finds a way to ease their final punishment as much as possible. Who would not feel sorrow when seeing the people they created suffer?
We often focus on the nation of Israel and their captivity, their sins and their victories, but what about the surrounding nations? There was enough importance regarding them that, in the Bible, mention is made of God’s judgements against them. God loves everyone—Jew and Gentile alike.
“God’s work is to go forward. We are to sow beside all waters, even though we know that many will seek to extinguish the light of truth.” –The Upward Look, p. 170. The Israelites had been commissioned to teach the heathen nations the way of salvation.
In this article we will look at a few of the heathen nations
and what led to their punishment. Although most of the nations had given in to idolatry, which led to their demise, it was not their only sin. Often we condemn others for what we see as blatant sins—such as idolatry, which we state we do not indulge in. However, there are other sins that contributed to their destruction, sins which we could very well be guilty of also today. Thus, we need to search our hearts, to see if there is any wickedness within. The standard of salvation is victory over sin through Jesus Christ.
Let us begin with Moab. The Moabites were relatives of the Israelites, so they very likely knew something about the true God. Their founding father, Moab, was the son of Lot’s eldest daughter—born in incest. They were a brother nation to the Ammonites—who were born from Lot’s other daughter. Moab was located southeast of the nation of Israel.
When the Israelites were nearing the end of their 40-year wilderness sojourn, they came to the southern border of Moab asking permission to cross their country. The Moabites were not friendly and refused to allow them to pass through (Judges 11:17). Since the Edomites (descendants of Esau), Ammonites and Moabites were related to the Israelites, Moses was not permitted to attack them and take their country from them. And so they went around.
Moab stood next to Israel in all matters of material wealth and civilization. However, Israel and Moab were at war with each other at times. In the time of King Ahab, they were in subjection to Israel and had to pay them tribute. On a few occasions there were peaceful relations such as when Ruth and her family went to live in Moab during the famine in Israel. Also, King David, when fleeing from Saul, sent his parents to dwell in Moab—perhaps with a distant relative of his ancestress, Ruth. Some Israelites found refuge in Moab when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed their country.
But, what is the reason Moab was punished? There is actually quite a lot written about the punishment against Moab. I will quote a few:
Isaiah and Jeremiah both give a similar account of the nation of Moab. “We have heard of the pride of Moab; he is very proud: even of his haughtiness, and his pride, and his wrath: but his lies shall not be so.” Isaiah 16:6. “We have heard the pride of Moab, (he is exceeding proud) his loftiness, and his arrogancy, and his pride, and the haughtiness of his heart. I know his wrath, saith the LORD; but it shall not be so; his lies shall not so effect it.” Jeremiah 48:29–30. The sins of Moab mentioned here are, pride, haughtiness, wrath, and lies. They had an opportunity to learn of the Lord as did all nations, but they refused and therefore they were punished.
One may outwardly keep all the commandments, but God reads the heart. Some hearts may contain pride, wrath, and lies. These sins can be in the hearts of unconverted Christians. But, even though hidden from man, they are sins that will keep a person out of heaven. Pride is one of the worst sins and most nations were guilty of having a lot of pride. “There is nothing so offensive to God or so dangerous to the human soul as pride and self-sufficiency. Of all sins it is the most hopeless, the most incurable.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 154
“Many are ignorant of how to work for God, not because they need to be ignorant, but because they are unwilling to submit to His training. Moab is spoken of as a failure because, the prophet declares, ‘Moab hath been at ease from his youth, . . . and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed’ (Jeremiah 48:11). Thus it is with those whose hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong are not purged from them.” –In Heavenly Places, p. 330
Jeremiah wrote that Moab had settled on their lees. Although they had a few political upheavals, they became proud and self-centred, feeling quite secure because they had never been deported into a foreign land before this time. However, the Lord said, it would come to an end. “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will send unto him wanderers, that shall cause him to wander, and shall empty his vessels, and break their bottles.” Jeremiah 48:12
“He magnified himself against the LORD.” Jeremiah 48:26. How many people today defy the Lord? I need not cite examples as it is well known that God has been expelled from much of society today.
“A man may refuse to hear the counsels and admonitions of God. He may choose to take the regulating of his conduct into his own hands. . . . Like Moab, he refuses to be changed. . . . He refuses to correct his defective traits of character, although the Lord has plainly pointed out his work, his privileges, his opportunities, and the advancement to be made. It is too much trouble to break up his old ways, and transform his ideas and methods. ‘His taste remained in him.’ He clings to his defects.” –Sons and Daughters of God, p. 97
“Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because that Moab and Seir do say, Behold, the house of Judah is like unto all the heathen.” Ezekiel 25:8
Using this verse, we will go from Moab to Edom (Mount Seir). It is a sad fact for the unconverted Christians if the heathen view them as being the same as the heathen. I hope that this cannot be said of us. They speak, act, and dress just like the world (heathen); there is no difference. Some of the worst abominations in history have been committed by some professed worshippers of the Lord. A false Christian life has deceived many into unbelief and idolatry.
The land of Edom was south of Moab. They were more closely related to Israel than the Moabites and Ammonites. The Edomites were descendants of Esau and were therefore regarded as a brother nation to Israel. “And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.” Genesis 25:30
Due to their close relationship, the Edomites were given special favours above other heathen nations. It was hoped that they still had some knowledge and respect for the true God, therefore they could be admitted to the Hebrew nation after the 3rd generation, whereas the Moabites and Ammonites had to wait until the 10th generation. Israel was commanded to show them kindness. “Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother.” Deuteronomy 23:7. The Edomites did not take advantage of the spiritual privileges offered to them. They did not show respect to the Israelites and they became enemies.
Like the Moabites, the Edomites also refused permission for the children of Israel to go through their land on the way to Canaan. The hostility that existed between the Edomites and the Jews was very bitter.
The book of Obadiah describes the punishment that would come to Edom for their cruel attitude towards Judah in a time of crisis. “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.” Obadiah 1:10
As with the other nations, pride also contributed to the downfall of Edom. “The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?” Obadiah 1:3. The Edomites dwelt in the mountains—Mount Seir. Like Moab, they had a lot of pride. “Self-exaltation is a dangerous element. It tarnishes everything it touches. It is the offspring of pride, and it works so ingeniously that, unless guarded against, it will take possession of the thoughts and control the actions.” –The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 962
When Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the Edomites rejoiced over the calamities that befell Judah (Psalm 137:7). “But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.” Obadiah 1:12. The two nations should not have been enemies, as they were family. Sadly, today, Satan attacks families and many times there is little familial love any longer. Children, spouses, siblings, parents, extended families, sometimes argue and separate.
Jeremiah’s prophecy against Edom closely parallels that of Obadiah.
“Concerning Edom, thus saith the LORD of hosts. . . .Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill: . . . Also Edom shall be a desolation: every one that goeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss at all the plagues thereof.” Jeremiah 49:7, 16–17
Ezekiel also had something to say concerning Edom. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because that Edom hath dealt against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and hath greatly offended, and revenged himself upon them; Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also stretch out mine hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword.” Ezekiel 25:12–13
And Amos also was given a prophecy from the Lord. “Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever.” Amos 1:11. Clearly Edom also had anger issues and God is punishing them for this treatment of His people, their brothers.
“Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for
ever.” Malachi 1:4. God can easily humble those who magnify and exalt themselves. And He will do it. Those who make flesh their trust, are in reality fighting against themselves.
Ammon, as mentioned, was a son of Lot from his younger daughter. They had been hostile against the Israelites beginning in the time of the judges. For the most part they had become tributary to Israel, having to pay tribute to the nation. Solomon had many wives from Ammon. Yet the nation was heathen and as with most of the surrounding nations, they did not treat Israel with respect.
When Israel entered Canaan, the Ammonites were in possessions of the highlands east of the northern part. The tribe of Gad became neighbor to the Ammonites when it took over the Amorite kingdom of Sihon. They were quite bitter towards Israel.
From Amos we read: “Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of the children of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have ripped up the women with child of Gilead, that they might enlarge their border.” Amos 1:13. Why would they act so cruelly? They desperately wanted to take the land occupied by Gad, which would give them access to the Jordan River. They did not seem to care how they got it. “The end justifies the means.” The were called into account by the Lord for every evil they had done.
When Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians they also expressed great satisfaction. It is wicked to be glad at the calamities of anyone, especially of God’s people; it is a sin for which they will be called into account. Although, when Israel sinned, God allowed them to be oppressed by their enemies and taken to Babylon; that did not excuse the surrounding nations for watching with joy and satisfaction at their distress.
Many times the surrounding nations joined together to make war together against their common enemy—Israel. They trusted in their might and their power. Although they often greatly outnumbered the Israelite army, when Israel was being faithful, God fought for them and many battles were won by the mighty power of God. “I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against their border. Therefore as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them. This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the LORD of hosts. The LORD will be terrible unto them: for He will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship Him, every one from his place even all the isles of the heathen.” Zephaniah 2:8–11
It is said here that the nations of Ammon and Edom reproached and magnified themselves against the people of God. Now we go to Amalek, who also was rebelled against God.
Amalek was the grandson of Esau. This nation also was related to the Israelite nation. Their land lay between Sinai and Palestine so they felt threatened when the Israelite nation was travelling to the Promised Land as it appeared they would have to travel through Amalekite territory. Thus, rather than approach them peacefully, they attacked the Israelites at their most vulnerable time having just been released from slavery and had no weapons. God takes it seriously when you mock or attack His people.
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” 1 Samuel 15:2–3
When people begin to mock and persecute the true and faithful followers of Christ, and His church, they are very close to stepping over the line of His mercy. Sometimes they do it in ignorance as did the Apostle Paul, who repented later. Other times they do it in defiance and, even when shown the truth, they continue doing as they did before, with much glee.
The nation of Israel was His chosen nation, even after they nailed Him to the cross. It was not until the stoning of Stephen, when they began to persecute and kill the Christians (God’s people)—that they were cut off as a nation.
The Seventh-day Adventist church was God’s visible church on earth, even after they rejected the Christ our Righteousness message in Minneapolis in 1888. They were rejected as a church when they began to betray the faithful members to the authorities in World War I and were indirectly the cause of many of them to be put to death as martyrs.
We need to take careful consideration of our actions, especially towards other people, to our brothers and sisters, (leaders) in the faith. To gossip and speak evil of them is very offensive to God as they are His chosen people and leaders.
“For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.” Romans 2:11–12
We may fully agree that the religious practices of the heathen nations could not save them, and therefore God punished them when they refused to repent. They worshipped idols and conducted many evil heathen rites and rituals and were full of pride (which is almost incurable).
In God’s church, we all agree on the main principles of the church—the doctrines and prophecies; however, there is an important side of religion that includes personal accountability in one’s life. People have left the church or refused to join the church because they felt they could not conform to the Biblical rule of dress or diet (vegetarianism), or even not working on Sabbath. They feel that it is important to provide for their families and it is ok to work on Sabbath in some cases.
One may feel it is ok to be more worldly in their dress and another may choose to adopt eating habits more on the worldly side (excess sugar, dairy products, chemicals and preservatives), while another seeks to adapt their diet as close as possible to the heavenly diet (plant based, vegan). The unconverted will eventually leave the church if they do not surrender their own ideas to Christ. God has a high standard, and some do not see the necessity of it being so high.
Going back to the comment I made at the very beginning, where some Christians say it is your Sabbath; over the years I have heard some people say, “I am not a member, I can do this or that and it is ok. You can’t do it because you are a member.” or “You have to pay tithes as you are a member, it is not a requirement for me.” And so on.
Even false Christians will say, “I can do this and its ok but you cannot, because your church says you cannot.” The reality—the Bible says so and the church I belong to simply acknowledges what the word of God has written.
I can do what I want to do. I can pay my tithes or not, but I choose to because I want to serve and honour God. Not because the church dictates it but because I want to. I am grateful, though, that I have found a church that encourages and teaches the Bible rules of true commandment keeping in the letter and spirit of the law. If you choose not to obey, you are equally guilty before God whether a member or not. Some therefore do not join the church because they do not want to “obey” all the rules; they feel that they can find salvation outside the church. This is not true. You are judged according to your knowledge. If you have a knowledge of the truth, you are equally accountable whether a member or not.
There was not a different standard for the Philistines, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites or Babylonians. Their forms of religion could not save them. There is only one standard of salvation. We need to seek that out and conform our lives to it completely (by the power and grace of God).If we have a willingness and desire to leave off with the world and its practices, God will provide the grace and strength to overcome. For some it is too much of a cross to be too different from the world. They cannot bear it.
“It is an insult to the Holy Spirit of God for any man to choose a life of self-serving.” –The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1159. All heathen religions and false Christian religions are based on pride and self-serving. Today, you can find a Christian church to suit any lifestyle you wish to live. All promise salvation. It is possible for those in God’s church also to be living to serve self—to be seen of men.
“The Laodicean message must be proclaimed with power; for now it is especially applicable. Now, more than ever before, are seen pride, worldly ambition, self-exaltation, double-dealing, hypocrisy, and deception. Many are speaking great swelling words of vanity, saying, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.’ Yet they are miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” –The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 962. This is the condition of false Christianity today and unconverted members in the church.
May each one of us learn from these ancient civilizations, that our God is not to be trifled with. Let us aim to reach God’s standard, separating from the world and all its heathen practices. It is only possible by the help of God. But, it is possible. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13. Amen.