Section III: Heroes Of Faith—The World’s True Noblemen
Heroes Of Faith—The World’s True Noblemen
“The Bible heroes of faith are to be our examples.”—MS 6, 1889
God Is Witnesses In All Ages
How often those who trusted the Word of God, though in themselves utterly helpless, have withstood the power of the whole world,—Enoch, pure in heart, holy in life, holding fast his faith in the triumph of righteousness, against a corrupt and scoffing generation; Noah and his household against the men of his time, men of the greatest physical and mental strength and the most debased in morals; the children of Israel at the Red Sea, a helpless, terrified multitude of slaves, against the mightiest army of the mightiest nation on the globe; David, a shepherd lad, having God’s promise of the throne, against Saul, the established monarch, bent on holding fast his power; Shadrach and his companions in the fire, against Nebuchadnezzar on the throne; Daniel among the lions, against his enemies in the high places of the kingdom; Jesus on the cross, against the Jewish priests and rulers forcing even the Roman governor to work their will; Paul in chains, led to a criminal’s death, against Nero, the despot of the world’s empire.
Such examples are not found in the Bible alone. They abound in every record of human progress. The Vaudois and the Hugenots, Wyclif and Huss, Jerome and Luther, Tyndale and Knox, Zinzendorf and Wesley, with multitudes of others, have witnessed to the power of God’s Word against human power and policy in support of evil. These are the world’s true noblemen. They are its royal line.—Review and Herald, Dec. 24, 1908.
Bible Examples Of Steadfastness Under Persecution
In all ages God’s appointed witnesses have exposed themselves to reproach and persecution for the truth’s sake. Joseph was maligned and persecuted because he preserved his virtue and integrity. David, the chosen messenger of God, was hunted like a beast of prey by his enemies. Daniel was cast into a den of lions because he was true to his allegiance to heaven. Job was deprived of his worldly possessions, and so afflicted in body that he was abhorred by his relatives and friends; yet he maintained his integrity. Jeremiah could not be deterred from speaking the words that God had given him to speak; and his testimony so enraged the king and princes that he was cast into a loathsome pit, Stephen was stoned because he preached Christ and Him crucified. Paul was imprisoned, beaten with rods, stoned, and finally put to death because he was a faithful messenger for God to the Gentiles. And John was banished to the isle of Patmos “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”—Acts of the Apostles, p. 575.
Abraham’s Noble Example
(See Gen. 14:12-14.)
To Abraham, under God, the triumph was due. The worshiper of Jehovah had not only rendered a great service to the country, but had proved himself a man of valor. It was seen that righteousness is not cowardice, and that Abraham’s religion made him courageous in maintaining the right and defending the oppressed. His heroic act gave him a widespread influence among the surrounding tribes. On his return, the king of Sodom came out with his retinue to honor the conqueror. He bade him take the goods, begging only that the prisoners should be restored.
By the usage of war, the spoils belonged to the conquerors; but Abraham had undertaken this expedition with no purpose of gain, and he refused to take advantage of the unfortunate, only stipulating that his confederates should receive the portion to which they were entitled.
Few, if subjected to such a test, would have shown themselves as noble as did Abraham. Few would have resisted the temptation to secure so rich a booty. His example is a rebuke to selfseeking, mercenary spirits. Abraham regarded the claims of justice and humanity. His conduct illustrates the inspired maxim, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” “I have lifted up mine hand,” he said, “unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoe latchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldst say, I have made Abram rich.” He would give them no occasion to think that he had engaged in warfare for the sake of gain, or to attribute his prosperity to their gifts or favor. God had promised to bless Abraham, and to Him the glory should be ascribed.—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 135, 136.
Joseph’s Fidelity Brought Special Favors To God’s People
The people of Egypt, in order to supply themselves with food during the famine, had sold to the crown their cattle and lands, and had finally bound themselves to perpetual serfdom. Joseph wisely provided for their release; he permitted them to become royal tenants, holding their lands of the king, and paying an annual tribute of one-fifth of the products of their labor.
But the children of Jacob were not under the necessity of making such conditions. On account of the service that Joseph had rendered the
Egyptian nation, they were not only granted a part of the country as a home, but were exempted from taxation, and liberally supplied with food during the continuance of the famine. The king publicly acknowledged that it was through the merciful interposition of the God of Joseph that Egypt enjoyed plenty while other nations were perishing from famine. He saw, too, that Joseph’s management had greatly enriched the kingdom, and his gratitude surrounded the family of Jacob with royal favor.—Patriarch and Prophets, p. 241.
Exempted From Taxes
No tax was required of Joseph’s father and brethren by the king of Egypt, and Joseph was allowed the privilege of supplying them liberally with food. The king said to his rulers, Are we not indebted to the God of Joseph, and to him, for this liberal supply of food? Was it not because of his wisdom that we laid in so abundantly? While other lands are perishing, we have enough! His management has greatly enriched the kingdom.—Story of Redemption, p. 104.
Elijah, God’s Fearless Messenger To King Ahab
To Elijah was entrusted the mission of delivering to Ahab Heaven’s message of judgment. He did not seek to be the Lord’s messenger; the word of the Lord came to him. And jealous for the honor of God’s cause, he did not hesitate to obey the divine summons, though to obey seemed to invite swift destruction at the hand of the wicked king. The prophet set out at once, and traveled night and day until he reached Samaria. At the palace he solicited no admission, nor waited to be formally announced. Clad in the coarse garments usually worn by the prophets of that time,
he passed the guards, apparently unnoticed, and stood for a moment before the astonished king.
Elijah made no apology for his abrupt appearance. A Greater than the ruler of Israel had commissioned him to speak; and, lifting his hand toward heaven, he solemnly affirmed by the living God that the judgments of the Most High were about to fall upon Israel. “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand,” he declared, “there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”
It was only by the exercise of strong faith in the unfailing power of God’s word that Elijah delivered his message. Had he not possessed implicit confidence in the One whom he served, he would never have appeared before Ahab.—Prophets and Kings, pp. 120, 121.
Ahab Powerless Before God’s Messenger
God was now visiting His people with the severest of His judgments. The prediction of Elijah was meeting with terrible fulfillment. For three years the messenger of woe was sought for in city after city and nation after nation. At the mandate of Ahab, many rulers had given their oath of honor that the strange prophet could not be found in their dominions. Yet the search was continued; for Jezebel and the prophets of Baal hated Elijah with a deadly hatred, and they spared no effort to bring him within reach of their power. And still there was no rain.
At last, “after many days,” the word of the Lord came to Elijah, “Go, show thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.”
In obedience to the command, “Elijah went to show himself unto Ahab.” . . .
“As Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah?”
During the apostasy of Israel, Obadiah had remained faithful. His master, the king, had been unable to turn him from his allegiance to the living God. Now he was honored with a commission from Elijah, who said, “Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.” . . .
In astonishment mingled with terror the king listened to the message from the man whom he feared and hated, and for whom he had sought so untiringly. Well he knew that Elijah would not endanger his life merely for the sake of meeting him. Could it be possible that the prophet was about to utter another woe against Israel? The king’s heart was seized with dread. He remembered the withered arm of Jeroboam. Ahab could not avoid obeying the summons, neither dared he lift up his hand against the messenger of God. And so, accompanied by a bodyguard of soldiers, the trembling monarch went to meet the prophet.
The king and the prophet stand face to face. Though Ahab is filled with passionate hatred, yet in the presence of Elijah he seems unmanned, powerless. In his first faltering words, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” he unconsciously reveals the inmost feelings of his heart. Ahab knew that it was by the word of God that the heavens had become as brass, yet he sought to cast upon the prophet the blame for the heavy judgments resting on the land.
It is natural for the wrong-doer to hold the messengers of God responsible for the calamities that come as the sure result of a departure from the way of righteousness. Those who place themselves in Satan’s power are unable to see things as God sees them. When the mirror of truth is held up before them, they become indignant at the thought of receiving reproof. Blinded by sin, they refuse to repent; they feel that God’s servants have turned against them, and are worthy of severest censure.
Standing in conscious innocence before Ahab, Elijah makes no attempt
to excuse himself or to flatter the king. Nor does he seek to evade the king’s wrath by the good news that the drought is almost over. He has no apology to offer. Indignant, and jealous for the honor of God, he casts back the imputation of Ahab, fearlessly declaring to the king that it is his sins, and the sins of his fathers, that have brought upon Israel this terrible calamity. “I have not troubled Israel,” Elijah boldly asserts, “but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim.”
Today there is need of the voice of stern rebuke; for grievous sins have separated the people from God. Infidelity is fast becoming fashionable. “We will not have this man to reign over us,” is the language of thousands. The smooth sermons so often preached make no lasting impression; the trumpet does not give a certain sound. Men are not cut to the heart by the plain, sharp truths of God’s word.—Prophets and Kings, PP. 137-140.
Elijah Unashamed And Unterrified Before His Enemies
Facing King Ahab and the false prophets, and surrounded by the assembled hosts of Israel, Elijah stands, the only one who has appeared to vindicate the honor of Jehovah. He whom the whole kingdom has charged with its weight of woe, is now before them, apparently defenseless in the presence of the monarch of Israel, the prophets of Baal, the men of war, and the surrounding thousands. But Elijah is not alone. Above and around him are the protecting hosts of heaven,—angels that excel in strength.
Unashamed, unterrified, the prophet stands before the multitude, fully aware of his commission to execute the divine command. His countenance is lighted with an awful solemnity. In anxious expectancy the
people wait for him to speak. Looking first upon the broken-down altar of Jehovah, and then upon the multitude, Elijah cries out in clear, trumpet-like tones: “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him.”—Prophets and Kings, p.147.
Three Faithful Youth And A Proud King’s Degree
(See Daniel 3.)
Not all had bowed the knee to the idolatrous symbol of human power. In the midst of the worshiping multitude there were three men who were firmly resolved not thus to dishonor the God of heaven. Their God was King of kings and Lord of lords; they would bow to none other.
To Nebuchadnezzar, flushed with triumph, was brought the word that among his subjects there were some who dared disobey his mandate. Certain of the wise men, jealous of the honors that had been bestowed upon the faithful companions of Daniel, now reported to the king their flagrant violation of his wishes. . . .
But firmly the Hebrews testified to their allegiance to the God of heaven, and their faith in His power to deliver. The act of bowing to the image was understood by all to be an act of worship. Such homage they could render to God alone.
As the three Hebrews stood before the king, he was convinced that they possessed something the other wise men of his kingdom did not have. They had been faithful in the performance of every duty. He would give them another trial. If only they would signify their willingness to unite with the multitude in worshiping the image, all would be well with them; “but if ye worship not,” he added, “ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.” Then with his hand stretched upward in defiance, he demanded, “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?”
In vain were the king’s threats. He could not turn the men from their allegiance to the Ruler of the universe. From the history of their fathers they had learned that disobedience to God results in dishonor, disaster, and death; and that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the foundation of all true prosperity. Calmly facing the furnace, they said: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so [if this is your decision], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.” Their faith strengthened as they declared that God would be glorified by delivering them, and with triumphant assurance born of implicit trust in God, they added, “But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
The king’s wrath knew no bounds. “Full of fury,” “the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,” representatives of a despised and captive race. Directing that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than its wont, he commanded the mighty men of his army to bind the worshipers of Israel’s God, preparatory to summary execution. . . .
By the deliverance of His faithful servants, the Lord declared that He takes His stand with the oppressed, and rebukes all earthly powers that rebel against the authority of Heaven. The three Hebrews declared to the whole nation of Babylon their faith in Him whom they worshiped. They relied on God. In the hour of their trial they remembered the promise, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” And in a marvelous manner their faith in the living Word had been honored
in the sight of all. The tidings of their wonderful deliverance were carried to many countries by the representatives of the different nations that had been invited by Nebuchadnezzar to the dedication. Through the faithfulness of His children, God was glorified in all the earth.
Important are the lessons to be learned from the experience of the Hebrew youth on the plain of Dura. In this our day, many of God’s servants, though innocent of wrong-doing, will be given over to suffer humiliation and abuse at the hands of those who, inspired by Satan, are filled with envy and religious bigotry. Especially will the wrath of man be aroused against those who hallow the Sabbath of the fourth commandment; and at last a universal decree will denounce these as deserving of death.
The season of distress before God’s people will call for a faith that will not falter. His children must make it manifest that He is the only object of their worship, and that no consideration, not even that of life itself, can induce them to make the least concession to false worship. To the loyal heart the commands of sinful, finite men will sink into insignificance beside the word of the eternal God. Truth will be obeyed though the result be imprisonment or exile or death.
As in the days of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, so in the closing period of earth’s history the Lord will work mightily in behalf of those who stand steadfastly for the right. He who walked with the Hebrew worthies in the fiery furnace will be with His followers wherever they are. His abiding presence will comfort and sustain. In the midst of the time of trouble,—trouble such as has not been since there was a nation,—His chosen ones will stand unmoved. Satan with all the hosts of evil cannot destroy the weakest of God’s saints. Angels that excel in strength will protect them, and in their behalf Jehovah will reveal Himself as a “God
of gods,” able to save to the uttermost those who have put their trust in Him.—Prophets and Kings, pp. 506-513.
Three Loyal Youth
In vain were the king’s threats. He could not turn these noble men from their allegiance to the great Ruler of nations. They had learned from the history of their fathers that disobedience to God is dishonor, disaster, and ruin; that the fear of the Lord is not only the beginning of wisdom but the foundation of all true prosperity. They look with calmness upon the fiery furnace and the idolatrous throng. They have trusted in God, and He will not fail them now. Their answer is respectful, but decided: “Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Dan. 3:18).
The proud monarch is surrounded by his great men, the officers of the government, and the army that has conquered nations; and all unite in applauding him as having the wisdom and power of the gods. In the midst of this imposing display stand the three youthful Hebrews, steadily persisting in their refusal to obey the king’s decree. They had been obedient to the laws of Babylon so far as these did not conflict with the claims of God, but they would not be swayed a hair’s breadth from the duty they owed to their Creator.
The king’s wrath knew no limits. In the very height of his power and glory, to be thus defied by the representatives of a despised and captive race was an insult which his proud spirit could not endure. The fiery furnace had been heated seven times more than it was wont, and into it were cast the Hebrew exiles. So furious were the flames, that the men who cast them in were burned to death. . . .
By the deliverance of His faithful servants, the Lord declares that He will take His stand with the oppressed and overthrow all earthly powers that would trample upon the authority of the God of heaven.—The Sanctified Life, pp. 37, 38, 40.
Angels of the Lord were watching by the side of the faithful three. God wished to show to the nations of the world who was the great I AM, the God of the heavens, the Ruler of the universe, who alone was to be worshiped. Did not the Hebrews break the law of the king?—Yes, but the law of God was first to be obeyed.—Review and Herald, April 29, 1890.
Daniel, Example Of Christian Fearlessness And Fidelity
The prophet’s enemies counted on Daniel’s firm adherence to principle for the success of their plan. And they were not mistaken in their estimate of his character. He quickly read their malignant purpose in framing the decree, but he did not change his course in a single particular. Why should he cease to pray now, when he most needed to pray? Rather would he relinquish life itself, than his hope of help in God. With calmness he performed his duties as chief of the princes; and at the hour of prayer he went to his chamber, and with his windows open toward Jerusalem, in accordance with his usual custom, he offered his petition to the God of heaven. He did not try to conceal his act. Although he knew full well the consequences of his fidelity to God, his spirit faltered not. Before those who were plotting his ruin, he would not allow it even to appear that his connection with Heaven was severed. In all cases where the king had a right to command, Daniel would obey; but neither the king nor his decree could make him swerve from allegiance to the King of kings.
Thus the prophet boldly yet quietly and humbly declared that no earthly power has a right to interpose between the soul and God. Surrounded by idolaters, he was a faithful witness to this truth. His dauntless adherence to right was a bright light in the moral darkness of that heathen court. Daniel stands before the world today a worthy example of Christian fearlessness and fidelity. . . .
God did not prevent Daniel’s enemies from casting him into the lions’ den; He permitted evil angels and wicked men thus far to accomplish their purpose; but it was that He might make the deliverance of His servant more marked, and the defeat of the enemies of truth and righteousness more complete. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee,” the psalmist has testified. Through the courage of this one man who chose to follow right rather than policy, Satan was to be defeated, and the name of God was to be exalted and honored.—Prophets and Kings, pp. 540-544.
Lessons From Daniel’s Deliverance
From the story of Daniel’s deliverance, we may learn that in seasons of trial and gloom, God’s children should be just what they were when their prospects were bright with hope and their surroundings all that they could desire. Daniel in the lions’ den was the same Daniel who stood before the king as chief among the ministers of state and as a prophet of the Most High. A man whose heart is stayed upon God will be the same in the hour of his greatest trial as he is in prosperity, when the light and favor of God and of man beam upon him. Faith reaches to the unseen, and grasps eternal realities.
Heaven is very near those who suffer for righteousness’ sake. Christ identifies His interests with the interests of His faithful people; He suffers in the person of His saints; and whoever touches His chosen
ones touches Him. The power that is near to deliver from physical harm or distress is also near to save from the greater evil, making it possible for the servant of God to maintain his integrity under all circumstances, and to triumph through divine grace.—Prophets and Kings, p.545.
Daniel Honored By Man And By God
The experience of Daniel as a statesman in the kingdoms of Babylon and Medo-Persia reveals the truth that a business man is not necessarily a designing, policy man, but that he may be a man instructed by God at every step. Daniel, the prime minister of the greatest of earthly kingdoms, was at the same time a prophet of God, receiving the light of heavenly inspiration. A man of like passions as ourselves, the pen of inspiration describes him as without fault. His business transactions, when subjected to the closest scrutiny of his enemies, were found to be without one flaw. He was an example of what every business man may become when his heart is converted and consecrated, and when his motives are right in the sight of God.
Strict compliance with the requirements of Heaven brings temporal as well as spiritual blessings. Unwavering in his allegiance to God, unyielding in his mastery of self, Daniel, by his noble dignity and unswerving integrity, while yet a young man, won the “favor and tender love” of the heathen officer in whose charge he had been placed. The same characteristics marked his after life. He rose speedily to the position of prime minister of the kingdom of Babylon. Through the reign of successive monarchs, the downfall of the nation, and the establishment of another world empire, such were his wisdom and statesmanship, so perfect his tact, his courtesy, his genuine goodness of heart, his fidelity to
principle, that even his enemies were forced to the confession that “they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful.”
Honored by men with the responsibilities of state and with the secrets of kingdoms bearing universal sway, Daniel was honored by God as His ambassador, and was given many revelations of the mysteries of ages to come.—Prophets and Kings, pp. 546, 547.
Daniel A Faithful Statesman
Daniel was a faithful statesman in the courts of Babylon; for he feared, loved, and trusted God; and in time of temptation and peril he was preserved by the power of God. We read that God gave Daniel wisdom, and endowed him with understanding.—Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 205.
Daniel An Example Of Firmness For Right
Daniel possessed the grace of genuine meekness. He was true, firm, and noble. He sought to live in peace with all, while he was unbending as the lofty cedar wherever principle was involved. In everything that did not come in colision with his allegiance to God, he was respectful and obedient to those who had authority over him; but he had so high a sense of the claims of God that the requirements of earthly rulers were held subordinate. He would not be induced by any selfish consideration to swerve from his duty. . . .
Daniel might have found a plausible excuse to depart from his strictly temperate habits; but the approval of God was dearer to him than the favor of the most powerful earthly potentate—dearer even than life itself.—Fundamentals of Christian Education, pp. 78, 79.
Daniel’s Critical Position
Daniel in Babylon was placed in a most critical and trying position, but while he did the work assigned to him as a statesman, he plainly refused to handle any work that would militate against God. This course provoked discussion, and thus the Lord, through His providence, which is always at work in human affairs, brought Daniel into reasoning relation with the king of Babylon. God had light for Nebuchadnezzar, and through Daniel was presented to the king things foretold in the prophecies against Babylon and other Kingdoms.—Manuscript 147a, 1898.
Daniel’s position was not an enviable one. He stood at the head of a dishonest, prevaricating, godless cabinet, whose members watched him with keen, jealous eyes, to find some flaw in his conduct. They kept spies on his track, to see if they could not in this way find something against him. Satan suggested to these men a plan whereby they might get rid of Daniel. Use his religion as a means of condemning him, the enemy said.—Youth’s Instructor, Nov. 1, 1900. Republished in Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 1171.
The honors bestowed upon Daniel excited the jealousy of the leading men of the kingdom. The presidents and princes sought to find occasion for complaint against him. “But they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him” (verse 4).
What a lesson is here presented for all Christians. The keen eyes
of jealousy were fixed upon Daniel day after day; their watchings were sharpened by hatred; yet not a word or act of his life could they make appear wrong. . . .
A scheme was now devised to accomplish his destruction. His enemies assembled at the palace and besought the king to pass a decree that no person in the whole realm should ask anything of either God or man, except of Darius the king, for the space of thirty days, and that any violation of this edict should be punished by casting the offender into the den of lions. . . .
The decree goes forth from the king. Daniel is acquainted with the purpose of his enemies to ruin him. But he does not change his course in a single particular. With calmness he performs his accustomed duties, and at the hour of prayer he goes to his chamber, and with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he offers his petitions to the God of heaven. By his course of action he fearlessly declares that no earthly power has the right to come between him and his God and tell him to whom he should or should not pray. Noble man of principle! He stands before the world today a praiseworthy example of Christian boldness and fidelity. He turns to God with all his heart, although he knows that death is the penalty for his devotion.—The Sanctified Life, pp. 42-44.
A Decree Disregarded
Daniel heard of what had been done, but he made no protest. He could see the design of his enemies. He knew that they would watch closely his going out and his coming in, but he calmly attended to his duties, and at the hour of prayer he went to his chamber, and kneeling by the open window, with his face toward Jerusalem, he prayed to his God. From
his youth he had been taught that in prayer his face should be turned toward the temple, where by faith he saw the revelation of Jehovah’s glory.
Daniel prayed more fervently than was his wont, that He who understands the secret working of Satan and his agents would not leave his servant, but would care for him. He prayed for strength to endure the trial.
Some may ask, Why did not Daniel lift his soul to God in secret prayer? Would not the Lord, knowing the situation, have excused His servant from kneeling openly before Him? Or why did he not kneel before God in some secret place, where his enemies could not see him?
Daniel knew that the God of Israel must be honored before the Babylonian nation. He knew that neither kings nor nobles had any right to come between him and his duty to his God. He must bravely maintain his religious principles before all men; for he was God’s witness. Therefore he prayed as was his wont, as if no decree had been made.—Youth’s Instructor, Nov. 1, 1900.
Daniel’s Constant Recognition Of God
In Daniel’s life, the desire to glorify God was the most powerful of all motives. He realized that when standing in the presence of men of influence, a failure to acknowledge God as the source of his wisdom would have made him an unfaithful steward. And his constant recognition of the God of heaven before kings, princes, and statesmen, detracted not one iota from his influence. King Nebuchadnezzar, before whom Daniel so often honored the name of God, was finally thoroughly converted, and learned to “praise and extol and honor the King of heaven” (Review and Herald, Jan. 11, 1906). Republished in Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, p.1170.
God The Ruler Over All
Through the Hebrew captives the Lord was made known to the heathen in Babylon. This idolatrous nation was given a knowledge of the kingdom the Lord was to establish, and through His power maintain against all the power and craft of Satan. Daniel and his fellow companions, Ezra and Nehemiah, and many others were witnesses for God in their captivity. The Lord scattered them among the kingdoms of the earth that their light might shine brightly amid the black darkness of heathenism and idolatry. To Daniel God revealed the light of His purposes, which had been hidden for many generations. He chose that Daniel should see in vision the light of His truth, and reflect this light on the proud kingdom of Babylon. On the despot king was permitted to flash light from the throne of God. Nebuchadnezzar was shown that the God of heaven was ruler over all the monarchs and kings of earth. His name was to go forth as the God over all gods. God desired Nebuchadnezzar to understand that the rulers of earthly kingdoms had a ruler in the heavens. God’s faithfulness in rescuing the three captives from the flames and vindicating their course of action showed his wonderful power.
Great light shone forth from Daniel and his companions. Glorious things were spoken of Zion, the city of the Lord. Thus the Lord designs that spiritual light shall shine from His faithful watchmen in these last days. If the saints in the Old Testament bore such a decided testimony of loyalty, how should God’s people today, having the accumulated light of centuries, shine forth, when the prophecies of the Old Testament shed their veiled glory into the future! Letter 32, 1899. Published in Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 1169.
For Such A Time As This
Through Haman the Agagite, an unscrupulous man high in authority in Medo-Persia, Satan worked at this time to counterwork the purposes of God. Haman cherished bitter malice against Mordecai, a Jew. Mordecai had done Haman no harm, but had simply refused to show him worshipful reverence. Scorning to “lay hands on Mordecai alone,” Haman plotted “to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.”
Misled by the false statements of Haman, Xerxes was induced to issue a decree providing for the massacre of all the Jews “scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces” of the Medo-Persian kingdom. A certain day was appointed on which the Jews were to be destroyed and their property confiscated. Little did the king realize the far-reaching results that would have accompanied the complete carrying out of this decree. Satan himself, the hidden instigator of the scheme, was trying to rid the earth of those who preserved the knowledge of the true God. . . .
But the plots of the enemy were defeated by a Power that reigns among the children of men. In the providence of God, Esther, a Jewess who feared the Most High, had been made queen of the Medo-Persian kingdom. Mordecai was a near relative of hers. In their extremity, they decided to appeal to Xerxes in behalf of their people. Esther was to venture into his presence as an intercessor. “Who knoweth,” said Mordecai, “whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
The crisis that Esther faced demanded quick, earnest action; but both she and Mordecai realized that unless God should work mightily in their behalf, their own efforts would be unavailing. So Esther took time
for communion with God, the source of her strength. “Go,” she directed Mordecai, “gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 600, 601.
The Death Decree In Our Day
The trying experiences that came to God’s people in the days of Esther were not peculiar to that age alone. The revelator, looking down the ages to the close of time, has declared, “The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Some who today are living on the earth will see these words fulfilled. The same spirit that in ages past led men to persecute the true church, will in the future lead to the pursuance of a similar course toward those who maintain their loyalty to God. Even now preparations are being made for this last great conflict.
The decree that will finally go forth against the remnant people of God will be very similar to that issued by Ahasuerus against the Jews. Today the enemies of the true church see in the little company keeping the Sabbath commandment, a Mordecai at the gate. The reverence of God’s people for His law, is a constant rebuke to those who have cast off the fear of the Lord, and are trampling on His Sabbath.
Satan will arouse indignation against the minority who refuse to accept popular customs and traditions. Men of position and reputation will join with the lawless and the vile to take counsel against the people of God. Wealth, genius, education, will combine to cover them with
contempt. Persecuting rulers, ministers, the church members will conspire against them. With voice and pen, by boasts, threats, and ridicule, they will seek to overthrow their faith. By false representations and angry appeals, men will stir up the passions of the people. Not having a “Thus saith the Scriptures” to bring against the advocates of the Bible Sabbath, they will resort to oppressive enactments to supply the lack. To secure popularity and patronage, legislators will yield to the demand for Sunday laws. But those who fear God, cannot accept an institution that violates a precept of the Decalogue. On this battlefield will be fought the last great conflict in the controversy between truth and error. And we are not left in doubt as to the issue. Today, as in the days of Esther and Mordecai, the Lord will vindicate His truth and His people.—Prophets and Kings, pp. 605, 606.
Nehemiah United Petitions With Holy Endeavor
The recital of the condition of Jerusalem awakened the sympathy of the monarch without arousing his prejudices. Another question gave the opportunity for which Nehemiah had long waited: “For what dost thou make request?” But the man of God did not venture to reply till he had sought direction from One higher than Artaxerxes. He had a sacred trust to fulfill, in which he required help from the king; and he realized that much depended upon his presenting the matter in such a way as to win his approval and enlist his aid. “I prayed,” he said, “to the God of heaven.” In that brief prayer, Nehemiah pressed into the presence of the King of kings, and won to his side a power that can turn hearts as the rivers of waters are turned.
To pray as Nehemiah prayed in his hour of need is a resource at
the command of the Christian under circumstances when other forms of prayer may be impossible. . . .
Nehemiah, in that brief moment of prayer to the King of kings, gathered courage to tell Artaxerxes of his desire to be released for a time from his duties at the court; and he asked for authority to build up the waste places of Jerusalem, and to make it once more a strong and defensed city. Momentous results to the Jewish nation hung upon this request. “And,” Nehemiah declares, “the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.”
Having secured the help he sought, Nehemiah with prudence and forethought proceeded to make the arrangements necessary to insure the success of the enterprise. He neglected no precaution that would tend to its accomplishment. Not even to his own countrymen did he reveal his purpose. While he knew that many would rejoice in his success, he feared that some, by acts of indiscretion, might arouse the jealousy of their enemies, and perhaps bring about the defeat of the undertaking.
His request to the king had been so favorably received that Nehemiah was encouraged to ask for still further assistance. To give dignity and authority to his mission, as well as to provide protection on the journey, he asked for and secured a military escort. He obtained royal letters to the governors of the provinces beyond the Euphrates, the territory through which he must pass on his way to Judea; and he obtained, also, a letter to the keeper of the king’s forest in the mountains of Lebanon, directing him to furnish such timber as would be needed. That there might be no occasion for complaint that he had exceeded his commission, Nehemiah was careful to have the authority and privileges accorded him, clearly defined.
This example of wise forethought and resolute action should be a
lesson to all Christians. God’s children are not only to pray in faith, but to work with diligent and provident care. They encounter many difficulties, and often hinder the working of Providence in their behalf, because they regard prudence and painstaking effort as having little to do with religion. Nehemiah did not regard his duty done when he had wept and prayed before the Lord. He united his petitions with holy endeavor, putting forth earnest, prayerful efforts for the success of the enterprise in which he was engaged. Careful consideration and well-matured plans are essential to the carrying forward of sacred enterprises today as in the time of the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls.
Nehemiah did not depend upon uncertainty. The means what he lacked he solicited from those who were able to bestow. And the Lord is still willing to move upon the hearts of those in possession of His goods, in behalf of the cause of truth. Those who labor for Him are to avail themselves of the help that He prompts men to give. These gifts may open ways by which the light of truth shall go to many benighted lands. The donors may have no faith in Christ, no acquaintance with His word; but their gifts are not on this account to be refused.—Prophets and Kings, pp. 631-634.
A Military Escort, Cautious Plains, Royal Letters, And A Royal Commission
Nehemiah’s journey to Jerusalem was accomplished in safety. The royal letters to the governors of the provinces along his route, secured him honorable reception and prompt assistance. No enemy dared molest the official who was guarded by the power of the Persian king and treated with marked consideration by the provincial rulers. His arrival in Jerusalem, however, with a military escort, showing that he had come on some
important mission, excited the jealousy of the heathen tribes living near the city, who had so often indulged their enmity against the Jews by heaping upon them injury and insult. . . .
Nehemiah continued to exercise the same caution and prudence that had hitherto marked his course. Knowing that bitter and determined enemies stood ready to oppose him, he concealed the nature of his mission from them until a study of the situation should enable him to form his plans. Thus he hoped to secure the cooperation of the people and set them at work before the opposition of his enemies should be aroused. . . .
Nehemiah bore a royal commission requiring the inhabitants to cooperate with him in rebuilding the walls of the city, but he did not depend upon the exercise of authority.—Prophets and Kings, pp. 635-637.
Peter And John Suffered For Their Faith
Filled with indignation, the priests laid violent hands on Peter and John, and put them in the common prison. . . .
The disciples were not intimidated or cast down by this treatment. The Holy Spirit brought to their minds the words spoken by Christ: “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.” “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” “These things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.”
The God of heaven, the mighty Ruler of the universe, took the matter of the imprisonment of the disciples into His own hands; for men
were warring against His work. By night the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, and said to the disciples, “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.” This command was directly contrary to the order given by the Jewish rulers; but did the apostles say, We cannot do this until we have consulted the magistrates, and received permission from them? No; God had said, “Go,” and they obeyed. “They entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught.”
Although the apostles were miraculously delivered from prison, they were not saved from examination and punishment. Christ had said when He was with them, “Take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils.” By sending an angel to deliver them, God had given them a token of His love, and an assurance of His presence. It was now their part to suffer for the sake of the one whose gospel they were preaching.
In the history of prophets and apostles, are many noble examples of loyalty to God. Christ’s witnesses have endured imprisonment, torture, and death itself, rather than break God’s commands. The record left by Peter and John is as heroic as any in the gospel dispensation. As they stood for the second time before the men who seemed bent on their destruction, no fear or hesitation could be discerned in their words or attitude. And when the high priest said, “Did we not straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us,” Peter answered, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” It was an angel from heaven who delivered them from prison, and bade them teach in the temple. In following his directions they were obeying the divine command, and this they must continue to do, at whatever cost to themselves.—Acts of the Apostles, pp. 78-82.
As Stephen stood face to face with his judges to answer to the charge of blasphemy, a holy radiance shone upon his countenance, and “all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” Many who beheld this light trembled and veiled their faces, but the stubborn unbelief and prejudice of the rulers did not waver.
When Stephen was questioned as to the truth of the charges against him, he began his defense in a clear, thrilling voice, which rang through the council hall. In words that held the assembly spellbound, he proceeded to rehearse the history of the chosen people of God. He showed a thorough knowledge of the Jewish economy, and the spiritual interpretation of it, now made manifest through Christ. He repeated the words of Moses that foretold of the Messiah: “A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.” He made plain his own loyalty to God and to the Jewish faith, while he showed that the law in which the Jews trusted for salvation had not been able to save Israel from idolatry. He connected Jesus Christ with all the Jewish history. . . .
In the cruel faces about him, the prisoner read his fate; but he did not waver. For him the fear of death was gone. For him the enraged priests and the excited mob had no terror. The scene before him faded from his vision. To him, the gates of heaven were ajar, and looking in, he saw the glory of the courts of God, and Christ, as if just risen from His throne, standing ready to sustain His servant. In words of triumph, Stephen exclaimed, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
As he described the glorious scene upon which his eyes were gazing, it was more than his persecutors could endure. Stopping their ears, that they might not hear his words, and uttering loud cries, they ran furiously upon him with one accord, “and cast him out of the city.” “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said. this, he fell asleep.”—Acts of the Apostles, pp. 99-101.
Peter Ready To Yield Up His Life’
The apostle was not intimidated by the situation. Since his reinstatement after his denial of Christ, he had unflinchingly braved danger, and had shown a noble courage and boldness in preaching a crucified, risen, and ascended Saviour. As he lay in his cell, he called to mind the words that Christ had spoken to him: “Verily, verily I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.” Peter believed that the time had come for him to yield up his life for Christ’s sake.—Review and Herald, April 27, 1911. Republished in Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, p. 1061.
Paul And Barnabas Before Civil Authorities
(See Acts 14)
The increasing popularity of the message borne by the apostles, filled the unbelieving Jews with envy and hatred, and they determined to stop the labors of Paul and Barnabas at once. By means of false and exaggerated reports, they led the authorities to fear that the entire city was in danger of being incited to insurrection. They declared that large numbers were attaching themselves to the apostles, and suggested that it was for secret and dangerous designs.
In consequence of these charges, the disciples were repeatedly brought before the authorities; but their defense was so clear and sensible, and their statement of what they were teaching so calm and comprehensive, that a strong influence was exerted in their favor. Although the magistrates were prejudiced against them by the false statements they had heard, they dared not condemn them. They could but acknowledge that the teachings of Paul and Barnabas tended to make men virtuous, law-abiding citizens, and that the morals and order of the city would improve if the truths taught by the apostles were accepted.
Through the opposition that the disciples met, the message of truth gained great publicity; the Jews saw that their efforts to thwart the work of the new teachers resulted only in adding greater numbers to the new faith. “The multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.”—Acts of the Apostles, p. 178.
Paul And Silas At Philippi
(See Acts 16:13-40)
Many others in the city were interested in gaining money through satanic delusions; and these, fearing the influence of a power that could so effectually stop their work, raised a mighty cry against the servants of God. They brought the apostles before the magistrates with the charge: “These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans,”
Stirred by a frenzy of excitement, the multitude rose against the disciples. A mob spirit prevailed, and was sanctioned by the authorities, who tore the outer garments from the apostles, and commanded that they should be scourged. “And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.”
The apostles suffered extreme torture because of the painful position in which they were left, but they did not murmur. Instead, in the utter darkness and desolation of the dungeon, they encouraged each other by words of prayer and sang praises to God because they were found worthy to suffer shame for His sake. Their hearts were cheered by a deep and earnest love for the cause of their Redeemer. Paul thought of the persecution he had been instrumental in bringing upon the disciples of Christ, and he rejoiced that his eyes had been opened to see, and his heart to feel, the power of the glorious truths which once he despised. . . .
But while men were cruel and vindictive, or criminally negligent of the solemn responsibilities devolving upon them, God had not forgotten
to be gracious to His servants. All heaven was interested in the men who were suffering for Christ’s sake, and angels were sent to visit the prison. At their tread the earth trembled. The heavily bolted prison doors were thrown open; the chains and fetters fell from the hands and feet of the prisoners; and a bright light flooded the prison. . . .
The citizens of Philippi had been greatly terrified by the earthquake; and when, in the morning, the officers of the prison told the magistrates of what had occurred during the night, they were alarmed, and sent the servants to liberate the apostles. But Paul declared, “They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.”
The apostles were Roman citizens, and it was unlawful to scourge a Roman, save for the most flagrant crime, or to deprive him of his liberty without a fair trial. Paul and Silas had been publicly imprisoned, and they now refused to be privately released without the proper explanation on the part of the magistrates.
When this word was brought to the authorities, they were alarmed for fear that the apostles would complain to the emperor; and going at once to the prison they apologized to Paul and Silas for the injustice and cruelty done them, and personally conducted them out of the prison, entreating them to depart from the city. The magistrates feared the apostles’ influence over the people, and they also feared the Power that had interposed in behalf of these innocent men.
Acting upon the instruction given by Christ, the apostles would not urge their presence where it was not desired. “They went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.”
The apostles did not regard as in vain their labors in Philippi. They had met much opposition and persecution; but the intervention of Providence in their behalf, and the conversion of the jailer and his household, more than atoned for the disgrace and suffering they had endured. The news of their unjust imprisonment and miraculous deliverance became known through all that region, and this brought the work of the apostles to the notice of a large number who otherwise would not have been reached.—Acts of the Apostles, pp. 213-218.
Paul Before Felix
(See Acts 24.)
Paul wasted no words in compliments, but simply stated that he could the more cheerfully defend himself before Felix, since the latter had been so long a procurator, and therefore had so good an understanding of the laws and customs of the Jews. Referring to the charges brought against him, he plainly showed that not one of them was true. He declared that he caused no disturbance in any part of Jerusalem, nor had he profaned the sanctuary. . . .
In a candid, straightforward manner he stated the object of his visit to Jerusalem, and the circumstances of his arrest and trial. . . .
The apostle spoke with earnestness and evident sincerity, and his words carried with them a weight of conviction. . . .
Paul’s plain statement of the facts in the case enabled Felix to understand still more clearly the motives by which the Jews were governed in attempting to convict the apostle of sedition and treasonable conduct. The governor would not gratify them by unjustly condemning a Roman citizen, neither would he give him up to them to be put to death without a fair trial. . . .
It was not long after this that Felix and his wife, Drusilla, sent for Paul, in order that in a private interview they might hear from him “concerning the faith in Christ.” They were willing and even eager to listen to these new truths—truths which they might never hear again, and which, if rejected, would prove a swift witness against them in the day of God.
Paul regarded this as a God-given opportunity, and faithfully he improved it. He knew that he stood in the presence of one who had power to put him to death, or to set him free; yet he did not address Felix and Drusilla with praise or flattery. He knew that his words would be to them a savor of life or of death, and forgetting all selfish considerations, he sought to arouse them to a sense of their peril.
The apostle realized that the gospel had a claim upon whoever might listen to his words; that one day they would stand either among the pure and holy around the great white throne, or with those to whom Christ would say, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” He knew that he must meet every one of his hearers before the tribunal of heaven, and must there render an account, not only for all that he had said and done, but for the motive and spirit of his words and deeds.
So violent and cruel had been the course of Felix, that few had ever before dared even to intimate to him that his character and conduct were not faultless. But Paul had no fear of man. He plainly declared his faith in Christ, and the reasons for that faith, and was thus led to speak particularly of those virtues essential to Christian character, but of which the haughty pair before him were so strikingly destitute. . . .
A ray of light from heaven had been permitted to shine upon Felix, when Paul reasoned with him concerning righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come. That was his heaven-sent opportunity to see and to
forsake his sins. But he said to the messenger of God, “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” He had slighted his last offer of mercy. Never was he to receive another call from God.—Acts of the Apostles, pp. 420-423, 427.
Paul Before Festus
(See Acts 25:8-12)
This was not what the Jews wanted. They had not forgotten their former defeat at Caesarea. In contrast with the calm bearing and forcible arguments of the apostle, their own malignant spirit and baseless accusations would appear in the worst possible light. Again they urged that Paul be brought to Jerusalem for trial, but Festus held firmly to his purpose of giving Paul a fair trial at Caesarea. God in His providence controlled the decision of Festus, that the life of the apostle might be lengthened. . . .
Upon returning to Caesarea, after a few days’ sojourn at Jerusalem, Festus “the next day sitting on the judgment-seat commanded Paul to be brought.” “The Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.” Being on this occasion without a lawyer, the Jews preferred their charges themselves. As the trial proceeded, the accused with calmness and candor clearly showed the falsity of their statements.
Festus discerned that the question in dispute related wholly to Jewish doctrines, and that, rightly understood, there was nothing in the charges against Paul, could they be proved, that would render him subject to sentence of death, or even to imprisonment. Yet he saw clearly the storm of rage that would be created if Paul were not condemned or delivered into their hands. And so, “willing to do the Jews a pleasure,”
Festus turned to Paul, and asked if he was willing to go to Jerusalem under his protection, to be tried by the Sanhedrim.
The apostle knew that he could not look for justice from the people who by their crimes were bringing down upon themselves the wrath of God. . . . He therefore decided to exercise his privilege, as a Roman citizen, of appealing to Caesar.
In answer to the governor’s question, Paul said: “I stand at Caesar’s judgment-seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. For if I be an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things thereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.”—Acts of the Apostles, pp. 429, 430.
Paul Before King Agrippa
(See Acts 26)
The aged prisoner, chained to his soldier guard, had in his appearance nothing that would lead the world to pay him homage. Yet in this man, apparently without friends or wealth or position, and held a prisoner for his faith in the Son of God, all heaven was interested. Angels were his attendants. Had the glory of one of those shining messengers flashed forth, the pomp and pride of royalty would have paled; king and courtiers would have been stricken to the earth, as were the Roman guards at the sepulcher of Christ. . . .
The apostle was not disconcerted by the brilliant display or the high rank of his audience; for he knew of how little worth are worldly wealth and position. Earthly pomp and power could not for a moment daunt his courage or rob him of his self-control.
“I think myself happy, King Agrippa,” he declared, “because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.”
Paul related the story of his conversion from stubborn unbelief to faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the world’s Redeemer. He described the heavenly vision that at first had filled him with unspeakable terror, but afterward proved to be a source of the greatest consolation,—a revelation of divine glory, in the midst of which sat enthroned He whom he had despised and hated, whose followers he was even then seeking to destroy. From that hour Paul had been a new man, a sincere and fervent believer in Jesus, made such by transforming mercy.
With clearness and power Paul outlined before Agrippa the leading events connected with the life of Christ on earth. He testified that the Messiah of prophecy had already appeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He showed how the Old Testament Scriptures had declared that the Messiah was to appear as a man among men; and how in the life of Jesus had been fulfilled every specification outlined by Moses and the prophets. For the purpose of redeeming a lost world, the divine Son of God had endured the cross, despising the shame, and had ascended to heaven triumphant over death and the grave. . . .
The whole company had listened spellbound to Paul’s account of his wonderful experiences. The apostle was dwelling upon his favorite theme. None who heard him could doubt his sincerity. But in the full tide of his persuasive eloquence he was interrupted by Festus, who cried out, “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.”
The apostle replied, “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak
forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely; for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.” Then, turning to Agrippa, he addressed him directly, “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.”
Deeply affected, Agrippa for the moment lost sight of his surroundings and the dignity of his position. Conscious only of the truths which he had heard, seeing only the humble prisoner standing before him as God’s ambassador, he answered involuntarily, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”
Earnestly the apostle made answer, “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am,” adding, as he raised his fettered hands, “except these bonds.”. . .
The king’s curiosity was satisfied, and rising from his seat, he signified that the interview was at an end. As the assembly dispersed, they talked among themselves, saying, “This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds.”—Acts of the Apostles, pp. 434-438.
John Answers For His Faith In Rome
The rulers of the Jews were filled with bitter hatred against John for his unwavering fidelity to the cause of Christ. They declared that their efforts against the Christians would avail nothing so long as John’s testimony kept ringing in the ears of the people. In order that the miracles and teachings of Jesus might be forgotten, the voice of the bold witness must be silenced.
John was accordingly summoned to Rome to be tried for his faith. Here before the authorities the apostle’s doctrines were misstated.
False witnesses accused him of teaching seditious heresies. By these accusations his enemies hoped to bring about the disciple’s death.
John answered for himself in a clear and convincing manner, and with such simplicity and candor that his words had a powerful effect. His hearers were astonished at his wisdom and eloquence. But the more convincing his testimony, the deeper was the hatred of his opposers. The emperor Domitian was filled with rage. He could neither dispute the reasoning of Christ’s faithful advocate, nor match the power that attended his utterance of truth; yet he determined that he would silence his voice.
John was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil; but the Lord preserved the life of His faithful servant, even as He preserved the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace. As the words were spoken, Thus perish all who believe in that deceiver, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, John declared, My Master patiently submitted to all that Satan and his angels could devise to humiliate and torture Him. He gave His life to save the world. I am honored in being permitted to suffer for His sake. I am a weak, sinful man. Christ was holy, harmless, undefiled. He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.
These words had their influence, and John was removed from the cauldron by the very men who had cast him in.
Again the hand of persecution fell heavily upon the apostle. By the emperor’s decree John was banished to the isle of Patmos, condemned “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Here, his enemies thought, his influence would no longer be felt, and he must finally die of hardship and distress.—Acts of the Apostles, pp. 569-570.
John’s Experience A Lesson Of Strength And Comfort
In the experience of the apostle John under persecution, there is a lesson of wonderful strength and comfort for the Christian. God does not prevent the plottings of wicked men, but He causes their devices to work for good to those who in trial and conflict maintain their faith and loyalty. Often the gospel laborer carries on his work amid storms of persecution, bitter opposition, and unjust reproach. At such times let him remember that the experience to be gained in the furnace of trial and affliction is worth all the pain it costs. Thus God brings His children near to Him, that He may show them their weakness and His strength. He teaches them to lean on Him. Thus He prepares them to meet emergencies, to fill positions of trust, and to accomplish the great purpose for which their powers were given them.—Acts of the Apostles, p. 574.
The Honored Of God
God honors those who honor Him by obedience to His precepts. John, the beloved disciple, was banished to the isle of Patmos for his faithfulness. “I John,” he writes, “who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”—Signs of the Times, Feb. 27, 1912.
Light Bearers To The Word
In all ages the “Spirit of Christ which was in them” has made God’s true children the light of the people of their generation. Joseph was a light-bearer in Egypt. In his purity and benevolence and filial love, he represented Christ in the midst of a nation of idolaters. While the Israelites were on their way from Egypt to the promised land, the true hearted among them were a light to the surrounding nations. Through them God was revealed to the world. From Daniel and his companions in Babylon, and from Mordecai in Persia, bright beams of light shone out amid the darkness of the kingly courts. In like manner the disciples of Christ are set as light bearers on the tray to heaven; through them the Father’s mercy and goodness are made manifest to a world enshrouded in the darkness of misapprehension of God.—Review and Herald, July 27, 1905.
Luther’s Positions—No Resort To Secular Power
One of the principles most firmly maintained by Luther was that there should be no resort to secular power in support of the Reformation, and no appeal to arms for its defense. He rejoiced that the gospel was confessed by princes of the empire; but when they proposed to unite in a defensive league, he declared that “the doctrine of the gospel should be defended by God alone. . . . The less man meddled in the work, the more striking would be God’s intervention in its behalf. All the politic precautions suggested were, in his view, attributable to unworthy fear and sinful mistrust.”—Great Controversy, p. 209.
The Grand Principle Of The Reformers
The grand principle maintained by Tyndale, Frith, Latimer, and the Ridleys was the divine authority and sufficiency of the sacred Scriptures. They rejected the assumed authority of Popes, councils, fathers, and kings to rule the conscience in matters of religious faith. The Bible was their standard, and to this they brought all doctrines and all claims. Faith in God and His Word sustained these holy men as they yielded up their lives at the stake.—Story of Redemption, p. 352.
Some Of God’s Great Men
Sacred history presents many illustrations of the results of true education. It presents many noble examples of men whose characters were formed under divine direction, men whose lives were a blessing to their fellow men and who stood in the world as representatives of God. Among these are Joseph and Daniel, Moses, Elisha, and Paul—the greatest statesmen, the wisest legislator, one of the most faithful of reformers, and, except Him who spoke as never man spake, the most illustrious teacher that this world has known. . . .
In the bitter life of a stranger and a slave, amidst the sights and sounds of vice and the allurements of heathen worship, a worship surrounded with all the attractions of wealth and culture and the pomp of royalty, Joseph was steadfast. He had learned the lesson of obedience to duty. Faithfulness in every station, from the most lowly to the most exalted, trained every power for highest service.
At the time when he was called to the court of Pharaoh, Egypt was the greatest of nations. In civilization, art, learning, she was unequaled. Through a period of utmost difficulty and danger, Joseph administered the
affairs of the kingdom; and this he did in a manner that won the confidence of the king and the people. Pharaoh “made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: to bind his princes at his pleasure; and teach his senators wisdom.” Psalm 105:21, 22. . . .
At the court of Babylon were gathered representatives from all lands, men of the choicest talents, men the most richly endowed with natural gifts, and possessed of the highest culture this world could bestow; yet amidst them all, the Hebrew captives were without a peer. In physical strength and beauty, in mental vigor and literary attainment, they stood unrivaled. “In all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.” Daniel 1:20.
Unwavering in allegiance to God, unyielding in the mastery of himself, Daniel’s noble dignity and courteous deference won for him in his youth the “favor and tender love” of the heathen officer in whose charge he was. The same characteristics marked his life. Speedily he rose to the position of prime minister of the kingdom. Throughout the reign of successive monarchs, the downfall of the nation, and the establishment of a rival kingdom, such were his wisdom and statesmanship, so perfect his tact, his courtesy, and his genuine goodness of heart, combined with fidelity to principle, that even his enemies were forced to the confession that “they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful.” Daniel 6:4.
While Daniel clung to God with unwavering trust, the spirit of prophetic power came upon him. While honored by men with the responsibility of the court and the secrets of the kingdom, he was honored by God as His ambassador, and taught to read the mysteries of ages to come.
Heathen monarchs, through association with Heaven’s representative, were constrained to acknowledge the God of Daniel. . . .
By their wisdom and justice, by the purity and benevolence of their daily life, by their devotion to the interests of the people,—and they, idolaters,—Joseph and Daniel proved themselves true to the principles of their early training, true to Him whose representatives they were. These men, both in Egypt and in Babylon, the whole nation honored; and in them a heathen people, and all the nations with which they were connected, beheld an illustration of the love of Christ.
What a lifework was that of these noble Hebrews! As they bade farewell to their childhood home, how little did they dream of their high destiny! Faithful and steadfast, they yielded themselves to the divine guiding, so that through them God could fulfill His purpose.
The same mighty truths that were revealed through these men, God desires to reveal through the youth and the children of today. The history of Joseph and Daniel is an illustration of what He will do for those who yield themselves to Him and with the whole heart seek to accomplish His purpose.
The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall. . . .
These histories are of vital interest. To none are they of deeper importance than to the youth. Moses renounced a prospective kingdom, Paul the advantages of wealth and honor among his people for a life of burden bearing in God’s service.To many the life of these men appears
one of renunciation and sacrifice. Was it really so? Moses counted the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. He counted it so because it was so. Paul declared: “What things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea, verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7, 8, R.V. margin. He was satisfied with his choice.
Moses was offered the palace of the Pharaohs and the monarch’s throne; but the sinful pleasures that make men forget God were in those lordly courts, and he chose instead the “durable riches and righteousness.” Proverbs 8:18. Instead of linking himself with the greatness of Egypt, he chose to bind up his life with God’s purpose. Instead of giving laws to Egypt, he by divine direction enacted laws for the world. He became God’s instrument in giving to men those principles that are the safeguard alike of the home and of society, that are the cornerstone of the prosperity of nations—principles recognized today by the world’s greatest men as the foundation of all that is best in human governments.
The greatness of Egypt is in the dust. Its power and civilization have passed away. But the work of Moses can never perish. The great principles of righteousness which he lived to establish are eternal.—Education, pp. 51, 52, 53, 55, 56, 57, 68, 69.