Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse. … And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes” (Malachi 3:10, first part, 11, first part). When I read these words, I can say, “Amen. Truly the Lord’s promises are sure.”
Way in the northeast corner of the little southern state of Australia proper, four miles from the town, lived a Sabbath-keeping family. Loving the Lord and this message whole-heartedly, they strove to live up to all the light that shone from the pages of God’s word, and endeavored to return to the Lord His own in tithes and offerings. We children were taught to keep count of our pennies, and when we had ten, to give one to the Lord.
The story I am going to tell belongs to the summer of 1899. The season was well worthy of its name, for each day the sun’s rays seemed to send out, if possible, a fiercer heat. Slowly life and energy seemed to be leaving us. Stock died, and everything was in a parched, dried-up condition.
Our home was surrounded by bush land, and along the southern boundary flowed a clear-water creek.
Away to the southeast, portions of the Australian Alps could be seen. In summer these often appeared a combination of smoke and flame, for bush fires were prevalent in those parts; while in the winter they put on a cap of snowy purity. This summer bush fires were raging in many places.
Christmas was approaching—a time in childish minds associated with nothing but joy and happiness. For many weeks we had been surrounded by a thick wall of smoke, sometimes close at hand, sometimes farther away. At first this caused some anxiety, but gradually that died away. Several times Father had been called out to fight fires that had started a short distance away, but that, too, had grown to be a common occurrence.
At last word reached us that a fierce bush fire was raging some miles away, and was traveling in our direction. The wall of smoke grew denser, and at times we were unable to see more than a chain from the house. It was Sabbath, the day before Christmas, and it seemed impossible for the sun to send out greater heat. We children dispensed with as much clothing as possible, and endeavored to keep still and quiet. A fire had started about three miles from our home, and Father had gone away early that morning to assist in an endeavor to check it.
The smoke all around seemed to thicken, and between twelve and one o’clock Mother sent one of the boys to a neighbor to inquire whether he thought there was any possibility of the large bush fire reaching us. He came back with the assurance that the fire was miles away, and going in another direction. That was comforting, to say the least; for what could two women, with six children to protect, do against this terrible scourge?
Mother said that when one of the boys had had something to eat, he was to take some refreshment to Father. When he had finished his dinner, he went out to get his pony, but rushed back almost immediately with the cry, “The fire’s in our paddock [small enclosure to keep horses]!” Mother went out, and there, not more than two hundred yards from the house, was the awful fire fiend sending out tongues of flame in every direction, and licking up all in its path. The large fire had reached us! What was to be done? To combine rapidity of action with presence of mind was absolutely necessary. Mother gathered us around her, and for a moment knelt in prayer, committing us to the care of our heavenly Father, who is all-powerful.
Blankets were snatched and wrapped around the three little ones, as a protection against sparks, and they were given into the care of us three older ones, the eldest but sixteen. The next question was where to go. One of our paddocks had been almost completely cleared of timber, and that was the first place thought of; but on second thought it was decided that the creek would be the safest place.
Mother sent us ahead, for she had to help Grandma, who had more than reached her allotted span of life. When a short distance away, I looked back and saw that the stables and barn were alight. We hastened on while sparks flew over and around us and lighted trees on the other side of our path. After reaching the creek, we waited for Mother, and then we all went to a neighbor’s [house] across the creek.
Where was Father all this time? Those at the other fire found they were unable to check its fury, and seeing smoke coming from the direction of their own homes, turned toward them. Being unable to reach home by the usual route, Father had to make a circuit of about three miles. When he reached the homestead, everything around it was blackened, but the house stood firm, a monument to the truthfulness of God’s word.
Right through the apiary of one hundred hives the fire had swept, but only one hive was destroyed. No human hand had been there to check the progress of the flames, and nothing but the interposition of God through His angels could have done so.
We went home in the evening, and the most eloquent language would fail to portray the solemn grandeur of the scene. As the shadows deepened, the red glare in the heavens, the flaming trees, and the millions of sparks that were sent skyward, equaled the finest display of fireworks. Next day the three horses were found still huddled in a corner of one of the paddocks, where they had stood with their heads to the fire. How close the devourer came to them may be judged from the fact that the animals’ noses were scorched.
The neighbors on either side of us lost their homes; in the same district two or three lost their lives, while our losses were comparatively slight. Truly the God that now lives is the same God that led His people out of Egypt and through the wilderness to the Promised Land, and still He cares for and leads His children in this wilderness of sin, and if we trust Him He will bring us through to the Promised Land.
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, … and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).
The Youth’s Instructor, February 29, 1916, Pearl Tolhurst, 11, 12.