Lessons From the Book of Amos, Part V

Perhaps you have never before studied the Book of Amos. I have chosen the Book of Amos in developing a series of articles to give us an understanding of the New Testament. You may wonder how Amos of the Old Testament is going to help us with the New Testament. You cannot understand the New Testament unless you understand the Old Testament.

In 1 Corinthians 10:11, we are told that the things that happened in the Old Testament were written for our admonition, for our instruction, and for examples to us upon whom the ends of the world are come. I find that statement very interesting, because it refers to Old Testament instances and says that those things are going to pertain to us for last day event understanding. I understand that to mean that those things found in the Old Testament, as far as principles are concerned, are last day concepts. History has an uncanny way of repeating itself.

As we read the Old Testament, we learn how God dealt with His people—how He tried to woo them, how He tried to lead them, and how He tried to help them. We learn what their reactions were to the way God was relating to them. It is all there. We also find that there were many times that God had to deal with distasteful situations and conditions. Many times God would extend His mercy and His love, only to meet with a stiff-necked people. They yearned after their own way, and they would have nothing whatsoever to do with God. That is basically the setting of the Book of Amos.

What was God going to do? There comes a time of finality when no remedy of any kind will rectify a problem. That is what Amos was called to reveal to God’s people. God said, “I have tried this, and I have tried that, and it did not work. So now I am going to call My prophet. He is going to be My spokesman. He is going to be My mouthpiece. I am going to send him with a message, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”

Woe Unto You

As we come to Amos 6, we find what is going to take place. ”Woe to them [that are] at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, [which are] named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!” Verse 1.

This chapter starts out pronouncing a woe. When you are reading Scripture, and you come to the word woe, you want to pay special attention, because God is using this word to draw attention to what is going to follow. The meaning of the word woe has not changed over the years. We still use it today. When we talk about a bad situation, we may refer to it as a woe. It still carries with it the connotation of doom and disfavor, of calamity and misfortune. The prophet Amos is here attempting to let Israel know just where they stood in relation to their favor with God. To hear a woe coming from one of God’s prophets is no light matter. It needs to be taken to heart.

The Bible says, ”Believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper.” 11 Chronicles 20:20. When God speaks, He means exactly what He says. This principle is taught in the Old Testament. This is certainly the case here with the Northern kingdom of Israel and with Judah as well.

At Ease in Zion

“Woe to them [that are] at ease in Zion.” The word ease depicts a very meaningful picture of what was taking place. God had to pronounce a woe, because they were at ease in Zion. The Hebrew word sha’anan used here for ease means to be tranquil—but in a bad sense—that is, to be settled back when everything around you is wrong. When things were in a life-threatening condition, there was a settling back, with an attitude of, Why should I care? It is not affecting me. Things are going great, as far as life is concerned. I am quite secure from any danger.

That was the attitude of the people when Amos came on the scene, and he said, ”Woe to you that are at ease in Zion.” This was a direct statement to those who were at ease in Zion. It was one thing for the world to kick back and to take it easy, believing that there was no accounting for their indifference or ease. But for those who were in Zion—those who knew the Scriptures and God’s requirements—to kick back, it was altogether a different matter.

Parallel to Laodicea

There is a parallel here to the church of Laodicea, and this is why I believe that Old Testament prophetic utterances have last day applications. What is the message to the church of Laodicea? It is, “Woe unto you. You think that you are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing, but I am here to tell you a different story. You need to look at where you are, because in actuality, you are poor, wretched, blind, miserable and naked.” (See Revelation 3:17.)

I do not know of any one of us who would like to hear those words spoken to us, do you? There is a sense of stiffening up, when we hear words like that. We think that certainly they cannot apply to us—we are not miserable; we are happy most of the time! Wretched? No, no, Lord, you have it all wrong. Poor and blind and naked—what do you mean? We are rich and increased with goods, and we have need of nothing. This is specifically what God was speaking to His people in the days of Amos. ”Woe unto you who are taking your ease.”

Hiding From God

Being at ease is caused by only one thing. Those to whom Amos is speaking believe that they have been entirely successful in hiding their true condition from God. They consider themselves to be right. There is nothing wrong, as far as they are concerned. They think that God is off on a vacation somewhere and does not know what is happening. This indeed is a masterful deception that the devil will pull off in every generation.

Sacred history tells us that this is a very easy deception on God’s people. This is precisely the reason why it is so difficult for the Gospel to be accepted when it is preached. There are people who are at ease, either in the world or in Zion, who think that everything is all right when indeed everything is all wrong. Those who could benefit from the Gospel are so deceived that they think God—nor anyone else—knows their situation. It is easy to fall into such a trap, when everything around you seems to be going right.

At this particular point of time in history, Israel was at its height of prosperity. The stock market was at 12,000, and they were buying and selling and having a good time. They were kicked back, at ease. Yet, all of this was leading to a deplorable condition. They were oppressing the poor; they were grinding down everyone they could so their stock prices would stay high. They were riding high!


As I studied about this, I mused to myself about what was really happening—what contributed to this deception, this kicking back at ease. I came across a very interesting quotation from pages 52 and 53 of the book Temperance: “The use of wine among the Israelites was one of the causes that finally resulted in their captivity.” We need to remember that the Book of Amos applies to last day conditions.

Ellen White continues, on page 53 of Temperance, to quote from Amos 6. Israel had problems with intemperance. Wine was blurring their thinking processes. We know that wine affects the mind in this manner, and I am convinced that this is one of the reasons we are in the condition that we are as a people today. “But,” someone protests, “Pastor, what are you saying? We are Seventh-day Adventists; we don’t use wine. What are you talking about?”

When I became a Seventh-day Adventist, I was taught that one of the foundational principles of Adventism was abstaining from alcoholic beverages. Let me ask you a question: When was the last time you heard a temperance crusade being promoted within the Adventist church? It used to be that temperance crusades came around as often as Ingathering. It was something that was promoted and upheld before the people. This is one of the things about preaching; we need to continually hold before the people the high ideals of God, or those principles seem to lose contact with our minds and are forgotten.

I have read how some Adventists today are now imbibing in alcoholic beverages, and they have no compunctions about doing so. If we want to be successful Seventh-day Adventist Christians, we will follow the counsels God has given for us. We will review them constantly, holding them up in our minds so we do not lose sight of what it is that God has for us. This will prepare us for the last days on this earth.

Like the World

Temperance crusades, unfortunately, have been relegated to the heap of old rubbish along with some of the other teachings that have made us distinct as a people. But God has not changed—we have changed. We, too, have been at ease in Zion for so long that we think we need to update things and do away with some of the old things we think hold us back as a people. But remember, God does not change, and neither should we.

We have the problem of doing the same things that the world does. We go to the same places that the world goes; we listen to the same music that the world listens to. So why should we not drink the same drink that the world drinks and have a “good time”? This was what was happening in the days of Amos. We need to learn the lessons that are there for us. The sad part is, in many Adventist churches, if we begin to touch on these areas of intemperance and how people ought to live, we will immediately be branded as mean-spirited, narrow-minded, bigoted, and meddlers into people’s lives.

When I was in conference work, I mentioned from the pulpit, one Sabbath during the 11 o’clock service, some of the concepts of temperance and stated that we should not imbibe certain beverages. That very week the conference president drove 175 miles to see me. After confirming things I had expressed in my sermon, he counseled, “Mike, you need to leave those things alone on Sabbath morning. Keep them for prayer meeting.” You know as well as I do what prayer meeting attendance is in comparison with the attendance at 11 o’clock on Sabbath morning!

False Security

Why not just sit back and relax? Maybe the world is not doing so badly. After all, the coming of Jesus is a long way away. These are the thoughts in many people’s minds. There is a danger in that kind of thinking; it causes us to lose the urgency of God’s message.

This is the very same kind of thinking that was in the minds of the children of Israel during the days of Amos when woe was brought upon them. “Woe to them [that are] at ease in Zion and trust in the mountain of Samaria.” Israel thought that they were going to be safe. They were perched upon a mountain where they could see the approach of any enemy. God told them that it did not make any difference where they were located. They may have believed they were safe, but they were not.

”Pass ye unto Calneh, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great: then go down to Gath of the Philistines: [be they] better than these kingdoms? or their border greater than your border?” Amos 6:2.

The cities mentioned here were all very familiar to the Israelites. These cities had been overthrown and destroyed. If we were to bring this into a modern scenario and terminology, we would say, “Take a look at the Twin Towers [the former World Trade Center, New York City, New York] today. How much hope would there be for your security to look to the Twin Towers today? Thousands were killed on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers came down.” That was the lesson that God was trying to bring to these people’s minds: “Look at these towns out here. You think you are doing just fine. Look at them; they are destroyed. You need to learn the lessons from those things.”

They were all aware of what had happened to these communities. They had thought these cities were safe, but they had fallen into the hands of their attackers, and Amos used the destroyed ruins as an illustration of what was going to happen to them. “You are no better than they are, and you are going to be just as vulnerable as they were,” he told them.

An Evil Day

“Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near. . . .” Verse 3. One of the greatest, fatal deceptions to come upon God’s people is to believe that the day of the Second Coming of Jesus is a long way off. When you begin to believe that all is well—you have money in the bank, your health is good, you think life will go on as it has for many more years, you are at ease while others are suffering around you, you think that the day the Lord can reach you is a long way away—the devil is speaking in your ear.

All the while you put off the evil day. All the while, you think that the Second Coming of Jesus is a far way off. Believe me, people who know about the Second Coming, and who know that their lives are not right with Jesus, see His Second Coming as an evil day. They do not welcome the Second Coming, because they know that ultimately it will destroy their lives.

The children of Israel viewed it in the same way. They knew that the day of the Lord was the Day of Judgment, and they looked at it as an evil day. So the seat of violence came near, involving the oppression of the poor for their own personal gain.

It is not unusual that, when people come into a lot of money, such as winning the lottery, for example, they suddenly consider themselves to be someone of great importance. Have you ever noticed that? Many, many of the people who have become big dollar winners end up living under a bridge, because they cannot handle the prosperity that comes to them. But they had thought themselves very important!

One of the first things people do, when they come into big money, is to bedeck their mortal bodies with all kinds of junk to make them appear attractive to other people. And they buy big, big houses and big, big cars, thinking that these will impress people around them.

Picture of Luxury

“Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near; That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall.” Verses 3, 4.

What a tremendous picture is given in these verses! Prophets of old were able to put together word pictures that conveyed things you could not say by typing out a flat sentence. What a picture! While most people were out working from sunrise to sunset, these people were lounging on beds of ivory.

Ivory, even today, is a very precious commodity, but these were bedsteads that were inlaid with ivory! A very luxurious picture. Most people were lucky to have a mat to sleep on, let alone a bed—and certainly not a bed that was inlaid with ivory. They would stretch out and take their rest in luxury. This is a picture of the society today.

Perverted Appetite

And then, when they finally climbed out of their beds of luxury, they ate lambs out of the flock and calves out of the midst of the stall. It does not say that they were eating sheep and cows. It says they were eating the delicate meat of lambs and calves. They were eating lambs and calves, not sheep and cows, because one of the greatest treats for meat eaters is the tenderest cut. Nobody wants tough meat.

Have you ever heard of veal cutlets? Do you know from where veal cutlets come? Veal cutlets come from calves that have been penned up in small crates, hardly able to move. They are raised there until they are a certain age, and then they are slaughtered. Their meat is harvested at its most tender stage, so it can go upon the plates and into the palates of those who desire tender cuts of meat.

It would make you sick to see how these animals are raised and how they are treated, yet we see this very thing taking place in the days of Amos. They were crating up these little animals so they would have tender cuts of meat that only the rich could afford. If you are poor, you may be able to buy hamburger, but you certainly cannot afford veal cutlets. They are expensive. But here the people were satisfying the cravings of perverted appetites. They wanted the choice cuts; they would not settle for second best. They wanted tender meat. They wanted the lambs and the calves.

From what I have been able to determine, as I have researched this series on Amos, most Israelites—not all but most—ate meat only three or four times a year. That was the norm! The three or four times they ate meat centered around the times of their festivals. The poor ate meat even less times than that.

So the picture given in Amos 6 is that the leading citizens were eating quite a bit of the choice cuts—they had the money to buy it. Their actions were causing some very baleful effects to come into the nation. History has recorded that for us, and if we fail to learn the lessons that God has for us, then we are destined to repeat the same mistakes and to face the same future that Israel faced.

Symptoms Developing

Remember the visions recorded in Ezekiel 8 and 9, where God took Ezekiel to the temple and showed him the priests there that were worshipping the sun, playing the harlot? The record shows that God took him even deeper into vision and showed him greater abominations that were taking place. We ask, how in the world could these things of old have taken place? How could they have gotten so far out of hand that those who were commissioned of God to perform a sacred service so prostituted it that it became immoral and was an abomination before God? How could they depart from God in that way?

We see a definite pattern that brought these things to pass. Is it not true that if we see symptoms developing regarding a certain situation, we know what the results are going to be? This is one of the requirements of a physician. A physician always looks for symptoms. A pastor is somewhat like a physician. He watches for spiritual symptoms, and when he sees these symptoms, it behooves him, under the direction of God, to point out the potential results, so the actions can be corrected and God’s glory can be manifested.

Ezekiel saw things that were very uncomfortable for him, and as we have been studying, in Amos, we see things coming out in the forefront that are disturbing for us. We see certain kinds of trends and symptoms developing within the body of Adventism and within the body of Christians at large. I state this from a standpoint that the majority of God’s people are in other churches. (See John 10:16; The Great Controversy, 1888, 383.)

Sound of Music

“That chant to the sound of the viol, [and] invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David.” Amos 6:5. This verse is very difficult to translate. The phrase, “chant to the sound of the viol,” is translated in other versions to read, “sing idle songs to the sound of the harp.” But even this translation does not really do justice to what is being said here. The words, “sing idle songs,” are used only once in the entirety of the Old Testament, so it is difficult to find a translation that will make sense to us. There is an Arabic equivalent, however, which has the meaning, “to talk immoderately or to babble or prattle to the sound of the harp.”

It seems that this would be the best translation to apply to the context of what was taking place in this text and to us in the times in which we live.

The same is true of the phrase, “inventing to themselves instruments of musick.” The alternate translation of this would be, “shouting, they imagine themselves to be singing.” If you watch the videotape Are You Ready for Church? you see an exact parallel of this taking place today. In reality, there is nothing new under the sun! People are shouting and prattling and talking and considering this music. I am sorry, but I still like melodious strains of music and not all the babbling and shouting that passes for music today.

But let me point out to you that this was taking place in the days of Amos, and this music was part of their downfall. It was part of what led them to do things they probably never would have done otherwise. Ellen White tells us that music was part of the problem for the children of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai when they built the golden calf and just before they crossed over into Canaan, at Kadesh-Barnea, when they began to associate with the Midianitish women. They would never have succumbed to the temptations had it not been for the music. (See Patriarchs and Prophets, 319, 320, 454.)

Music pervades our entire society today. I am not bringing these things out to condemn anyone, but we need to elevate the standards once again. “If we do not receive the religion of Christ by feeding upon the word of God, we shall not be entitled to an entrance into the city of God. Having lived on earthly food, having educated our tastes to love worldly things, we would not be fitted for the heavenly courts; we could not appreciate the pure, heavenly current that circulates in heaven. The voices of the angels and the music of their harps would not satisfy us.” Review and Herald, May 4, 1897.

“That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” Amos 6:6. The “affliction of Joseph” here means that the conditions in Israel were deplorable for most of the people, because most of the people were quite average people. They were getting by, but they were not happy, and they were not growing spiritually. They were not developing a character like God intended them to do. Those who were eating and drinking and laying and stretching themselves out on couches and beds thought life would never end. They had food, wine, and perfume. For what more could they ask?

Wrath of God

Verse 7 changes gears somewhat: “Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed. The Lord God hath sworn by himself, saith the Lord the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces; therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein. And it shall come to pass, if there remain ten men in one house, that they shall die. And a man’s uncle shall take him up, and he that burneth him, to bring out the bones out of the house, and shall say unto him that [is] by the sides of the house, [Is there] yet [any] with thee? and he shall say, No. Then shall he say, Hold thy tongue: for we may not make mention of the name of the Lord. For, behold, the Lord commandeth, and he will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts.” Amos 6:7–11.

Those who thought they were so blessed, living in luxury and letting the world go by, were to be the first to go into captivity. Do we dare make a comparison here? In the circumstances Amos described, he was speaking specifically of the leadership of that day. He asked, “Do you want the best places at the banquets? Do you want the most acknowledgement in the Synagogues? Then you are going to be the first to go into captivity.” And the reason was that they had departed from the plan that God had for His people.

All men are created equal. There is a value of the soul, and God looks upon all people the same, but there are certain areas of responsibility to which God has called people. He has equipped them for those responsibilities, but at the same time, they will have greater accountability when they are called before God in the Day of Judgment. That is the way that God works.

As He was trying to deal with the nation of Israel, God left no doubt regarding how He felt about the Northern kingdom. They would pay the price for their attitudes and their actions. God said, “I hate everything about you, and you are not going to escape; you are going to die.”

These verses give a very realistic account of the horrors of pestilence that would come after the seize of Jerusalem took place. So complete was the destruction to be that even where a large number gathered in a house to escape these dangers, not one of them would escape. There would be no place to hide.

Those who would give the burial message of them that had died did not even want to carry the bodies out, for fear that they would be attacked or sieged upon, so they would burn the bodies. When giving the burial message, they dared not even mention the name of the Lord. Why? Because they were fearful that a greater manifestation of wrath would come upon them by even mentioning the name of God.

This is one of the things that contributed to the loss of the name Yahweh. Many people have tried to re-capture the use of that name, and they have not succeeded. If someone comes to you saying that you need to call upon the name of the Lord in a certain way, do not listen. This is one of the things that contributed to the loss of the pronunciation of the name. The children of Israel did not dare call upon the name of the Lord because they were fearful that their sins would be raw and ripe before God and His wrath would come down upon them—even in a burial message. That is how far away from God that they had gone.

For Ensamples

Again I say, “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. The books of the Old Testament, dear friend, point to last day happenings.

“Shall horses run upon the rock? will [one] plow [there] with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock: Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength? But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the Lord the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness.” Amos 6:12–14.

The general order of things at this time of judgment, this time of retribution, would be so far out of the order that it would be like horses running on rocks—something you do not do. If you have ever ridden a horse, you know you do not run a horse on rocks. People knew that back then too. And you do not take oxen and plow a rock field. God was trying to convey to them that these things were not things that would normally be done, but they would be done to deal with such a corrupt and poisonous situation.

Some things become so poisonous in God’s mind that they have to be dealt with in a very severe way—a way that normally would not be used.

Again, we have to learn the lessons of these things. God is longsuffering. God is merciful. Israel’s history was long. That is the principle that God has for us in dealing with situations. We, as human beings, do not have long periods of time to deal with situations like God does. God did not deal with individuals per se; He dealt with entire nations who had long, long lives. Sometimes He allowed them to go on for hundreds of years, and then finally, when the cup was full, God dealt with them.

Translate that down to us today and to how we are to relate to people and individuals in circumstances within the church. We do not have long periods of time, but we can apply the principles. We can extend the hand of mercy, but when a limit is reached and situations become poisonous, we have to deal with them in the same way that God dealt with them. That is the lesson we can gain from Amos 6. If we are going on the same path as the children of Israel, we will have to pay the same price. The price was a permanent one for Israel. The whole Northern kingdom was lost.

A Remnant Spared

In spite of that, God held out a light. He held out the fact that there was a remnant that would be spared, and that remnant was Judah. And even out of Judah there was another remnant that was to be saved. A smaller group even yet—a remnant of a remnant. The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that the majority will leave us. (See Patriarchs and Prophets, 102, 103.) We need to try to examine the reasons why the majority depart, and stay far away from the circumstances that would draw us, if we possibly can.

The children of Israel loved their wine so much that it blurred their thinking. They loved their fine cuts of meat so much that they had perverted appetites. They loved their celebration music and dance so much that it caused them to enter into temptation. They loved their money that provided for all of this, and the love of money is the root of all evil.

Friend, we dare not repeat the same history. Are we going to survive? We can survive by understanding. We can survive by drawing near to God. We can survive by not stiffening our necks against rebuke, when it comes from the Word. We can survive. It is possible. Amos 6 is a dark picture, but God has placed it there so we can survive. He has made all the provisions for us to survive, if we will just learn the lessons.

To be continued . . .

Pastor Mike Baugher is Associate Speaker for Steps to Life Ministry. He may be contacted by e-mail at: mikebaugher@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.

One Day at a Time, Part I

God made man to be happy, did He not? He created because He loved mankind. He created everything to make mankind happy.

Sin has come into the world now, which has ruined relationships, health, longevity, peace, and the other things that make for happiness. But God sent His Son to redeem us, and if we are willing, He has promised to save us and to give us that joyous life that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden.

Desires Fulfilled

Even here, God’s desire is that we might have joy and happiness. I like this passage: “The Lord upholds all who fall, And raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look expectantly to You, And You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing.” Psalm 145:14–16.

Have you ever fallen? The Bible says that the Lord upholds those who fall, and raises up those who are bowed down. Have you ever felt like you were burdened down with some weight? It may be a misunderstanding. It may be duties that overwhelm you. It may be the lack of friendship or poverty. God’s purpose is to satisfy everyone’s desires completely.

There are those who have developed desires that are not holy, and those desires need to be changed, refined, and purified. God’s purpose is to fulfill every pure and true desire. Often God wants to fulfill as many of those desires as He can right here on earth. However, He will not be able to fulfill some desires until eternity. For example, a person who is born blind may have a great desire to have sight—to see colors, to see people, to see things—something that we take for granted. We wake up each morning and open our eyes, and we go about our day’s activities. Most of us do not bother to thank the Lord for eyesight. It is just something that we have. But many of the individuals who are born blind have a great longing for something that they do not have.

Sometimes God has fulfilled such desires here on earth. Jesus healed the man who had been blind from birth (John 9), and other blind and suffering individuals also received healing (Matthew 15:31; Luke 7:22).

God is the same Healer today, and sometimes He heals people here too, but those longings cannot always be fulfilled here. Paul had an infirmity in the flesh, which seemed to involve his eyesight. He prayed three times for God to heal him, which He could have done, but God saw that it was best for His cause and for Paul’s character development to allow that infirmity to remain. He said instead, “My grace is sufficient for you. It will be fulfilled in its time, but not right now.” Paul had to endure the affliction of the flesh. (11 Corinthians 12:7–9.) But, nevertheless, God is going to answer that prayer. In fact, James 5 tells us that everyone who comes to the Lord for healing, confessing their sins, will be healed. Not all of them will be healed immediately; not all of them will even be healed in this life, but everyone will be healed.

Completely Satisfied

The Bible says that God satisfies the desires of every living thing. Whatever true and holy desires we have, God intends for the desires to be completely fulfilled far beyond anything we can imagine. Whatever we can ask or think, God desires to fulfill it. (See John 14:13, 14; 15:16.) “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children.” Education, 18.

A text that applies to heaven as well as to this life is 1 Corinthians 2:9: “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ ” That is supposed to be realized right here on earth. More than we can think or imagine God desires to give to us, even here. This does not necessarily mean finances—that is the first thing a lot of people think of—but the real things of life, the things that make us happy, joyful, and peaceful; the things that make us truly successful.

God intends for us to be able to develop talents beyond what we can imagine. God intends for us to have success and joy in the real things of life beyond what we could ever hope. And then, in the life beyond, when He comes again, there are things prepared that will satisfy us throughout eternity, things into which we will be growing in more knowledge and joy throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. There will be friendships there that we cannot imagine. There will be activities there that go beyond anything we have ever imagined for enjoyment and pleasure. We will experience real friends, real joy, real activities.

Before we can enjoy the pleasures of God in heaven, we must first learn to enjoy the pleasures of God here. We must first develop a little heaven within our hearts for us to take to heaven and enjoy there. It is here that we must develop those characters and habits that prepare us to fit into the society in heaven.

Biddings are Enablings

Our characters are not changed when Jesus comes. They remain exactly the same. This is why God’s ideal for us here is higher than we can imagine, because what we are there, in heaven, is what we become here, and that is beyond what most of us can imagine.

Now, when we consider this, some of us may say, “Well, that is just far beyond anything that I could ever achieve. I mean, I have so many faults in my heart and in my life and character that I could never get to the place where I could really fit into the society of heaven. I could never accomplish it here. If every thought that I think and every sentence that I speak has to fit into the society of heaven, I just do not see how I could ever achieve such a thing. It is beyond the realm of possibility.”

Have you ever thought that? I have wondered how I could ever achieve such a thing, but God has promised it. Remember, all of God’s biddings are enablings. What God has asked us to do He is able to accomplish. “As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 333. If He is able to accomplish it tomorrow, He is able to accomplish it today; at least it begins today. In fact, today is the only day we have to accomplish it! This is the reason God has given us a life of existence here on this earth. Why, when we come to the Lord and confess Him, does He not just take us to heaven at that moment? Because we have to develop our characters.

Some people have the idea that God should just come down to earth and ask people where they want to go. If they choose heaven, He can take them to heaven. If they do not choose heaven, then they do not need to go to heaven. If God did that, everyone would choose to go to heaven, would they not? Of course, some people think that would be wonderful. Would it? The only trouble is they would not be prepared for heaven, because we do not change when we go to heaven. We change here. That is why, throughout the ages, God has always given people a space of time in which it seems as though nothing is happening; it seems like things are sort of in neutral, but that is where the things are really happening. That is when God is really developing the character.

Old Testament Examples

Think of Moses who was ready to lead the children of Israel out from Egypt. He went out and herded sheep, day after day after day, doing nothing. At least that is what he thought he was doing, but that is from where his real preparation was coming—from herding sheep, taking care of the sick sheep, taking care of the orphans who had no parents, the ones who were wayward and unruly and independent, searching after that lost sheep that had gone off by itself, and instead of letting it suffer the consequences, going out and searching and bringing it back. That was where his character was being developed.

Think back to Noah’s day. We are told that in Noah’s day, when he began to build the ark, there was a great number of people helping him. If the flood had come quickly, within just a matter of a few months or maybe even a few years, there would have been many who would have gone into the ark. They believed Noah. He was a prophet of God; he was a great-grandson of Enoch, who had been translated to heaven.

Noah was in the line of holy men, and people knew at the beginning that he was a prophet called of God. Perhaps God gave signs, as He usually does when there is a prophet, in order to show people. Maybe Noah had some open visions where people could test the gift of prophecy, and there may have been some other prophecies that he gave that people could test. God never leaves us without evidence upon which to base our faith. Whatever evidences God gave, the people could test them and know that Noah was true. So there was a great number who followed and helped to build the ark.

But no one ever figured it would take 120 years to finish the ark. That was a long delay, year after year after year, decade after decade, and still doing the same thing—sawing wood and pounding nails. That got old after awhile! The people surely began to wonder when the ark would be finished. They became weary.

People lived hundreds of years at that time. Most of the people who were there and helping with the ark when it was first begun were still living. They perhaps were still active in some religious activity, but where were they? There was no one left to help with the ark. Noah stood all alone as far as all those who had begun. He had only his own children who had been born 20 years after the project was started.

Egypt to Canaan

Think of the children of Israel who left Egypt. They all intended and hoped and thought and believed that within a short period of time—just a few months’ journey—they would be into the Promised Land. God led them out of Egypt and gave them the manna to sustain them in the wilderness. He gave them the water that flowed from the rock, and then they had the cloud to give them cooling shade by day and the fire to give them warmth and protection by night. They could march right across that desert and soon be in the Promised Land. Wonderful! They had all chosen to leave Egypt; they had all chosen to go to the Promised Land. There were approximately 600,000 men, plus women and children.

Of all those men who left Egypt, only 2 out of 600,000 entered into the Promised Land. We are told that this is an example for us today as God’s remnant people. “I [Ellen White] was pointed back to ancient Israel. But two of the adults of the vast army that left Egypt entered the land of Canaan. Their dead bodies were strewn in the wilderness because of their transgressions. Modern Israel are in greater danger of forgetting God and being led into idolatry than were His ancient people. Many idols are worshiped, even by professed Sabbathkeepers. God especially charged His ancient people to guard against idolatry, for if they should be led away from serving the living God, His curse would rest upon them, while if they would love Him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might, He would abundantly bless them in basket and in store, and would remove sickness from the midst of them.

“A blessing or a curse is now before the people of God—a blessing if they come out from the world and are separate, and walk in the path of humble obedience; and a curse if they unite with the idolatrous, who trample upon the high claims of heaven. The sins and iniquities of rebellious Israel are recorded and the picture presented before us as a warning that if we imitate their example of transgression and depart from God we shall fall as surely as did they.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 609.

Only a few of those who leave Egypt—the sins of the world—actually end up entering Canaan. Do you know why? because God gives them time for their characters to be developed. While many responded to the altar call, while many answered the initial invitation to join the happy band going to heaven, only a few are willing to go through the character development it takes to enter in.

Many Are Called

What does the Bible say? There are many who are called and who respond to the call, but there are only a few who develop a character that allows them to be chosen to go in. “Many are called,” Jesus said, “but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14.

1 Corinthians 10:1–12 refers to this experience of the children of Israel. It says, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” Verses 1–4.

God gave them all the same opportunities. They all had the same food; they all had the same drink; they all heard the same sermons from Moses; they were all delivered from Egypt; they had all seen the miracles, but what happened?

“But with most of them God was not well pleased, for [their bodies] were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ ” Verses 5–7.

What was happening back then? They were involved, as were the people before the flood, in eating and drinking and playing. I am afraid that is what is happening to most of our young people today. They are involved in sports and eating and drinking and these kinds of things. If somebody goes out on a date, they know nothing else to do but to go to some activity or to some restaurant. That is what most people do when they want to have a night out or to do something.

Eating and drinking and playing—that is what happened to the children of Israel. There is nothing wrong with eating and drinking the right things. There is nothing wrong with exercise and some recreation, but somehow these were the things that absorbed their attention right there below Mt. Sinai, when they should have been dedicating and purifying their hearts for the manifestation of God. It was the wrong time. They did not know when to play and when not to play. They did not know when to eat and when to fast. Their day of opportunity came and they let it pass by.

“Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted . . .” by murmuring and complaining and questioning Providence, wondering, “Lord, are You really leading us? I do not like this that You are doing.” They tempted the Lord, and they “were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Verses 10–12.

Failing Trials

As we look at the children of Israel, we shake our heads and wonder at their unbelievable shortcomings. I mean, they left Egypt and lived their whole lives in the wilderness. They never got to enjoy the final reward for all their work. But then we stop and consider their trials. They were specifically tried ten different times. The sad thing is that they failed every time they were tried. They did not pass a single trial. These trials began while they were still in Egypt. You see, God was—and is—a God of love, and when the children of Israel failed once, He was loving enough to give them another opportunity. Trials are the opportunities God gives us to develop our characters. Obstacles and trials and temptations are the opportunities God gives us to reveal what is inside and to develop that character which will fit us for heaven.

We are not developed except when the trials come. That is what we are told in Hebrews 5:8, 9 where it says that Jesus was perfected by sufferings: “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”

To be continued . . .

Pastor Marshall Grosboll, with his wife Lillian, founded Steps to Life. In July 1991, Pastor Marshall and his family met with tragedy as they were returning home from a camp meeting in Washington state, when the airplane he was piloting went down, killing all on board.

Worthy of Imitating

A great need today is a body of churches that refuse to compromise and allow misconduct and wrong activities to flourish. The purpose of the church is to be a place where its members can grow “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13. Its goal is that each individual member be a temple, bringing honor and glory to God.

Today, people need a good role model to follow, and those in the church should have certain characteristics or qualities that would attract others to worship and to be a part of that church. We will look at some of the characteristics that should be reflected in the church worthy of worshipping in and being part of.

In I Thessalonians 1:6–10 it says, “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”

In this passage the Apostle Paul describes a congregation, a group of people putting into practice the instructions found in the Word of God. The members, ordering their lives according to God’s principles have been seen and witnessed by other people around. By their lives they set a good example demonstrating just what can be done when God is in control, providing direction and inspiration to others.

The Christian church has been very blessed with many role models found in both the Old and the New Testament.

We should ask ourselves the question, Whose path are we following? The path we follow influences others to follow that same path. If we are following Christ, our behavior, our conduct, the way we do business will witness for the Lord and others will follow that type of example. The Scriptures are very specific about the characteristics, or qualities of the role models we should follow. For instance, Moses, Elijah and Joshua in the Old Testament, all of these men represented God in all of their words and actions, becoming worthy role models and their influence touched many people’s lives.

If we do not learn to imitate Christ and to develop His character, His mind, His concepts, personality and have His qualities, another influence will overwhelm us to form characters where Christ will not even be in the picture. This is happening in the world today because the type of lifestyle many are living today only reflects the world. The majority are not willing to leave their comfort zone and move on to greater and higher things for the honor and glory of God. They are not willing to make the extra sacrifice and move away from the world’s approval because it is too uncomfortable to make that move.

Christ left His royal position, His home, His authority, everything to come here to this earth to receive rejection, insult and even physical abuse so that people could see the character of His Father represented. But the Lord left it all because He loved us. He left it all in the hope that He would find faith before He went to His Father, and when He comes back again He will find faith.

What type of reputation are you projecting right now around your community? Is it worthy of being imitated by others? Jesus told the Pharisees to their faces that they were hypocrites. He told them that they were so concerned about the outside that on the inside they were worse than anybody else. See Matthew 23:26.

Jesus said, “I will select people whom I can use who are willing to give me their lives, who are desiring to follow Me, and will allow Me to teach them how to be the people that I can use. I will be their God and this people that follow me will be My people.”

The Jews were chosen to be God’s special instruments to reflect God’s character but they went so far that they crucified the very One who could save them. However, the most astonishing and most powerful fact is that Jesus was not forced to be crucified. He was willing to give Himself voluntarily for all of the human race because He loved us.

Are you willing to leave your comfort zone for the honor and glory of God? The Lord promises that whatever you lose or give up here on this earth for My name’s sake, I will repay you. If you lose your life, I will give to you a new life. God gives us the assurance that if we will surrender all to the Lord now, to become a dwelling place for Jesus and the Holy Spirit, our future life is sure.

Paul says, “Ye were ensamples to all that believe.” I Thessalonians 1:7. We have the privilege of becoming Christlike examples to all around us. We can become role models for others, leading them to follow Jesus. Only when Christ is dwelling in us, when He is alive in our hearts, can we be the right examples and the role models that will influence others in the right way.

Paul says, “And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” I Thessalonians 1:6. Whether in times of turmoil or in times of trouble, you will have joy in your heart because you are asking God for your body to be a dwelling place, a temple of the Holy Spirit. When trouble comes, with joy you say, “Lord, come into my life. I know that I am in the middle of trouble, but even now, in the middle of all this turmoil, I am determined to honor and give glory to You, and to be your child and to reflect your character.” Hard times are the most difficult times to reflect God’s character because it requires a sacrifice. It requires obedience and requires faith in God. How much faith do you have for the Lord today?

We read in II Thessalonians 2:14, “Which He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul here is saying to us that we need to follow our Lord Jesus Christ and to reflect His character.

The Corinthian church was a new church that was raised which came out from the middle of idol worship. They were baby Christians who fell in love with Jesus and they were reflecting that obedience, loyalty, and the faith of Jesus to all around them. As babies begin with milk, the apostle Paul says that the baby Christians should also drink the milk of the Word but when the Christian is mature, he should eat solid food. If you feed solid food to a baby Christian he will often choke, so there is great need of having a good understanding of what food is appropriate at all times so as not to discourage the baby Christian.

There are many people out of the church right now because they have choked. This often happens because the church is not being properly fed according to God’s principles. We have the responsibility to preach the present truth, not to compromise.

A church of believers worthy of imitating is a church teaching and practicing the truth and has a balance in church activities. Our God is a very organized and orderly God so His church is also properly organized and orderly waiting for His return.

Paul was very tactful in saying, “I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.” I Corinthians 4:14. Often, new Christians can become extremists, or even go back to idol worship. The danger is always there so there is a need to stay faithful together and continue to grow together spiritually. Never fall into the delusion that you know it all and do not need to hear anything else. That is dangerous ground. When a person has confidence in himself/herself, he/she starts drifting and often does not even know it. We need to constantly stay connected, by way of communion with our Lord Jesus Christ, and to stay in unity for the honor and glory of God.

Paul commanded the Philippians to follow the examples of others. Philippians 3:17 says, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example.” In other words, follow the examples of those who are worthy and don’t follow the examples of those who are not worthy. Be wise. Paul said to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God will, through the church that is worthy to imitate, direct you, teach you and show you the way to the Kingdom of Heaven. The true church of God is going to have trials. Trials are the method that God uses to make the church (His people) ready for the kingdom of heaven. If you are going through hard times and difficult moments you need to say, “Praise the Lord; He is working on me. He is making me worthy to inherit the kingdom of heaven.”

Daily consecration is necessary that He will work in and through us to reach out for His honor and glory. God can only work through consecrated people. When there is sin in the camp, God cannot work with the church. That is why the Lord told Joshua when Achan was in the camp, “I’m going to withdraw Myself from you because there is sin among you.” See Joshua 7:11, 12. On another occasion, the Lord says, “Joshua, tell the people to consecrate themselves today and tomorrow I will do wonders for them.” See Joshua 3:5.

If there is consecration today for the Lord, tomorrow, the Lord will do wonders for His people. We need to ask ourselves, “Lord, is there something in my life that is blocking the light from shining out in this community, or around the neighborhood where I live, or in my home? What do I have in my heart that is causing this place to be no longer a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit of God? Show me and give me your power to remove it, Lord. I want you to be the One to occupy this body, this temple that will give you honor and glory every day of my life.” When you truly consecrate your life to God, people will say, “I see something in this sister and this brother that I am really impressed to follow. I really want to know why I never see this person angry or cursing, or losing his temper. What is it that is making him happy all the time?”

Surrender to the Lord and let Him be your guide and then the whole church will be effective. Why? Then the church will grow because the image of Christ will be reflected in the countenance of each one in the church.

When Moses came down from the mountain after spending time with God, the children of Israel could not look at His face because it was so bright. He had been with God. The more time we spend together with the Lord, the more powerful, stronger and the more cleansed we will be, making the church more effective.

Today, we are in need of churches that will not compromise, but that will raise the standard of truth and bring honor and glory to God.

With Jesus Christ as our Lord and Master, we will be able to work together, understanding each other, loving each other, treating each other with respect and dignity and love. Our goal is to imitate Christ every step of the way; then the church will be firm, built on the rock. It will have one foundation, one purpose and one goal—to spread the Gospel to the world and to be ready when Jesus comes.

Do you want to go home? Let each person work together with his brother. We need to receive the Holy Spirit. The disciples were not ready to receive the Holy Spirit until they came together in unity. Only then were they baptized with the Holy Spirit. Our great need also is unity and the Holy Spirit.

What example are you being today? Make a commitment for the Lord today to make those necessary changes in your life so you will bring honor and glory to the Lord every day of your life and have the honor of being a role model worthy of imitation for others to follow.

Pastor Domingo Nunez is Director of Outreach Ministry for Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at: domingonunez@stepstolife, or by telephone at: (316) 788-5559.

Bible Study Guides – Following the Ark

July 15, 2012 – July 21, 2012

Key Text

“When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.” Joshua 3:3.

Study Help: Patriarchs and Prophets, 348, 349; 481–486.


“Study carefully the experiences of Israel in their travels to Canaan. Study the third and fourth chapters of Joshua, recording their preparation for and passage over the Jordan into the promised land.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, 994.


  • Where did the children of Israel encamp before crossing into the Promised Land? Joshua 3:1.

Note: “The Israelites were still encamped on the east side of Jordan, which presented the first barrier to the occupation of Canaan. ‘Arise,’ had been the first message of God to Joshua, ‘go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them’ [Joshua 1:2]. No instruction was given as to the way in which they were to make the passage. Joshua knew, however, that whatever God should command, He would make a way for His people to perform, and in this faith the intrepid leader at once began his arrangements for an advance.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 482.

  • During the time of their preparation for the longed-for crossing, what event were the people waiting for as the signal for advance? Joshua 3:2, 3.

Note: “The ‘ark of the covenant’ was to lead the way before the host. When they [the Israelites] should see the token of Jehovah’s presence, borne by the priests, remove from its place in the center of the camp, and advance toward the river, then they were to remove from their place, ‘and go after it’ [Joshua 3:3].” Patriarchs and Prophets, 483, 484.


  • Why was a great space required between the ark and the congregation? What were they to follow in order to have absolute safety? Joshua 3:4.

Note: “At the appointed time began the onward movement, the ark, borne upon the shoulders of the priests, leading the van. The people had been directed to fall back, so that there was a vacant space of more than half a mile about the ark. All watched with deep interest as the priests advanced down the bank of the Jordan.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 484.

  • What was God preparing to show them once again as they continued their journey? Joshua 3:5.

Note: “Leaving their encampment in the acacia groves of Shittim, the host descended to the border of the Jordan. All knew, however, that without divine aid they could not hope to make the passage. At this time of the year—in the spring season—the melting snows of the mountains had so raised the Jordan that the river overflowed its banks, making it impossible to cross at the usual fording places. God willed that the passage of Israel over Jordan should be miraculous. Joshua, by divine direction, commanded the people to sanctify themselves; they must put away their sins and free themselves from all outward impurity; ‘for tomorrow,’ he said, ‘the Lord will do wonders among you’ [Joshua 3:5].” Patriarchs and Prophets, 483.

  • At the time of the remarkable event, what commands of Joshua prepared the people to move in an orderly and godly fashion? Joshua 3:6, 7.

Note: “When ancient Israel journeyed, the ark of the covenant went before them. Beneath the mercy-seat, which was the cover of the ark, were the tables of the law. The ark was a symbol of the presence of God; and the glory of the Lord, which is His righteousness, shall be the rearward of His people.” The Review and Herald, February 20, 1894.


  • How was the miraculous crossing of the Jordan going to give the people an assurance of victory in their future endeavors to conquer the Promised Land? Joshua 3:8–10.

Note: “When the tidings that God had stayed the waters of Jordan before the children of Israel, reached the kings of the Amorites and of the Canaanites, their hearts melted with fear. The Hebrews had already slain the five kings of Midian, the powerful Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og of Bashan, and now the passage over the swollen and impetuous Jordan filled all the surrounding nations with terror. To the Canaanites, to all Israel, and to Joshua himself, unmistakable evidence had been given that the living God, the King of heaven and earth, was among His people, and that He would not fail them nor forsake them.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 485.

  • What can we learn from the way some were called to take the lead in exercising faith by entering the turbulent waters of Jordan? Joshua 3:14, 15.

Note: “The priests obeyed the commands of their leader and went before the people, carrying the ark of the covenant. The Hebrew hosts took up the line of march and followed this symbol of the divine presence. The wide column filed down the bank of Jordan, and, as the feet of the priests were dipped in the brim of the river, the water was cut off from above, and the volume below rolled on, leaving the bed of the stream dry. The priests passed on, bearing the ark of God, and Israel followed in the rear. Halfway over Jordan the priests were commanded to stand still in the channel of the river till all the Hebrew host had crossed over. This was to impress upon their minds more forcibly the fact that the power which stayed the waters of Jordan was the same that enabled their fathers to cross the Red Sea forty years before.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 157.

“Young men who have never made a success in the temporal duties of life will be equally unprepared to engage in the higher duties. A religious experience is gained only through conflict, through disappointment, through severe discipline of self, through earnest prayer. The steps to heaven must be taken one at a time, and every advance step gives strength for the next.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 100.


  • As the Israelites moved forward in faith, what miracle made it possible for the entire people to cross over into the land of Canaan? Joshua 3:11–17.

Note: “They [the congregation] saw them [the priests] with the sacred ark move steadily forward toward the angry, surging stream, till the feet of the bearers were dipped into the waters. Then suddenly the tide above was swept back, while the current below flowed on, and the bed of the river was laid bare.

“At the divine command the priests advanced to the middle of the channel and stood there while the entire host descended and crossed to the farther side. Thus was impressed upon the minds of all Israel the fact that the power that stayed the waters of Jordan was the same that had opened the Red Sea to their fathers forty years before. When the people had all passed over, the ark itself was borne to the western shore. No sooner had it reached a place of security, and ‘the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land’ [Joshua 4:8], than the imprisoned waters, being set free, rushed down, a resistless flood, in the natural channel of the stream.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 484.

  • What did God request once the people had crossed the river? Joshua 4:1–5. Why do we need tangible reminders of God’s miracles? Revelation 12:11.

Note: “All should have something to say for the Lord, for by so doing they will be blest. A book of remembrance is written of those who do not forsake the assembling of themselves together, but speak often one to another. The remnant are to overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. Some expect to overcome alone by the blood of the Lamb, without making any special effort of their own. I saw that God has been merciful in giving us the power of speech. He has given us a tongue, and we are accountable to Him for its use. We should glorify God with our mouth, speaking in honor of the truth and of His unbounded mercy, and overcome by the word of our testimony through the blood of the Lamb.” Early Writings, 114.

“We become overcomers by helping others to overcome, by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 974.


  • What was the purpose of the twelve stones that needed to be picked up from the midst of the Jordan’s dry riverbed? Joshua 4:6–10, 20–24.

Note: “Coming generations were not to be without a witness to this great miracle [of crossing the Jordan]. While the priests bearing the ark were still in the midst of Jordan, twelve men previously chosen, one from each tribe, took up each a stone from the river bed where the priests were standing, and carried it over to the western side. These stones were to be set up as a monument in the first camping place beyond the river.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 484.

  • What was the first thing that entered the river, and what was the last thing that came out? Joshua 3:15; 4:18. Why do we need to keep our eyes on the ark of God? Numbers 10:33.

Note: “In all the journeyings of Israel, ‘the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them, … to search out a resting place for them’ (Numbers 10:33). Borne by the sons of Kohath, the sacred chest containing God’s holy law was to lead the van. Before it went Moses and Aaron; and the priests, bearing silver trumpets, were stationed near. These priests received directions from Moses, which they communicated to the people by the trumpets. It was the duty of the leaders of each company to give definite directions concerning all the movements to be made, as indicated by the trumpets. Whoever neglected to comply with the directions given was punished with death.

“God is a God of order. Everything connected with heaven is in perfect order; subjection and thorough discipline mark the movements of the angelic host. Success can only attend order and harmonious action. God requires order and system in His work now no less than in the days of Israel. All who are working for Him are to labor intelligently, not in a careless, haphazard manner. He would have his work done with faith and exactness, that He may place the seal of His approval upon it.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 375, 376.

  • Where was the communication center with God found among His ancient people? Exodus 25:21, 22. Through what Source do we have access to such a center today? I Thessalonians 5:17; Hebrews 4:16.


1 In their travels, upon what were the Israelites expected to keep their eye in order to be found faithful in every trying situation?

2 What was associated with the ark that made it so important?

3 What did God design to have the new generation experience as they entered the Promised Land through a miracle?

4 What is the purpose of erecting memorials or reminders of special events in our life?

5 If we want to be preserved, at what do we need to keep looking?

Extra Reading

“We need to keep the heart and mind in training, by refreshing the memory with the lessons that the Lord taught His ancient people. Then to us, as He designed it should be to them, the teachings of His Word will ever be interesting and impressive.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, 994.

“Every deliverance, every blessing, that God in the past has granted to His people, should be kept fresh in memory’s hall as a sure pledge of further and richer, increasing blessings that He will bestow. The Lord’s blessings are adapted to the needs of His people.” Ibid., vol. 4, 1183.

“God permitted His ark to be taken by their [Israel’s] enemies [the Philistines] in the days of Eli, to show Israel how vain it was to trust in the ark, the symbol of His presence, while they were profaning the commandments contained in the ark. God would humble them by removing from them that sacred ark, their boasted strength and confidence.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, 404.

“Israel trusted in the ark of God and worshipped it instead of the God which the ark represented. And the Lord removed from His people the symbol of His presence, the assurance to them of the presence and power of God. Then the Jewish nation no longer stood as a chosen generation, a royal priesthood. They had forgotten their God, and were scattered into all parts of the world. Those who were loyal and steadfast and true in obedience to His commandments, the Lord favored. … Even in the land of their captivity was the Lord God revealed. For all who were faithful, wherever they were, the way was left open to approach God through prayer and supplication and heavenly communion.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, 210.

“How few are aware that they have darling idols, that they have cherished sins! God sees these sins to which you may be blinded, and He works with His pruning knife to strike deep and separate these cherished sins from you. You all want to choose for yourselves the process of purification.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 543.

© 2005 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.

Bible Study Guides – Lessons from the Wilderness

July 8, 2012 – July 14, 2012

Key Text

“Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Romans 15:4.

Study Help: Testimonies, vol. 2, 124–133.


“We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.” The General Conference Daily Bulletin, January 29, 1893.


  • What was a very old custom among God’s people when extraordinary events took place, and why? I Samuel 7:12; Joshua 4:5–7; Malachi 3:16.

Note: “Every deliverance, every blessing, that God in the past has granted to His people, should be kept fresh in memory’s hall as a sure pledge of further and richer, increasing blessings that He will bestow. The Lord’s blessings are adapted to the needs of His people.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1183.

  • Why is the study of history so important? Ecclesiastes 1:9; Romans 15:4.

Note: “Every part of the Bible is given by inspiration of God and is profitable. The Old Testament no less than the New should receive attention. As we study the Old Testament we shall find living springs bubbling up where the careless reader discerns only a desert.” Education, 191.

“The work of God in the earth presents, from age to age, a striking similarity in every great reformation or religious movement. The principles of God’s dealing with men are ever the same.” The Great Controversy, 343.


  • What specific Bible history is symbolic of God’s people approaching the final days of earth’s history? I Corinthians 10:6–15.

Note: “The experience of Christians in these days is much like the travels of ancient Israel. Please read I Corinthians 10, especially from the 6th to the 15th verse.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 284.

  • How did Satan manage to bar Israel from entering the Promised Land? What was his aim, and how is this a warning to us? Hebrews 3:9–12, 16, 17.

Note: “Satan was determined to keep his hold on the land of Canaan, and when it was made the habitation of the children of Israel, and the law of God was made the law of the land, he hated Israel with a cruel and malignant hatred and plotted their destruction. Through the agency of evil spirits strange gods were introduced; and because of transgression, the chosen people were finally scattered from the Land of Promise.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 688, 689.

“The sin of unbelief, by which their confidence in the Son of God was destroyed, led Israel far astray. At the very time when they should have been praising God and magnifying the name of the Lord, talking of His goodness, telling of His power, they were found in unbelief, and full of murmuring and complaint. The deceiver was seeking through every means possible to sow discord among them, to create envy and hatred in their hearts against Moses, and to stir up rebellion against God.” The Signs of the Times, April 25, 1895.

“Some are always anticipating evil or magnifying the difficulties that really exist, so that their eyes are blinded to the many blessings which demand their gratitude. The obstacles they encounter, instead of leading them to seek help from God, the only Source of strength, separate them from Him, because they awaken unrest and repining.

“Do we well to be thus unbelieving? Why should we be ungrateful and distrustful? Jesus is our friend; all heaven is interested in our welfare; and our anxiety and fear grieve the Holy Spirit of God. We should not indulge in a solicitude that only frets and wears us, but does not help us to bear trials. No place should be given to that distrust of God which leads us to make a preparation against future want the chief pursuit of life, as though our happiness consisted in these earthly things.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 293, 294.


  • Since God’s principles are distinct from the principles of the world, what is He calling for among us? Amos 3:3; II Corinthians 6:14–17; Mark 14:38.

Note: “Our holy faith cries out, Separation.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 240.

“Christ’s followers are required to come out from the world, and be separate, and touch not the unclean, and they have the promise of being the sons and daughters of the Most High, members of the royal family. But if the conditions are not complied with on their part, they will not, cannot, realize the fulfillment of the promise.” Ibid., vol. 2, 441.

“This history [of evil spirits introducing strange gods to cause God’s chosen people to transgress] Satan is striving to repeat in our day. God is leading His people out from the abominations of the world, that they may keep His law; and because of this, the rage of ‘the accuser of our brethren’ knows no bounds. … The antitypical land of promise is just before us, and Satan is determined to destroy the people of God and cut them off from their inheritance.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 689.

  • What is the result of voluntary unity with the world? James 4:4.

Note: “Whoever voluntarily enters into such [ungodly] relations will feel it necessary to conform, to some degree, to the habits and customs of his companions. The time thus spent is worse than wasted. Thoughts are entertained and words are spoken that tend to break down the strongholds of principle and to weaken the citadel of the soul.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 563.

“To parents who are living in the cities, the Lord is sending the warning cry, Gather your children into your own houses; gather them away from those who are disregarding the commandments of God, who are teaching and practicing evil. Get out of the cities as fast as possible.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 400.

  • What question should we ask ourselves? II Corinthians 13:5.

Note: “It is the duty of every child of God to inquire: ‘Wherein am I separate from the world?’ Let us suffer a little inconvenience, and be on the safe side.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 278.


  • Why was Israel’s 40-year wilderness wandering needed? Numbers 32:11–13.

Note: “They [most of the Israelites] had complained at nothing, and now God gave them cause to weep. Had they mourned for their sin when it was faithfully laid before them, this sentence [to wander in the wilderness for forty years] would not have been pronounced.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 392.

  • What marked the entrance into Israel’s time of testing in the wilderness, and what marked its conclusion? Exodus 14:21, 22, 29–30; Joshua 3:15–17; 4:18. How is this paralleled in the history of the Advent believers?

Note: “The history of ancient Israel is a striking illustration of the past experience of the Adventist body. God led His people in the advent movement, even as He led the children of Israel from Egypt. In the great disappointment their faith was tested as was that of the Hebrews at the Red Sea. Had they still trusted to the guiding hand that had been with them in their past experience, they would have seen the salvation of God. If all who had labored unitedly in the work in 1844, had received the third angel’s message and proclaimed it in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts. A flood of light would have been shed upon the world. Years ago the inhabitants of the earth would have been warned, the closing work completed, and Christ would have come for the redemption of His people.

“It was not the will of God that Israel should wander forty years in the wilderness; He desired to lead them directly to the land of Canaan and establish them there, a holy, happy people. But ‘they could not enter in because of unbelief.’ Hebrews 3:19. Because of their backsliding and apostasy they perished in the desert, and others were raised up to enter the Promised Land. In like manner, it was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be so long delayed and His people should remain so many years in this world of sin and sorrow. But unbelief separated them from God. As they refused to do the work which He had appointed them, others were raised up to proclaim the message. In mercy to the world, Jesus delays His coming, that sinners may have an opportunity to hear the warning and find in Him a shelter before the wrath of God shall be poured out.” The Great Controversy, 457, 458.


  • What types of issues will the people of God be facing in these last days? Numbers 11:4; I Corinthians 10:6.

Note: “It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, healthy, happy people. But those to whom it was first preached, went not in ‘because of unbelief’ [Hebrews 4:6]. Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them.

“For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord’s professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years.” Evangelism, 696.

  • Lust was the problem the Israelites faced in the wilderness (I Corinthians 10:6). In this context, what lust will we be facing in our time? Philippians 3:19; I Samuel 15:23.

Note: “When God led the children of Israel out of Egypt, it was His purpose to establish them in the land of Canaan a pure, happy, healthy people. Let us look at the means by which He would accomplish this. He subjected them to a course of discipline, which, had it been cheerfully followed, would have resulted in good, both to themselves and to their posterity. He removed flesh food from them in a great measure. He had granted them flesh in answer to their clamors, just before reaching Sinai, but it was furnished for only one day. God might have provided flesh as easily as manna, but a restriction was placed upon the people for their good. It was His purpose to supply them with food better suited to their wants than the feverish diet to which many of them had been accustomed in Egypt. The perverted appetite was to be brought into a more healthy state, that they might enjoy the food originally provided for man—the fruits of the earth, which God gave to Adam and Eve in Eden.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 377, 378.

“With the history of the children of Israel before us, let us take heed, and not be found committing the same sins, following in the same way of unbelief and rebellion.” The Review and Herald, April 18, 1893.


1 How can the study of history be of great value to us?

2 What Bible history is cited as a type for God’s church in the last days?

3 How does voluntary association with unbelievers affect believers?

4 What event in the history of modern Israel compares to the crossing of the Red Sea?

5 What are the sins that delay the second coming of Christ?

Extra Reading

“It was not the teaching of the schools of Egypt that enabled Moses to triumph over his enemies, but an ever-abiding, unflinching faith, a faith that did not fail under the most trying circumstances. At the command of God, Moses advanced, although apparently there was nothing ahead for his feet to tread upon. More than a million people were depending on him, and he led them forward step by step, day by day. God permitted these lonely travels through the wilderness that His people might obtain an experience in enduring hardship, and that when they were in peril they might know that there was relief and deliverance in God alone. Thus they might learn to know and to trust God, and to serve Him with a living faith.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 408, 409.

“Temptations will come to us in the most seductive guise, but it is at our peril that we turn from the plain command of God to follow the assertions of men. To follow the word of the Lord, to embrace the truth, involves cross-bearing and self-denial; but it is not safe to do otherwise than to bear the cross. As you see the light, walk in the light. Let a solemn, unalterable purpose take possession of you, and resolve in the strength and grace of God, that henceforth you will live for Him, and that no earthly consideration shall persuade you to disown the divine law of ten commandments, and thus disown your Saviour and your God. Seek your counsel of God, and you will find that the path of obedience to His commandments is the path of the just, that ‘shineth more and more unto the perfect day’ [Proverbs 4:18].

“The first step in the path of obedience is to surrender the will to God. This may seem a difficult thing to do; for Satan will present every possible objection, and will manufacture difficulties, and magnify perplexities before the mind; but take the first step, and the next step on the ladder of progress will be easier. The ladder of progress must be climbed round by round; but God is above the ladder, and His glory will illuminate every step of advancement. The path of faith and self-denial is an upward path; its way is heavenward, and as you advance, the misleading clouds of doubt and evil will be left behind.” The Review and Herald, October 9, 1894.

© 2005 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.