A Different Attitude Toward Obedience
1. Why did Jehovah allow the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem?
FOR many years before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, Jehovah warned the Jews of what was coming, and why. They were following the inclinations of their own stubborn hearts instead of obeying God.—Jeremiah 25:8, 9; 7:24-28.
2. (a) Reasonably, what benefits are dependent on obedience to God? (b) How did Israel come to be in a covenant relationship with Jehovah?
2 Jehovah does not force anyone to serve him, but, reasonably, he does require obedience of all who want his approval and the blessings of life that go with it. After delivering Israel from Egypt, Jehovah told them: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5, 6) After God had stated his requirements for them and they had heard a reading of “the book of the covenant,” they of their own free will accepted the responsibility that went with such a relationship with God.—Exodus 24:7.
3. (a) In what ways did Israel thereafter manifest a rebellious spirit toward Jehovah? (b) Why are those events recorded in the Bible?
3 However, it was only a short time until a rebellious spirit began to manifest itself. The sons of Israel did not openly renounce their faith in Jehovah; but, in violation of his law, many tried to mix Egyptian practices with the worship of Jehovah. (Exodus 32:1-8) Later some found fault with the men whom Jehovah was using as his visible representatives. (Numbers 12:1-10; 16:1-3, 31-35) As a nation, Israel showed a lack of faith to act on God’s word, being motivated by fear of man. (Numbers 13:2, 31-33; 14:1-4; Hebrews 3:17-19) When errors were unintentional, humbly repentant ones could obtain forgiveness. But over a period of nine centuries the nation deliberately disregarded first one divine requirement, then another, and often many of them. The things they did and the outcome are recorded in the Bible as warning examples for us.—2 Chronicles 36:15-17; 1 Corinthians 10:6-11.
4. (a) Who were the Reʹchabites? (b) What obligations had Jehonadab laid upon them?
4 In the days of Jeremiah, after repeated warnings had been given as to the dire consequences of their course, Jehovah set before the Jews an example—the Reʹchabites. These were non-Israelites, descendants of the Jehonadab who had demonstrated that he was in full harmony with Jehu’s toleration of no rivalry toward Jehovah. This Jehonadab (or, Jonadab) as patriarchal head of the tribe of Reʹchabites had commanded them to abstain from wine to time indefinite, also not to live in houses or to engage in agriculture but to dwell in tents as nomads. Thus they would lead a sober, simple life, free from self-indulgence and the vices of city life, while worshiping Jehovah with the Israelites, among whom they lived.
5. How were the Reʹchabites exemplary in obedience?
5 Since the Jews were refusing to listen to Jehovah, the Universal Sovereign, could it be expected that the Reʹchabites would obey their human forefather? They did, and in an exemplary manner. Although the Reʹchabites sought refuge in Jerusalem when Babylonian and Syrian military forces invaded Judah, they continued to dwell in tents. But how firm was their resolve to touch no wine, even though the people among whom they lived were permitted to drink it? Jehovah had Jeremiah bring the Reʹchabites into a temple dining room, set out cups of wine and invite them to drink. They refused. Why? Evidently they appreciated the devotion of their forefather to Jehovah, they discerned his loving concern for their welfare, and so they obeyed his command. Jehovah was pleased with this fine example of obedience that showed up the lack of obedience to Jehovah exhibited by the Jews.—Jeremiah 35:1-11.
6. (a) Who today are like the Reʹchabites? (b) Who has proved to be the antitype of disobedient Israel?
6 There are people today who are like the Reʹchabites. These are the Lord’s “other sheep.” Whether they will drink wine is not at issue today. (Compare 1 Timothy 5:23.) This is a personal matter as long as they do not become heavy drinkers or perhaps drunkards. (Proverbs 23:20; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) But godly obedience is vital. In contrast to Christendom, which is the antitypical apostate Israel, the modern-day Reʹchabite class show by their actions that they know the value of godly obedience. How will this benefit them?
7. (a) What encouraging promise did Jehovah make to the Reʹchabites? (b) What hope does that hold out for the modern-day Reʹchabite class?
7 For their devotion, Jehovah gave the Reʹchabites a promise that has powerful prophetic significance for our day, saying: “For the reason that you have obeyed the commandment of Jehonadab your forefather and continue keeping all his commandments and doing according to all that he commanded you, therefore this is what Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, has said: ‘There will not be cut off from Jonadab the son of Reʹchab a man to stand before me always.’” (Jeremiah 35:18, 19) They were among the survivors of Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 B.C.E. And the class foreshadowed by them will survive the coming destruction of Christendom and all the rest of the world that independently goes its own way, refusing to acknowledge Jehovah’s sovereignty.
WHY OBEDIENCE MAY NOT BE EASY
8. Why do many people find obedience difficult?
8 Many people find obedience difficult to learn. They have grown up in a world where everyone is ‘doing his own thing.’ They may like what they learn about life under God’s Kingdom. But if pride clouds their thinking, they may balk at some of God’s requirements or find fault with the manner in which these are conveyed. (Proverbs 8:13; 16:18) Naaman, the chief of the Syrian army in the days of the prophet Elisha, had that problem.
9. (a) How did it come about that Naaman went to see Elisha? (b) What did he expect, but what actually happened?
9 Naaman was plagued with leprosy. But because a young Israelite captive boldly expressed her faith that Naaman would be healed if only he would go to Jehovah’s prophet Elisha, Naaman traveled to Israel. With horses and war chariots he drove up to the house of Elisha. Now, Naaman was a prominent person and he expected Elisha to come out to meet him and then go through a ceremony, calling on Jehovah and moving his hand to and fro over the diseased flesh until it was healed. Instead, Elisha simply sent a messenger to tell him to go to the Jordan River and there to bathe seven times.—2 Kings 5:1-12.
10. (a) How did Naaman react? (b) What finally moved him to obey? (c) What was the result?
10 Naaman’s pride was offended. He left in a rage. But after his attendants reasoned with him, he humbled himself in faith. “At that he went down and began to plunge into the Jordan seven times according to the word of the man of the true God; after which his flesh came back like the flesh of a little boy and he became clean.” Naaman became convinced that Jehovah is the only true God, and he realized that, despite his initial reaction, the directions given by Elisha really were from God.—2 Kings 5:13-15.
11. (a) In what ways were the “other sheep” pictured by Naaman? (b) What important lessons must all of us learn?
11 Do you perhaps see some of Naaman’s traits in yourself? As is true of other non-Israelites who exercised faith, Naaman is used in the Scriptures to picture the “other sheep” who join in true worship. All of these, being born in sin, were once spiritually diseased. They all have had to seek the help of Jehovah’s anointed servant class and then act obediently on what this “slave” has taught them from God’s Word. (Matthew 24:45) Some at one time did not appreciate all the Scriptural counsel given them—such as the need to attend congregation meetings regularly, the importance of separateness from the world or of Christian water baptism. They may have held back from dedication and water baptism because their heart resisted the need to ‘disown self’ in order to be a follower of Christ. In some cases they criticized the manner in which counsel was given to them by responsible ones in the congregation. But in time all who would truly be the Lord’s “other sheep” need to learn the importance of humility and loving obedience.—James 4:6; Matthew 16:24.
COMMANDS THAT BENEFIT US
12, 13. (a) Why does obedience to Jehovah’s commands benefit us? (b) How can this be illustrated?
12 As we get to know Jehovah and his ways, we come to appreciate how true are the words that he spoke to his servants in times past: “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk. O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments!” (Isaiah 48:17, 18) Jehovah’s earnest desire is for his people to avoid calamity and to enjoy life by paying attention to his commandments. He knows how we are made and what will bring us genuine happiness. He warns us against conduct that could degrade us or damage our relations with others.
13 Those who have heeded his warning against fornication and adultery have been spared the emotional turmoil, disease and illegitimate births that these produce. (1 Corinthians 6:18; Hebrews 13:4) By applying counsel such as that at 2 Corinthians 7:1, they have kept free from addiction to tobacco and other drugs, which damage one’s health and can result in an early death. His command to ‘abstain from blood’ has helped his servants to strengthen their reliance on him as the One upon whom all their prospects for future life depend, and at the same time it has safeguarded them against fearful diseases that can be spread by blood transfusions.—Acts 15:28, 29.
14. How are we benefited by seeking first the Kingdom instead of involving ourselves unnecessarily with the world?
14 As long as we are in the world, there is a certain amount of necessary contact with it. But Jehovah warns us not to pin our hopes on it, not to be a part of it. He knows what the future holds for the world. How foolish it would be to spend one’s life building up what God is going to tear down! Worse yet, those who do so will find that they share the fate of the world to which they have devoted their lives. How beneficial, therefore, the counsel given by God’s Son: Seek God’s Kingdom! Put it first in your life!—1 John 2:17; Matthew 6:33.
15. (a) To be among those who will regain what Adam lost, what must we learn to do? (b) How will Jehovah speak to us during the Millennium?
15 With full awareness of what we need, Jehovah is preparing his people for life in his righteous new system of things. Disobedience on the part of Adam led to human imperfection, loss of eternal life and expulsion from Paradise. Surely if we are to be among those who are blessed with what Adam lost, we must give evidence that we pay attention when God speaks. And how will he speak to us during the Millennium to come, while mankind is being brought to perfection? Through the Messianic Kingdom. Will that government also have visible earthly representatives? Yes. The King will have in his service “princes in all the earth.” (Psalm 45:16; compare Isaiah 32:1, 2.) By loving obedience to these princes, mankind will demonstrate subjection to their heavenly King.
16. Why is obedience to the elders a protection now, and how is it good preparation for life in God’s New Order?
16 In preparation for that time, Jehovah now provides training through his visible theocratic organization. Within the congregations he has raised up spiritually older men, or elders. They provide needed supervision for congregation meetings and take the lead in the preaching of the Kingdom message. They help all who want to serve Jehovah to learn how to apply Bible principles in their lives and they lovingly warn against snares that could damage one’s relationship with God. Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide also have become aware that heeding the elders’ directions has often resulted in preservation of life during storms, earthquakes and outbreaks of armed violence. The congregation does not belong to the elders; it is God’s. The elders do not claim to be inspired. But, as the Scriptures show, God uses them to take the lead, and obedience to them demonstrates respect for the arrangement that Jehovah is using to prepare his servants for survival into his New Order.—Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17.
17. What should motivate us to be obedient?
17 However, it is not simply a desire to be among the survivors of the coming world destruction that motivates to such obedience. There is much more. What? Appreciation for life and all the provisions that God has made to sustain it. Gratitude for his gifts that enrich our lives—the ability to reason, to appreciate beauty and spiritual values, the capacity to know and worship our Creator. Also, awareness of the great love on God’s own part that moved him to give his own Son to lay down his life in sacrifice so that we could have the opportunity to live forever.
18. When we come to know God well, how do we view obedience to him and his organization?
18 For those who have come to know God well, obedience is not an unpleasant duty. An accurate understanding of his purposes and requirements, along with experiencing the good results from applying these, leaves no doubt in their minds that doing things in God’s way is the only reasonable and sensible course. They recognize it to be a protection. It is also a way to show their love for God. They find great pleasure in obeying him.—1 John 5:3; Psalm 119:129.
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Some need to overcome pride, as leprous Naaman did