Will You Follow Jehovah’s Loving Guidance?
“Every false path I have hated.”—PS. 119:128.
IMAGINE this: You need to travel to a certain destination. For guidance, you turn to a trusted friend who knows the way. As he gives you thorough directions, he might say something like this: “Be careful about that next turn. The sign is misleading. A lot of people follow it and wind up getting lost.” Would you appreciate his concern and heed the warning? In some ways, Jehovah is like that friend. He gives us careful directions about how to reach our destination of everlasting life, but he also warns us about bad influences that could cause us to go the wrong way.—Deut. 5:32; Isa. 30:21.
2 In this and the following article, we will discuss some influences about which our Friend, Jehovah God, warns us. Let us keep in mind that Jehovah gives such warnings out of concern and love. He wants us to reach our destination. It pains him to see people giving in to bad influences and losing their way. (Ezek. 33:11) In this article, we will discuss three negative influences. The first is an external force, the second an internal one. The third is not even real; nonetheless, it is very dangerous. We need to know what these influences are and how our heavenly Father teaches us to resist them. One inspired psalmist said to Jehovah: “Every false path I have hated.” (Ps. 119:128) Do you feel the same way? Let us see how we can intensify such feelings and act on them.
Do Not Follow “After the Crowd”
3 In taking a long journey, what would you do if you felt unsure about which way to go? You might feel tempted to follow other travelers—especially if you saw a great many making the same choice. Such a course is risky. After all, those travelers may not be heading toward your destination, or they too may be lost. In this connection, consider a principle that underlies one of the laws given to ancient Israel. Those who served as judges or as witnesses in judicial matters were warned of the danger of ‘following after the crowd.’ (Read Exodus 23:2.) Without doubt, it is all too easy for imperfect humans to bow to peer pressure, perverting justice. However, is the principle about not following the crowd restricted to judicial matters? Not at all.
4 In truth, the pressure to “follow after the crowd” can affect us at almost any time. It may arise suddenly, and it can be very difficult to resist. Think, for example, of the peer pressure that Joshua and Caleb once faced. They were part of a group of 12 men who went into the Promised Land to spy it out. Upon their return, ten of those men gave a very negative and discouraging report. They even claimed that some of the land’s inhabitants were giants descended from the Nephilim, the offspring of rebel angels and women. (Gen. 6:4) Now, that claim was absurd. Those wicked hybrids had been wiped out in the Deluge many centuries earlier, leaving not a single descendant behind. But even the most baseless ideas can exert power over those weak in faith. The negative reports from those ten spies quickly spread fear and panic among the people. Before long, most were sure that it would be a mistake to enter the Promised Land as Jehovah had directed. In that volatile situation, what did Joshua and Caleb do?—Num. 13:25-33.
5 They did not go following after the crowd. Although the crowd hated to hear it, those two men told the truth and stuck to it—even when threatened with death by stoning! Where did they get the courage? No doubt, a good part of it came from their faith. People with faith see clearly the difference between the baseless claims of men and the sacred promises of Jehovah God. Both men later expressed how they felt about Jehovah’s record in fulfilling his every promise. (Read Joshua 14:6, 8; 23:2, 14.) Joshua and Caleb were attached to their faithful God, and they could not imagine hurting him for the sake of following a faithless crowd. So they stood firm, setting a sterling example for us today.—Num. 14:1-10.
6 Do you ever feel pressured to follow after the crowd? People who are alienated from Jehovah and who scoff at his moral standards certainly form a vast crowd today. When it comes to entertainment and recreation, that crowd often promote baseless ideas. They may insist that the immorality, violence, and spiritism so prevalent in television programs, movies, and video games are harmless. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) When you choose entertainment and recreation for yourself or your family, do you allow the lax consciences of others to influence your decisions and to mold your conscience? Would that not, in effect, amount to following after the crowd?
7 Jehovah has given us a precious gift to help us make decisions—our “perceptive powers.” However, these powers need to be trained “through use.” (Heb. 5:14) Following the crowd would not train our perceptive powers; nor, on the other hand, would a host of rigid rules in matters of conscience. That is why, for example, Jehovah’s people are not given a list of films, books, and Internet sites to avoid. Because this world changes so fast, such a list would be outdated soon after it was made. (1 Cor. 7:31) Worse, it would deprive us of the vital work of weighing Bible principles carefully and prayerfully and then making decisions on the basis of those principles.—Eph. 5:10.
8 Of course, our Bible-based decisions may at times make us unpopular. Christian youths in school may face strong pressure from the crowd to see and do what everyone else is seeing and doing. (1 Pet. 4:4) Therefore, it is beautiful to see Christians young and old imitating the faith of Joshua and Caleb, refusing to follow after the crowd.
Do Not Follow “Your Hearts and Your Eyes”
9 The second dangerous influence we will discuss is an internal one. We might illustrate it this way: If you were taking a journey to a particular destination, can you imagine deciding to cast aside your map and simply follow your impulses—perhaps turning onto every road that seemed to offer pretty views? Clearly, giving in to such impulses would keep you from reaching your goal. In this regard, consider another of Jehovah’s laws to ancient Israel. Many today might find a law about putting fringes and blue threads on their garments hard to understand. (Read Numbers 15:37-39.) Do you see the relevance, though? Obeying such a law helped God’s people to keep themselves distinct and separate from the pagan nations around them. That was vital if they were to gain and maintain Jehovah’s approval. (Lev. 18:24, 25) However, that law also reveals a dangerous internal influence that might lead us away from our destination of everlasting life. How so?
10 Note what Jehovah gave his people as a reason behind this law: “You must not go about following your hearts and your eyes, which you are following in immoral intercourse.” Jehovah has profound insight into human nature. He well knows how easily our heart, or inner self, is seduced by what we take in through our eyes. The Bible thus warns us: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9) Do you see, then, just how fitting was Jehovah’s warning to the Israelites? He well knew that they would be inclined to look at the pagan peoples around them and be seduced by what they saw. They might be tempted to look like those unbelievers and then to think, feel, and act like them.—Prov. 13:20.
11 In our own day, it is even easier for our treacherous heart to be seduced by our physical senses. We live in a world that is geared toward appealing to fleshly inclinations. So how can we apply the principle behind Numbers 15:39? Consider: If those around you at school, at the workplace, or in your community are dressing more and more provocatively, might you be affected? Might you be tempted to ‘follow your heart and eyes’ and be seduced by what you see? Then might you be tempted to lower your own standards by dressing in a similar manner?—Rom. 12:1, 2.
12 We urgently need to cultivate self-control. If our eyes tend to wander where they should not, let us recall the firm resolve of faithful Job, who made a formal agreement with his own eyes—a firm decision not to give romantic attention to a woman not his own wife. (Job 31:1) Similarly, King David resolved: “I shall not set in front of my eyes any good-for-nothing thing.” (Ps. 101:3) Whatever might damage our clean conscience and our relationship with Jehovah is for us a “good-for-nothing thing.” That would include any temptation that appeals to our eyes and threatens to seduce our heart into wrongdoing.
13 On the other hand, we certainly would never want to become, in a sense, a “good-for-nothing thing” to others by tempting them to contemplate wrongdoing. We therefore take seriously the Bible’s inspired counsel to wear well-arranged and modest clothing. (1 Tim. 2:9) Modesty is not something we can simply define in a way that suits us. We need to take into account the consciences and sensitivities of those around us, putting their peace of mind and welfare ahead of our own preferences. (Rom. 15:1, 2) The Christian congregation is blessed with many thousands of young people who set sterling examples in this regard. How proud they make us as they refuse to ‘follow their hearts and their eyes,’ choosing instead to please Jehovah in all that they do—even in the way they dress!
Do Not Follow “Unrealities”
14 Imagine that your journey took you across a vast desert. What would happen if you veered off the road to pursue a mirage? Pursuing that illusion could cost you your life! Jehovah well knows that danger. Consider an example. The Israelites wanted to be like the nations around them, who were ruled by human kings. That desire was, in fact, a grave sin, for it amounted to a rejection of Jehovah as their King. Although Jehovah allowed them to have a human king, he had his prophet Samuel deliver a pointed warning about pursuing “unrealities.”—Read 1 Samuel 12:21.
15 Did those people think that a human king would somehow be more real, more dependable, than Jehovah? If so, they were truly pursuing an unreality! And they were in danger of pursuing many other satanic illusions. Human kings would easily lead them into idolatry. Idolaters make the mistake of thinking that physical objects—gods made of wood or stone—are somehow more real, more reliable, than the invisible God, Jehovah, who created all things. But as the apostle Paul noted, idols are “nothing.” (1 Cor. 8:4) They cannot see, hear, speak, or act. You might be able to see them and touch them, but if you were to worship one, you would, indeed, be pursuing an unreality—an empty illusion that would bring only disaster.—Ps. 115:4-8.
16 Satan is still adept at convincing people to pursue unrealities. For instance, he has seduced innumerable people into looking to material things to provide security. Money, possessions, and high-paying jobs may seem to deliver advantages. What do material things deliver, though, when health fails, when the economy crumbles, or when a natural disaster strikes? What do they deliver when people feel empty inside, in need of purpose, direction, and answers to life’s deeper questions? What relief can they deliver in the face of death? If we look to material things to fill spiritual needs, we will be disappointed. Material possessions do not deliver; they are unrealities. In the long run, they cannot even provide physical security, for they have no lasting effect on the present brevity of human life or the likelihood of sickness and death. (Prov. 23:4, 5) How much more real, then, is our God, Jehovah! Only in a strong relationship with him can we find genuine security. What a precious blessing that is! Let us never forsake him in the pursuit of unrealities.
17 Are we not blessed to have Jehovah as our Friend and Guide on life’s journey? If we continue to heed his loving warnings against three bad influences—the crowd, our own hearts, and unrealities—we will be much more likely to reach our destination of everlasting life. In the following article, let us consider three more warnings that Jehovah provides to help us hate and avoid the false paths that lead so many astray.—Ps. 119:128.
What Do You Think?
How can you make personal application of the principles revealed in the following scriptures?
1, 2. (a) In seeking guidance to reach a destination, what kind of warning might you appreciate, and why? (b) What kinds of warnings does Jehovah offer those who serve him, and why?
3. (a) Why might it be dangerous to follow other travelers when we are unsure about which way to go? (b) What important principle do we find at Exodus 23:2?
4, 5. How were Joshua and Caleb pressured to follow the crowd, but what enabled them to resist?
6. In what ways might we feel pressured to follow the crowd?
7, 8. (a) How are our “perceptive powers” trained, and why is such training more useful than following a host of rigid rules? (b) Why do you find the example of many Christian youths heartwarming?
9. (a) In the course of a journey, why might it be dangerous simply to follow our urges and impulses? (b) Why was the law found at Numbers 15:37-39 relevant to God’s ancient people?
10. How has Jehovah shown insight into human nature?
11. In what way might we be seduced by our physical senses?
12, 13. (a) What should we do if our eyes tend to wander where they should not? (b) What can move us to avoid becoming a source of temptation to others?
14. What warning about pursuing “unrealities” did Samuel deliver?
15. In what ways did the Israelites pursue unrealities?
16. (a) How does Satan lure many today into pursuing unrealities? (b) Why can we say that material things are unrealities, especially in comparison with Jehovah God?
17. What is your resolve regarding the negative influences we have discussed?
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Are you ever tempted to follow the crowd?
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Why is it dangerous to follow an impulse?
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Are you pursuing any unrealities?