When I was a young child growing up — as a 5th generation Seventh-day Adventist — I immensely enjoyed listening to the story of Gideon narrated by Uncle Dan from Your Story Hour. I would listen to it over and over again. It was so exciting to hear of the little band of soldiers who with a trumpet and torch courageously and triumphantly (through the power of God) overwhelmed the host of the enemy encamped against Israel.
Recently as I was waking up, I was impressed to open my Bible and read Judges chapters 6 and 7, the story of Gideon. Upon doing so, a lesson of the utmost importance was impressed upon my consciousness, namely the test which left only three hundred men to march against the enemy--whittled down from the thirty-two thousand who first answered the call. A quick mathematical calculation revealed that only 1% emerged in the final number.
The last test God appointed to reveal the loyalties of each man involved water. God told Gideon to bring the men to the water and there He would show Gideon who He had chosen to defeat the enemy of Israel. There at the river, the men began to drink water. Many leisurely got down on their knees, bent over the water, braced themselves with their hands and drank water directly from the source while others dipped their hands into the water as they stood upon their feet and lapped it from their hands while maintaining vigilance. God told Gideon that the men who dipped their hands into the water and drank were the ones selected to do battle. There were only three hundred men! There was to be no boasting of victory. In the publication Beginning of the End, pg. 277, it says,
“Those who were determined to care for their own wants in a time of danger were not to be trusted in an emergency. The three hundred chosen men not only possessed courage and self-control, they were men of faith. They had not defiled themselves with idolatry. God could direct them, and through them He could bring about deliverance for Israel. God is not honored as much by great numbers as He is by the character of those who serve Him.”
Now, in these last days of earth’s history, God has a test for Spiritual Israel. Many have answered the call of God to join the Seventh-day Adventist church and make the final assault on the enemy’s camp. They have believed in the message, based on the Holy Scriptures of evangelists, pastors and bible workers for these last days. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is over 19,000,000 strong.
Today, like in Gideon’s day, there are those who manifest fear when their faith was brought to the test. “Oh, your church is a cult.” “Ellen White, the prophetess of your church, lied and plagiarized her writings.” “You believe in going to church on Saturday? That’s strange. Who do you think you are, when all the rest of the religious world recognizes Sunday as the day to go to church?” “What, creation in seven literal days? You are out of harmony with the whole scientific world with a belief like that.” There are many who have lost their faith when presented with logical reasoning from theologians, scientists and philosophers. They have departed God’s church and gone “home.” For those who have avoided such pitfalls, there is another test; a test that reveals the true condition of the heart and supreme allegiance.
The process of choosing those who shall herald the final message of warning to this world and make the final assault on the enemy’s camp is described in Revelation 7 and is numbered 144,000. They are described as those who have come through great testing; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Another description of this select company is found in Revelation 14; they have kept themselves pure and undefiled; no false word has come from their mouths. They follow the Lamb of God where He leads (into the Sanctuary) and they are found without fault. What is the test that will finally reveal who these faithful ones are, redeemed from among men and made the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb forever and ever?
Plain statements recorded in the Spirit of Prophecy indicate an oncoming test similar to the one that God gave to the remaining second-cut 10,000 men who enlisted in the army of Gideon and were not fearful or afraid. These men were known for their valor, bravery and skill in wielding the sword. The test of unwavering confidence and loyalty to God involves the choices made in how temperance is observed. Without strict adherence to temperance, a person cannot be trusted to blow the trumpet with a certain sound (1Cor. 14:8); neither can they bear the torch of the Word of God so that its light can be clearly seen. False, impatient and fretful words easily slip out of the mouths of those given over to intemperance in eating, drinking, dressing, sleeping and working. The Lamb of God cannot be followed where He goes while given over to the goddess of fashion. This ‘goddess’ fastens her victims with moral and mental corruption, leaving them naked and in want of clothing—and they realize not their shame. Intemperance causes its adherents to forget how they must live in the world but steadfastly refuse to be of the world. Intemperance causes such excuses to be made as, “We must not be gazing stocks”, “We cannot win souls if we are so strict”, and “A little wine, coffee or tea is good for your health.”
The following are a few of the many choice gems of truth I found in the Spirit of Prophecy regarding temperance:
“Our habits of eating and drinking show whether we are of the world or among the number whom the Lord by His mighty cleaver of truth has separated from the world” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, pg. 372, 1900).
“When men and women are truly converted, they will conscientiously regard their habits of eating, drinking, and dressing. They will seek to avoid physical, mental, and moral feebleness” (Gospel Health, November 1, 1897, par. 3).
“To ‘knowledge’ we are commanded to add ‘temperance.’ It is the duty of true Christians to practice temperance in eating, in drinking, and in dressing. The Lord wants us to be examples of piety to those who know not Jesus and his matchless love” (The Review and Herald, December 1, 1885, par. 7).
“If all, old and young, were seeking more earnestly to acquire all the knowledge possible on healthful living, and to reform their habits of eating, drinking, and dressing in accordance with the principles of temperance, they would have a life-saving influence” (Letter 152, 1900, pp. 1, 2).
“We must give close attention to eating, drinking, and dressing. The entire body of believers needs to make a decided reform. A high profession, followed by a disregard of the laws of life, shows a faithless life. Lack of fidelity, want to stability, slavery to wrong habits—this is the sure result of such a course. Those who follow this course are not consistent Christians. Salvation means deliverance from every habit which tends to drag humanity down. Transgression of the laws of our being is transgression of the laws of God” (Letter 83, 1901, pp. 2, 3 ((To “Dear Brethren and Sisters,” July 15, 1901)).
“Self-indulgence in eating, drinking, and dressing is idolatry. How few live a life of humility and meekness, seeking the Lord in earnestness” (Manuscript 49, 1898).
“Intemperance in eating, drinking, and dressing is a desolating curse to our world. The conflict to overcome and reform appetite and unholy desires will be fierce and deadly; but to the overcomer is presented the immortal crown that fadeth not away” (Letter 1-1882.72).
“There are many who profess godliness, who have no intelligent hope, and who are running a great risk by indulging in practices in eating, drinking, and dressing that bind them up with the world, and cause them to go contrary to that which Jesus has taught. Though their names are on the church books, if ever they are saved they will have to learn the lesson that is essential to growth in spirituality, and come out from the world and be separate” (Manuscript 8a-1894.4).
“We each have a character to form after the divine similitude; we have a duty to perform in maintaining strict temperance in eating and drinking and dressing. And we have the perfect pattern before us in the life of Christ” (Letter 216-1908.4).
“The dress and its arrangement upon the person are generally found to be an index of the man or woman. Christians are judged by the fruit they bear. While many are today making it their chief study to follow the ever-changing fashions of this world, we should be diligent in fashioning our characters after the Pattern given us in the Word of God. Our habits of eating, drinking, and dressing have a direct bearing upon our spiritual advancement” (Manuscript 109-1909.4).
What we eat, drink, listen to and watch, or how we dress, sleep, work, and use our time is a matter of utmost importance in telling what kind of character we possess. Our character will reveal whether it is one of steadfastness, loyalty, truthfulness, purity and love for God — or one of pride, dishonesty, deceitfulness, uncleanness, and nakedness. What is your choice, dear fellow Christians? Is it a time to be at ease in Zion? (Amos 6:1). Is it a time to look at others, making the excuse that we cannot be effective soul winners if we follow ‘old-fashioned’ practices? In so doing, we run the risk of passed by when the final number are chosen to do battle against the enemy with truth upon their lips and the Word of God in hand. There will be no other chance to join the fray against the enemy— like in Gideon’s day. The 144,000 [if literal] are less than 1% of those whose names are currently registered on the church membership records. This group of righteous ones will live through the time of trouble such as never was and see Jesus coming in the clouds (Daniel 12:1).
Now is the time to sign the temperance pledge and put away all idolatry; now is the time to make our calling and election sure! Now is the time to gather our households together and go through our closets and cupboards, putting away all that leads to sickness and disease of body and mind. Now is the time to resist the temptations (by the power of God) to indulge in one little drink or one little morsel of an unhealthy quality with our close associates at work, home or school. Now is the time to clothe ourselves with garments that are modest and distinctive for our gender. We are to be witnesses of the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4:10), Who will shower upon us His peace, patience, and love as we surrender our way and will to Him! God be with you all, my fellow Christians!
Carol is a mother of two precious children, and a spouse of 24 years to a Gospel Minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church serving in the United States Army. She is also a Registered Nurse and Lifestyle Educator.