Twelve men were sent to spy out the land of Canaan for Israel. As these men entered the Promised Land they noticed its amazing fertility and its luscious fruit, but they also noted its large cities surrounded with apparently impregnable walls. They looked at the inhabitants of these cities and realized that they themselves were as grasshoppers in their sight.
On their return to the camp of Israel all of them reported the fertility and the luscious fruit of Canaan and its mighty cities. But ten of them still had their eyes riveted on the impregnable walls and the tall people that inhabited that land, and they said: "It is impossible for us to capture it." But two of the spies, who had likewise seen the country and the seemingly insurmountable difficulties, had their eyes focused on God. And the report of Caleb and Joshua was: "We are well able."
The conviction of Caleb and Joshua had its roots in divinely inspired faith, because their judgment rested on the promises of God. They were personally acquainted with God and His leadership. Their confidence in Israel's ability under God's guidance was anchored in His miraculous deliverance in taking them safely through the Red Sea and providing them with food and water in the wilderness.
On the memorable event of their deliverance from Egypt, Israel under the leadership of Moses had retired into a defile between the mountains on the shore of the Red Sea. As Moses observed the spot to which God led him and his people, it did not appear to be the most advantageous camping site for a people fleeing from their oppressors. Trained in military strategy in the schools of Egypt, it seemed to Moses a possible trap. Here they were hemmed in by unscalable mountains on both the north and south and with the foam-capped waves of the Red Sea blocking the exit to the east. But in compliance with God's word, Moses led the children of Israel into the place of God's own choosing.
As evening wore on and darkness fell over the camp of Israel the weary people retired for needed rest after an eventful day. Soon they began to hear rumblings from the west. Suddenly they realized that these sounds betokened the approach of the Egyptian army. Terror filled the camp; they were sure they were trapped. They saw their true plight as a motley array of slaves without hope of escape. Behind them into the opening between the mountains the vanguards of the Egyptian army were streaming. Amid the distraught and fearful multitude Moses stood serene. He knew God had directed him in leading his people to this place. He did not know what was going to happen, but he knew they were there in compliance with God's command and he was confident that God had a way of escape for them. Moses trusted in God for deliverance from their apparent impasse.
Then came God's command, "Go forward." Through the turbulent waters of the Red Sea a way of escape opened up to bewildered Israel. That night God delivered His people. When the sun rose the next morning, the Egyptian army was gone. The soldiers had been drowned in the Red Sea. But on the shore of the Sinai Peninsula the children of Israel stood singing the song of deliverance and praise to God for His miraculous salvation.
As a movement, Seventh-day Adventists have often gone forward in faith under God's bidding. And as we have taken God at His word, either through the Bible or His inspired servant, Ellen G. White, we have surpassed apparently insurmountable difficulties. In the 1890's our believers in Australia under the leadership of Elder A. G. Daniells were coping with the problem of establishing a school for the education of our young people.' As has often been the case in the onward march of our work, adequate financial means were not available for the purchase of an expensive building site. Finally the locating committee found a tract of land at Cooranbong about seventy-five miles north of Sidney. This was offered to our denomination at the low price of $100 an acre, as compared with $75.00 an acre and up for other desirable land.
On May 24, 1894, Mrs. White went with the committee to examine the suggested property. After doing so, Mrs. White wrote in a letter to her son, J. E. White: "There was perfect unity in making the decision to purchase the fifteen hundred acres of land at the price of four thousand five hundred dollars."—E. G. White letter 82, 1894.
Soil experts were then consulted regarding the suitability of this tract of land for agricultural and horticultural purposes. Their reports were discouraging. Under date of June 10, 1894, W. C. White wrote to the secretary of the Foreign Mission Board: "Nearly all of the men of influence with whom we have come in contact, shake their heads when we speak of the district. The Department of Agriculture after examining samples of the soil, said it was sour, and would require a ton and a half of lime to the acre. Then the Government fruit expert was sent up to examine it, and his report I will enclose with this. True, it was a rainy day, and we were short of time, and he did not see the best of the place, and yet, it sometimes makes me feel blue, to hear all of these men who know a great deal, condemn the place."
It was the consensus of all the consulted experts that our brethren should relinquish their hold on the land by forfeiting the down payment that had already been made. In that crisis hour the faith of the brethren who in counsel with Mrs. White had initially decided to purchase this tract wavered. Elders Daniells and W. C. White were delegated to inform Mrs. White about the unfavorable reports, which the committee had received from the Government personnel. After listening to their report Mrs. White calmly said to Elder Daniells and her son: "'Is there no God in Israel, that ye have gone to the god of Ekron for counsel?'" Her original advice was renewed; namely, that they abide by their intention of going through with the purchase of the land. She further said: "They have borne false witness against the land."
With this reaffirmation of the divine counsel through the servant of the Lord, the brethren in Australia proceeded with the purchase of the site for the erection of our school. Time abundantly vindicated their allegiance to the instruction given through the Spirit of Prophecy. God's blessing has copiously rested on both field and orchard.
"In 1909, twelve years after the opening of the school, Professor Irwin, who had been principal eight years, wrote as follows:
"'As time has gone on, and we have had an opportunity to watch the work develop, we can say most assuredly, from our experience, that God led in the selection of this place. Everything that has been said about the location of the school in this place has been fulfilled—everything. . . . I believe the working out of this has proved that God's instruction was true.' "
As we face the future we as Israel of old will repeatedly face perplexing problems. If we rivet our eyes on these it will be easy for us to grow discouraged. The ten spies were not prevaricating when they informed the children of Israel of the walled cities of Canaan. Humanly speaking, they had reason to be discouraged, for it appeared to be sheer foolishness for a tribe of slaves to attack and capture well-fortified cities! Moses too might have had good reason to despair when the Egyptians overtook his people. He might even have made bold and told God that it was impossible for Israel to go forward into the Red Sea as He commanded them to do. But Moses did not consult his fears, nor his human reason. Being a military leader, Moses might have relied on human reasoning—he might have suggested other ways of extricating his people from the trap in which they were apparently caught. But Moses did not; rather, he made God both his strength and his wisdom and obeyed His counsel to go forward into the Red Sea.
Later, when the children of Israel were under the leadership of Joshua, the Gibeonites came to them in the land of Canaan and requested that they be allowed to make an alliance with them. Joshua and the elders of Israel looked at their suppliants' molded bread, their rent wine bottles, their worn garments, and shoes which were old, "and the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord" (Joshua 9:14). Joshua and his advisers made an alliance with the Gibeonites according to their own human reasoning and later regretted it.
While we realize that in our own strength and wisdom we cannot possibly accomplish the tasks that God has set before us, we may turn to Him and remember His question "Is any thing too hard for the Lord?" (Gen. 18:14). Further, "As the will of man cooperates 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, p. 333.
The words of the psalmist also reassure us, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee" (Ps. 56:3). The Lord's messenger says: "Worry is blind, and cannot discern the future; but Jesus sees the end from the beginning. . . . Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us, of which we know nothing. Those who accept the one principle of making the service and honor of God supreme will find perplexities vanish, and a plain path before their feet."—The Desire of Ages, p. 330.
The argument is often advanced that since God has given us reason, He expects us to use it. That argument is correct, but it has limitations. It is like the statement that inasmuch as soldiers have been given guns they ought to use them. In a national army soldiers receive guns and other implements of war, but although they have been equipped with arms, they are not to turn those arms against their country or their officers. If they do they are traitors. The same is true of the soldiers of God. Indeed, God has endowed us with reasoning powers, but human reason should not be followed if it suggests that we go contrary to our Creator's instruction, any more than military personnel are justified in using their arms contrary to the commands of their officers, for "the law of duty is supreme. It should hold sway over human reason."—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 163.
Reason is only to be used in conformity with God's directions to us. In another place the servant of the Lord phrases it this way: "The kingly power of reason, sanctified by divine grace, is to bear sway in our lives."—The Ministry of Healing, p. 130. If our human reason is not used in conformity with God's directions then we indeed become traitors to God!
On the basis of personal experience with God, Moses told Israel to go forward, and Caleb and Joshua assured them they could capture the Promised Land. As individuals we have had personal experiences with God, and as a denomination we have had historical experiences with God. As we face the future, we shall need to trust anew in the Lord and daily commit our fears to Him. Human reason is not a very reliable guide; Israel found that to be so when they made their alliance with the Gibeonites. Neither is the advice of men who do not know the God of Israel and His instruction for His people to be a criterion for us. In the long ago God addressed this question to His professed servant: "Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to enquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron?" (2 Kings 1:3). This counsel is applicable also today.
To the uninitiated, faith may often appear to be presumption. To the initiated or the person who is acquainted with God through personal experience, faith becomes an exhilarating venture! To someone who did not know Jesus as did Peter, it might have been mere presumption to step out on the turbulent waters to meet the Master on the angry waves. To Peter it was a soul-stirring venture of faith. It was faith also that prompted Abraham to respond to God's call and take his son Isaac to Mount Moriah. Abraham knew his Master's voice; he was acquainted with God, and therefore that act which to others would have been sheer foolishness and unadulterated presumption became an act of faith.
Where are our eyes today? The ten spies riveted their eyes on the difficulties and consulted their fears. Joshua and Caleb, in spite of the difficulties which they also saw, fixed their eyes on God. If our eyes are on Jesus we, like Peter, can do the impossible!
As individuals and as a movement "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." —Life Sketches, p. 196