“Offer to God a Sacrifice of Praise”
“We render as bullocks the offering of our lips.”—Hos. 14:2, AS.
1. How did Jewish priests say Jehovah’s table was contemptible, and what was Jehovah’s reaction?
JEHOVAH accused the Jewish priests of the fifth century before Christ of despising his name and of saying: “The table of Jehovah is contemptible.” (Mal. 1:6, 7, AS) Feigning shock and amazement, those religious leaders asked wherein they had done this. Jehovah answered: “When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that no evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that no evil? Present that to your governor; will he be pleased with you or show you favor?” The law covenant required animal sacrifices, and the priests were offering these. But it also required the offering of sound, unblemished animals, and this the priests were not doing. Instead they picked out the inferior ones, the sick and the lame and the blind, offered them on Jehovah’s altar or table. Thus they despised his name and treated his table with contempt. They would not for a moment think of presenting such sickly offerings to their human governor when seeking to please him and gain his favor. Yet when entreating the favor of the Most High God they held back the unblemished animals and offered him the inferior pickings that cost them little or nothing, being practically worthless anyway. Would it work? Jehovah said not: “With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you?” They were cursed as cheats, because they had vowed, had the means to pay the vow, but selfishly balked at doing so: “Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished.”—Mal. 1:8, 9, 14, RS.
2, 3. What sacrifices comparable to animal sacrifices do Christians offer today?
2 Was that not a grossly sinful and presumptuous thing for a nation to do that claimed to be Jehovah’s people? For the people to bring diseased sacrifices and for the priests to offer them on Jehovah’s table was a most contemptuous way to treat Almighty God, a relegating of him far below their human rulers that they would never dream of treating so shabbily and insultingly. Had you lived in those days, you would not have shown such contempt for Jehovah’s table, would you? Or would you have? Do you do it now? Many, many persons do. But how can they, you ask, when animal sacrifices are no longer offered on an altar? There are offerings to be made now that are likened to those animal sacrifices made then, and the ones made now must be as clean and sound and unblemished as the ancient animal sacrifices were to be. What are these modern sacrifices? Are you making them? And are yours sick or healthy, lame or sound, blind or enlightened?
3 Hosea 14:2 (AS) states: “Take with you words, and return unto Jehovah: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and accept that which is good: so will we render as bullocks the offering of our lips.” If we have drifted from Jehovah’s favor we are to take words expressing repentance and requesting forgiveness and with these make a return to him, offering these words as sacrificial bulls. And not only to express repentance but also to declare publicly Jehovah’s name and praise are words to be offered, just as harvest fruits were under the Mosaic law: “Through him let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” So today words, the bullocks and fruits of our lips, are to be offered to Jehovah as a sacrifice of praise. The Christian must offer words of truth and sound doctrine, words that magnify Jehovah and his purposes, and especially now must the Christian offer right words about the good news of God’s new world of righteousness.—Heb. 13:15, NW.
4. In this matter of sacrifice, how is Christendom like the reprehensible Jewish priests?
4 Christians claim to follow in Christ’s steps, which would include a vow to offer up the verbal fruits and bullocks that he did. Like the Israelites with acceptable animals in their flocks, the millions claiming to be Christian have acceptable words available to them. The Bible, widely circulated in hundreds of languages, is filled with these words. To offer them from their lips Christians need only pay out the time and effort necessary to take them into mind and heart. But the majority of Christendom’s millions count this cost as too much, just as unfaithful Israelites thought the cost too high to sacrifice unblemished animals and so substituted the culls, the leftovers. The Israelites gave fine animals to human governors to gain favor, and Christendom’s millions give their best in time and effort to serve national leaders and worldly employers to get favor and prestige, reward and fleshly comforts. Jesus said: “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” The modern tendency is to pay over everything to this world and its works of the flesh, including what belongs to God. Only from the leavings and scraps of their time and energy will they even consider giving to Jehovah. From these leftovers they may offer a trifle of effort to give the appearance of devotion to God.—Luke 20:25, NW.
5. How do many who claim to be Christians pollute Jehovah’s table?
5 What does this amount to? To saying: “The table of Jehovah is contemptible.” To saying his table shall have on it only the scraps and leftovers. The words sacrificed on his table should constitute nourishing spiritual food, but if your Christian speech is no more than parroting the memorized creeds and religious traditions that Jesus said made void God’s Word, then certainly you are polluting Jehovah’s table. (Matt. 15:6) If the bullocks of your lips are words teaching such pagan doctrines as immortal soul, though the Bible says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die”; and eternal torment for sinners, when God’s Word says, “The wages sin pays is death”; and trinity, in spite of Jesus’ statement, “The Father is greater than I am,” then those verbal bullocks are sick and lame and blind and anyone feeding upon them will be spiritually sick and crippled and unenlightened. (Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 6:23; John 14:28, NW) Millions who think they are Christians recite words without real understanding and go through religious formalisms and rituals and ceremonies, just as the ancient Jews went through the formalism of sacrificing by offering blemished animals. Such ones draw near to Jehovah with their mouth and honor him with their lips, but their heart is far removed from him; hence Jehovah says of them: “Their religion is a mockery, a mere tradition learned by rote.”—Isa. 29:13, Mo.
6. What will true Christian witnesses of Jehovah be diligent to do?
6 True Christian witnesses of Jehovah will not act so contemptuously toward Jehovah’s table. They make it their first concern to take the choice words of the Bible and offer them as the fruits and bulls of their lips. They use the words that are sound and enlightening and productive of spiritual health, even if in these last days the backsliding majority “will not put up with the healthful teaching.” (2 Tim. 4:3, NW) There is yet a minority of many thousands who are conscious of their spiritual need, and as they turn from the doctrinal offerings of orthodox religions that have been polluted with ancient paganisms and modern philosophies and scientific speculations, and turn to the Bible truth served up by Jehovah’s witnesses, they will be spiritually nourished and satisfied. So we must be sure that we have studied to gain the right answers, the forceful words and the clear explanations that will magnify Jehovah and his Word and purposes. They must not be vague and sickly and weak, but so powerful that they overwhelm and crowd out of our listener’s mind the false words implanted there. The necessary words are in the Bible; we must get them out for use as a sacrifice of praise.
7. What must we do to get sound wisdom from the Bible?
7 If our word sacrifices are not the good ones available from the Bible, if we are too lazy mentally to ferret out the best ones, then the spiritual food we set on Jehovah’s table will not be adequate and will seem contemptible to others, unable to offset their opposing beliefs or arguments. Only by previous study can we answer effectively: “The heart of the righteous studieth to answer.” And we have to dig into the Bible for these truths as a miner labors for precious metals: “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and lay up my commandments with thee; so as to incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thy heart to understanding; yea, if thou cry after discernment, and lift up thy voice for understanding; if thou seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures: then shalt thou understand the fear of Jehovah, and find the knowledge of God. For Jehovah giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding: he layeth up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to them that walk in integrity.” Jehovah has laid up sound wisdom for us in the Bible; if we seek it diligently he promises that we shall find it.—Prov. 15:28; 2:1-7, AS.
8. What precedents are there for regular Bible reading?
8 We should read the Bible regularly. The king of Israel was commanded to “write in a book for himself a copy of this law” and “he must read in it all the days of his life.” In those days copies of the Holy Scriptures were scarce and few persons had individual copies, so public readings were commanded: “You will read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing.” On a special occasion soon after Israel’s entry into Canaan “there proved to be not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read aloud in front of all the congregation of Israel, together with the women and the little ones and the temporary residents who walked in their midst.” Centuries later King Josiah “read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of Jehovah,” and the result was a national purge against demon worship. Many more centuries later public reading was still regularly done: “For from ancient times Moses has had in city after city those who preach him, because he is read aloud in the synagogues on every sabbath.”—Deut. 17:18, 19; 31:11; Josh. 8:35; 2 Ki. 23:2; Acts 15:21, NW.
9. Why is Bible reading alone not enough, and what additional help is available?
9 Today we are more fortunate, with rotary presses printing Bibles by the millions of copies. Anyone thirsting can easily drink the waters of life by having and reading a Bible of his own. But sometimes reading alone is not enough. One may need help in understanding, like the Ethiopian that Philip the evangelist saw reading the book of Isaiah. “Do you really know what you are reading aloud?” Philip asked him. “Really how could I ever do so, unless someone guided me?” he replied. Philip gave the needed guidance to a right understanding. (Acts 8:26-38, NW) Today instruction to supplement Bible reading is provided by Jehovah through his “faithful and discreet slave” organization that he promised would serve spiritual “food at the proper time.” Much of this help is given through the distribution of printed Bible study aids, and with these an individual can gain an enlarged understanding from his Bible reading. Within the compass of a few pages one of these aids may gather all the scriptures that are scattered throughout the Bible on a given subject, thus saving the student time and also ensuring that he will overlook none of the texts essential to a full understanding. Even with these printed aids the new student often needs help from another person, and Jesus promised his assistance when even only two come together to learn: “For where there are two or three met together in my name, there I am in their midst.”—Matt. 24:45; 18:20, NW.
10. What instances show public Bible reading included explanations?
10 Just as the one reading in private may need help, so those listening to public reading are benefited by accompanying explanations. During his reign King Jehoshaphat sent princes and Levites and priests “to teach in the cities of Judah”: “And they began teaching in Judah and with them there was the book of Jehovah’s law, and they kept going around through all the cities of Judah and teaching among the people.” Certainly this program of education in the Scriptures involved more than merely reading the law; it undoubtedly included explanations and applications of the law and exhortations to obedience. After the captivity Governor Nehemiah had the law read aloud from daybreak till noon and the people listened attentively, but words in addition to those written were spoken to be sure everyone understood: “And they continued reading aloud from the book, from the law of The [true] God, it being expounded, and there being a putting of meaning [into it], and they continued making explanation in the reading.” Jesus did public reading in the synagogue at Nazareth, and, when finished, he explained: “Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.” It is likely that he said more than the brief record preserves. After listening to public reading in a synagogue the apostle Paul, upon invitation from the presiding officers, discoursed at some length, and it was appreciated so much that the people entreated him to speak on the following sabbath also, and “the next sabbath nearly all the city gathered together to hear the word of Jehovah.” Paul instructed young Timothy to exhort and teach along with public reading: “Continue applying yourself to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching.”—2 Chron. 17:7-9; Neh. 8:3, 8; Luke 4:16-21; Acts 13:15-44; 1 Tim. 4:13, NW.
11. Why is attendance at congregational meetings today vital?
11 Both private and public Bible reading, accompanied by discussion and explanation, whether printed or oral, contribute much toward getting from the Bible the words we need to offer acceptable verbal bullocks. But today Jehovah through his visible organization gives additional assistance by arranging congregational meetings. At these meetings he spreads a spiritual table for us, and by staying away we say this table is contemptible, despise it as of no real worth. Yet it is vital to us, to our spiritual nourishment and strength, both as individuals and as a congregation of Christians. At meetings we can declare our hope before others by commenting, and by their comments hear their hope declared; we can encourage others by commenting, and by their comments be encouraged ourselves. This is especially vital in this present time of the end: “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to incite to love and right works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”—Heb. 10:23-25, NW.
12. What meetings are sponsored by the congregation?
12 Congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses assemble several times weekly. One meeting is a public lecture designed especially for newly interested ones, but the entire congregation should be in attendance and everyone will learn something. And who would make the public welcome if the congregation were not present? If you are associated with the congregation you should be there to make new ones welcome and to answer their questions. The Watchtower study is vital. Everyone in the congregation should study the lesson, attend, listen, comment and show friendliness toward all, especially new ones. The theocratic ministry school trains the congregation in what to say, how to word it, and how to deliver it to others in ministerial service. Systematic Bible reading is a part of the course of study. The service meeting is another training session, specializing in instruction in house-to-house witnessing, delivering sermons at the door and conducting Bible studies inside the homes. No one deeply concerned about offering unblemished bullocks and fruits of the lips will miss the service meeting. One other congregationally sponsored meeting is the book study held in private homes strategically located in all parts of the congregation’s territory. In these small study groups Bible study aids are used, and the smallness of these groups makes it easy to get acquainted, comment and assist one another to offer to God unblemished sacrifices of praise.
13. How will congregational meetings improve us as Christians?
13 The congregations, with their appointed servants and scheduled meetings, are organized to make us grow into mature Christians, able to withstand the succeeding waves of godlessness by which Satan tries to overthrow us. This is as it was in the days of the apostles: “And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as missionaries, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the training of the holy ones for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ, until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of growth that belongs to the fullness of the Christ; in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of craftiness in contriving error.” By your attending meetings and commenting you can “keep testing whether you are in the faith.” If your comments go astray others more mature can bring you back to the right thought. How else can you as a congregation meet the divine requirement that “all speak in agreement” and “be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought”?—Eph. 4:11-14; 2 Cor. 13:5; 1 Cor. 1:10, NW.
14, 15. Why is association together at congregational meetings important to Jehovah’s witnesses?
14 But the value of attending congregational meetings does not end with learning and coming to a oneness of mind and improving the sacrifice of praise we offer to Jehovah. There is a value from just the association together. There seems to be a concentration of Jehovah’s spirit there that buoys up our own spirits theocratically. Most of us have to spend so much time out in the world rubbing shoulders with corrupt persons, hearing their irreverent and foul talk and observing their base practices, that when we go to congregational meetings it is like passing from a city slum to an exhilarating mountain resort. “Bad associations spoil useful habits,” but good associations erase harmful habits and put good ones in their place. (1 Cor. 15:33, NW) Scattered out in the seas of humanity alienated from Jehovah we are like tiny islands in constant danger of being worn down to the sea’s level by the endless surf, but when we come together we draw strength from one another to become a strong land impervious to the assaulting seas. We take on fresh courage and fearlessness, renewing our strength to resist the world. But if we give in to subtle snares that keep us from meetings we shall soon give out: “So let us not give up in doing what is right, for in due season we shall reap by not giving out.”—Gal. 6:9, NW.
15 If we are alone and knocked about by the world we are apt to lose courage, thinking we are alone in our integrity and must surely be overwhelmed. Long ago the prophet Elijah had been zealous for Jehovah and to escape fulfillment of a dire threat against him he fled for his life. While holed up alone in a cave, Elijah was queried by Jehovah: “What is your business here, Elijah?” The prophet replied: “I have absolutely tolerated no rivalry against Jehovah the God of armies, for the sons of Israel have left your covenant, your altars they have torn down and your prophets they have killed with the sword, so that I only am left and they begin looking for my soul to take it away.” Elijah felt that he was the only one left interested in Jehovah’s cause; but not so: “I have let seven thousand remain in Israel, all the knees that have not bent down to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Ki. 19:13, 14, 18, NW) Regular meeting attendance will keep us in strengthening touch with our brothers.
16. Why is it foolish for a Christian to isolate himself, to try to go it alone?
16 Satan likes to divide and conquer, scatter the flock and pick off the strayed individuals. The congregation must stick together for mutual help. If we are alone who will help us up when we fall? If we are alone it is harder to keep our zeal for Jehovah hot. Together we can help warm over the cooled zeal of inactive ones. These principles are shown at Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (RS): “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together, they are warm; but how can one be warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” If we fall, if our zeal cools; if we go under when Satan attacks, we shall be unable to offer public sacrifices of praise to Jehovah. To avoid this calamity we must not forsake assembling together. Do not be a lone sheep, for a sheep away from the flock is a lost sheep. Faithful servant shepherds of the congregation strive diligently to restore lost sheep to the fold of the New World society. (Matt. 18:12-14) So do not overestimate your spiritual strength and think you can go it alone pursuing selfish interests, flouting the sound principle of assembling together: “The recluse seeks his own selfish interests; he quarrels with every sound principle.”—Prov. 18:1, AT.
17. How must we take teaching from Jehovah?
17 If we are to get in our possession acceptable fruits and unblemished bullocks of the lips we must take teaching from Jehovah. Take it through Bible reading. Take it by systematic study. Take it at congregational meetings. Especially there does Jehovah spread a spiritual meal on his table. Come and get it! Do you have your meals of physical food served in bed? If you value them enough to go to the table for them, do you not value the more important spiritual food that much? Jehovah does not cater to laziness by serving spiritual meals in bed or at homes away from congregational meeting places. Go to the table, go to the Kingdom Hall! Unless we do all these necessary things we are not being diligent in getting the words we need for sound, healthful and enlightening sacrifices of praise. We shall fall shamefully short of the inspired exhortation: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.”—2 Tim. 2:15, NW.
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“The heart of the righteous studieth to answer.”—Prov. 15:28.