1, 2. Why can it be said that King David was no stranger to disloyalty?
KING DAVID was no stranger to disloyalty. At one point his tumultuous reign was beset by intrigue, with members of his own nation plotting against him. Furthermore, David was betrayed by some of those whom we would expect to have been his closest companions. Consider Michal, David’s first wife. Initially, she “was in love with David,” no doubt supporting him in his kingly endeavors. Later, however, she “began to despise him in her heart,” even considering David to be “just as one of the empty-headed men.”—1 Samuel 18:20; 2 Samuel 6:16, 20.
2 Then there was David’s personal adviser, Ahithophel. His counsel was esteemed as if it were the direct word of Jehovah. (2 Samuel 16:23) But, in time, this trusted confidant turned traitor and joined in an organized rebellion against David. And who was the instigator of the conspiracy? Absalom, David’s own son! That scheming opportunist “kept stealing the hearts of the men of Israel,” setting himself up as a rival king. Absalom’s revolt gained so much momentum that King David was forced to flee for his life.—2 Samuel 15:1-6, 12-17.
3. What confidence did David have?
3 Was there no one who remained loyal to David? Throughout all his adversity, David knew that indeed there was. Who? None other than Jehovah God. “With someone loyal you will act in loyalty,” David said of Jehovah. (2 Samuel 22:26) What is loyalty, and how does Jehovah provide the loftiest example of this quality?
What Is Loyalty?
4, 5. (a) What is “loyalty”? (b) How does loyalty differ from faithfulness?
4 “Loyalty” as used in the Hebrew Scriptures is kindness that lovingly attaches itself to an object and does not let go until its purpose in connection with that object is realized. More is involved than faithfulness. After all, a person might be faithful merely out of a sense of duty. In contrast, loyalty is rooted in love.* Then, too, the word “faithful” can be applied to inanimate things. For example, the psalmist called the moon “a faithful witness in the skies” because of its regular nightly appearance. (Psalm 89:37) But the moon cannot be described as being loyal. Why? Because loyalty is an expression of love—something that inanimate things cannot display.
The moon is called a faithful witness, but only intelligent living creatures can truly reflect Jehovah’s loyalty
5 In its Scriptural sense, loyalty is warm. Its very manifestation indicates that a relationship exists between the person who displays the quality and the one toward whom it is shown. Such loyalty is not fickle. It is not like waves of the sea blown about by changing winds. On the contrary, loyalty, or loyal love, has the stability and strength to overcome the most daunting of obstacles.
6. (a) How rare is loyalty among humans, and how is this indicated in the Bible? (b) What is the best way to learn what loyalty entails, and why?
6 Granted, such loyalty is rare today. All too often, close companions are “disposed to break one another to pieces.” Increasingly, we hear of spouses who abandon their mates. (Proverbs 18:24; Malachi 2:14-16) Treacherous acts are so common that we might find ourselves echoing the words of the prophet Micah: “The loyal one has perished from the earth.” (Micah 7:2) Although humans often fail to show loving-kindness, loyalty outstandingly characterizes Jehovah. In fact, the best way to learn just what loyalty entails is to examine how Jehovah displays this grand facet of his love.
Jehovah’s Matchless Loyalty
7, 8. How can it be said that Jehovah alone is loyal?
7 The Bible says of Jehovah: “You alone are loyal.” (Revelation 15:4) How can that be? Have not both humans and angels at times displayed remarkable loyalty? (Job 1:1; Revelation 4:8) And what of Jesus Christ? Is he not God’s chief “loyal one”? (Psalm 16:10) How, then, can it be said that Jehovah alone is loyal?
8 First of all, remember that loyalty is a facet of love. Since “God is love”—he being the very personification of this quality—who could display loyalty more completely than Jehovah? (1 John 4:8) Really, angels and humans may reflect God’s attributes, but only Jehovah is loyal to the superlative degree. As “the Ancient of Days,” he has been displaying loving-kindness longer than any creature, earthly or heavenly. (Daniel 7:9) Hence, Jehovah is the very epitome of loyalty. He displays this quality in a manner that no creature can match. Consider some examples.
9. How is Jehovah “loyal in all his works”?
9 Jehovah is “loyal in all his works.” (Psalm 145:17) In what way? Psalm 136 provides an answer. There a number of Jehovah’s saving acts are cited, including the dramatic deliverance of the Israelites through the Red Sea. Significantly, each verse of this psalm is punctuated with the phrase: “For his loving-kindness [or, loyalty] is to time indefinite.” This psalm is included in the Questions for Meditation on page 289. As you read those verses, you cannot help but be struck by the many ways in which Jehovah demonstrated loving-kindness toward his people. Yes, Jehovah displays loyalty to his faithful servants by hearing their cries for help and by taking action at the appointed time. (Psalm 34:6) Jehovah’s loyal love for his servants does not waver as long as they remain loyal to him.
10. How does Jehovah demonstrate loyalty regarding his standards?
10 In addition, Jehovah demonstrates loyalty to his servants by remaining true to his standards. Unlike some erratic humans, who are guided by mere whim and sentiment, Jehovah does not vacillate in his view of what is right and what is wrong. Throughout the millenniums, his view of such things as spiritism, idolatry, and murder has remained unchanged. “Even to one’s old age I am the same One,” he stated through his prophet Isaiah. (Isaiah 46:4) Hence, we can have confidence that we will benefit by following the clear moral direction found in God’s Word.—Isaiah 48:17-19.
11. Give examples to show that Jehovah is faithful to his word of promise.
11 Jehovah also shows loyalty by remaining faithful to his word of promise. When he foretells something, it comes to pass. Jehovah thus stated: “My word that goes forth from my mouth . . . will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11) By remaining faithful to his word, Jehovah shows loyalty to his people. He does not keep them anxiously awaiting something that he does not intend to bring about. Jehovah’s reputation is so impeccable in this regard that his servant Joshua was able to say: “Not a promise failed out of all the good promise that Jehovah had made to the house of Israel; it all came true.” (Joshua 21:45) We can be confident, then, that we will never be led to disappointment because of some failure on Jehovah’s part to live up to his promises.—Isaiah 49:23; Romans 5:5.
12, 13. In what ways is Jehovah’s loving-kindness “to time indefinite”?
12 As noted earlier, the Bible tells us that Jehovah’s loving-kindness “is to time indefinite.” (Psalm 136:1) How is this so? For one thing, Jehovah’s forgiveness of sins is permanent. As discussed in Chapter 26, Jehovah does not bring up errors of the past for which a person has been pardoned. Since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” each of us should be grateful that Jehovah’s loving-kindness is to time indefinite.—Romans 3:23.
13 But Jehovah’s loving-kindness is to time indefinite in another sense as well. His Word says that the righteous one “will certainly become like a tree planted by streams of water, that gives its own fruit in its season and the foliage of which does not wither, and everything he does will succeed.” (Psalm 1:3) Imagine a luxuriant tree whose foliage never withers! So, too, if we take genuine delight in God’s Word, our lives will be long, peaceful, and fruitful. The blessings that Jehovah loyally extends to his faithful servants are everlasting. Truly, in the righteous new world that Jehovah will bring, obedient mankind will experience his loving-kindness to time indefinite.—Revelation 21:3, 4.
Jehovah “Will Not Leave His Loyal Ones”
14. How does Jehovah show appreciation for the loyalty of his servants?
14 Jehovah has time and again demonstrated his loyalty. Since Jehovah is perfectly consistent, the loyalty he shows toward his faithful servants never wanes. The psalmist wrote: “A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, and yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread. For Jehovah is a lover of justice, and he will not leave his loyal ones.” (Psalm 37:25, 28) True, as the Creator, Jehovah deserves our worship. (Revelation 4:11) Still, because he is loyal, Jehovah treasures our faithful acts.—Malachi 3:16, 17.
15. Explain how Jehovah’s dealings with Israel highlight His loyalty.
15 In his loving-kindness, Jehovah repeatedly comes to the aid of his people when they are in distress. The psalmist tells us: “He is guarding the souls of his loyal ones; out of the hand of the wicked ones he delivers them.” (Psalm 97:10) Consider his dealings with the nation of Israel. After their miraculous deliverance through the Red Sea, the Israelites proclaimed in song to Jehovah: “You in your loving-kindness [or, “loyal love,” footnote] have led the people whom you have recovered.” (Exodus 15:13) The deliverance at the Red Sea certainly was an act of loyal love on Jehovah’s part. Moses therefore told the Israelites: “It was not because of your being the most populous of all the peoples that Jehovah showed affection for you so that he chose you, for you were the least of all the peoples. But it was because of Jehovah’s loving you, and because of his keeping the sworn statement that he had sworn to your forefathers, that Jehovah brought you out with a strong hand, that he might redeem you from the house of slaves, from the hand of Pharaoh the king of Egypt.”—Deuteronomy 7:7, 8.
16, 17. (a) What shocking lack of appreciation did the Israelites display, yet how did Jehovah show compassion toward them? (b) How did most Israelites show that “there was no healing” for them, and what warning example does this provide for us?
16 Of course, as a nation the Israelites failed to demonstrate appreciation for Jehovah’s loving-kindness, for after their deliverance “they kept sinning still more against [Jehovah] by rebelling against the Most High.” (Psalm 78:17) Over the centuries, they rebelled again and again, leaving Jehovah and turning to false gods and pagan practices that brought nothing but defilement. Still, Jehovah did not break his covenant. Instead, through the prophet Jeremiah, Jehovah implored his people: “Do return, O renegade Israel . . . I shall not have my face drop angrily upon you people, for I am loyal.” (Jeremiah 3:12) As noted in Chapter 25, however, most of the Israelites were not moved. Indeed, “they were continually making jest at the messengers of the true God and despising his words and mocking at his prophets.” With what result? Finally, “the rage of Jehovah came up against his people, until there was no healing.”—2 Chronicles 36:15, 16.
17 What do we learn from this? That Jehovah’s loyalty is neither blind nor gullible. True, Jehovah is “abundant in loving-kindness,” and he delights to show mercy when there is a basis for it. But what happens when a wrongdoer proves to be incorrigibly wicked? In such a case, Jehovah adheres to his own righteous standards and renders adverse judgment. As Moses was told, “by no means will [Jehovah] give exemption from punishment.”—Exodus 34:6, 7.
18, 19. (a) How is Jehovah’s punishment of the wicked in itself an act of loyalty? (b) In what way will Jehovah demonstrate his loyalty to those of his servants who have been persecuted to the point of death?
18 God’s punishment of the wicked is in itself an act of loyalty. How? One indication is found in the book of Revelation in the commands that Jehovah issues to seven angels: “Go and pour out the seven bowls of the anger of God into the earth.” When the third angel pours his bowl “into the rivers and the fountains of the waters,” they become blood. Then the angel says to Jehovah: “You, the One who is and who was, the loyal One, are righteous, because you have rendered these decisions, because they poured out the blood of holy ones and of prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.”—Revelation 16:1-6.
Jehovah will loyally remember and resurrect those who have proved loyal even to death
19 Note that in the midst of delivering that message of judgment, the angel refers to Jehovah as “the loyal One.” Why? Because by destroying the wicked, Jehovah is displaying loyalty to his servants, many of whom have been persecuted to the point of death. Loyally, Jehovah keeps such ones very much alive in his memory. He yearns to see these departed faithful ones again, and the Bible confirms that his purpose is to reward them with a resurrection. (Job 14:14, 15) Jehovah does not forget his loyal servants simply because they are no longer alive. On the contrary, “they are all living to him.” (Luke 20:37, 38) Jehovah’s purpose to bring back to life those who are in his memory is powerful evidence of his loyalty.
Jehovah’s Loyal Love Opens Up the Way of Salvation
20. Who are the “vessels of mercy,” and how does Jehovah show loyalty to them?
20 Throughout history, Jehovah has shown remarkable loyalty toward faithful humans. In fact, for thousands of years, Jehovah has “tolerated with much long-suffering vessels of wrath made fit for destruction.” Why? “In order that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory.” (Romans 9:22, 23) These “vessels of mercy” are rightly disposed ones who are anointed by holy spirit to be joint heirs with Christ in his Kingdom. (Matthew 19:28) By opening up the way of salvation for these vessels of mercy, Jehovah remained loyal to Abraham, to whom he had made this covenant promise: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.”—Genesis 22:18.
21. (a) How does Jehovah show loyalty to “a great crowd” who have the prospect of coming out of “the great tribulation”? (b) What does Jehovah’s loyalty move you to do?
21 Jehovah shows similar loyalty to “a great crowd” who have the prospect of coming out of “the great tribulation” and of living forever on a paradise earth. (Revelation 7:9, 10, 14) Although his servants are imperfect, Jehovah loyally extends to them the opportunity to live forever on a paradise earth. How does he do so? By means of the ransom—the greatest demonstration of Jehovah’s loyalty. (John 3:16; Romans 5:8) Jehovah’s loyalty attracts those who, in their hearts, hunger for righteousness. (Jeremiah 31:3) Do you not feel closer to Jehovah for the deep loyalty he has shown and will yet show? Since it is our desire to draw close to God, may we respond to his love by strengthening our resolve to serve him with loyalty.
Interestingly, the word rendered “loyalty” at 2 Samuel 22:26 is elsewhere translated “loving-kindness” or “loyal love.”