Sabbath, July 19, 2008
“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” Psalm 118:6.
“In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” Psalm 56:4.
Enemies’ attacks and God’s protection
1. What was God’s great promise to His people in case of attack by their enemies?
“Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.” Isaiah 41:12.
“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17.
2. Do we have examples in the history of Israel of something as portentous as this truly happening? Was it necessary in such cases for individuals to defend themselves personally with their human power?
“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”
“And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.”
“Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.” Exodus 14:13, 14, 25, 30, 31.
For further study, read 2 Kings 6:18-22; 7:6; 19:35.
“God in His providence brought the Hebrews into the mountain fastnesses before the sea, that He might manifest His power in their deliverance and signally humble the pride of their oppressors. He might have saved them in any other way, but He chose this method in order to test their faith and strengthen their trust in Him. The people were weary and terrified, yet if they had held back when Moses bade them advance, God would never have opened the path for them. It was ‘by faith’ that ‘they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land.’ Hebrews 11:29. In marching down to the very water, they showed that they believed the word of God as spoken by Moses. They did all that was in their power to do, and then the Mighty One of Israel divided the sea to make a path for their feet.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 290.
Considering God’s promises
3. Were God’s promises absolute or conditional?
“And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God… The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways.” Deuteronomy 28:1, 2, 7.
For further study, read Isaiah 1:19, 20; Psalm 81:13, 14; 1 Samuel 12:24, 25.
“It should be remembered that the promises and the threatenings of God are alike conditional.” –Evangelism, p. 695.
“God’s promises are conditional. In order to make it possible for Him to bless us, we must do our part. We cannot expect that all His blessings will come to us naturally, if we fold our hands in inactivity. We are to be laborers together with God.” –Peter’s Counsel to Parents, p. 25.
“The Lord had never commanded them to ‘go up and fight.’ It was not His purpose that they should gain the land by warfare, but by strict obedience to His commands….
“God had promised His people that if they would obey His voice He would go before them and fight for them; and He would also send hornets to drive out the inhabitants of the land.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 392, 436, 437.
“In the land of Canaan, God’s people were to have one general place of assembly, where, three times each year they could all meet to worship God. As they would obey the divine laws, they would receive the divine blessing. God would not blot out the idolatrous nations. He would give them opportunity to become acquainted with Him through His church. The experience of His people during the forty years of their wilderness wandering was to be the study of these nations. God’s laws and kingdom were to extend over all the territory of the earth, and His people must be known as the people of the living God.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, pp. 998, 999.
4. What other promises of peace, righteousness, and blessings have the same characteristics?
“O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea” Isaiah 48:18.
“O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” Deuteronomy 5:29.
“He who walks in the way of God’s commandments is walking in company with Christ, and in His love the heart is at rest….
“Those who take Christ at His word, and surrender their souls to His keeping, their lives to His ordering, will find peace and quietude. Nothing of the world can make them sad when Jesus makes them glad by His presence. In perfect acquiescence there is perfect rest. The Lord says, ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.’ Isaiah 26:3. Our lives may seem a tangle; but as we commit ourselves to the wise Master Worker, He will bring out the pattern of life and character that will be to His own glory. And that character which expresses the glory–character–of Christ will be received into the Paradise of God. A renovated race shall walk with Him in white, for they are worthy.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 331.
Consequences of human failure
5. Have people in all times lived in harmony with God’s ideal and requirements, rejoicing in His presence? In such cases, was He with them, defending them from their enemies without their involvement?
“The Lord your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes; And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place. Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 1:30-32.
“Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.” Joshua 7:12.
“Wilt not thou, O God, which hadst cast us off? and thou, O God, which didst not go out with our armies?” Psalm 60:10.
For further study, read Psalm 44:9, 10; Deuteronomy 1:42.
“A concealed golden wedge and a Babylonish garment troubled the entire camp of Israel. The frown of God was brought upon the people because of the sin of one man. Thousands were slain upon the field of battle because God would not bless and prosper a people among whom there was even one sinner, one who had transgressed His word. This sinner was not in holy office, yet a jealous God could not go forth to battle with the armies of Israel while these concealed sins were in the camp….
“Does God forsake His people without a cause? No; He tells Joshua that there is a work for him to do before his prayer can be answered. ‘Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also.’ He declares: ‘Neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.’” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 239, 520.
6. Due to their disobedience, rebellion, and apostasy, what often befell God’s people?
“And when they forgat the Lord their God, he sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. And they cried unto the Lord, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee. And the Lord sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and ye dwelled safe.” 1 Samuel 12:9-11.
“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” Luke 21:20-22.
For further study, see 1 Kings 8:44-46; Isaiah 42:24, 25.
“The Jews had forged their own fetters; they had filled for themselves the cup of vengeance. In the utter destruction that befell them as a nation, and in all the woes that followed them in their dispersion, they were but reaping the harvest which their own hands had sown. Says the prophet: ‘O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself;’ ‘for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.’ Hosea 13:9; 14:1. Their sufferings are often represented as a punishment visited upon them by the direct decree of God. It is thus that the great deceiver seeks to conceal his own work. By stubborn rejection of divine love and mercy, the Jews had caused the protection of God to be withdrawn from them, and Satan was permitted to rule them according to his will. The horrible cruelties enacted in the destruction of Jerusalem are a demonstration of Satan’s vindictive power over those who yield to his control.
“We cannot know how much we owe to Christ for the peace and protection which we enjoy. It is the restraining power of God that prevents mankind from passing fully under the control of Satan. The disobedient and unthankful have great reason for gratitude for God’s mercy and long-suffering in holding in check the cruel, malignant power of the evil one. But when men pass the limits of divine forbearance, that restraint is removed. God does not stand toward the sinner as an executioner of the sentence against transgression; but He leaves the rejecters of His mercy to themselves, to reap that which they have sown. Every ray of light rejected, every warning despised or unheeded, every passion indulged, every transgression of the law of God, is a seed sown which yields its unfailing harvest.” –The Great Controversy, p. 36.
Trust in the Lord and His answer
7. What happens, on the other hand, when our ways are pleasing to the Lord?
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7
“And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.” Genesis 31:24.
For further study, read 2 Chronicles 17:10; Romans 8:31.
“I am instructed to say to you: Move guardedly, doing always that which the Lord commands. Move forward courageously, assured that the Lord will be with those who love and serve Him. He will work in behalf of His covenant-keeping people. He will not suffer them to become a reproach….
“I assure you that if you work in right lines, God will make your enemies to be at peace with you. He will uphold and strengthen you. Make a covenant with God that you will guard well your words.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, pp. 242, 243.
“In obedience to God’s law there is great gain. In conformity to the divine requirements there is a transforming power that brings peace and good will among men. If the teachings of God’s word were made the controlling influence in the life of every man and woman, if mind and heart were brought under its restraining power, the evils that now exist in national and in social life would find no place. From every home would go forth an influence that would make men and women strong in spiritual insight and in moral power, and thus nations and individuals would be placed on vantage ground.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 192.
8. Instead of becoming confused and making mistakes, how should we face problems, opposition, and difficulties? What is possible through faith in the Lord?
“Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.” Hebrews 11:33.
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.” Hebrews 11:30.
For further study, read Judges 7:20-22.
“While the world is progressing in wickedness, none of us need flatter ourselves that we shall have no difficulties. But it is these very difficulties that bring us into the audience chamber of the Most High. We may seek counsel of One who is infinite in wisdom.
“The Lord says, ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble.’ Psalm 50:15. He invites us to present to Him our perplexities and necessities, and our need of divine help. He bids us be instant in prayer. As soon as difficulties arise, we are to offer to Him our sincere, earnest petitions. By our importunate prayers we give evidence of our strong confidence in God. The sense of our need leads us to pray earnestly, and our heavenly Father is moved by our supplications.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 172.
An object lesson
Is peace possible amid rumors of war and danger? A painting competition was once sponsored on the significant subject of “Peace,” and different pictures were submitted. One portrayed a calm morning; another, a peaceful sunset; and others, similar scenes. But the first place award went to the painting of a huge waterfall, which, as the water thundered over a cliff, produced a dense cloud of foam and mist. All the while a robin sat peacefully warbling a song beside its nest on the branch of a tree that was stretched over the roiling cascade!
Certainty can be obtained and enjoyed not only in favorable circumstances, but amid the storms of life. The robin was sitting on a branch of a tree which had its roots in the rock above the thundering water and mist of the waterfall. In that lofty tree, the bird rested peacefully in its wonderful security. Should it be any different for those who are surrounded by problems and dangers, but who trust fully in the Lord of heaven?