“Temporary Residents” United in True Worship
“Foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers. And as for you, the priests of Jehovah you will be called.”—ISA. 61:5, 6.
HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER?
How do some people view foreigners, but how is the Bible’s view different?
What invitation is being extended to people of all nations?
In what sense do we already experience a world without foreigners?
AS INDICATED in the preceding article, people use the word “foreigner” in a derogatory way, indicating disdain, even outright contempt. It is disrespectful to consider those of another nation to be inferior to people in one’s own country. More than that, such an attitude indicates an ignorance of the facts. The publication The Races of Mankind states: “The races of mankind are what the Bible says they are—brothers.” Brothers are often quite different, but they are brothers nonetheless.
2 Of course, no matter where we reside, foreigners live among us. That was also the case with the ancient Israelites, who by means of the Law covenant were in a special relationship with Jehovah God. The rights of non-Israelites were somewhat limited, yet the Israelites were required to treat them respectfully and fairly. What a fine example for us to follow! There is no room for partiality or prejudice among true Christians. Why? The apostle Peter said: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”—Acts 10:34, 35.
3 Foreigners in ancient Israel benefited from their close association with native Israelites. This reflected Jehovah’s thinking on the matter as expressed years later by the apostle Paul when he asked about Jehovah: “Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of people of the nations? Yes, of people of the nations also.”—Rom. 3:29; Joel 2:32.
4 By means of the new covenant, the congregation of anointed Christians replaced literal Israel as the nation with whom God was to have a special relationship. It is therefore called “the Israel of God.” (Gal. 6:16) And as Paul explained, in this new nation, “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, foreigner, Scythian, slave, freeman, but Christ is all things and in all.” (Col. 3:11) In that sense, then, there were to be no foreigners in the Christian congregation.
5 On the other hand, someone may point to chapter 61 of the book of Isaiah, which contains a prophecy finding fulfillment in the Christian congregation. Verse 6 of that chapter mentions those who will serve as “priests of Jehovah.” Verse 5, though, mentions “foreigners” who would cooperate with and work with those “priests.” How is this to be understood?
6 We understand those “priests of Jehovah” to be anointed Christians who have a share “in the first resurrection” and who “will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.” (Rev. 20:6) In addition, there are many loyal Christians who have an earthly hope. These, though working with and associating closely with those who will serve in heaven, are foreigners, figuratively speaking. They happily support and work along with “the priests of Jehovah,” serving as their “farmers” and “vinedressers,” as it were. Yes, they help cultivate spiritual fruitage to God’s glory, nurturing and harvesting people. Indeed, both the anointed and the “other sheep” find and then lovingly shepherd honest individuals who are desirous of serving God forever.—John 10:16.
“TEMPORARY RESIDENTS” LIKE ABRAHAM
7 As noted in the preceding article, true Christians are like foreigners, or temporary residents, in Satan’s wicked world. In this, they are similar to faithful men of old—including Abraham—of whom it is said that “they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.” (Heb. 11:13) Whatever is our hope for the future, we have the privilege of enjoying the kind of relationship with Jehovah that Abraham had. James explains that “‘Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness,’ and he came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’”—Jas. 2:23.
8 God promised that through Abraham and his descendants, all families of the earth—not just one nation—were to be blessed. (Read Genesis 22:15-18.) Although the fulfillment of this God-given promise lay in the distant future, Abraham maintained his confidence in that fulfillment. For over half of his life, he and his family wandered from place to place. All the while, Abraham maintained his friendship with Jehovah.
9 Despite not knowing how long he would have to wait to see his hope realized, Abraham’s love for and devotion to Jehovah never wavered. He kept his eyes focused, not settling down to become a permanent resident in some nation. (Heb. 11:14, 15) How wise it is for us to follow Abraham’s example by living a simple life and not letting ourselves become overly concerned about material possessions, social positions, or career goals! Why strive to lead a so-called normal life in a system that is soon to end? Why become overly attached to what is only temporary? As was true of Abraham, we are headed for something far better. We are willing to show a patient, waiting attitude until our hope is realized.—Read Romans 8:25.
10 Jehovah is still inviting people of all nations to be blessed through Abraham’s seed. And the anointed “priests of Jehovah,” as well as the other sheep “foreigners,” are passing on this invitation to people worldwide in over 600 languages.
LOOK BEYOND NATIONAL BORDERS
11 At the inauguration of the temple in 1026 B.C.E., and in harmony with the promise Jehovah made to Abraham, Solomon observed that people of all nations would join in praising Jehovah. In a heartfelt prayer, he said: “Also to the foreigner, who is no part of your people Israel and who actually comes from a distant land by reason of your name (for they shall hear of your great name and of your strong hand and of your stretched-out arm), and he actually comes and prays toward this house, may you yourself listen from the heavens, your established place of dwelling, and you must do according to all that for which the foreigner calls to you; in order that all the peoples of the earth may get to know your name so as to fear you the same as your people Israel do.”—1 Ki. 8:41-43.
12 A foreigner is basically someone who is in a land that is not his own or is a person who comes into a community or group from outside of it. This well describes Jehovah’s Witnesses. They owe their primary allegiance to a heavenly government, God’s Kingdom under Christ. Thus, they maintain strict neutrality in political matters, even if some people view them as strangely out of place in today’s society.
13 Foreigners are often recognized by characteristics common to their minority group. It may be the language they speak, their customs, their physical characteristics, even their style or manner of dress. Still, the things they have in common with all other humans, regardless of nationality, are more significant than any of those characteristics. Thus, in actuality a foreigner is simply a person viewed as such because he is different in certain ways. When we learn to look beyond these actual or imagined differences, then the word “foreigner” loses much of its meaning. If all on earth were living under the same political entity or government, no one would be a foreigner in the political sense of the word. In fact, Jehovah originally purposed that all humans be united as one family under one rulership—his rulership. Could anything approaching that be possible now for people in all nations around the globe?
14 In a selfish and nationalistic world, it is refreshing to find individuals who can and do look beyond national borders. Granted, overcoming prejudices can be difficult. The founder of the television network CNN, Ted Turner, comments about his work with a number of talented individuals from various nations: “Meeting with these people was an incredible experience. I came to see those from other countries not as ‘foreigners,’ but as fellow citizens of the planet. I began to view the word ‘foreign’ as pejorative and created a rule within CNN that the word could not be used either on air or in conversation around the office. Instead, the word ‘international’ was to be used.”
15 In lands around the globe, only Jehovah’s Witnesses have adopted God’s way of thinking as a group. By learning to see things as Jehovah does, they have been able mentally and emotionally to break down national barriers. Instead of treating members of differing national groups with distrust, suspicion, or even outright hatred, they have learned to cherish the variety of characteristics and abilities of these groups as something beautiful. Have you reflected on this accomplishment and how it has benefited you personally in dealing with others?
A WORLD WITHOUT FOREIGNERS
16 Soon all present-day nations will face Jesus Christ and his heavenly forces in the final battle against God’s rulership, which battle is “called in Hebrew Har–Magedon.” (Rev. 16:14, 16; 19:11-16) Over 2,500 years ago, the prophet Daniel was inspired to foretell the outcome for human governments in conflict with God’s purpose, writing: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Dan. 2:44.
17 Can you imagine what the fulfillment of that will mean for you personally? Man-made national boundaries, which today in some sense mark every human as a foreigner, will no longer exist. Any possible differences in appearance or any remaining normal physical characteristics will simply illustrate the marvelous variety found in God’s creation. Such a thrilling prospect should motivate all of us to continue praising and honoring our Creator, Jehovah God, as best we can.
18 Is it unrealistic to believe that such a global change can happen? No, it really is not. On the contrary, it is totally reasonable to believe that it will happen. The very concept of “foreigner” has already lost much of its meaning among Jehovah’s Witnesses, who pay little attention to the nationality of those in their midst. Recently, for example, several of their smaller branch offices were merged to simplify the work of oversight and to improve efficiency in accomplishing the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom. (Matt. 24:14) As far as legal requirements permitted, national barriers were ignored when such consolidations were made. That is yet another visible proof that Jesus Christ as Jehovah’s rightfully enthroned Ruler is breaking down human barriers, and he is the one who will soon “complete his conquest”!—Rev. 6:2.
19 Coming from many nations and therefore speaking many different languages, Jehovah’s Witnesses strive to uphold the pure language of truth. This creates a bond of unity impossible to break. (Read Zephaniah 3:9.) This is an international family standing in the midst of but separate from the present wicked system. This united family now is but a foretaste of the world to come—a world without foreigners. Then everyone alive, without exception, will happily acknowledge the truthfulness of what the publication quoted earlier said: “The races of mankind are what the Bible says they are—brothers.”—The Races of Mankind.
1. How do some people view foreigners, but why is that not justified?
2, 3. What is Jehovah’s view of foreigners?
4. Why can it be said that there are no foreigners in “the Israel of God”?
5, 6. (a) What question regarding Isaiah 61:5, 6 might arise? (b) Who are “the priests of Jehovah” and “the foreigners” mentioned by Isaiah? (c) What do the two groups have in common?
7. How are Christians today like Abraham and other faithful men of old?
8. What promise was given to Abraham, and how did he feel about its fulfillment?
9, 10. (a) We can copy Abraham’s example in what ways? (b) What invitation can we extend to others?
11. Solomon expressed what view that extended beyond the Israelites?
12. Why might some people view Jehovah’s Witnesses as strange or as “foreigners”?
13. (a) In what sense is the concept of “foreigner” often just a matter of viewpoint? (b) Did Jehovah’s original purpose include the idea of foreigners? Explain.
14, 15. What have Jehovah’s Witnesses as a group come to appreciate?
18. What recent developments show that the concept of “foreigner” can be overcome?
19. What has the pure language of truth made possible?
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Will you remain focused on the fulfillment of God’s promises as Abraham was?
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In Jehovah’s eyes, none of them are foreigners
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Do you look forward to the time when there will be no man-made national boundaries, when the concept of “foreigner” will be a thing of the past?