Proving Ourselves God’s Friends
“O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent? Who will reside in your holy mountain? He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness and speaking the truth in his heart.”—Psalm 15:1, 2.
1. How does the Bible describe God’s new world, and what requirements should interest us?
NO ONE will gain entrance into God’s new world, there to reside permanently as God’s guest, unless he is a friend of God. Since God gathers around him only the pure and the good, there are requirements for being a guest in Jehovah’s tent. What these requirements are should be the interest of every true Christian, for only by meeting them may he attain the blessed realization of everlasting life in a dwelling place of which the Bible declares: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away . . . I heard a loud voice from the throne say: ‘Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them.’”—Rev. 21:1, 3.
2. What divine description is given of the friend of God?
2 The psalmist David was inspired to set down the requirements for being God’s guest, hence God’s friend: “O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent? Who will reside in your holy mountain? He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness and speaking the truth in his heart. He has not slandered with his tongue. To his companion he has done nothing bad, and no reproach has he taken up against his intimate acquaintance. In his eyes anyone contemptible is certainly rejected, but those fearing Jehovah he honors.”—Ps. 15:1-4.
3. Why is Jehovah rightly careful about those who will be his guests, and how was this carefulness shown in David’s day?
3 That the Almighty God takes into his tent as guests only certain ones is not surprising. Whoever has a home of his own does not receive into it as a guest just anybody; he does not entertain all persons. Many home owners would not have bad persons staying with them even for a short time. The same principle applies with Jehovah God. He does not receive everybody into his tent: “No one bad may reside for any time with you.” (Ps. 5:4) This was true in David’s day, in regard to the tent of God. David had brought the ark of Jehovah from the house of Obed-edom to Jerusalem: “So they brought the ark of Jehovah in and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it.” (2 Sam. 6:17) To enter this tent was to enter into the presence of the Most High. David selected certain ones to serve at this tent, Asaph being among those so privileged. (1 Chron. 16:4-6) Only those who walked faultlessly and who were pure and upright could be in constant attendance in Jehovah’s tent on his holy mountain.
4. What is said about the requirement for staying in God’s presence, and so what should be the Christian’s attitude?
4 Jehovah is very careful about those who stay in his holy presence. If the requirements in David’s day for being a guest in Jehovah’s tent there on his holy mountain were strict, then how much more so must be the requirements for abiding in Jehovah’s tent as a permanent guest, as a member of his holy family! That we may be accounted worthy of this incomparable privilege and be able to say with David, “I will be a guest in your tent for times indefinite,” we must prove ourselves God’s friends. Since “His intimacy is with the upright ones,” it is absolutely imperative that those who would enjoy his protection and hospitality forever learn what God requires for being upright in his eyes. (Ps. 61:4; Prov. 3:32) Hence every Christian should ask himself these questions: “O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent? Who will reside in your holy mountain?” And every Christian should be thoroughly familiar with what the psalmist answered: “He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness and speaking the truth in his heart.”—Ps. 15:1, 2.
5. How did Adam fail to walk faultlessly, and so what did he lose?
5 To walk faultlessly, in God’s eyes, the Christian must trust Jehovah God implicitly and prove that trust by being obedient to his commands. Adam, the first man, was God’s guest in the Paradise of Eden. Adam could have enjoyed that Paradise as an everlasting dwelling place, one blessed with God’s presence. But Adam failed to prove himself God’s friend. Because of Adam’s failure to obey his heavenly Father and Host, he lost his Paradise dwelling place and disqualified himself for being a guest in “the garden of God.” (Ezek. 28:13) Adam failed to walk faultlessly, and so could not be God’s friend.
6. Who was called “Jehovah’s friend,” and why?
6 But the Bible abounds with examples of those who succeeded in proving themselves God’s friends. A list of those who proved themselves friends of God is found in the book of Hebrews, chapter eleven. Mentioned in that chapter is Abraham, of whom James wrote: “The scripture was fulfilled which says: ‘Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness,’ and he came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’” (Jas. 2:23) What a privilege to be called “Jehovah’s friend”! Are we, like Abraham, willing to meet the requirements for being Jehovah’s friend? We cannot be God’s friends by merely wishing it to be so; we must prove ourselves friends of God. Abraham demonstrated his faith and trust in God by obeying Jehovah’s command to leave Ur of the Chaldees and later in attempting to offer up his only son by Sarah, his beloved Isaac. Thus the writer of Hebrews states: “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed in going out into a place he was destined to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, although not knowing where he was going. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, as good as offered up Isaac, and the man that had gladly received the promises attempted to offer up his only-begotten son, although it had been said to him: ‘What will be called “your seed” will be through Isaac.’” (Heb. 11:8, 17, 18) Abraham walked faultlessly, proving his faith and trust in God by his obedience; “and he came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’”
7. What is the proper evaluation of being God’s friend?
7 Can any satisfaction compare with that of being Jehovah’s friend? What is so-called success in this world’s commercial enterprises compared to earning God’s friendship? Nothing can bring the happiness and satisfaction as that which comes from being “rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21) Men expend tremendous efforts to learn how to be a success in the commercial world; learning how to walk faultlessly in God’s eyes so as to become his friend is worthy of far greater efforts.
CONSTANCY IN FAULTLESS WALKING
8. (a) What examples are there of those who were constant in walking faultlessly? (b) How is faultless walking possible, as shown in the case of Daniel?
8 When we examine the lives of those who proved themselves God’s friends, we find that they were constant in walking faultlessly. “Enoch kept walking with the true God.” “Noah was a righteous man. He proved himself faultless among his contemporaries. Noah walked with the true God.” (Gen. 5:23, 24; 6:9) The prophet Daniel was constant in his faultless walking. At critical moments in his life he did not rely on human wisdom; he turned to God for direction. This, in turn, was because he constantly depended on Jehovah God. Daniel communed with his God even when it was against the law; he prayed regularly, showing constancy in his dependence on his greatest Friend. Daniel was thrown into the pit of lions because of his loyalty to Jehovah, and even the pagan king Darius observed Daniel’s constant reliance on his God: “Your God whom you are serving with constancy, he himself will rescue you.” (Dan. 6:16, 20) By his constancy in faultless walking Daniel came to be greatly beloved of God, and Jehovah’s angel Gabriel told Daniel: “You are someone very desirable.”—Dan. 9:23.
9. What is a vital requirement for walking faultlessly?
9 To be constant in faultless walking as were Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Daniel, we must take notice of Jehovah in all that we do, as Proverbs 3:5, 6 states: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.” No one can ever be a friend of God who is not willing to follow this counsel. No one, in fact, can really make a dedication to God unless he obeys this injunction to trust in Jehovah and to seek his divine direction so as to walk constantly in straight paths.
10, 11. (a) What can happen if one leaves Jehovah out of the picture? (b) What critical moments entered the life of a man of God, and how did he meet them?
10 What folly not to take notice of Jehovah in all our ways—especially for the servant of God! Easily disaster can overtake one who leaves Jehovah out of the picture, especially at a critical moment, as it did for a certain prophet. The thirteenth chapter of First Kings tells us about “a man of God that had come out of Judah by the word of Jehovah to Bethel, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make sacrificial smoke.” The man of God, whose name is not mentioned, then spoke a remarkable prophecy concerning the ruin of the altar and of those idolaters who sacrificed upon it. Wicked King Jeroboam was furious. He stretched out his hand and ordered the courageous prophet arrested. Immediately the king’s hand stiffened and became dried up; and the altar was split asunder. Jeroboam besought the prophet’s prayer, that his hand could be restored to soundness. The prophet agreed; and the king’s hand returned to a healthy state. Crafty Jeroboam, for selfish reasons, then invited the prophet to his royal table. This was a critical moment in the prophet’s life. Would he walk faultlessly? He did; he obeyed Jehovah and decisively refused any association with a hater of Jehovah and an idol worshiper, though a king: “The man of the true God said to the king: ‘If you gave me half of your house I would not come with you and eat bread or drink water in this place. For that is the way he commanded me by the word of Jehovah, saying, “You must not eat bread or drink water, and you must not return by the way that you went.”’”
11 If that man of God had kept on walking faultlessly in Jehovah’s eyes, all would have been well. But almost immediately another critical moment entered the prophet’s life. On his way out of the town, the man of God was intercepted by “a certain old prophet” who was dwelling there. This old prophet invited the man of God to go with him to his house and eat bread. “I am not able to go back with you or to come in with you,” replied the man of God. “For it has been spoken to me by the word of Jehovah, ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there.’” At this the persistent old prophet told a lie, though his motive for doing so is not mentioned: “I too am a prophet like you, and an angel himself spoke to me by the word of Jehovah, saying, ‘Have him come back with you to your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’” Contrary to Jehovah’s specific commandment, the man of God went back to eat bread and to drink water. This led to disastrous consequences.
12. Why did the man of God fail to walk faultlessly, and with what consequence?
12 While they were sitting at the table, the word of Jehovah came to the lying old prophet, who spoke these words to the disobedient man of God: “This is what Jehovah has said: ‘For the reason that you rebelled against the order of Jehovah and did not keep the commandment with which Jehovah your God commanded you, but you went back that you might eat bread and drink water in the place about which he spoke to you: “Do not eat bread or drink water,” your dead body will not come into the burial place of your forefathers.’” This time the old prophet had really spoken Jehovah’s word. The man of God got on his way, riding an ass. “Later a lion found him on the road and put him to death, and his dead body came to be thrown onto the road.” The lion devoured neither the human carcass nor the ass, but stood guard over both, thus providing a sign that what had happened was not accidental but was a visitation from God.—1 Ki. 13:1-28.
13. To have walked faultlessly, what should the man of God have done?
13 What tragic consequences for failure to walk faultlessly! The man of God had had enough knowledge to avoid walking in crooked pathways; he had received direct orders from Jehovah on how to walk. What if the lying old prophet had said “an angel” had changed these orders? The man of God should not have accepted a second-hand message in contravention of the direct one he had received from Jehovah. What should the man of God have done? He should have obeyed Jehovah’s commandment. Rather than disobey direct orders from Jehovah, the man of God should have sought clarification from Jehovah before taking further action. He could have prayed to Jehovah for divine direction at this critical moment. Without prayer and apparently without any questioning into the second-hand message from “an angel,” the man of God pushed ahead into crooked pathways; and despite his previous meritorious record, he failed to walk faultlessly with God.
AVOIDING PRESUMPTUOUS ACTS
14. What lesson in walking faultlessly does the Christian learn?
14 What does the Christian learn from this? To be constant in faultless walking in Jehovah’s eyes, always seek his direction, especially at critical and perplexing moments in life. Never push ahead presumptuously either on our own ideas or upon the urgings of someone else, even though that person may occupy a responsible position or claim to occupy such a position in God’s organization. By seeking Jehovah’s direction, we avoid being misled by impostors or by those who may mean well but who are acting upon their own understanding. By doing this we continue to walk faultlessly and in straight paths so as to avoid ruin such as came to the man of God who “rebelled against the order of Jehovah.”—1 Ki. 13:21.
15. (a) What should be the prayer of the servant of God, and why? (b) In this regard how did King Saul fail to walk faultlessly, and with what result?
15 Proving ourselves God’s friends thus requires that we seek God’s help in holding us back from presumptuous acts. May the Christian’s prayer be that of the psalmist: “From presumptuous acts hold your servant back; do not let them dominate me. In that case I shall be complete, and I shall have remained innocent from much transgression.” (Ps. 19:13) Let the Christian not copy King Saul in his presumptuousness. In the war against the Philistines, King Saul had been told by the prophet Samuel not to take any advance action but to wait at Gilgal till Samuel arrived. Finding it difficult to hold the people together till Samuel came and offered sacrifice, Saul pushed ahead presumptuously into crooked paths. He “went offering up the burnt sacrifice,” despite his having no authority to do this. When Samuel arrived right afterward, Saul tried to justify his action, referring to the fearful attitude of the Israelites and Samuel’s delay. “So I compelled myself,” admitted Saul, “and went offering up the burnt sacrifice.” What folly! Relying on his own wisdom, Saul ‘compelled himself’ and pushed ahead presumptuously. By failing to walk faultlessly Saul lost his kingdom and Jehovah’s friendship. “Now your kingdom will not last,” declared Samuel. “Jehovah will certainly find for himself a man agreeable to his heart.”—1 Sam. 13:8, 9, 12, 14.
16. (a) How does God hold us back from presumptuous acts, and how did the apostle Paul show faultless walking? (b) When in doubt what should the Christian avoid?
16 God holds us back from presumptuous acts by means of his Word and by means of prayer. We can study God’s written Word, the Holy Bible, and learn the principles by which Jehovah wants us to walk. We must consult his Book of wisdom. Prayer holds us back from presumptuous acts, for by means of it we can take notice of Jehovah in whatever we do. God holds us back from presumptuous acts, too, by counsel from his organization. When a dispute arose over the matter of circumcision for Gentiles, Paul and Barnabas did not push ahead presumptuously. Paul knew what was the right decision in the matter, but he did not push it! He went to Jerusalem, and there a counsel of apostles and older men examined the matter. A decision was reached, one having the approval of the holy spirit. An organizational letter was prepared and this authoritative pronouncement could be read to the congregation. Paul proceeded only after getting organizational authority. (Acts 15:1-31) So the Christian today is held back from presumptuous acts not only by prayer and by God’s Word but also by counsel from God’s organization. When in doubt as to which way to go at a crucial moment in life, let there be no going ahead solely by human wisdom; refrain from such action, awaiting clarification from Jehovah God by studying his Word. Then we will advance in straight paths and be constant in walking faultlessly.
PRACTICING RIGHTEOUSNESS AND SPEAKING THE TRUTH
17. What else does God require of his friends, and what does this entail in regard to dealings with one’s companions?
17 To be Jehovah’s friends we must at all times be “practicing righteousness.” (Ps. 15:2) The Christian’s personal life must conform to the righteous standards of God’s Word; his conduct must be holy: “Do you also become holy yourselves in all your conduct, because it is written: ‘You must be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:15, 16) Because Jehovah is holy he does not bring into his tent as guests those who are bad, those who deal unrighteously with their fellowmen and their Christian companions. To practice righteousness one cannot deal dishonestly with his friends or defraud them, nor can he slander them with his tongue. “For you are not a God taking delight in wickedness; no one bad may reside for any time with you. No boasters may take their stand in front of your eyes. You do hate all those practicing what is hurtful; you will destroy those speaking a lie. A man of bloodshed and deception Jehovah detests.”—Ps. 5:4-6.
18. (a) What is said about little acts of unrighteousness? (b) What is the Christian’s obligation in regard to borrowing?
18 It is a delusion to think that God will take into his tent as a guest any who sully themselves with unrighteous practices. Note the description of God’s friend: “To his companion he has done nothing bad.” (Ps. 15:3) This includes little things as well as big, for “the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.” (Luke 16:10) The Christian who borrows from his companion and refuses to repay, for example, is not excused by God because the amount or item involved may not be large. “The wicked one is borrowing and does not pay back.” (Ps. 37:21) It seems difficult for many persons to repay what they borrow; but if they are truly “practicing righteousness” they will seek to repay what they borrow, even though they cannot repay all at once and even though the time lapse may be considerable. Making the effort to repay shows that one is “practicing righteousness” in his heart.
19. (a) Explain what it means to be ‘speaking the truth in one’s heart.’ (b) What did Jesus say about proving our friendship, and how is this related to speaking the truth?
19 “Speaking the truth in his heart”—this is another requirement for one who would be God’s guest. (Ps. 15:2) The one speaking the truth in his heart is honest with others and with himself. If he speaks the truth in his heart, he will also speak the truth with his mouth. Not only will he avoid falsehood but he will be a preacher of truth, God’s truth. The truths that God requires Christians to speak are found in his Word and they include the commandments of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, especially those concerning the preaching of God’s kingdom. Said the Lord Jesus when on earth: “You are my friends if”—if what? “If you do what I am commanding you.” (John 15:14) And what is it that the Lord Jesus commanded his followers during this “time of the end” to do? Why, speak the truth concerning God’s kingdom and its establishment! “This good news of the kingdom,” foretold Jesus, “will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.”—Matt. 24:14.
20. What results from speaking Kingdom truths, and so what obligation rests upon every Christian?
20 This great work of speaking Kingdom truths, then, is something in which everyone who would be a friend of God and his Son will want to share. By means of the truths concerning God’s kingdom thousands of persons who were once enemies of God have now become his friends. Yes, converting many who are God’s enemies into his friends—this is the grand privilege and obligation of every true Christian. To do this he must be a preacher of truth. Everyone who is “speaking the truth in his heart” will speak the truth with his tongue, teaching others about God’s kingdom. Concerning the Christian obligation of turning God’s enemies into his friends by means of the truth, the apostle said: “We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: ‘Become reconciled to God.’”—2 Cor. 5:20.
21. With the new world at hand, what should be our course of action, and with what blessed result?
21 The new world of righteousness is at hand, a world in which “the tent of God” will be with humankind. “O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent?” May we be diligent, then, in telling others of God’s Kingdom truths by which they may become reconciled to God. Let us speak from a heart filled with truth, all the while practicing righteousness in our dealings with all mankind. And may we in constancy ever walk faultlessly with our God, as did Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Daniel, seeking always divine direction in what we do. O may we prove ourselves, down through this world’s end and into the glorious new world, to be God’s loyal friends! Then we may exult with the psalmist: “I will be a guest in your tent for times indefinite,” for we will be guests of God, privileged to abide in Jehovah’s tent forever.—Ps. 61:4.