Act Wisely in the Face of Calamity
1. Why did people perish needlessly (a) when the Titanic sank? (b) when Mount Pelée exploded?
WHEN warned by a reliable source that disaster is impending, wise persons take action to safeguard their lives. (Proverbs 22:3) But countless thousands have perished needlessly because their confidence was misplaced. Despite warnings to get into lifeboats, hundreds of passengers went down with the ocean liner Titanic in 1912 because they believed the claim that it was unsinkable. When Mount Pelée in Martinique began to spew out volcanic ash and rock in 1902, the populace of nearby Saint-Pierre was apprehensive, but since the selfish interests of prominent members of the community were at stake, local politicians and the editor of the local newspaper sought to calm the fears of the people, urging them not to leave. Suddenly the mountain exploded, and 30,000 persons perished.
2. (a) What urgent warning is being sounded in our day? (b) Why is the situation serious?
2 In our day an even more urgent warning is being sounded—not about some local disaster but concerning the nearness of God’s universal war of Armageddon. (Isaiah 34:1, 2; Jeremiah 25:32, 33) Jehovah’s Witnesses have repeatedly called at the homes of people worldwide, urging them to act wisely, with a view to the preservation of their lives. Do you love life enough to take the needed action, and to do so promptly, without delay?
“THE WORLD IS PASSING AWAY”
3. Why will our attitude toward the world affect our prospect for survival?
3 A critical factor in your prospect for survival is your attitude toward the world. As long as you are alive as a human you are in the world. But you do not have to share its wrong desires and imitate its ungodly deeds. You do not have to identify yourself with it by putting your confidence in men and their schemes instead of in God and his purpose. But you must make a choice; you cannot be on both sides. “Whoever . . . wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” Why? Because, as God’s Word tells us, “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.”—James 4:4; 1 John 5:19; Psalm 146:3-5.
4. (a) Using your Bible, explain what practices and attitudes will bar people from life under God’s Kingdom. (b) Why should any who have indulged in these things abandon them quickly?
4 Understandably, Jehovah will not preserve into his righteous New Order persons whose way of life gives evidence that they cling to what God condemns. What are some of these things? Many are activities and attitudes that the world takes for granted. But if we want to survive the end of this wicked world, then, regardless of what other people do and think, we will heed the Bible’s warning that fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals and those who indulge in immoral uncleanness and loose conduct will not be among the survivors. No matter how often others resort to lies or theft, we will reject such a way of life. Despite the popularity of occult practices, we will avoid them. Though others may become jealous, stir up strife, give in to fits of anger, or try to escape from frustrations with drugs or excessive use of alcoholic beverages, we will not imitate them. And if we have indulged in these things, we will face up to the need to change. Even if some of these seemed “normal” to us in the past, we will abandon them. Why? Because we truly love God, we love life, and God’s Word warns that “those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.”—Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-7; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Revelation 22:15.
5. (a) If life is precious to us, what must we learn to do? (b) What fine qualities are mentioned in the scriptures at the end of this paragraph? How important are they? How can we develop them?
5 If an opportunity to live forever in happiness is important to us, we need to learn how to please the Giver of life, Jehovah God. (Acts 17:24-28; Revelation 4:11) Progressively we must apply his Word to every aspect of our lives. As we do that, we will soon take a serious look at our attitude toward ourselves and other people, toward personal possessions and attainments, and consider how this affects our standing before God. People around us may have an exalted opinion of themselves, of their own tribe or race or nation, but we will think seriously about the scripture that says: “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—James 4:6; Zephaniah 2:2, 3; Psalm 149:4.
6, 7. Why should we examine our own lives in the light of 1 John 2:15-17?
6 Even though others allow themselves to be enslaved by the desires stimulated by a materialistic society or are motivated by a desire for personal prominence, we will examine our own life in the light of 1 John 2:15-17, which says: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” If we need to make changes, this is the time to do it.
7 This world and its way of life will not go on forever. It is not “unsinkable.” Worldly men may try to hold on to their followers, making them feel that their efforts can improve the world. But the only way to be spared from impending calamity is to heed God’s message of warning. In this the Ninevites in the days of the prophet Jonah set an example that we do well to take to heart.
“THEY REPENTED AT WHAT JONAH PREACHED”
8. How did the Ninevites show wisdom when Jonah delivered God’s warning to them, and with what results?
8 In the ninth century B.C.E., Jehovah commissioned Jonah to go to the people of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, to proclaim that, because of their badness, Nineveh was to be overthrown. When Jonah warned that in just 40 days they would perish, how did they react? Instead of scoffing, they “began to put faith in God, and they proceeded to proclaim a fast and to put on sackcloth.” The king himself joined them and urged all the people to call out earnestly to God and to turn back from their bad way and from their violence. He reasoned: “Who is there knowing whether the true God may . . . turn back from his burning anger, so that we may not perish?” Because they abandoned their bad way, Jehovah showed them mercy. Their lives were spared.—Jonah 3:2-10.
9, 10. (a) In what respect did Jesus say that the Ninevites were an example to imitate? (b) Who today are like those Ninevites?
9 As a reproof to unbelieving Jews in the first century C.E., Jesus drew attention to that historical incident, saying: “Men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it; because they repented at what Jonah preached, but, look! something more than Jonah is here.”—Matthew 12:41.
10 What about our day? Is anyone showing such repentance? Yes; there are many thousands worldwide who, like the Ninevites, may never have professed to worship the God of the Bible but who are now heeding Jehovah’s message of warning. When they learn why destruction is coming upon this world, they seek God’s mercy. They have a genuine change of mind and heart regarding their former way of life and now apply themselves to doing “works that befit repentance.” (Acts 26:20; see also Romans 2:4.) Is it your desire to be one of them? If so, do not delay.
URGENTLY SUE FOR PEACE
11. (a) What was the background of the Gibeonites? (b) Why did they sue for peace with Israel?
11 The Gibeonites in the days of Joshua also acted wisely so that their lives would be spared. They were Canaanites whose way of life was immoral and materialistic, idolatrous and demonistic. Jehovah had decreed their destruction. They knew how Jehovah had delivered Israel from Egypt 40 years earlier and that powerful Amorite kings east of the Jordan River had been unable to stand before them. Everyone was aware that, without the use of battering rams, the massive walls of Jericho had fallen flat before them and that the city of Ai had been reduced to a desolate mound. (Joshua 9:3, 9, 10) The inhabitants of the city of Gibeon wanted to live, but they realized that they could never win in a war against the God of Israel. Something needed to be done quickly. What? They could not insist on a treaty with Israel, but they thought they should at least try to obtain one. How?
12. (a) Despite the method they used, why were the Gibeonites spared? (b) What changes did they have to make, and what work was given them to do?
12 They acted shrewdly, sending to Joshua men whose appearance indicated that they had made a very long trip. Approaching Joshua, they said that they were from a distant land, that they had heard of the great things that Jehovah had done and, as representatives of their people, they had come to offer themselves as servants and to request that a covenant be made with them. Joshua and the chieftains of Israel agreed. Later, when the deception came to light, the Gibeonites humbly confessed that they were afraid for their lives and they showed a willingness to do anything required of them. (Joshua 9:4-25) Jehovah had observed the entire matter. He was not deceived. He could see that they were not trying to corrupt his people, as the Moabites had done earlier, and he appreciated their earnest desire to live. So he permitted them to be assigned to work under the Levites at the sacred tabernacle, gathering wood and drawing water, thus supporting Jehovah’s worship. To be acceptable for such service, of course, they had to abandon their former unclean practices.—Joshua 9:27; Leviticus 18:26-30.
13. (a) How can we benefit from that prophetic drama involving the Gibeonites? (b) To be spared by the Greater Joshua, what is required of people today?
13 In view of the fact that we live close to the end of the “last days,” it is vital for all persons who want to survive to act without delay, and with complete sincerity. Jesus Christ, who is Jehovah’s executioner today, cannot be tricked as Joshua was. The only way that such persons can enter into an arrangement with him to spare them from execution is for them publicly to declare their faith in Jehovah as the true God. (Compare Acts 2:17-21.) They must also accept Jesus Christ in the roles that God has assigned to him and live thereafter as persons who are not lovers of the way of life of this condemned world. Then they must become humble servants of God, rendering sacred service to him in association with the congregation of his people.—John 17:16; Revelation 7:14, 15.
14. Why is Jehovah’s deliverance of the Gibeonites from enemy forces significant for us?
14 Soon after the Gibeonites took their stand with Jehovah’s people, they came under great pressure. Five kings of the Amorites laid siege to Gibeon to force the inhabitants back onto their side, in opposition to Israel. The Gibeonites dispatched an urgent plea to Joshua for help, and the deliverance that they experienced was one of the most spectacular in all history. Jehovah threw the enemy into confusion, hurled hailstones on them from heaven, and caused the daylight to be extended miraculously until Israel had completely routed the enemy. (Joshua 10:1-14) That rescue of the Gibeonites was prophetic of an even more marvelous deliverance of a great crowd of worshipers of the true God at the universal war of Armageddon. The opportunity to benefit from that deliverance is open to people of every nation if they act wisely now. Are you availing yourself of that opportunity?—Revelation 7:9, 10.