Who Leads the Way to Deliverance?
1. (a) To what must we submit in order to be delivered safely through the “great tribulation”? (b) How was this illustrated by the way that God used Moses?
ONLY if we accept the leadership of Jesus Christ and give convincing evidence that we truly listen to him and walk in his footsteps can we be saved from this wicked world and be preserved alive through the coming “great tribulation.” (Acts 4:12) This was well illustrated in events surrounding the deliverance of the natural Israelites from Egypt in 1513 B.C.E. Miraculously Jehovah ushered Israel to safety through the Red Sea and destroyed the pursuing Egyptian army. In all of this, God used Moses to lead his people.—Joshua 24:5-7; Exodus 3:10.
2. (a) Who were the “vast mixed company” that left Egypt with Israel? (b) What no doubt attracted many of them? (c) On what matter were they soon put to the test?
2 When the Israelites marched out of Egypt with the prospect of entering the Promised Land, others joined their ranks. As Moses later wrote: “A vast mixed company also went up with them.” (Exodus 12:38) Who were these? They were Egyptians or other foreigners who threw in their lot with Israel. They had seen the fear-inspiring plagues that Jehovah had brought upon the oppressive nation of Egypt to demonstrate that he was the only true God and that the gods of Egypt were false and could not deliver those who worshiped them. No doubt, too, what they heard from the Israelites about the prospect of life in “a land flowing with milk and honey” sounded good to them. (Exodus 3:7, 8; 12:12) But did they also fully recognize Moses as the one raised up by God to be ruler and deliverer of His people? They were soon put to the test.—Acts 7:34, 35.
3. (a) Why was it vital to follow Moses’ directions? (b) What was the meaning of ‘baptism into Moses’? (c) Why is that important to spiritual Israelites?
3 As Israel, along with the “vast mixed company,” neared the shores of the Red Sea, the king of Egypt and his military forces chased after them to drag them back into slavery. To be delivered, they must stay together and follow Moses’ directions, because Jehovah was using Moses to lead them. By means of a supernatural cloud Jehovah held back the enemy while he split apart the waters of the sea and dried out the seabed. In striking contrast to what happened to the Egyptians later, all Israel and the “vast mixed company” escaped with Moses across that dry seabed. (Exodus 14:9, 19-31) As they marched through, with walls of water on their right and on their left and the cloud of God’s presence overhead, something significant took place. The Bible speaks of it as a baptism—not a literal baptism in water, but a symbolic one into Moses as Jehovah’s prophet, the one sent by God to be their Deliverer. (1 Corinthians 10:1, 2) Likewise, all spiritual Israelites who will survive the destruction of this wicked world must undergo a similar baptism into Christ as deliverer and give convincing evidence that they closely adhere to his leadership. The modern-day “mixed company” must accompany them.
4. How great is the authority that Jehovah has given to Christ?
4 Jehovah has conferred great authority on his Son, Jesus Christ. By means of him God has made it possible for us to be ‘delivered from the present wicked system of things,’ so that we need not share its dismal fate. (Galatians 1:3-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10) Through Moses, Jehovah gave to Israel laws that affected the immediate life prospects of the people. When they obeyed those laws they were greatly benefited. But some laws also carried the death penalty for disobedience. Later, Jesus became a prophet greater than Moses. What he taught were “sayings of everlasting life,” and deliberate failure to obey these sayings leads to death from which there is no deliverance. How important, therefore, that we take to heart what he says!—John 6:66-69; 3:36; Acts 3:19-23.
5. What makes submission to Jesus very appealing?
5 To some persons, the idea of submission to a leader does not seem desirable. They have seen too much abuse of authority. But Jesus’ own words reflect a spirit that is reassuring. He warmly invites us: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) What an appealing prospect! Those who heed that warm invitation, putting their full confidence in him, will not be disappointed. (Romans 10:11) They will experience security such as that of sheep in the flock of a loving shepherd.
THE GENUINE FINE SHEPHERD
6. (a) How was the nation of Israel like sheep in a sheepfold? (b) What promise did Jehovah make concerning a shepherd for these “sheep,” and how was it fulfilled?
6 The nation of Israel was like a flock of sheep that belonged to Jehovah. He provided the Law covenant, which served like the protective walls of a sheepfold, fencing them off from the way of life of ungodly Gentile nations. It also directed responsive ones to the Messiah. (Ephesians 2:14-16; Galatians 3:24) Concerning that Messianic Shepherd-King, Jehovah foretold: “I will raise up over [my sheep] one shepherd, and he must feed them, even my servant David.” (Ezekiel 34:23, 31) This did not mean that David, who was then dead, would again personally rule as king over God’s people. Rather, from David’s royal line Jehovah would raise up a shepherd-king through whom God would provide security. (Jeremiah 23:5, 6) At various times men falsely claimed to be the Messianic deliverer, but in the year 29 C.E., Jehovah used John the Baptizer to introduce Jesus Christ to the “sheep” of Israel as the one truly sent by God, the Messiah with authentic credentials. This was the heavenly Son of God, whose life principle had been transferred to the womb of a Jewish virgin so that he might be born into the royal line of David. The name David means “beloved,” so, appropriately, after Jesus’ baptism in water, Jehovah declared audibly from heaven: “You are my Son, the beloved; I have approved you.”—Mark 1:11.
7. (a) As “the fine shepherd,” how did Jesus demonstrate the depth of his loving concern for the “sheep”? (b) How did that contrast with the conduct of earlier, false messiahs?
7 Less than four months before his death, Jesus said: “I am the fine shepherd; the fine shepherd surrenders his soul in behalf of the sheep.” (John 10:11) He contrasted his role with that of false messiahs who had come earlier, saying: “He that does not enter into the sheepfold through the door but climbs up some other place, that one is a thief and a plunderer. But he that enters through the door is shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens to this one, and the sheep listen to his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has got all his own out, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. A stranger they will by no means follow but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”—John 10:1-5, 8.
8. (a) Into what new “sheepfold” did Jesus lead the Jews who followed him? (b) How many has he brought into this fold?
8 Those in the Jewish sheepfold who responded to the leading of the Law covenant accepted Jesus as the Messiah when John the Baptizer as “doorkeeper” introduced him. They proved to be Jesus’ “own sheep,” and he led them to a new figurative sheepfold, or pen, belonging to Jehovah. This fold represented a favored relationship with Jehovah on the basis of the new covenant, which was made with spiritual Israel and was validated by Jesus’ own blood. By means of this covenant it became possible for them to gain heavenly life with Christ as the “seed” of Abraham through whom blessings would come to people of all nations. (Hebrews 8:6; 9:24; 10:19-22; Genesis 22:18) Jesus Christ, whom God raised from the dead and restored to heavenly life, is the “door” of this new-covenant sheepfold. In harmony with his Father’s purpose, he has brought into this fold only a limited number—just 144,000—first from among the Jews, and later from among the Samaritans and the Gentiles. As the Fine Shepherd, Jesus knows each of his sheep by name and gives them loving personal care and attention.—John 10:7, 9; Revelation 14:1-3.
9. Who are the “other sheep” to whom Jesus refers, and when are they gathered?
9 However, Jesus does not limit his shepherding to this “little flock” who gain the heavenly Kingdom. (Luke 12:32) He also said: “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16) Who are these? They are persons who are not in the new covenant; they are not spiritual Israelites. But they are brought into close association with the members of spiritual Israel while these are still on earth and in need of the kind of shepherding that Jesus describes. The “other sheep” are persons who, during these last days, are being gathered within Jehovah’s provision for eternal life on earth on the basis of their faith in the sacrificial value of Jesus’ blood. They are the same as the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9, 10, 14, and so they have the prospect of surviving the coming great tribulation.
10. To be one of those “other sheep,” what is required?
10 To fit the Bible’s description of such “other sheep” who are safeguarded and preserved by the Fine Shepherd, a person must “listen” to His voice and give evidence of truly being part of the “one flock” that includes the genuine heirs of the heavenly Kingdom. Are you doing that? How carefully are you listening to his voice?
11. What will give evidence that we truly “listen” to what Jesus said at John 15:12?
11 You no doubt know that Jesus said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) How is that commandment affecting your life? Is the love that you show the kind that Jesus exemplified? Is it truly self-sacrificing? Do your actions and feelings give evidence of such love toward all in the Christian congregation and toward members of your own household?
12. (a) If we are really ‘taught by means of Jesus,’ how much of a change will it make in us? (b) So, what should we be doing with the things we learn from the Bible?
12 The apostle Paul states that if we truly ‘hear’ Jesus and are “taught by means of him,” our entire personality will change. We will put away the personality that conforms to our former way of life and will put on “the new personality,” which reflects Jehovah’s fine qualities. (Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:8-14) As you study the Bible, are you thinking seriously about areas in which you personally need to make adjustments in order to please God? Are you conscientiously making such changes? Are you taking note of the vital work that Jesus commanded for our day—the preaching of the good news of God’s established Kingdom—and are you seeking ways to share in it? Does appreciation for God’s undeserved kindness toward you stir in you a heartfelt desire to do so?—Matthew 24:14.
13. (a) If we are not careful, how might our hearts mislead us? (b) To what extent, then, must we follow in the footsteps of Christ?
13 We have to be careful not to let our hearts mislead us. Millions of persons profess to believe in Jesus Christ, and perhaps they can quote some of the things he taught, but they apply only what they find convenient. Some may avoid indulging in conduct that they consider grossly wrong. The prospect of life on a Paradise earth under the Kingdom of God may sound good to them, and they may enjoy associating now with those who are sincerely endeavoring to apply Christian principles in their lives. But if we want to be among those who survive into the “new earth,” we must listen attentively to everything that Jesus says. It is vital to appreciate that we cannot successfully direct our own steps. We must listen to God’s Son, the one commissioned by Jehovah as Deliverer of His people, and walk carefully in his steps.—Jeremiah 10:23; Matthew 7:21-27; 1 Peter 2:21.