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Forty Years in the Wilderness
By Brian Pepper
We are very close to the end of all things. There is no
question about that. But the fact is that we should have
been in the Kingdom by now. Listen to these statements:
"Had the people of God preserved a living connection from the beginning of the Advent movement they would today be in the heavenly Canaan." (Vol. 6.450 about 1900)
"If these had done their work the world would have been warned ere this."
(Review and Herald Oct 6, 1896)
Why is it that we haven’t entered the Promised Land? St Paul tells us it was because of unbelief that ancient Israel failed. And he warns Modern Israel that the same thing is keeping us out of the kingdom.
I want to draw your attention to the fact that Israel under the Exodus movement was a type of Modern Israel under the Advent movement. St Paul brings to our attention the experience of Ancient Israel in order that we may profit from their mistakes and failings.
1 Corinthians 10:11: "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." The great Sin of ancient Israel was that of disobedience and Disbelief. Psalms 106:13,14; "They soon forgat His works they waited not for His counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert." (Psalm 78:19, 22, 41, 56) I want to tell you that if we are not careful Modern Israel will be fast following in their footsteps.
I want you to notice with me a few parallels. First of all we notice that both of these movements arose in fulfilment of definite time prophecies. Reading from Genesis 15:13-16. "And He said unto Abram, Know of surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years, Verse 16: But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full."
Exactly of time the Exodus movement arose to start on their journey to the Promised Land. They were brought out of Egypt for a specific purpose. You will remember that they had been slaves in bondage; they would never have become slaves had it not been for their disobedience. They had trampled underfoot God’s commandment and repeatedly broken His laws. Now under the leadership of Moses they were released from bondage in order that they might serve God and keep His laws.
Psalms 105:43-45: "And He brought forth His people with joy, and His chosen with gladness. And He gave them lands of the heathen and they inherited the labour of the people; That they might observe His statutes, and keep His laws. Praise ye the Lord."
For exactly the same purpose is Modern Israel called out of spiritual Babylon. And this movement arose exactly on time. At the end of the 2,300 years this people appeared according to Bible prophecy.
The Sabbath was and is a Sign and Test of loyalty to both movements. Speaking of Israel’s disobedience regarding the Sabbath in Exodus 16:28; "And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?" To Modern Israel God says in Hebrews 4:9: "There remaineth therefore a rest (or a keeping of the Sabbath) to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His. Verse 11: Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief (or disobedience)." So you see that both movements bring Sabbath observance to the forefront.
Now here is another parallel. Just before Israel was delivered from Egypt, God poured out His anger in ten plagues. The seven last tell on the Egyptians only. And just before the Advent people are delivered from this world and its persecution, and bondage. The anger of God is again demonstrated in the Seven Last Plagues which fall on the wicked only. Israel’s deliverance in Egypt came at Midnight. The final deliverance of the Remnant people will again come at Midnight.
Matthew 25:5, 6; "While the bridegroom tarried they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him." Yes, the final deliverance of the Remnant church from the sentence of death will come at midnight.
One cannot but help noticing that the organizations of the two movements are almost identical. Health reform is a part of each; When the people began to lust after the savory food. Psalm 106:14, 15; "But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul." Yes, the people were not satisfied with the heavenly food but they lusted for flesh and the rich spices of Egypt. The Advent people have been told to put away the unclean thing, the pig, the stimulating food that upsets the system and ruins the nerves.
Both of these movements are cursed with the 'mixed multitudes"; they are the ones who cause the trouble all along the way. Listen to this: Psalm 106:24, 25; "Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word; But murmured in their tents, and harkened not unto the voice of the Lord." St Paul tells us that the Christian Church has them, “the murmurers." Here it is: 1 Corinthians 10:10; Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer." If we are murmuring then we had better stop for St Paul says that they will be destroyed.
The picture is very clear; it is so clear that I can very easily visualize it. Murmuring in their tents, "Rotten old Moses, brought out here to die; rotten food, same old stuff every day; rotten old camp, I never did like tents. No friends, Satan makes his attacks both from without and from within. He did his very best to stop the Exodus movement; to prevent it from reaching the Promised Land.
But we notice that the same movement that left Egypt reached Canaan. The rebels were all purged out before they reached the Promised Land. And the very same thing will happen to the Advent movement.
I notice in Hosea a very interesting verse. Hosea 12:13; "And by a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved." Did you notice that it was not by prophets but by "a prophet"? And Moses that prophet, died on the borders of the Promised Land, after being given a view of the inheritance. Before Moses died God gave him all the instruction that would be necessary to take Israel through and to establish them in the Promised Land.
The Advent movement has been led and will continue to be led by a prophet. The same prophet died on the borders of the Heavenly Canaan after viewing the glories of the heavenly Canaan in vision.
At their deliverance after the Red Sea, the Israelites sang the song of Moses; a song of deliverance from death and a song of Victory.
When the Advent people are delivered from the final decree of death they will sing the same song on the sea of glass because they will have gone through the same experience. Revelation 15:2, 3; "And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are thy ways, thou king of saints." I want to tell you that that song does not belong to the Jewish people alone. It is a song that will be sung by all who have got the victory over sin and self.
It was only a short journey from Egypt to Canaan; up the great public highway along the coast it was less than 250 miles. If the people of Israel had travelled at ten miles a day, it would have taken less than a month to do the journey. The trouble was that the direct journey led through the land of the warlike Philistines. Because Israel did not have the necessary faith in God, the LORD had to lead them the long way round. They could not enter into the Promised Land until they had learned to have faith in God. Their first lesson was the Red Sea.
The Israelites left Egypt the 15th day of the 1st month 1491 B.C. In the 3rd month they camped at the base of Mt Sinai where they received the Law of God and built the sanctuary. The service of the sanctuary pointed them to the Lamb of God, revealing the wonderful plan of Salvation. God was preparing them in order that they might be able to enter the Promised Land. They had every evidence of the LORD's leading for there was the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
They camped almost two years around the mount of the law when the message came, Deuteronomy 1:6, 8; "Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: turn you and take your journey to the land of the Canaanites.... go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers.” The march to Canaan began and in eleven (11) days they were at Kadesh-Barnea on the southern border of the Promised Land.
It was God’s plan to take them directly in; God had told Israel that the Promised Land was a “goodly land, flowing with milk and honey.” God assured the people that He would drive out the inhabitants before them with plagues, hornets, and hailstones. God did not intend that Israel should have to fight in order to gain the land. If they had obeyed God, had faith in Him, trusted in His power; He would have taken them safely in just as He took them through the Red Sea and brought them out of Egypt.
It was at Kadesh-Barnea that their faith wavered and they came to Moses and suggested that spies be sent out to spy out the land and see if it was a good land and if they were able to possess it. Their very request shows that they did not believe God, but God allowed the request.
After forty days of searching they returned with samples of fruit; the report was that it was a wonderful land. But the spies were divided. Ten said that it was impossible to possess the land because of the giants, the difficulties, the insurmountable obstacles and all the rest. They left God out of their reckoning; they said the task was too great. The report brought great distress to the camp of Israel. The people threatened to appoint a Captain to lead them back into Egypt. Moses, Caleb, and Joshua tried to encourage the people but their efforts were of no avail. “But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord."
Psalm 106:25. Verse 24; "Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word: Verse 26; "Therefore He lifted up His hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness:" Because of their rebellion, the LORD’s anger was kindled and He told them that not one of those who had left Egypt twenty years old and upward should enter the Promised Land except Caleb and Joshua because they had followed the Lord. All the rebels were to perish in the desert.
It was while they were encamped at Kadesh-Barnea that the great apostasy took place. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram supported by 200 princes and 14,700 Israelites started a rebellion against Moses and his leadership. But God stepped in and destroyed them all; and so He vindicated the leadership of Moses. While the people were encamped at Kadesh-Barnea they did a lot of “murmuring". Yes, they had “murmured” all along the way. But it was here that they said a lot of hard things about God and about Moses and the LORD heard it all.
Listen to this. Hebrews 3:17-19; "But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." The next verse is a warning to the Advent movement; Hebrews 4:1 "Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.”
When Israel was turned back from the borders of the Promised Land into the wilderness because of their lack of faith or their unbelief; it was the beginning of a retreat toward Egypt. But they did not go all the way back to Egypt. The next 38 years was spent wandering about the mountains of Seir. They did not return to Egypt nor did they make any progress toward Canaan. They were practically at a standstill. In Acts 7:39 we read that; "In their hearts they turned back again into Egypt.” It does seem sad that poor Caleb and Joshua had to spend all those years in the wilderness because of no fault of their own.
But it is very important to recognize that their only hope of reaching the Promised Land was to remain with the movement and in the organization. Had they attempted to start another movement by calling out all the faithful and taking a shorter course it would have ended in disaster; for the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day led the original movement back into the wilderness and remained with them during their pilgrimage. Although the people had rebelled against God they were still His chosen people and He loved them more than any other people.
Now all these things are typical of the Advent movement. The Remnant church must have its Kadesh-Barnea on the borders of the heavenly Canaan; and because of unbelief be turned back into the wilderness of Sin. The Advent movement reached its Kadesh-Barnea at the Minneapolis General Conference in 1888. Two or three years previous to that gathering, the LORD through the Spirit of Prophecy sent message after message to this people, declaring that they were on the, borders of the Heavenly Caanan and calling for a great Spiritual awakening in preparation for the coming of Christ. This was the type of message that was given just before the people of Israel reached Kadesh-Barnea. "Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount ... go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers." Now I want you to notice the messages that were given just before 1888. 1879 - "We are now on the very borders of the eternal world." (Vol. 4:306) 1881 - "The end of all things is at hand." (id 16) 1881- "I have been shown that we are standing upon the threshold of the eternal world. (id 460) 1885- "Eternity stretches before us. The curtain is about to be lifted." There was a very solemn call for revival and reformation amongst the people of God. The great message that came at this time was the great need to put on the righteousness of Christ. The call to true Godliness was presented in every issue of then Review and Herald.
Unfortunately there were many who "murmured". They felt that this message was a departure from the good old doctrines that had made us so distinct as a people; and they rejected the messages that came to them. How they could reject such a message is very hard to understand. We can only understand it as St Paul gives us; warning the Modern Israel can and will go astray. Just as Israel rejected the warnings from God at Kadesh-Barnea, so at Minneapolis was re-enacted the same scenes. Criticism broke up the ranks; the leaders were attacked by the "murmurers". They spoke of their imperfections. But in the rooms occupied by some of our people were heard ridicule, criticism, jeering, laughter. The scenes which took place at that meeting made the God of heaven ashamed to call those who took part in them his brethren.
There is no question but that the LORD fully intended to take Modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan over 70 years ago. And this is evident from several statements from the Spirit of Prophecy. "Had the purpose of God been carried out by His people in giving to the world the message of mercy, Christ would ere this have received their welcome into the city of God." (Vol 6 450 written about 1900)
It was because of their unbelief that they rejected the message sent to prepare them for the Heavenly Canaan; and so they were turned back to wander in the wilderness of Sin till they had learned the lesson of faith.
The history of Ancient Israel is a striking illustration of the past history of the Adventist body. God has led this people even as he led the children of Israel from Egypt. But unbelief, backsliding and apostasy has delayed the coming of Christ. (Great Controversy 457, 458) God’s people have been asleep. The ministers have not given the sure sound of the trumpet. The church entered the tarrying time.
In the parable of the Ten Virgins all went forth to meet the bridegroom, but because He tarried they all slumbered and slept. To the ten virgins there came the awakening cry, "behold the bridegroom corneth go ye out to meet Him." All heard the message, but only half made the necessary preparation to enter into the marriage feast. At the end of the tarrying time there will be given an awakening message to the Advent people. Every spot and stain will have to be removed.
Revelation 19:7-9. "Let us be glad and rejoice; and give honor to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And He saith unto me, Write, blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb..."
The message comes once again to us who are living right down at the close of time. We are once again at the doors of the Eternal world. Did you notice that the Redeemed are clothed with special garments? They are wearing the Righteousness of Christ. Unless we too are clothed in these garments heaven will have no place for us. Every spot and stain will have to be removed. Can we do this in our own merits? Why, of course not! Only the blood of the crucified Saviour can cleanse us of sin and stain. Unless there is a revival in our hearts, every sin confessed and forgiven, we will not be able to stand in that day. Let every one of us here today prepare our hearts to accept the Saviour’s gift and put on that wedding garment; and then we will be ready to in to the Promised Land.