The Reassuring History of Dedication
“Fear Jehovah and serve him with integrity and in truth . . . as for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.”—Josh. 24:14, 15, NW.
1. Why does worship of Jehovah call for dedication to him, and how is this shown in the case of Israel in Egypt?
WORSHIP means to treat with reverence because of merit or worth due to the quality or sum of the qualities of the object of worship. Therefore worship of Jehovah God calls for dedication to him because of his completely worthy qualities. In Egypt, Moses and fellow Israelites worshiped Jehovah, declining to go contrary to his laws. (Ex. 1:17, 21; Heb. 11:23-29) Jehovah recognized Israel as his people: “Unquestionably I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, . . . And I am proceeding to go down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians . . . And now come and let me send you to Pharaoh and you bring my people the sons of Israel out of Egypt.” (Ex. 3:7-10, NW) Mindful of his purposes as expressed in his covenant established with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and looking to the eventual provision of the Seed of deliverance, Jehovah ‘proceeded to remember his covenant.’ (Ex. 6:5, NW) His words to be addressed to the sons of Israel by Moses were: “And I shall certainly take you to me as a people and I shall indeed prove to be God to you and you will certainly know that I am Jehovah your God who is bringing you out from under the burdens of Egypt. And I shall certainly bring you into the land that I raised my hand in oath to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and I shall indeed give it to you as something to possess. I am Jehovah.”—Ex. 6:7, 8, NW.
2. How is the purpose of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt shown?
2 Repeatedly it was made plain on that occasion of the great deliverance from Egypt that the purpose of taking Israel out of that land was that they might worship or serve Jehovah as his own people. Israel decided to do what Jehovah would have them do, even though they at the time did not know just what would be involved following their deliverance from Egypt. (Ex. 10:26) Concerning that people Jehovah had stated to Moses: “And you must say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what Jehovah has said: “Israel is my son, my first-born. And I say to you: Send my son away that he may serve me. But should you refuse to send him away, here I am killing your son, your first-born.”’”—Ex. 4:22, 23, NW.
3. Give facts showing steps to the dedication of Israel.
3 By his power Jehovah brought this word to pass, destroying the might of Egypt and delivering his people Israel. This delivered people, devoted to him, were Jehovah’s to command, as is emphasized when “Jehovah spoke further to Moses, saying: ‘Sanctify to me every male firstborn that opens each womb among the sons of Israel, among men and beasts. It is mine.’” (Ex. 13:1, 2, NW) At the time of the deliverance from Egypt, and subsequently, details of worship were set before this devoted people. At Mount Sinai through a covenant arrangement Jehovah emphasized to the nation of Israel the special relationship in which they were with him, and there Israel as a nation, all the people, declared their agreement to their dedication. Jehovah said: “And now 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.” “After that all the people answered unanimously and said: ‘All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.’”—Ex. 19:5, 6, 8, NW.
4. Explain the way of life into which Israel was initiated, stating the many facts indicating what Jehovah exacted.
4 So it was to a willing nation of delivered individuals, a people whom he owned as a peculiar possession of his, that “God proceeded to speak all these words, saying: ‘I am Jehovah your God, who have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves. You must never have any other gods against my face.’” (Ex. 20:1-3, NW) Read the first seventeen verses of the 20th chapter of Exodus 20:1-17, noting particularly that in Ex 20 verse 5 it is stated, “I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.” (NW) The chapters following relate detailed terms of the covenant there proposed, and end with the words: “You are not to conclude a covenant with them or their gods. They should not dwell in your land, that they may not cause you to sin against me. In case you should serve their gods, it would become a snare to you.” (Ex. 23:32, 33, NW) Through their deliverance from Egypt and their organization under the law of Jehovah God given to them through Moses, the nation of Israel were initiated into a way of life that was centered around the worship of God, who was their Ruler, Lawgiver, Judge and object of their worship. They recognized this, saying in dedication: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do and be obedient.” (Ex. 24:7, NW) Subsequently showing again his proper direction of the affairs of his people, Jehovah stated: “Take the Levites in place of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel and the domestic animals of the Levites in place of their domestic animals, and the Levites must become mine. I am Jehovah.” (Num. 3:45, NW) Jehovah caused the nation to be further organized for the proper carrying out of all things in connection with his worship, ceremonial and governmental, as he was their King and Ruler.
5. Relate the historical events herein enumerated and show how they establish dedication to be a serious personal step.
5 During the history of God’s people Israel there were many times when individuals dedicated things or persons. In the 20th chapter of Deuteronomy we have the account of the procedure when a man called to war had a house that he had not yet initiated or inaugurated. At 2 Samuel 8:11 David is said to have “dedicated” vessels. The word “dedicated” here appearing has the meaning of making to be a sacred thing. At 1 Kings 7:51 Solomon brings into the temple the items that David had previously dedicated to Jehovah’s use. At 1 Kings 8:63 the king and all the people are revealed inaugurating the house of Jehovah, initiating it into its proper use in Jehovah’s worship. The good woman Hannah vowed to dedicate her babe to Jehovah before it was conceived and her child Samuel served faithfully in the worship of Jehovah God. (1 Sam. 1:11) Samuel took personal action in respect to his dedicated service, as shown at 1 Samuel 3:10: “Then Samuel said, Speak; for thy servant heareth.” (AS) His continued obedience is shown throughout the account of his ministry, including 1 Samuel 3:19, 20 (AS), which states: “And Samuel grew, and Jehovah was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of Jehovah.” The prophet Isaiah took a volunteer step in God’s service: “And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Here am I; send me. And he said, Go, and tell this people.” (Isa. 6:8, 9, AS) The testimony of the account of true worship throughout the ages is uniform in showing that dedication was a serious personal step in the right direction taken by all of those who worshiped Jehovah God and received his approval.
THE DEDICATION OF THE SON OF GOD
6. In the case of Jesus, why was his personal dedication in order, and why important?
6 Of all the examples of dedication to Jehovah God, the outstanding one is that of Christ Jesus. Jesus was devoted to his God. He kept the law of the Jews. Under this law Jesus became of age at thirty years and faced the question as to what he was going to do with his life. Would he do God’s will? Was it God’s will that he keep on being a carpenter and simply conform to the Mosaic law? No, the worship of Jehovah was to be advanced and great steps forward were to be taken respecting the carrying out of his purposes including the establishment of a new theocratic organization, the Christian congregation, the gathering of its members, and eventually thereafter the establishment of the antitypical theocratic government, the kingdom of heaven, and the new world of righteousness. Jesus was acquainted with his Father and with his Father’s word in the Hebrew Scriptures. He knew Jehovah’s worthiness and was not content with being a carpenter nor would he selfishly turn aside from a pursuit of his Father’s will. He made a decision. He made up his mind. He charted a course of action for the rest of his life. He fulfilled the prophecy of the 40th Psalm, which states, in part: “Sacrifice and offering thou hast no delight in; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I am come; in the roll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:6-8, AS) In the tenth chapter of Hebrews the apostle Paul quotes from this prophecy, stating that it applied to Christ Jesus at his dedication. So we see this devoted Son of God made a personal, solemn dedication of himself to his God, to do his will and follow the law of God held in the heart of this dedicated servant. From that course of action into which he was there initiated he never swerved. That decision was important to Jesus. A similar decision is important to you.
7. (a) What leads up to dedication? (b) Are formalities appropriate? Why?
7 What led up to Jesus’ dedication? Knowledge that he had concerning God, love for his heavenly Father and earnest desire to forward the cause of pure worship to the advancement of Jehovah’s purposes to the vindication of his name. What leads a man to dedicate himself to Jehovah today? A knowledge of the truth, an understanding of Jehovah’s purposes, the possibilities of life set before men through Christ Jesus, appreciation of God’s provisions through his Son, love developed in the heart of the individual and a decision to follow, not the practices and standards of the ungodly, Devil-ruled old world, but the will of God in vindication of his name. It is a dedication to the Supreme One. Why did not Jesus simply go about his work, putting his hand to it and doing what he could in the furtherance of his ministry? Why should he dedicate himself? For the reason that the doing of God’s will, carrying on his worship, is no casual affair. It is not something that is all right if you do it and all right if you do not. Dedication to Jehovah calls for special solemnities, the making of a contract, a formal agreement which, when evidenced, gives notice to all concerned and all observing as to what to expect from the individual henceforth. It calls for punctiliousness, orderliness.
8. (a) To Jehovah what, in effect, is said at dedication? (b) Why is it not better to refrain from dedication to avoid responsibility?
8 It is not a matter of having only an outward appearance of formality with a subsurface of selfish pursuit. It is just the opposite. It is a calm, considered determination to do God’s will, saying in honesty to Jehovah: “I come to do your will. I devoted myself to you. I dedicated myself to you. Here I am. Send me. Whatever you say I will do. Teach me from your word, out of your law. Use me to your praise.” Someone might say, “But dedication brings with it a great responsibility!” True, it does. If there is no dedication, then is there a responsibility? If there is no contract, there is no responsibility or obligation to perform the terms of a contract. So, if there is no dedication, the undedicated person is not expected to live up to the terms of the dedication never made. Then would it not be better for a person to abstain from dedicating himself to God and thus avoid the responsibility? No, that would be a fatal mistake in this day of judgment. Why? Because lack of knowledge and appreciation, or else selfishness, is what prevents a person from making a dedication. Jehovah God does not give life to unappreciative, selfish or unfaithful persons. If we have faith in God that is sound and real, we will dedicate ourselves to him. If we do not dedicate ourselves to him, either we do not believe what he says or we do not care about him, and in neither event will we receive life from him. Jehovah God is not obligated to grant life to men and women who, like blood-sucking leeches, are determined to draw and drain all of the provisions that Jehovah has made, taking everything for themselves and giving nothing in return in the way of heart devotion, appreciation, love, gratitude, integrity, uprightness and contention for those things that are godly.
9. Point out the proper attitude and basis respecting dedication.
9 So then, do not be fearful of dedication. Rather be anxious for it. Get information. Learn the truth. Become acquainted with Jehovah’s provisions expressed in his Word and then out of the love that truth engenders in your heart dedicate yourself to do Jehovah’s will. Dedicate yourself to Jehovah God. Jesus did not say: ‘I hate to do your will, but I must. I am forced to.’ The prophecy shows him as saying: “I delight to do thy will, O my God.” In this the individual exercises his own free will. It is not a matter of being spineless, weak-willed. It is a matter of being determined, strong-willed, of subjecting that strong will to the will of Jehovah God, being determined to obey his commands, not the commandments of men or apparent self-interest when such conflict with the will of God as expressed in his Word. One making a dedication to Jehovah is in a personal relationship to him through the step of dedication, through the agreement to do his will. This is based upon love for God and faith in his provisions through Christ Jesus as the means whereby we can possibly have a standing with Jehovah due to the merit of his ransom to be eventually applied in our behalf.
10. Recount results of dedication that prove it to be practical, advisable, commendable and essential.
10 So, dedication, instead of being an impractical, visionary, useless thing, a thing of false religion and an expression with no meaning, we find to be practical, advisable, commendable, essential. Because of their being God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel gained freedom from the world of Egypt. Dedication to Jehovah can bring us freedom too because it gives us a change in our point of view and we see things through the eyes of his Word, the eyes of our understanding of his purposes. With confidence and assurance in him we are no longer enslaved by the old world, its organization, its standards and practices or its devilish religion. Does not dedication bring with it servitude to Jehovah? Certainly it does. That is one of its objectives. We are here upon God’s earth through no volition of our own, through no provisions of our own. We must be slaves or servants of one thing or the other, either of righteousness or of unrighteousness. If we dedicate ourselves to Jehovah God and choose to be his slaves, we make the proper choice. Jesus did this. His dedication is shown in the very fact that he acted out of his own love and zeal for his heavenly Father.
11. In Joshua’s experience, at Joshua chapter 24, what good decisions were made?
11 The issue reminds us of that faced in Joshua’s day when he said: “And now fear Jehovah and serve him with integrity and in truth and remove the gods that your forefathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt, and serve Jehovah. Now if it is bad in your eyes to serve Jehovah, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve, whether the gods that your forefathers who were on the other side of the River served or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are dwelling. But as for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.” (Josh. 24:14, 15, NW) The answer that the people gave to Joshua on that occasion showed a very wise decision on their part. “At this the people answered and said: ‘It is unthinkable on our part to abandon Jehovah so as to serve other gods. For it is Jehovah our God who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, . . . As for us, too, we shall serve Jehovah, because he is our God.’” (Josh. 24:16-18, NW) Were those individuals there dedicating themselves to Jehovah? No, they were confirming their dedication to him or were re-emphasizing it. Note how the account continues. “Then Joshua said to the people: ‘You are not able to serve Jehovah, for he is a holy God; he is a God exacting exclusive devotion to him. He will not pardon your transgression and your sins. In case you should abandon Jehovah and you do serve foreign gods, then he will certainly turn back and do you injury and exterminate you after he has done you good.’ In turn the people said to Joshua: ‘No, but Jehovah we shall serve!’ At this Joshua said to the people: ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you of your own accord have chosen Jehovah for yourselves, to serve him.’ To this they said: ‘We are witnesses.’ ‘And now remove the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to Jehovah the God of Israel.’ In turn the people said to Joshua: ‘Jehovah our God we shall serve and to his voice we shall listen!’ And Joshua proceeded to conclude a covenant with the people on that day and to constitute for them a regulation and judicial decision in Shechem.”—Josh. 24:19-25, NW.
12. The blessing of life is an object of what course?
12 The course of dedication is a very blessed one and it is required of all those who will serve Jehovah God. It leads to everlasting life. The words of Jesus at Luke 14:27 (NW) show its necessity, stating: “Whoever is not carrying his torture stake and coming after me cannot be my disciple.” Salvation to life through devotion to the Supreme Ruler Jehovah through his representative Christ Jesus is shown in the words of those facing starvation in Egypt when righteous Joseph was in charge of the affairs of that nation: “Buy us and our land for bread and we together with our land will become slaves to Pharaoh, and give us seed that we may live and not die and our land not be laid desolate.” “So Joseph bought all the land of the Egyptians for Pharaoh, . . . Consequently they said: ‘You have preserved our lives.’”—Gen. 47:19, 20, 25, NW.
13. Faith has what part in the decision leading to dedication? Humility? Repentance?
13 Previously herein the importance of faith in connection with dedication has been mentioned. One must be drawn to God by faith that is based on knowledge of him and his purposes, which knowledge is obtained from his word of truth, the Bible. Appropriate, therefore, are Jesus’ words: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NW) The same fact is shown in the statement of Jesus, at John 6:44 (NW): “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him, and I will resurrect him in the last day.” To the same effect the apostle Paul wrote the Hebrews: “Moreover, without faith it is impossible to win his good pleasure, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb. 11:6, NW) Humility is required. It takes a humble person, conscious of his spiritual needs, to come to Jehovah in dedication. It requires a humble recognition of inherited sin and weaknesses and a repentance that is sincere. These good essentials were evident in a course of early converts to Christianity. “Now when they heard this they were stabbed to the heart, and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Therefore those who embraced his word heartily were baptized, and on that day about three thousand souls were added.” (Acts 2:37, 41, NW) Further advice on repentance was counseled by Peter in the succeeding chapter of Acts: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah and that he may send forth the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.”—Acts 3:19, 20, NW.
14, 15. As respects dedication, what do Jesus’ words at Luke 14:28-33 show?
14 The wise decision of dedication is made with full understanding of the responsibility before each one, that is, the responsibility that remains with the undedicated one and the responsibility that falls upon the person who does make a dedication to Jehovah God. Dedication is a calculated step with appreciation as to what is involved. This is well shown by what Jesus stated concerning figuring out the expense before a project is undertaken: “For example, who of you that wants to build a tower does not first sit down and figure out the expense, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, he might lay its foundation but not have the funds to finish it, and all the onlookers might start to ridicule him, saying: ‘This man started to build but had not the funds to finish.’ Or what king, marching to meet another king in war does not first sit down and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand troops to cope with the one that comes against him with twenty thousand? If, in fact, he cannot do so, then while that one is yet far away he sends out a body of ambassadors and sues for peace. Thus, you may be sure, none of you that does not say good-bye to all his belongings can be my disciple.”—Luke 14:28-33, NW.
15 Jesus was not here stating that, as far as dedication is concerned, there is a choice of courses open to the individual either of which courses is fully as proper and wise as the other. What he is pointing out is the fact that none of us that does not say “good-bye” to all his belongings can be Jesus’ disciple and can successfully come to Jehovah God through Christ Jesus in dedication, following the course of Jesus. This does not mean that we must be paupers. It does mean that the dedication is a real and all-inclusive matter involving ourselves, our lives, our resources, devoted to the praise of Jehovah through the doing of his will and the keeping of his commandments to the best of our ability. Do we want to do this? When we calculate it, are we so inclined? We should be. Dedication, therefore, is not a matter of the emotions, “conversion,” under stress and excitement of a revival, “hitting the sawdust trail,” as it were. It is a calmly considered matter in the light of facts, including these:
16. One who makes a dedication to Jehovah calmly considers what facts?
16 One who makes a dedication to Jehovah must recognize him as the Supreme Sovereign, the great Life-giver, and must recognize Christ Jesus as his Savior, as King, and also must see and understand the fact that the holy spirit of God is God’s active force and has its place in the lives of dedicated Christians. These things are elements of our faith, and that they are related directly to our dedication is shown in what Jesus stated: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” (Matt. 28:19, NW) Long before, the psalmist prayed “that they may know that thou alone, whose name is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth.” (Ps. 83:18, AS) And again, “For with thee is the fountain of life.” (Ps. 36:9, AS) To the congregation in Philippi, which it was his privilege to organize, the apostle Paul wrote: “For this very reason also God exalted him [Christ Jesus] to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend . . . and every tongue should openly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9-11, NW) Dedication is a choice, a calculated, calm decision. “Because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.” (Gal. 6:8, NW) “Keep getting filled with spirit.”—Eph. 5:18, NW.
17. How may one know if his dedication is acceptable to Jehovah, and what encouragement is given in this regard?
17 How may we know if our dedication is accepted by Jehovah God? We know that it is if it is sincere. A sincere, prayerful dedication is accepted by Jehovah and is pleasing to him. This should aid any who are timid and feel inferiority to the extent that they say in effect, “I could never serve God. I could never have his approval. I could never make a dedication to Jehovah. I could never be one of his witnesses.” Encouragement is given to us in the account concerning Cornelius wherein we read: “Just about the ninth hour of the day he saw plainly in a vision an angel of God come in to him and say to him: ‘Cornelius!’ The man gazed at him and, becoming frightened, said: ‘What is it, Lord?’ He said to him: ‘Your prayers and gifts of mercy have ascended as a remembrance before God. So now send men to Joppa and summon a certain Simon who is surnamed Peter.’ Accordingly Cornelius said [to Peter]: ‘Four days ago counting from this hour I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, when, look! a man in bright raiment stood before me and said: ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been favorably heard and your gifts of mercy have been remembered before God.’ While Peter was yet speaking about these matters the holy spirit fell upon all those hearing the word.”—Acts 10:3-5, 30, 31, 44, NW.
18. The privilege of dedication is available to whom?
18 Of whatever nation, origin, status in life, extent of inherited disability, the way to God’s approval through dedication and faithful service is open to you. That way you may take with confidence, and you should do so. Notice what was stated in this connection at the time of the inauguration of the glorious temple constructed under the direction of Solomon. The prayer of inauguration was, in part: “Moreover concerning the foreigner, that is not of thy people Israel, when he shall come out of a far country for thy name’s sake (for they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy mighty hand, and of thine outstretched arm); when he shall come and pray toward this house; hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place, and do according to all that the foreigner calleth to thee for; that all the peoples of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as doth thy people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name.”—1 Ki. 8:41-43, AS.
19. Understanding is necessary on what further points?
19 As has been discussed in other articles in The Watchtower, Scripturally there is a difference between consecration and dedication. Consecration, as this is used in the Scriptures, refers to God’s act of installing the associate priests with Christ Jesus and applies only to Christ and the anointed spirit-begotten members of his body, and this act, of course, follows or comes after the individual dedication of those Christians who are eventually called to be members of the body of Christ. The hopes of these are heavenly and are not the earthly hopes of Jehovah’s “other sheep.” An individual makes a dedication to Jehovah God; and what follows thereafter? What must a dedicated person do to receive and retain Jehovah’s lasting approval and be successful in his dedicated Christian career? What do the Scriptures lay upon the dedicated Christian? These questions we shall consider in our next issue.