As the children of Israel, God’s favored people, persisted in impenitent rebellion, notwithstanding the warnings and reproofs He had sent them, He challenged them to prepare to meet their God. By His appointed agents He had sent them message after message, which they had only despised and rejected, and now they must prepare to meet His retributive judgments. They would not prevail against Him; for “lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought; that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth down the high places of the earth, the God of hosts in his name.” As an offended judge, the Lord would execute His judgments upon His impenitent people. If they would escape His vengeance, they must humble their hearts and confess their sins.
This lesson is for us. The Lord has a people on the earth, but the precious wheat is mingled with tares. Both must grow together until the harvest. Mere professors of religion are found among true followers. These will be among the first who will feel the wrath of an offended God. While God is purifying to Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, Satan is binding up the tares in close connection with himself.
The war instituted against principalities and powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places, cannot be avoided. A probation has been granted us by God to make our calling and election sure. We have been given time, precious time, to critically examine our own hearts, and compare our characters with the pattern given us to copy. We shall not be excusable if we meet the world’s standard. The world cannot now understand the true follower of Jesus or judge his works, any more than it could understand Christ or judge His works. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. The world knoweth us not because it knew Him not
We are in no wise safe while professedly serving Christ and in reality serving the world. The condition of things marked out in prophecy exists, and is endangering the purity of our faith. There are multitudes who are called Christians who know not Christ by an experimental knowledge. They do not walk in his statutes. They do not desire knowledge from the Most High. Their hearts go after their idols, worldly gain, worldly honor, sensual pleasure. These objects are eagerly pursued. Hardness of heart, impenitence, depravity, enmity, exist among a large number who profess to be Christ’s followers. These by their unsanctified spirit are working the works of unrighteousness. This is the reason that God does not reveal Himself in power. Self is served and worshiped. The passions of the human heart are petted and excused.
Those who do not the works of Christ hate self-denial and piety. By their course of action they will influence and deceive souls who, if not deceived by these agents of Satan, would walk in obedience to the plainly-specified command, “He that will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. So shall he be my disciple.” The souls of those led from the simplicity of the gospel, from the self-denying life of a Christian, will be required at their hands. Our conduct, our sentiments, must be conformed to the divine standard, and constantly we must pray for heavenly illumination and sanctified judgment, that we shall not err from God’s precepts. Every church needs to bring forth fruit meet for repentance.
God makes His presence and will known to His people through appointed ministers who are walking in the light. He has channels through which He can communicate light. “Surely the Lord will do nothing but he revealeth his secrets unto his servants the prophets.” God does reveal His secret purposes to His chosen agents, whose duty it is to declare the same to His people, that they may take warning and turn from a course which will surely bring the wrath of God upon them. He sends reproofs and warnings that they may turn to Him, that His wrath may be turned away, and His approval rest on them. But often the perversity and stubbornness of the human heart leads men to refuse the light because it does not harmonize with their ideas. They know that if they receive the light, they would have to repent and be converted. They justify their own deceptions, and do not correct their ways.
How many who seemed to run well for a time have been led into connection with the world, and as a result have separated from God? As those who are inclined to worldliness indulge their selfish inclinations, they go farther and farther from the light. They do not love the light reflected upon them through Christ’s appointed agencies. They hate both the message and the messenger. The most strenuous efforts will be made by this class to pervert the understanding of Christ’s ministers, that the voice which God would use to reprove their course of evil may be intimidated and silenced. Thus they add sin to sin. They engage in Satan’s work, and maintain an obstinacy that resembles the fruit borne on a corrupt tree.
Some churches are much affected by this influence. It is like the leaven which leavened the whole lump. The Lord cannot much longer endure these workers of iniquity. He will expose them, because they disgrace the religion of Christ. Our God is a jealous God. He will not always bear with the perversity of men. He has committed to His Israel the most sacred truth ever committed to mortals. He has made His people the repositories of His holy law, that the light of His truth may shine forth to those who are living in the darkness of the errors of this evil time when iniquity abounds.
God has blessed His people with light and privileges, as no other people have been blessed. If their works and influence correspond with their profession, they will be trees of righteousness, bearing fruit to the glory of God. But because God has shown them favor by committing to them His oracles, He will in no wise excuse in them disrespect and disregard of His requirements. If found in sin, this highly favored people will be punished [with] as much greater severity than the common sinner as their advantages and opportunities have been greater. God will never connive at wickedness in any shape. Much less will He spare those in responsible places who have used common fire in place of the sacred.
None can connect with God and work in harmony with Him, have friendship with Him, while working contrary to His plainly -expressed will. He declares, “Them that honor me I will honor.” Those who will not listen to the words of instruction given them by His appointed agents, whose hearts rise up against His counsels, who vindicate and justify their own course of action, show by their fruits that they are not doers of the words of Christ or lovers of the law of God, but lovers of themselves. They are proud, boastful, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.
Indulgence in any wrong course blinds the understanding and hardens the heart against justice and mercy. How truly has this been revealed by the arbitrary exaction manifested, the desire to domineer and lord it over God’s heritage. The Lord addresses such in words of irony, fitted to them in their present state: “Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years; and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offering: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord God.” “Serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not harken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.”
The people so mercifully granted every temporal and spiritual advantage have not responded to God’s tokens of mercy and love. The Lord is indignant with them, and rebukes them sharply for neglecting to heed His warnings. He gives them to understand that He cannot manifest Himself to them, but will be obliged to give them up to strong delusions, as a just punishment for their abuse of His means of grace, so long offered and rejected. Their offering sacrifice to [Him] and then to their idols was an affront to His name. In His abhorrence of their course of action, He bids them follow their beloved idols, and bear the consequence of their perversity.