A Singing Lesson
1. In the main, what is our responsibility, and how is it to be viewed?
OFTEN enough, but not once too often, the dominant theme of The Watchtower has been a call to render praise to Jehovah. In our previous study, reasons for this were considered, in conjunction with fighting, from the general or collective viewpoint. The focus now narrows down more particularly to the individual viewpoint as to what you, personally, can learn for your encouragement and guidance from this singing lesson.
2. What quotation did Paul make revealing God’s purpose respecting Pharaoh?
2 Let us take as our keynote pretty much the same starting point as before, namely, God’s announced purpose as expressed to Pharaoh through his servant Moses, as quoted by Paul: “For this very purpose I have let you remain, that in connection with you I may demonstrate my power and that my name may be published throughout all the earth.” (Rom. 9:17, NW) But this time let us examine this expression from the apostle’s own viewpoint, seeing why he made this quotation, also seeing why his argument contains excellent material for our singing lesson.
3. How did Paul develop his preliminary argument concerning fleshly Israel?
3 In the opening five verses of Romans chapter 9, Paul expresses his great grief for his fleshly kinsmen, the Israelites, who enjoyed such golden advantages and opportunities under the Law, but missed them, as mentioned earlier in his letter. Fleshly Israel thought that they alone had the right of inheritance to God’s favor by reason of their fleshly descent from Abraham and by reason of their works under the Law. But, in verses 6 to 8 of this chapter, Paul explains that “not all who spring from [fleshly] Israel are really ‘Israel’,” that is, the true Israel, or chosen people of God, as purposed by Jehovah and foretold in his Word. Then, after a reminder that the seed of Abraham was to come through Isaac’s line, whose birth was in fulfillment of God’s promise and would not have been humanly possible otherwise, the apostle then says that “the children in the flesh are not really the children of God, but the children by the promise are counted as the seed”. By the latter he is referring to those who become members of spiritual Israel, the true congregation under Christ the Head, and who become God’s children only by reason of God’s undeserved kindness and promise, and not because of anything they have done or inherited.—Compare Galatians 3:16, 29; 4:28, NW.
4. The apostle reaches what conclusion, involving what principle?
4 And what logical conclusion does the apostle draw from this argument? Ah, here we come to the first Bible principle, or fundamental truth, which calls for our close attention so that we may begin to learn our lesson aright. To put it in Paul’s own words, God arranged matters this way “in order that the purpose of God respecting the choosing might continue dependent, not upon works, but upon the One who calls [that is, God]. . . . So, then, it depends, not upon the one wishing nor upon the one running, but upon God, who has mercy”. (Rom. 9:11, 16, NW) The principle here set forth is that God has the absolute and unquestioned right to choose whom he will to enjoy his favor.
5. (a) What lesson is to be learned, and why is it important? (b) To enjoy God’s favor, what are the essential conditions?
5 The lesson to be learned from this is that of our total dependence upon God. It is not wrong, of course, to wish to enjoy God’s favor and mercy, neither is it wrong to run in the way marked out by God for his people. The point is, one cannot become one of God’s people just because one so wishes or decides. Neither does it depend on running, or pursuing a course that will give one the right, as it were, to expect God’s approval. That was the mistake Israel made. “Israel, although pursuing a law of righteousness, did not attain to the law. For what reason? Because he pursued it, not by faith, but as by works.” (Rom. 9:31, 32, NW) Let us not decide or determine things for ourselves. Let us keep careful check at all times to see that we maintain a true heart appreciation of the conditions that God himself has decided on and put in his Word as to the necessary requirements to have his favor. This is necessary not only in getting a proper start on our Christian course, but all along the way, for it is possible for one to let things slip or to become ensnared. (Gal. 5:7, NW) Interesting is it to note that very early in the sacred Record there is clearly set forth both the foregoing principle of God’s doing the choosing and the necessary requirements for one to be chosen. For while Jehovah said to Moses: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy,” a little earlier he expressed the conditions essential to enjoy such grace and mercy: “Showing loving-kindness unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.”—Ex. 33:19; 20:6, AS.
6. In Paul’s quotation of Exodus 9:16, what two further principles are disclosed?
6 It is after quoting Exodus 33:19 and expressing the principle of it in his own words that Paul then adds in support of the same: “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘For this very purpose I have let you remain, that in connection with you I may demonstrate my power and that my name may be published throughout all the earth.’” (Rom. 9:17, NW) This brings in two further fundamental principles. One is that no one can withstand or thwart God’s purpose, neither the proud and mighty Pharaoh nor the one whom he represented, Satan “the god of this system of things”. (2 Cor. 4:4, NW) The other principle is that God is infinitely great. God is everything. That is the greatest principle, and that is how it will be in the final outworking of his glorious purpose, for “then the Son himself will also subject himself to the one who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone”.—1 Cor. 15:28, NW.
7. How does the first of these principles teach an important lesson for today?
7 Again, note the valuable lessons for properly singing God’s praises. The first is that a real appreciation of the former principle inspires confidence and godly fear. There are forces for evil of great power in the world today, forces of cruel oppression and which could unleash a third world war. Fear them not. God can and will cause these forces to be held in a tight grip and so maneuvered that nothing will be permitted to really hurt a single Kingdom interest or a single Kingdom singer and fighter. We can well afford to sing both boldly and sweetly.—Rev. 7:1, NW.
8. What other lesson can be learned, and how should we be personally affected?
8 The second lesson is that of gratitude. How grateful we should be if we become recipients of God’s mercy, instead of being hardened, like Pharaoh. This is a strong personal reason for our singing Jehovah’s praises for salvation kindly provided through mercy. “The kindness and the love for man on the part of our Savior, God, was manifested, owing to no activities in righteousness that we had performed, but according to his mercy he saved us.”—Titus 3:4, 5, NW.
9. God’s infinite greatness teaches us what valuable lesson?
9 The third lesson, based particularly on the last-mentioned principle, is that we should realize that all the credit, hence all the praise, is due to God, on whom everything depends and on whom we can depend absolutely. In other words, it is a lesson of humility. As Paul said of himself and another brother: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow.” (1 Cor. 3:6, 7, NW) Let us keep that vision and viewpoint in mind. It gives Jehovah his rightful place and keeps us in our proper place. It keeps us in tune with the Creator to sing his praises aright. It keeps us very humble and grateful, and that is the only safe and proper attitude in which to sing Jehovah’s praises acceptably.
10. How might we feel about ourselves in contrast with Moses and David, and how does God’s Word help us in this regard?
10 The circumstances under which Moses and David and other faithful servants proclaimed Jehovah’s name and purpose were often highly dramatic, with the spotlight shining directly on them. In contrast, you may likely feel acutely conscious of your limitations and humdrum conditions in life, as an ordinary housewife, or factory worker, etc. You may be tempted to say to yourself, ‘Where do I come in? The only singing lesson I get is from the alarm clock so early in the morning. I feel too small and unworthy.’ And to a large extent we agree with you. True, you are small and unworthy. But that is the wonderful part about it, that God, who has the unquestioned right as to who will enjoy his favor, has chosen to make it possible for you to come right along and share with others, likewise small and unworthy, in the grand privilege of direct Kingdom service under the direction of his organization, Zion. What strength and comfort can be gained from the way in which Jehovah himself brings together these two contrasting principles of his own greatness and our littleness! “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”—Isa. 57:15, AS.
11. With the proper outlook, how should we view our share in Kingdom service?
11 This means, on the practical side of your singing lesson, that there is not the slightest need to look or wait for the dramatic circumstance in which to sing Jehovah’s praise. Rather, do not despise or overlook the smallest and seemingly insignificant opportunity of talking about the Kingdom. You do not have to leave home and go through our Bible School at Gilead before you can take part in publishing Jehovah’s name “throughout all the earth”. No. You can enjoy just as real a share, with Jehovah’s blessing added, in what may appear to be the “daily round and common task” of calling, in the regular way, on the people on the neighboring farms and homesteads or in the barrack-like back streets of your own home town.
12. Why is it necessary to heed our outward appearance in Jehovah’s work?
12 Another practical point. Do not forget that for effective singing attention must be paid, not only to that which is to be heard, but also to that which is to be seen. By the latter we refer to your personal appearance, including dress, deportment, and particularly the expression on your face and in your eye. However humble your circumstances, you can afford to be clean and tidy, but especially can you well afford to let your face and smile radiate and reflect the very spirit of the Kingdom message, with its joy, peace and hope. (2 Cor. 3:18, NW) To use a musical term, it should be “a song without words”. We realize, of course, our message is far more important than our appearance, but we must remember our hearers do not appreciate that, at least to begin with.
13. For effective service, what can be learned from the illustration of singing?
13 Let us avoid everything that is exaggerated or false. As in the natural illustration, it is not the one who sings with a constant tremor in his voice and with much swaying of the body and other mannerisms that is the most effective singer, even though he may be considered technically brilliant. Rather, it is the one who knows how, in a simple, direct way, to convey the real message of his song and who makes himself, so to speak, part of the song, singing from the heart and giving sincere expression to his own feelings and sentiments. So, in exactly the same way, it should be with each one of us at every opportunity of singing forth the Kingdom message that Jehovah has put in our mouths as a witness for him.—Deut. 31:19, AS.
14. How do humility and gratitude help to preserve harmony and unity?
14 There is yet another lesson we wish to draw to your attention. These two things, humility and gratitude, are essential in our keeping in tune with one another in our Kingdom service together, which is a service of praise. After Paul said he realized that he and Apollos were nothing, in comparison with God, who alone can quicken the seed of truth planted in the mind of the hearer and make it grow, then he added, “Now he that plants and he that waters are one.” (1 Cor. 3:8, NW) That means, in practice, that if we keep in mind our own littleness and unworthiness as far as we personally are concerned, then we shall not be unduly sensitive or upset even if we do happen to get ill-treated or spoken to unkindly by someone in the company. But, keeping grateful to Jehovah and remembering his greatness, we shall just want to keep on publishing his name throughout all our neighborhood. We shall, of course, be careful on our part not to be guilty of ill-treatment toward any of Jehovah’s little ones, lest there be a discordant note. Jesus said the singing and sounding forth of the Kingdom message in perfect harmony and unity is one of the signs to the world, by which all would know who are the true disciples, chosen by God to represent him and be his witnesses throughout all the earth.—John 17:23, NW.
15, 16. What further benefits are to be gained from these two qualities, leading to what result?
15 Then, too, humility and gratitude will help you to bear the adversities and persecutions, whether small or pretty severe, from those you are forced to be in association with in the world, whether some member of your family, or your employer, or workmates. You will not mind so much, remembering it is really a privilege to suffer as a Christian and that Jesus warned that all his followers were sure to be persecuted, as he was. (John 15:20; 1 Pet. 2:21, NW) But, still keeping grateful, you will be alert to sing Jehovah’s praise even in the most unlikely and adverse circumstances, and thus perhaps be able to turn Satan’s attacks to good advantage.
16 So, then, by putting these valuable lessons into practice, as a good singer has to maintain constant practice, we are confident you will be able to keep on the top side of things and be able to come gratefully to Jehovah at the end of each day with a song in your heart.
TRAINING AND EQUIPMENT
17. In what way are we trained for sacred service, and what is our equipment?
17 Jehovah, our great Singing Master, has provided all the training and equipment to fully meet our needs. He does not instruct us separately, as individual pupils, but he has his school of music, which is his organization, Zion. This is under the headship of his beloved Son, who takes the lead in singing his heavenly Father’s praises, fulfilling, as Paul shows, the prophetic word at Psalm 22:22: “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the midst of a congregation I will praise you with song.” (Heb. 2:12, NW) The equipment provided for all in Zion in this day of Jehovah is nicely summed up for us at Isaiah 59:21 (AS): “My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, . . . for ever.”
18. How did Jesus train and equip his disciples, and with what result?
18 To enable us to appreciate more in detail how God is causing that prophecy to be fulfilled, let us take our minds back to that thrilling singing lesson Christ gave his disciples shortly after his resurrection. Two of the disciples were walking to Emmaus, despondent and perplexed, when Jesus, unrecognized, joined them. After leading the conversation up to the right point, what does the record say? “And commencing at Moses and all the Prophets he interpreted to them things pertaining to himself in all the Scriptures.” And with what effect? As they said to each other afterward, “Were not our hearts burning . . . as he was fully opening up the Scriptures to us?” That same night the lesson was repeated to the eleven and others, when, as it says, “He opened up their minds fully to grasp the meaning of the Scriptures.” Then he finally said they would be sent out as witnesses of these things that they had seen and heard, but only after they were “clothed with power from on high”. So, in a miniature fulfillment, God put his words in the mouths of his witnesses, and endowed them with the energizing, enlightening power of his spirit. Today, in the major fulfillment, the same thing is taking place on a worldwide scale, the major chord of our song being “this good news of the kingdom”.—Luke 24:27, 32, 45, 49; Matt. 24:14, NW.
19. In what practical way can we apply this to ourselves today?
19 Let us profit by this perfect example of Jesus and realize that our main work is to aid those willing to learn to sing by ‘opening up their minds fully to grasp the meaning of the Scriptures’. After all, the Word is our Songbook, and if this work is done aright it will cause their hearts to burn within them. If, for example, you are privileged to give a public talk, do not spend overlong quoting and commenting on what world leaders have said. Rather, quickly get down to your Scriptural argument, clearly explaining the meaning of the Scriptures and their fulfillment. This was Paul’s method. “He reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving by references.” Notice, too, how Apollos profited by the right training and equipment. “For with intensity [‘aglow with the spirit’] . . . he demonstrated publicly by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” (Acts 17:2, 3; 18:25, 28, NW) Do not fail to profit, too, by the modern-day training and equipment provided by the regular study of The Watchtower and other publications of the Society, also the theocratic ministry school course, with its practical help.
20. Why is the proper heart attitude so important, bringing what special blessings in this day?
20 But, above all, never overlook the importance of the proper heart attitude. Do not let the Lord Jesus have to say to you as he did to those two traveling to Emmaus: “O senseless ones and slow in heart to believe on all the things the prophets spoke!” (Luke 24:25, NW) Do not worry if you feel you are somewhat slow in grasping things and in expressing yourself. If you are of a ready heart, you may well become a more reliable and effective singer than your brother who is conscious of being quick-witted. Remember, it is because those in Zion sing “with all the heart” that it brings such rejoicing to Jehovah’s own heart that he, too, ‘joys over thee with singing.’ What a marvelous favor to dwell in this glorious city where Jehovah himself dwells, a city filled with singing that is sweeter far than the most liquid, golden notes of some anthem echoing down a lofty cathedral aisle, sung by a professional, ecclesiastical choir.—Zeph. 3:14, 17; Ps. 132:13, 14, AS.
21, 22. What prophetic drama closely links singing and fighting, stressing what features, and leading to what conclusion?
21 In a brief conclusion, let us see ourselves as those privileged to take part in that prophetic drama where singing and fighting were so closely linked, as related in 2 Chronicles, chapter 20. Then the combined forces of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir came up against Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, representing the combined forces of Satan’s world in this day threatening and coming up against God’s people. Appropriately enough, Jehoshaphat’s army did not have to use fleshly weapons in that battle. But notice the order in which they went out to meet the enemy, under theocratic instruction, preceded by those who “should sing unto Jehovah, and give praise in holy array”, with the theme song, “Give thanks unto Jehovah; for his loving-kindness endureth for ever.” Notice, too, that preliminary word given by the king: “Believe in Jehovah your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.” (2 Chron. 20:20, 21, AS; compare Luke 24:25, NW) Even before that, as soon as Jehovah’s assuring message had been received through Jahaziel, in response to the king’s moving appeal, the Levites “stood up to praise Jehovah, the God of Israel, with an exceeding loud voice”.—2 Chron. 20:19, AS.
22 So let us keep on singing, and let us keep on fighting, until Jehovah himself steps in as the “man of war”, and through Christ Jesus, the strong “arm of Jehovah”, the battle is carried to a triumphant victory, and “the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea”. (Ex. 15:1, 3; Isa. 51:9, AS) Hold your formation, keep in line with the Almighty’s instructions, and so “worship Jehovah in holy array”.