Israel’s Choice, Pt. 6 – Journey to the Border

After the law was given at Mount Sinai, how long did the Israelites stay faithful to their promise to obey the covenant? Sadly, not very long.

Deuteronomy 9:16 “And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the Lord your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the Lord had commanded you.”


“God brought them to Sinai; He manifested His glory; He gave them His law, with the promise of great blessings on condition of obedience: “If ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then . . . ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” Exodus 19:5, 6. The people did not realize the sinfulness of their own hearts, and that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God’s law; and they readily entered into covenant with God. Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.” Exodus 24:7. They had witnessed the proclamation of the law in awful majesty, and had trembled with terror before the mount; and yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image. They could not hope for the favor of God through a covenant which they had broken; and now, seeing their sinfulness and their need of pardon, they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour revealed in the Abrahamic covenant and shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. Now by faith and love they were bound to God as their deliverer from the bondage of sin. Now they were prepared to appreciate the blessings of the new covenant.”

Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 371 par. 4 {PP 371.4}

Because of this sin of idolatry, God threatened His wrath upon the people, as was given in the warning of Leviticus 26. See Exodus 32:7-10

Did God pour out his curse and wrath upon the people at Sinai, as He threatened to do?

No, Moses pleaded with God not to do it, and God did not. See Exodus 32:11-14. So the Israelites had another chance to be faithful to the covenant. Thank God for His forgiveness and longsuffering to undeserving sinners! He was faithful to forgive them, but because of their continued spirit of dissatisfaction and rebellion as they traveled they had to wander the wilderness for forty years. See Numbers 14:22-23. Even throughout the years of wandering, the children of Israel struggled to be faithful. Psalms 95:8-11 says it more straightforward. Notice verse 10 specifically,

“Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. 10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: 11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.”

The wrath (anger) of God brought consequences. The unfaithfulness of the people resulted in the death of an entire generation in the wilderness. The unfaithful could not enter Canaan. The next generation grew up during the forty years of wandering, and it was God’s intention that they would learn the lessons of faithfulness that their fathers did not.



As the children of Israel came near to the borders of Canaan — soon to witness the exciting fulfillment of God’s promise to live in the land of milk and honey — did they demonstrate any more faithfulness to the covenant relationship than their fathers?

Worshipping a god other than the Lord God of heaven was one definition of breaking the covenant, and the golden calf rebellion was long past as the Israelites approached the borders of Canaan. But there were other spiritual dangers confronting them, and other ways they were to be tempted to break their covenant with God. One such way was to make a covenant with other nations, by unholy relationships with them and through marriages with their people.

“Regarding their relations with surrounding peoples, the Lord had declared to ancient Israel through Moses: ‘Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them: neither shalt thou make marriages with them; . . . for they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods…”

The Review and Herald, {RH, April 25, 1907 par. 7}

A tarrying time occurred at the border of the promised land, which proved a test for the people as they waited for the cloud to move forward. Notice that Moses was faithfully preparing. But the people sunk into a condition similar to that of Laodicea.

“They were now on the very borders of Canaan, only the river Jordan separating them from the promised land. …They kept their eyes fixed with eager expectation upon the cloudy pillar, impatient to see it move and lead them on. As yet, however, it gave no signs of moving, but hovered above the tops of the mountains overshadowing the tabernacle.

“The period of waiting was employed by Moses in preparing the people for the permanent occupation of Canaan. In this work the great leader’s time and attention were fully occupied; but to the people this period of suspense and expectation was most trying, and ere many weeks had elapsed, their history was marred by the most frightful departures from virtue and integrity.

“This was called the vale of Shittim, because of the great number of shittim, or acacia trees which flourished there, and by their shade formed an agreeable retreat. This sheltered valley had the genial climate of the tropics, but it was unfavorable to mental or physical activity, as the Israelites proved. …the city of Jericho, on that plain, was called the city of palm‑trees.

“But agreeable as were their physical surroundings, the Israelites were here to encounter an evil more deadly than mighty hosts of armed men or the wild beasts of the wilderness. …On every side were places noted for idolatry and licentiousness, … The chief god of this region was Baal, and on the heights above the vale of Shittim was the city of Beth‑peor, where the most degrading and iniquitous scenes were enacted by men and women as a part of the worship of their gods.

“These surroundings exerted a polluting influence upon the Israelites. Their minds became familiarized with the vile thoughts constantly suggested; their life of ease and inaction produced its demoralizing effect upon them; and gradually and almost unconsciously to themselves, they were departing from God, and coming into a condition where they would fall an easy prey to the temptations of Satan.

–The Signs of the Times, {ST, November 18, 1880 par. 2-6}

What was their danger in the choices they made? They became spiritually weak and vulnerable to fall into deceit and delusion. At that point Satan, through Balaam, introduced a temptation to the people of God. Revelation 2:14 calls it a stumbling block. The story of Balaam is found in Numbers 22-25:1.

Numbers 25:1-3 gives the summary of what happened,

“And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. 2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. 3  And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.”


“The result that would follow a breaking of their covenant with God, and an entrance into covenant relation with surrounding nations, was plainly foretold through Moses: ‘The Lord shall scatter you among the nations,’ he declared, ‘and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you. And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. …” [Deuteronomy 4:27-28 quoted]

The Review and Herald, {RH, April 25, 1907 par. 9}

The consequence of their poor choices and actions on the borders of Canaan could only lead to the scattering curse. But how long did God have mercy on them and withhold the full measure of the curses upon the land? Find out as I continue to share this history in the coming blogs.

As we tarry on the borders of the Heavenly Canaan, what are your chosen activities? Will you be active, as moses, in preparing for the coming spiritual battle, or will you follow your own human course toward comfort, worldliness, spiritual sleepiness and inactivity?

I pray that we all will be found preparing! Here is one piece of advice that we are given for this time of preparation.

“We cannot be too jealous of ourselves, lest by associating with worldlings we fall into the same habits. It was for this reason that the Israelites were commanded to dwell alone, as a people separate from all other nations. The friendship of the Lord’s enemies is more to be dreaded than their enmity; for Satan is constantly working through pleasing, intelligent unbelievers, to tempt the people of God to sin.”

The Signs of the Times, {ST, December 30, 1880 par. 19}



Bible, King James Version

Quotes taken from the Ellen G. White Writings, Comprehensive Research Edition 2008 CD


One thought on “Israel’s Choice, Pt. 6 – Journey to the Border

  1. could this be our history as seventh-day Adventist?
    what can bring Us back to God?

    Thanks for such reviving messages.

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