The prophet, Joel, looking forward to “the day of the Lord,” makes the following forecast: “multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision.” (Joel 3:14.)
The marginal variants of “decision” are “concision” (a “cutting off”) or, “threshing” (to beat out something from its husk or hull).
From these renderings, we understand, first, that just “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5), “multitudes” shall be in a state of deciding—deciding either for or against the message of judgment; second, that they shall find themselves confronted with the alternative choices of being threshed, beat out from the husk or hull, as wheat for the garner, or as chaff for the fire,when “it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel” (Isa. 27:12); and thirdly, that they shall either be “cut off” for the Lord, to “escape” the destruction of “the day of the Lord,” or “cut off” from Him to “perish” in it.
Thus, as the message of “the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” sounds forth to the multitudes, it finds them, as in Elijah’s day, halting between two opinions—in a state of indecision as to whether Baal be God, or God be God; that is, as to whether the message, sounding in their ears, be from Satan or from God.
In this sorry plight, the message of Present Truth finds languishing the great majority of professed believers, and through the mind’s morass of uncertainty, indecision, hesitancy, halting, perplexity, confusion, and unbelief, the truth must needs make its way, “like a hammer to break the flinty heart” (5T 254), and “the testimony, so cutting and severe, cannot be a mistake, for it is the True Witness who speaks, and His testimony must be correct.” (3T 253.) And yet, the Laodicean condition is so deep seated that but few “accept the message and respect the messenger.” (6T 420.) Many variously justify themselves in their refusal to investigate and to accept the message of Present Truth. Still others excuse themselves on the grounds of the following statement from Early Writings:
“I was shown the necessity of those who believe that we are having the last message of mercy, being separate from those who are daily imbibing new errors. I saw that neither young nor old should attend their meetings; for it is wrong to thus encourage them while they teach error that is a deadly poison to the soul, and teach for doctrines the commandments of men. The influence of such gatherings is not good. If God has delivered us from such darkness and error, we should stand fast in the liberty wherewith He has set us free, and rejoice in the truth. God is displeased with us when we go to listen to error, without being obliged to go; for unless He sends us to those meetings where error is forced home to the people by the power of the will, He will not keep us. The angels cease their watchful care over us, and we are left to the buffetings of the enemy, to be darkened and weakened by him and the power of his evil angels; and the light around us becomes contaminated with the darkness.”—“Early Writings,” pp. 124, 125.
Any clear and candid minded believer will quickly admit that in the foregoing quotation Sister White is warning against the “false shepherds” and churches of the world, and is not intimating, even ever so remotely, that one should not investigate purported messages of truth from within, proof positive of which fact lies in the following statements:
“As never before, we should pray not only that laborers may be sent forth into the great harvest-field, but that we may have a clear conception of truth, so that when the messengers of truth shall come, we may accept the message and respect the messenger.”—“Testimonies for the Church,” Vol. 6, p. 420.
“When asked to hear the reasons of a doctrine that you do not understand, do not condemn the message until you have given it a thorough investigation, and know from the Word of God that it is not tenable.” —“Testimonies on Sabbath School Work,” p. 59.
“When new light is presented to the church, it is perilous to shut yourselves away from it. Refusing to hear because you are prejudiced against the message or the messenger will not make your case excusable before God. To condemn that which you have not heard and do not understand will not exalt your wisdom in the eyes of those who are candid in their investigations of truth. And to speak with contempt of those whom God has sent with a message of truth, is folly and madness.” Id. 60.
“When a message comes in the name of the, Lord to His people, no one may excuse himself from an investigation of its claims.” Id. 65.
“We are on dangerous ground when we cannot meet together like Christians and courteously examine controverted points. I feel like fleeing from the place lest I receive the mold of those who cannot candidly investigate the doctrines of the Bible. Those who cannot impartially examine the evidences of a position that differs from theirs are not fit to teach in any department of God’s cause.”—“Review and Herald,” August 7, 1894.
Furthermore, their fear of being deceived by the “Shepherd’s Rod” is wholly unintelligent and ironical when viewed in the light of the following facts:
- That they think little or nothing of going to the services and revival meetings of the “False Shepherds” and churches of the world, warned against in “Early Writings,” pp. 124, 125.
- That they are already in “a sad,” “a terrible,” and “a fearful” deception (“Testimonies for the Church,” Vol. 3, pp. 253, 254, 260), and knoweth it not (Rev. 3:17; “Testimonies for the Church.” Vol. 3, p. 253). “Pride, avarice, selfishness, and deception of almost every kind are in the church.” (“Testimonies for the Church,” Vol. 5, p. 210.)
- That false doctrine has brought many of them into the church. (“Testimonies to Ministers,” p. 48.)
- That many “stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled from the hellish torch of Satan.” (“Testimonies to Ministers,” p. 409.)
- That “as Jesus views the state of His professed followers today, He sees base ingratitude, hollow formalism, hypocritical insincerity, Pharisaical pride and apostasy.” (“Testimonies for the Church,” Vol. 5, p. 72.)
- That the church has “wandered away” from “the old landmarks,” “has turned back from following Christ her Leader, and is steadily retreating toward Egypt.” (“Testimonies for the Church,” Vol. 5, p. 217.)
- That the real “facts concerning the real condition of the professed people of God, speak more loudly than their profession, and make it evident that some power has cut the cable that anchored them to the Eternal Rock, and that they are drifting away to sea, without chart or compass.” (“Christ Our Righteousness,” pp. 50, 51.)
- “That God’s people are on the enchanted ground.” (“Early Writings,” p. 120.)
- That “the people to whom God has entrusted eternal interests, the depositories of truth pregnant with eternal results, the keepers of light that is to illuminate the whole world, have lost their bearings.” (“Testimonies to Ministers,” p. 397.)
- That God “is a day’s journey from most of” our preachers. (“Christ Our Righteousness,” p. 107.)
- That hence the sad fact of “Sleeping preachers preaching to a sleeping people!” (“Testimonies for the Church,” Vol. 2, p. 337.)
- And that finally, “the food that is being prepared for the flock will cause spiritual consumption, decline, and death.” (“Review and Herald,” June 18, 1901.)
With a people thus gone far away from God, unconsciously floundering in “deception of almost every kind,” and dying of “spiritual consumption” while sound asleep, what a colossal and unmitigated piece of folly and irony, then, is the ostrich attitude that disallows them to investigate and to accept the “Shepherd’s Rod,” for fear of imbibing error!
Though fearing to cross the threshold where a “Shepherd’s Rod” study is being given, saying, “in an attitude of indifference and self-confidence. . . : ‘I know what is truth. I am satisfied with my position. I have set my stakes, and I will not be moved away from my position, whatever may come. I will not listen to the message of this messenger; for I know that it cannot be truth.’” (“Testimonies on Sabbath School Work,” p. 65); or failing to accept the truth because it does not agree with their preconceived ideas, yet they have not the slightest fear or compunction in holding or attending evangelistic efforts where tribute is wont to be made to pagan institutions in order to attract the public.
Thus “the great proportion” (5T 136) are, in the words of the prophet, Ezekiel, “every man in the chamber of his imagery,” committing “the wicked abominations” that “have filled the land with violence,” until, says the Lord, they “have returned to provoke Me to anger: and lo, they put the branch to their nose. Therefore will I also deal in fury: Mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in Mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.” (Ezek. 8:17, 18.)
“And I saw that the Lord was whetting His sword in Heaven to cut them down. Oh that every lukewarm professor could realize the clean work that God is about to make among His professed people!”—“Testimonies for the Church,” Vol. 1, p. 190.
“The Lord will work to purify His church. I tell you in truth, the Lord is about to turn and overturn in the institutions called by His name.
“Just how soon this refining process will begin, I cannot say, but it will not be long deferred. He whose fan is in His hand will cleanse His temple of its moral defilement. He will thoroughly purge His floor.”—“Testimonies to Ministers,” p. 373.
Thus while the very “days of purification of the church are hastening on apace,” “the great proportion” are, in the boldest sort of inconsistency and disobedience, attending all manner of religious and social gatherings, and doing their own works (5T 80), while at the same time they are studiously and devoutly keeping “themselves away from every meeting where there is an opportunity to investigate the messages that come to the people, simply because they imagine the views held by the teachers of the truth may be out of harmony with what they have conceived as truth.”—“Testimonies on Sabbath School Work,” p. 66.
What inconsistency! O, Brother, Sister, give your entire self to God at once, that the miracle of a “consistent Christian life” may be wrought in your lives, lest you one day find yourself condemned, bereft of life eternal, and engulfed in the general ruin of those who, trusting to intellect, genius, or talent, self-sufficiently and complacently go on in their inconsistent, falsely so-called “Christian” practices.”