Taking In Life-giving Knowledge
“This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3, NW.
1. At Hosea 4:1-9 what did Jehovah long ago say for our day?
JEHOVAH, the Lord God, spoke of our own day, when he said long ago by his prophet Hosea: “Hear the word of the LORD, O Israelites! For the LORD has a quarrel with the inhabitants of the land; because there is no fidelity, no kindness, and no knowledge of God in the land. Cursing, lying, murder, theft, and adultery—they break out, and one crime follows hard upon another. Therefore the land mourns, and everything that dwells therein languishes, even to the beasts of the earth, and the birds of the air; and the fish of the sea also are swept away. Yet, let no one make charges and let no one accuse; for with you is my quarrel, O priest; and you shall stumble by day; the prophet also shall stumble with you by night; and I will destroy your people. My people are destroyed for want of knowledge—because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from being my priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I likewise will forget your children. The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; they have exchanged their glory for shame. They feed on the sin of my people, and for their guilt they whet their appetite. So it has become ‘like people, like priest’; and I will visit his ways upon him, and requite his deeds to him.”—Hos. 4:1-9, AT.
2. What is the cause responsible for destruction? Due to whom?
2 A few years after Hosea finished his prophesying the northern kingdom of Israel fell to pagan conquerors, and in the following century the holy city of Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed and the Jews were uprooted from their land. A like destruction in the near future faces Christendom. Do students of world conditions want to know the cause responsible for such destruction? With modern Christendom in mind let them mark those words of the prophet: “cursing, lying, murder, theft, and adultery—they break out, and one crime follows hard upon another,” and at the bottom of all this, “no knowledge of God in the land.” At whose door does the Lord God lay the responsibility for this ignorance? At the door of the religious leaders, the priests and the prophets, for it is their duty to teach the people about God, and the people look to them for such instruction. And now the people are about to be “destroyed for want of knowledge” in a world destruction. But the God of justice decrees that it will become “like people, like priest”, and the priests and clergy will fare no better than the people. They have led the people in rejecting the knowledge of the truth; and if the blind guides the blind, then both will fall into the pit, but the guide is the one with the greater responsibility.—Matt. 15:14.
3. What spiritual state has come upon Christendom? For what reason?
3 God’s written Word, the Bible, has been spread by the hundreds of millions of copies, and yet the religious clergy have not turned this great opportunity and advantage to good account, so as to incite the people to study that Holy Word and inform themselves of God and his kingdom. Is it any wonder, then, that, go where you will in Christendom, you will find the people in religious confusion, none of them clear on why God Almighty has permitted this reign of wickedness and woe till now and what he purposes to do now about this state of affairs and what his will is for lovers of life and security to do? Because the Bible with its divine information has been so available to the clergy and they have rejected its truths and enlightening prophecies, the great God of spiritual plenty has rejected them as his spokesmen and channels of Scripture information and instruction. They are rejected from being his priest, for it is written: “The priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of Jehovah of hosts.’ (Mal. 2:7, AS) Thus spiritual famine has struck Christendom as forewarned: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord Jehovah, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Jehovah. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of Jehovah, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and the young men faint for thirst [for the waters of truth].” (Amos 8:11-13, AS) In place of finding the words of Jehovah among the clergy and religious systems of Christendom, you come face to face with the nasty fact of religious persecution against the witnesses of Jehovah who speak His word.
SUCCESSFUL RUNNING TO AND FRO FOR INFORMATION
4. Why is knowledge needed so much now? What results in its increase?
4 The anguished cry of the people today is for life. How are they to find the way to it? If the rule God announces holds true that “my people are destroyed for want of knowledge”, then the converse must hold true, that the people will be saved and preserved alive by the possession of knowledge. This is the time of greatest need for life-giving knowledge, because all the developments since the year 1914 prove that this world has entered its “time of the end” and is now nearing the disastrous close of that period. The much needed information God has mercifully promised, for he long ago said to Daniel the prophet: “Shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Dan. 12:4) But if the people’s running to and fro through the midst of Christendom fails to locate the words of Jehovah for the relief of the spiritual famine, then what running to and fro is it that results in the promised increase of knowledge? It is the running to and fro in the written Word of God, that is to say, the scrutinizing and examining of the Holy Bible for our direct instruction. If the paid religious clergy and spiritual advisers reject the Bible in favor of worldly philosophy and traditions of men contrary to God’s Word, then the people who earnestly want life must themselves run to and fro through the pages of the sacred Book if they are ever going to get the life-giving increase of knowledge. So let the people act independently of the religious leaders who have failed them. Let them exercise faith and run to and fro through God’s now unsealed and opened Book. His spirit that searches the “deep things of God” has been poured out. His marvelous time for spiritual illumination has come.
5, 6. (a) What greatest of services have the clergy missed out on? (b) with what consequences to themselves and to the people of Israel?
5 The greatest service any man or woman could possibly render to humanity today is to impart to them the knowledge of God and encourage them to run to and fro through His Book in personal Bible study. The religious clergy have missed out in this service of most urgent importance, the same as in Jesus’ day. The Son of God courageously pointed out the ones whom God held accountable for the death-dealing state of ignorance of the people. At the risk of stirring up the combined opposition of the priests and religious leaders he said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut up the kingdom of the heavens before mankind; for you yourselves do not go in, neither do you permit those on their way in to go in.” “Woe to you who are versed in the Law, because you took away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not go in, and those going in you hindered!”—Matt. 23:13 and Luke 11:52, NW.
6 By thus withholding the truth from the people those clergymen of Jesus’ day were leading the people to destruction and their nation to ruin. Because of their responsible part in it the religious leaders were earning for themselves also annihilation. Hence Jesus cried out to them: “Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?” (Matt. 23:33, NW) By keeping the people ignorant they led them into having Jesus killed on a torture stake at Calvary. Thirty-seven years later this willfully cultivated ignorance led to its fatal consequences, the destruction of the city of Jerusalem with an enormous loss of human lives, just as Jesus had predicted, and the breaking up of the Jewish nation till this day. And now in this “time of the end” the revived nation of Israel with capital at the modern city of Jerusalem chooses to go on in the steps of its forefathers, ignoring the counsel of Jehovah God. It has again chosen “Caesar” as its friend in preference to God’s kingdom by Christ. It has gone after and gained membership in the United Nations of this doomed world. There is only one outcome possible: destruction with this world because of taking the wrong course for want of the knowledge of Jehovah God and his Messianic kingdom.
THE EXEMPLARY COURSE
7, 8. (a) Than what two oft-quoted men was Jesus wiser? (b) What experience of Israel shows man’s way of salvation is not in himself?
7 Jesus Christ was the greatest Jew, for he was the Jewish Messiah, the Christ. King Solomon of Jerusalem, as long as he walked in Jehovah’s way, was the wisest man of ancient times; but Jesus Christ was something greater than Solomon. He knew what we need to know in order to gain everlasting life. He was wiser than the ancient pagan philosopher, Thales of Miletus, who said: “Know thyself.” Yes, wiser than the English poet, Alex. Pope, who is considered famous for saying: “The proper study of mankind is man.” Jesus pointed to a greater knowledge as absolutely vital to life. Certainly if a man seeks to know himself, the only honest conclusion he can come to is that he is imperfect like all other men and is a sinner and that the means of salvation is not in himself or other men. Even what relics of conscience he has inherited from Adam, the once perfect man, will remind him he is a sinner and will condemn him.
8 The way of salvation, the means of gaining everlasting life, is not in man himself, even when given a perfect law. For fifteen centuries the Jewish nation lived under the law Jehovah gave them through Moses. But that good and holy law of God was more than they could measure up to, and it only showed them up all the more to be sinners. The lesson to be learned from this the apostle Paul summed up in these words: “Now we know that all the things the Law says it addresses to those under the Law, so that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become liable to God for punishment. Therefore by works of law no flesh will be declared righteous before him, for by law is the accurate knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:19, 20, NW) How glad we can be today that we do not need to go through Israel’s fifteen centuries of experience to find out that our salvation is not by our own attempts at self-righteousness!
9. What did Jesus establish as being the highest vocation for us?
9 To be wise for eternal salvation we must heed the words of the One who is greater than Solomon, Jesus Christ. When on earth he told men and women to follow him and imitate him. We can do so by taking up the work which he did. Being born a perfect man by the miracle of Jehovah God his heavenly Father, Jesus was the only man that could lay down his life as a ransom sacrifice for mankind to gain everlasting life in the new world. But before laying down his life, what work did he take up as pleasing to God and of highest importance? To what did he devote himself as being the most pressing need of the people who were facing destruction? At the appointed time marked out in prophecy he abandoned his carpenter work and took up preaching. Though he knew it would lead to a martyr’s death in public disgrace, he devoted himself to spreading the knowledge of Jehovah God. He thus established preaching God’s Word as being the highest vocation. This world may sneer at preaching the Bible as being foolish and most impractical, especially in this crucial period of world history; but all the world with its political offices and Big Business jobs and honored religious pulpits could never offer us a higher vocation than that which Jesus set as a pattern for us. For his loyal course in the midst of a hostile, unappreciative world he earned for himself the title, “The faithful and true witness.” (Rev. 3:14; 1:5) Can we today enjoy any higher privilege than to be witnesses like him, witnesses of Jehovah, and to prove ourselves faithful as such? Jesus’ example says No!
10. What did Jesus say to show what man needed for gaining life?
10 Next to vindicating Jehovah’s rulership as being the only rightful sovereignty of the universe, Jesus was interested in the abundant, everlasting life for the people. God had given him power over all flesh, and Jesus was interested in giving mankind perfect life in God’s image and likeness, free from sin. He knew what we needed to gain this, and he devoted himself to giving this to us. He knew the value of knowing God, and so he said: “I am the right shepherd, and I know my sheep and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I surrender my soul in behalf of the sheep.” And in his last prayer on earth with his sheep he said: “Righteous Father, the world has, indeed, not come to know you, but I have come to know you.” (John 10:14, 15; 17:25, NW) It was his personal knowledge of God that made Jesus strong to stand up for God’s universal sovereignty and to carry out God’s loving purpose toward mankind, cost what it might. So in his final prayer to God with his faithful apostles he said to his heavenly Father: “Glorify your son, that your son may glorify you, according as you have given him authority over all flesh, that, as regards the whole number which you have given him, he may give them everlasting life. This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:1-3, NW.
11. Why is that a higher study and knowledge and leading to life?
11 No, the counsel that leads to endless life is not: “Know thyself.” The greatest study of man is not man, either yourself or other men. The greatest study of man is God and God’s Chief Agent, Jesus Christ. True, God himself is invisible and infinitely high beyond the reach of man, and yet God has made this study of him possible for man by means of his written Word and with the aid of his illuminating active force or spirit. Such a study deals with the highest things and leads to the results of highest importance to us. We must pursue this study if we want to take in the knowledge which means everlasting life in the new world. Why so? Because it is the taking in of knowledge of the great Fountain of life, Jehovah the only true God, and also the knowledge of the Chief Agent which God uses for making this life possible to us, Jesus Christ, whom God sent forth into this world to declare God to us as no other prophet had done. When we study man, we are studying a dying creature. When we study God, we are studying the life-giving Creator. Certainly it is more vital to get acquainted with the Creator and get into relationship with him than to study sinful creatures of earth who are condemned to death. Certainly, too, it is more important to get to know the Creator’s Chief Agent of life than to interest ourselves in creatures who need life and have no means of saving themselves. The higher study leads to everlasting life.
12. To whom does Jehovah become Teacher? According to what promise?
12 When we turn to God and Christ and take up a study of God’s Book, then He becomes our Teacher, and surely he knows how to teach us the way to attain eternal existence in peace and happiness. God caused it to be written in the prophets. “And all thy children shall be taught of Jehovah; and great shall be the peace of thy children.” (Isa. 54:13, AS) These words were addressed to God’s “woman”, that is to say, Jehovah’s Theocratic organization called “Zion” which brings forth those who become the spiritual children of God. The chief one of her children is Jesus Christ, who was anointed to be Jehovah’s King for the promised kingdom. The others of her children here spoken of are the footstep followers who are anointed with God’s spirit to be associated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly kingdom. On bringing forth these royal children, beginning with Jesus, she is told to sing and cry aloud for joy at having ceased from her barrenness. (Isa. 54:1) The apostle Paul shows that this woman is Jehovah’s Theocratic organization and that her children are Jesus Christ and his body of faithful followers, by saying: “The Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: ‘Be glad, you barren woman who does not bear children; break out and cry aloud, you woman who does not have childbirth pains; because the children of the desolate woman number more than those of her who has the husband.’ Now we, brothers, are children belonging to the promise the same as Isaac was. Wherefore, brothers, we are children, not of a servant girl, but of the free woman.”—Gal. 4:26-28, 31, NW.
13, 14. (a) By whom does Jehovah do the teaching? (b) Who are admitted to His school, and with what blessings to them?
13 How precious it is to have Jehovah God himself for our Teacher! There could be no education higher than this, for it is a receiving of knowledge from the highest source in the school of life. And God has called into service as his fellow teacher his royal Son Jesus Christ. For that special reason Jesus said to his followers: “But you, do not you be called ‘Rabbi’, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Neither be called ‘leaders’, for your Leader is one, the Christ.” (Matt. 23:8, 10, NW) So we must be taught by Jehovah God through Jesus Christ.
14 Because the teaching is through Jesus Christ as Chief Instructor, many refuse to be taught, for they do not wish to be made like their Teacher. Hence not all men and women are admitted or do apply for admittance into this school of highest learning, but only those who love and fear Jehovah God and whom he draws. Jesus made that fact clear when he said: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him, and I will resurrect him in the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by Jehovah.’ Everyone that has heard the Father’s teaching and has learned comes to me.” (John 6:44, 45, NW) According to Jesus, the learning a Christian gains in this Theocratic school leads to resurrection from the dead and everlasting life in the opening thousand years of the New World. Those taught in this school are blessed with peace and prosperity and are kept from the selfish, deadly conflicts of this old world. Let us see to it, therefore, that our teachers are not men with their dead precepts, traditions and worldly philosophies, but that our teachers are the two great Instructors of the universe, Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. It signifies life for us to do so.
15, 16. How did Jesus meet the qualifications of a true instructor?
15 Jesus met all the qualifications of a trustworthy instructor. He did not sit in the teacher’s seat of Jehovah’s school of life and then turn aside to the empty philosophies of this world and teach his followers something contrary to the topmost Educator, Jehovah God, just to be popular with this world. What God requires of all those who profess to represent and speak for him is that they tell the truth about God and impart the real knowledge of him to the people. On two occasions Jesus is reported as quoting from Hosea’s prophecy, chapter 6, which reads: “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.” (Hos. 6:6, 7; Matt. 9:12, 13; 12:7) That was why Jesus wielded God’s prophetic Word like a sword and drove it into those religious clergy and slew their religious pretensions.
16 Hosea’s prophecy in the preceding verses foretold this action of Jesus, saying: “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away. Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.”—Hos. 6:4, 5.
17. Hence to be God’s faithful witnesses what course must we pursue?
17 The whole teaching of the Bible from cover to cover is that the people are being destroyed for lack of knowledge of God the Creator and Savior. To supply the need God offers the people the knowledge in his inspired Book. Therefore let us who want to be his faithful witnesses bear this in mind and not he turned aside to something else. Let us hold strictly to dispensing the pure Word of God to his honor and to the saving of the people. It is because the religious clergy of Christendom have turned from doing this and have imitated the clergy of Jesus’ day that now it has come their turn to be ‘hewed by the prophets and slain by the words of God’s mouth’. Like it? Well, of course, they do not; and they hate Jehovah’s witnesses for declaring the prophecies and publishing the words of God’s mouth, which has such a slaughtering effect on the clergy before the people.
ROUNDED-OUT INSTRUCTION NEEDED
18, 19. Why is partial knowledge not enough for gaining salvation?
18 When we take God’s instruction through the Bible, let us take all it teaches. The Supreme Teacher warns us that we must neither add worldly false knowledge to his Word nor take away from it. We must have the full information for the obtaining of the salvation which He provides. For thousands of years godly men and women had been seeking information on the One whom God was to send forth and were wanting to identify him and unite with him. In due time the Messiah came in the person of Jesus Christ. If we were to follow the course of the religious clergy of Jesus’ day and reject the facts about him as foretold in the prophecies, we would never gain everlasting life. We would be like those Jews who perished for rejecting this knowledge. The knowledge of God minus his Son Jesus Christ is only partial. Life by the law of Moses is impossible. Likewise the knowledge of Jesus Christ minus Jehovah God is only partial, as in Christendom’s case today. To know Jehovah God and to know Jesus Christ are inseparable for salvation.
19 John 3:35, 36 (NW) tells us: “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” And 1 John 2:22, 23 (NW) says: “Who is the liar if it is not the one that denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one that denies the Father and the Son. Everyone that denies the Son does not have the Father either. He that confesses the Son has the Father also.” And to this 1 John 4:15 (NW) adds: “Whoever makes the confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, God remains in union with such one and he in union with God.” There is no other way about it: our taking in knowledge of the only true God and of his Sent One, Jesus Christ, as well is what means everlasting life to us.
From infancy you have known the holy writings which are able to make you wise for salvation though the faith in connection with Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.—2 Tim. 3:15-17, NW.