Jehovah’s “Book of Remembrance”
1. On what basis will individual judgment be finally determined, this leading to what questions?
JEHOVAH is the Perfect Pattern. Satan bears the stigma of being the originator of an evil and iniquitous pattern. During a judgment period that has already commenced, the life pattern of every individual will eventually be judged as either of one kind or of the other. He will either be found worthy of inheriting the everlasting blessings in store for all recognized by God as his sons or be placed among those whose “portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur. This means the second death.” (Rev. 21:7, 8, NW) Which kind of pattern are you forming? Is it possible to change one’s life pattern and, if so, how can you be helped in the building up of a life pattern that will ensure Jehovah’s approval? These are questions that call for serious consideration.
2. How does Malachi’s prophecy show this to be a judgment day?
2 Malachi’s prophecy, in the third chapter, tells of the beginning of this judgment period when “the Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to his temple” and will purify and restore to a perfect pattern all those who sincerely seek him and who desire to “offer unto Jehovah offerings in righteousness.” At the same time he “will be a swift witness against” those who, like the majority of the priestly class, the sons of Levi, in Malachi’s day, persist in following their own corrupt pattern. (Mal. 3:1, 3, 5, AS) In conjunction with other scriptures, it has often been shown in these columns that the spring of A.D. 1918 marked the fulfillment of the Lord’s coming to his temple, three and one half years after the birth of the Kingdom in the latter part of 1914. (See The Watchtower as of May 1, 1953, page 281.) That is why it is urgently necessary right now to honestly face these questions.
3. What part of Malachi’s prophecy throws light on the question of life pattern?
3 While the major part of Malachi’s prophecy is indeed a “burden,” as its opening words say, yet, in sharp relief, there are brief portions that stand out in vivid colors of bright hope and promise and that are of great comfort and encouragement. We want to turn our attention to one of these that plainly tells of a time when the two kinds of pattern will be made manifest. It reads: “Then they that feared Jehovah spake one with another; and Jehovah hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared Jehovah, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith Jehovah of hosts, even mine own possession, in the day that I make; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return and discern [see the difference, Ro] between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.”—Mal. 3:16-18, AS.
4. Reference to Jehovah’s “book of remembrance” gives rise to what questions?
4 This reference to Jehovah’s “book of remembrance” floods our minds with questions. What is this book? Is it just a figure of speech, or does Jehovah need some kind of book or record to prompt his memory? What is its purpose and what does it contain? Is it the same as the “book of life” mentioned in The Revelation (Rev. 3:5, etc.)?
5, 6. (a) When studying Scriptural expressions what must be remembered? (b) Where and how are we helped by a similar reference to Malachi 3:16?
5 We can answer these questions only as we find information thereon in God’s Book, the written Word. First, we must remember that God, when telling of himself and of things in the spirit realm, uses expressions and illustrations that can be grasped by our finite minds. In our curiosity over the literal word or illustration used we must not allow our attention to be diverted away from the important thing of the idea or truth intended to be conveyed. For example, how often do we find people arguing to no purpose over the literal aspect of Jesus’ expression: “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matt. 10:30, NW) As already discussed at some length, there is no possibility of Jehovah’s memory’s proving faulty or needing to be prompted in the slightest degree. We are helped, however, when we recall that a closely similar reference is found at Esther 6:1-3 (AS), where it tells how the king, who could not sleep one night, caused to be read to him from the “book of records of the chronicles,” and then inquired: “What honor and dignity hath been bestowed on Mordecai” for a previous loyal act of devotion performed in the king’s interest? So we see that this written record served as a “book of remembrance” and, in this instance, resulted in the king’s favor and a fitting reward being assured to that faithful servant Mordecai.
6 Along exactly similar lines, the record at Malachi 3:16-18 shows that the faithful, loyal and devoted servants of Jehovah can have strong assurance respecting his favor and reward in this judgment day. (Ps. 62:12, AS; Rev. 22:12, NW) There is not the slightest possibility that a single one of those servants will be overlooked at that time, right now, when Jehovah is deciding who belong to him “in that day when I make up my jewels [special treasure].”—Mal. 3:17, margin.
LIFE PATTERN, GOOD OR EVIL?
7, 8. Is it proper to speak of Jehovah as the Perfect Pattern, and what can be said of Adam and Eve in this respect?
7 Let us go right back now and trace some of those things revealed in the sacred Record respecting life pattern, so that we can obtain a satisfactory answer to those questions we have already submitted.
8 That it is proper to speak of Jehovah as the Perfect Pattern is shown by that part of Moses’ song that says: “Perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.” (Deut. 32:4, NW) When it says “perfect is his activity” it necessarily includes the creation of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and means that they had a perfect life pattern to begin with. But of their own free will they deliberately vitiated that perfect pattern and, instead of honoring their Creator by rendering implicit obedience in the spirit of loving devotion, they selfishly grasped what they thought would open their eyes to absolute freedom, independent of God and in defiance of his commandment.
9. What contrast is seen between Cain and Abel, teaching what lesson?
9 Now let us fix our attention for a moment on their immediate offspring, Cain and Abel. What a contrast in life pattern! Both were born of the same parents and came under the same parental influence. The former, John says, “originated with the wicked one [Satan]” and chose to follow that one’s pattern of wicked works in the spirit of jealous hatred, quickly leading to its logical and tragic end, murder. The latter, however, chose to exercise faith, proved by his righteous course of action, and it seems, in point of time, that his name was written first in God’s record. This shows that we are individually responsible for our life pattern. Let us not excuse ourselves by putting the blame on our parents or on anyone else.—1 John 3:12; Heb. 11:4, NW; Ex. 32:32.
10. Do the Scriptures show it is possible to change one’s life pattern?
10 Later on in Genesis, showing another aspect of the subject, we get an example of how it is possible to experience a change of heart, resulting in a change of life pattern. We refer to Joseph’s brothers who, to begin with, were governed by jealousy and ill-will, showing itself in cruelty and treachery, but, when years later it came to pleading on Benjamin’s behalf under most adverse circumstances, we could not imagine a more convincing proof of a change of heart than found in that deeply moving intercession as voiced by Judah. (Gen. 44:16-34) As Paul wrote to the Christians at Ephesus: “You should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct . . . and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loving-kindness.” (Eph. 4:22-24, NW) Certainly a change of life pattern is possible and necessary for everyone who would escape the corruption of the old wicked system of things and find a place in the New World society.
11. Why would it be reasonable for Moses to speak of Jehovah’s “book”?
11 In the next book of the Bible, Exodus, we come across the first reference to Jehovah’s “book.” (Ex. 32:32, 33) Moses speaks of it as an accepted fact and Jehovah does not contradict it, but confirms it. Though no definite word is given as to how Moses got his information, yet for two reasons it is not surprising. First and foremost, all those who died in faith, from Abel onward, had strong confidence that Jehovah would retain each and every one of them in his memory, or, in human language, would keep a permanent record of them, as in a book. Secondly, now that there is evidence indicating that the art of writing goes back to preflood days, it is not surprising that Moses should give expression to his own faith respecting Jehovah’s memory by using the simile of a book written and preserved by its Author. In confirmation of the suggestion already made that Jehovah can and does deliberately forget, as well as remember, we have his own word in this instance: “Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out [not just cross out] of my book.”—Ex. 32:33.
12. How is the reference to the “Lamb’s scroll of life” seen to be appropriate?
12 So from Exodus to Revelation we find quite a few references to a book containing names having Jehovah’s approval and a standing of righteousness before him. Only from the time when the Father “has committed all the judging to the Son” we appropriately read of “the Lamb’s scroll of life.”—John 5:22; Rev. 21:27, NW.
13. What is made prominent in David’s record and God’s dealings with him?
13 Next we come to David. Critics are inclined to point the finger of scorn at David and say that his was a very faulty kind of life pattern. True, he had his faults which resulted in serious transgressions at times, but we must be careful not to condemn where Jehovah approves. He was always devoted to the true worship of God and ever dedicated to his service. God found him, as he says, “a man agreeable to my heart, who will do all the things I purpose.” (Acts 13:22, NW) While the account does not hide or gloss over David’s faults, yet the main thing made prominent is rather God’s great mercy to his servant. David’s critics would do well to keep this in mind before they find out, too late, their own greater need of mercy. In fact, this aspect of judgment tempered with mercy is so prominent in the scriptures related to our study that it calls for particular attention.
JUDGMENT TEMPERED WITH MERCY
14. What does Malachi 3:17, 18 reveal as to God’s judgment and mercy?
14 “I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” (Mal. 3:17, AS) Notice the condition laid down. Jehovah does not spare merely on the grounds of sonship. No, the emphasis is on the proof given of sonship as evidenced by the service rendered. As the prophecy goes on to show, this is how Jehovah makes manifest in this day of judgment those whom he considers righteous (though needing much mercy), and those who are judged as wicked and hence blotted out of his book. Observe the simple, yet searching, test: “Then shall ye . . . discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” Remember, we are in the day of judgment now.—Mal. 3:18, AS.
15. How does Psalm 103 closely link Jehovah’s mercy with his memory?
15 Yes, but how does God spare those sons who cling to his service? Let us turn to Psalm 103 and see the close connection between God’s mercy and his memory. First, at Ps 103 verse 2, there is a call to exercise our own memory: “And forget not all his benefits.” Then, from Ps 103:8-11 verse 8 onward, there comes a glowing description of Jehovah’s mercy and loving-kindness, proved by the fact that “as far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” (Ps. 103:12; see also Isaiah 12:1.) That means he really forgives and really forgets. Then, similar to Malachi’s reference to a man sparing his own son, this Psalm comfortingly tells us something that Jehovah ever keeps in mind: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so Jehovah pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” Next comes a striking contrast between the brevity of man’s life, so soon finished in death, and the mercy and loving-kindness of Jehovah which is “from everlasting to everlasting,” shown to those observing the same conditions as Malachi mentions: “Upon them that fear him, . . . to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his precepts to do them.”—Mal 3:16; Ps. 103:13, 14, 17, 18, AS.
16. What further problem arises, and how should it be viewed?
16 But in this connection a further problem sometimes arises when we find ourselves stumbling and falling many times over some bad habit that has bitten more deeply into our former pattern of life than we had realized. Then we are inclined to feel very discouraged and quite unworthy of further handling the precious Kingdom interests and unfit to speak the pure message of truth. What should be done if you find yourself in such an unhappy state? Do not despair. Do not conclude you have committed the unforgivable sin. That is just how Satan would like you to reason. The fact that you feel grieved and vexed with yourself is proof in itself that you have not gone too far. Never weary of turning humbly and earnestly to God, seeking his forgiveness and cleansing and help. Go to him as a child goes to his father when in trouble, no matter how often on the same weakness, and Jehovah will graciously give you the help because of his undeserved kindness and, if you are sincere, he will give you the realization of a cleansed conscience. The question is, How does Jehovah help us to see what are the major requirements in order to maintain more steadfastly a wholly sanctified course?
DEVOTION AND DEDICATION
17. As applying to Christians, what meaning is attached to devotion and dedication, and with what distinction?
17 The two words “devotion” and “dedication” are closely related and often used synonymously. However, a distinction can be seen, supported by the Scriptures, and which will aid us in what we are considering. Devotion has to do with the heart, and for Christians it means to have ardent love and strong attachment and intense loyalty in relation to Jehovah. On the other hand, dedication is a sharper word and has rather to do with the mind respecting matters for decision and determination, requiring the exercise of will power. As has already been defined, the dedication of ourselves to Jehovah means setting ourselves apart to a holy life, not touched or used for worldly purposes, but obligated to practice the clean and undefiled religion. (See The Watchtower as of May 15, 1952, page 315.)
18, 19. (a) How is this distinction seen with reference to Jesus? (b) How is it also seen regarding a Christian husband and wife?
18 Let us take the perfect example, Jesus. There was no question about his perfect heart devotion to his heavenly Father while on earth, from earliest childhood. However, during the time he was living at home no particular issue confronted him requiring his decision or determination. We might say that, being perfect, it was easy and natural for him to work out his life pattern, “progressing in wisdom and in physical growth and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52, NW) But on approaching the age of thirty he perceived clearly from God’s Word that his Father had an altogether different life pattern in mind for him, as shown by the apostle’s application of Psalm 40:6-8 at Hebrews 10:5-7. These scriptures indicate that Jesus, after fully weighing up the situation and all that was involved, decided to put aside his own will, perfect though it was. Instead, he decided to undertake to do God’s will as revealed in the Scriptures and determined to carry it out to the finish. That decision and determination to set himself apart to do God’s will constituted his dedication. He did not do it grudgingly, or just from a sense of duty, but he said: “I delight to do thy will, O my God.” (Ps. 40:8) In other words, he dedicated himself in the spirit of loving devotion. To use his own illustration, he saw that his Father was holding out to him a cup containing a potion, both very sweet and very bitter, and he said, ‘Yes, I will gladly accept that cup and drink it to the dregs.’—John 18:11.
19 Take another illustration, the relationship between husband and wife, as explained at Ephesians 5:21-33 (NW). The Christian husband is devoted to his wife and dearly loves her. The Christian wife is likewise devoted to her husband, but there is something else required of her. When she marries she decides to accept and submit to her husband’s headship “in everything,” even as “the congregation is in subjection to the Christ.” (Eph. 5:24, NW) So her relationship involves the aspect of dedication as well as devotion as far as the married life is concerned. She not only loves her husband, but deeply respects him as her head. She delights to do it, of course, though in the daily carrying out of her marriage vows, waiting on her husband, she, too, may find it something of a potion at times.
20. How does Malachi’s prophecy stress our major obligations toward Jehovah?
20 Do not these lessons in living out our life of dedication in the spirit of devotion well summarize the major requirements in order to maintain an acceptable course before Jehovah with the assurance of being retained in his “book of remembrance”? Let us at all times fear Jehovah and think upon his name, how we may honor it the more, speaking often one with another on these vital things for our mutual encouragement and reminder. Yes, let us bring “the whole tithe into the store-house,” all our valued possessions of time, effort and ability, and see if Jehovah will not “open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing [of increase], that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”—Mal. 3:10, 16, AS.
LIFE PATTERN REFLECTED IN ZION
21. How has Jehovah marvelously welded his people into a close unity?
21 Have you ever seen a small boy with a bit of broken looking glass in his hand, adroitly turning it so that it shines right into your eye? It is as if a bit of the sun itself were in his hand. Ah yes, you say, I can see myself in that illustration, like a bit of glass broken off from the rest of broken humanity, trying to reflect a little bit of the truth. Well, from the individual viewpoint, the illustration might be quite apt. And do not forget that no object has sharper points and cutting edges than a sliver of broken glass. But is that the correct viewpoint of Jehovah’s people in this judgment day? See what a marvelous thing Jehovah has done. He has welded all those broken bits into one clean, crystal-clear, smooth surface, enabling them faithfully to “reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah.” (2 Cor. 3:18, NW) How has this been accomplished? By Jehovah’s bringing his devoted people into his organization, Zion. There, because Jehovah’s spirit is upon them and his words (Kingdom message) are put into their mouths, they are enabled as a united body of people, welded into one harmonious pattern world-wide, to respond to the call: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee.” Additionally, we find that Jehovah’s “book of remembrance” is tied in with his organization, for the promise reads: “And those who remain in Zion and are left in Jerusalem will be called holy—even everyone who is enrolled among those destined for life in Jerusalem.”—Isa. 60:1, AS; Isa 4:3, AT.
22. Why and on what basis is this a day for great joy and rejoicing?
22 What a happy ending to our study! In the world even the brightest memories are often tinged with sadness, we knowing that the former things enjoyed in the days of youth cannot be repeated. But once having been brought into Jehovah’s organization and privileged to become a member of the New World society, then the whole outlook is changed. Even now, in Zion, the New World activities are so continuously satisfying and our lives are so full and happy that we have begun to realize the fulfillment of the glorious prophecy: “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; and there shall be heard in her no more the voice of weeping and the voice of crying.”—Isa. 65:17-19, AS.