Questions From Readers
● To what extent does Jehovah actually protect his servants on earth today? When one narrowly escapes death in an accident, or is delivered from persecutors, is it right to say that Jehovah preserved one, though other faithful Christians may not have been so delivered?—M. B., United States.
Jehovah’s hand is not short. He can protect, deliver and sustain those who love him. “Look!” said Isaiah, “The hand of Jehovah has not become too short that it cannot save, nor has his ear become too heavy that it cannot hear.” (Isa. 59:1) Just think of what occurred when wicked King Herod jailed Peter nineteen centuries ago. What a thrilling release the apostle experienced! Acts 12:6-11 vividly recounts the event, saying in part: “But, look! Jehovah’s angel stood by, and a light shone in the prison cell. Striking Peter on the side, he roused him, saying: ‘Rise quickly!’ And his chains fell off his hands.” The amazed apostle heeded instructions received and followed his angelic visitor. The account continues: “Going through the first sentinel guard and the second they got to the iron gate leading into the city, and this opened to them of its own accord. And after they went out they advanced down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. And Peter, coming to himself, said: ‘Now I actually know that Jehovah sent his angel forth and delivered me out of Herod’s hand and from all that the people of the Jews were expecting.’” There was no question about it. Jehovah, by means of his angel, had effected Peter’s release from prison.
What, then, are we to conclude? Surely, that Jehovah can provide deliverance and he can also spare one if that is his will. Thus the words of James 4:15 are noteworthy: “You ought to say: ‘If Jehovah wills, we shall live and also do this or that.’” While Jehovah can certainly provide protection and deliverance, he may permit certain things to occur. For example, while Peter experienced a marvelous deliverance from prison, just a little earlier Herod “did away with James the brother of John by the sword.” (Acts 12:2) Well, was James less worthy of deliverance than Peter? The Scriptures do not infer this. Actually, in that case, as in others, matters worked out as Jehovah willed or allowed.
In view of the foregoing, is it proper to ask Jehovah’s protection over our loved ones now if we and they are Christians? Yes. As Christians we can make all matters in life suitable subjects of prayer. Let us illustrate. Daily we give thanks to Jehovah for the food that is served upon the table, although we know that we have had to work in order to get that food. Nevertheless, in the provision of such food there is an element that man cannot supply. This only Almighty God Jehovah can supply. Fittingly, then, we give thanks to him for providing the food which we have asked him to supply in harmony with the model prayer of Matthew 6:9-13. We acknowledge God’s hand in the provision of the food, above and beyond what we can do to get it. It should be the same with protection.
We may properly pray to Jehovah regarding protection and related matters. Yet we should not assume that God is obligated to work miracles in our behalf. We should exercise good judgment respecting the preservation of our health, for example, and should take suitable measures to assure our safety. Such is required even though unseen angels minister to God’s servants in our day. (Heb. 1:14; Ps. 34:7) Do not think that they are hovering at our side each moment so as to intervene miraculously if we do something foolish or if we are careless and thus place ourselves in a position wherein we may suffer some accident or disaster.
As with food provided by God, for which we thank him, so also with protection, there is a point beyond which we cannot go, in spite of all we do to protect ourselves. Therefore, after a journey or after a perilous experience, we can properly give thanks to Jehovah God that he has protected us. Certainly the whole result of survival and salvation is not to be attributed solely to what we ourselves or others do personally to bring about safe results. It may not truly be possible for one person to determine specifically whether another experienced protection from Jehovah on an occasion or not. Yet if an individual personally has reason to believe that his life has been spared or he has experienced protection from God he should humbly thank Jehovah for this in prayer. In fact, it is always good to give God credit. Paul said: “In connection with everything give thanks.” Why, we can properly thank Jehovah for our surviving even a night of bodily rest.—1 Thess. 5:18.
But what if another Christian may not have been delivered during some crisis or may not have escaped death in an accident or at the hands of persecutors? Some are not spared, but that does not prove that they were unfaithful. Think of James, who was put to death by Herod, while Peter was spared and escaped from prison with angelic help. James did not die on account of any unfaithfulness. In fact, by his martyr’s death he proved his integrity. Why, it pleased God to permit his only-begotten Son to suffer an ignominious death. By it Christ proved his integrity and furnished the foremost example of faithfulness unto death.
Moreover, Jesus declared concerning those who would be his disciples: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me.” (Matt. 16:24) Jesus did not say that God would protect his followers from picking up their torture stake, but he did say: “Whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:25) So, if our fellow Christians die at the hands of their violent persecutors, let us not view this as a case of unfaithfulness on their part or of partiality on Jehovah’s part. Such death in faithfulness assures one of a resurrection and the opportunity to gain everlasting life in the new order of God’s promise.—Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 3:13.
In connection with accidents that may bring death to fellow Christians, remember that “time and unforeseen occurrence” befall all men. (Eccl. 9:11) Since that is so, the death of one of God’s servants is not indicative of that person’s unfaithfulness. Furthermore, Jehovah does not guarantee anyone continued life in this system of things. His reward to faithful integrity-keepers is everlasting life in the new system. (Rom. 6:23) The fulfillment of that promised reward will be realized by the faithful Christian even if some unfortunate accident or disaster results in his death now. Resurrection to life under God’s kingdom will be his lot. (John 5:28, 29) So, regardless of what Jehovah may permit, we see that he is not partial; he rewards the faithful. Indeed, “there is no partiality with God.”—Rom. 2:11.
There is something more to consider. We are living in trying times and during these dark days we as Christians are helped mightily by Jehovah. Why, certainly we have cause for gratitude. It is only by His undeserved kindness that we even know Him and are privileged to do His will. Jehovah blesses our ministry. He hears and answers our prayers. (1 John 5:14, 15) His bounties are great indeed. Think of Jehovah’s many provisions, his blessings and the way in which he aids us in performing our ministry. Yes, God may permit us to be tested, to suffer, or even to die. But, regardless of what Jehovah allows, if we are faithful we have his love and very much for which to be thankful!—Rom. 8:38, 39.
One thing is certain. As Jehovah’s dedicated servants we are not entirely at the mercy of Satan. Why, if we were, we would not be here today as Jehovah’s witnesses. We are on earth as God’s protected servants, even as Job himself was protected. Jehovah did not permit the Devil to go to the limit in his case. (Job 2:4-7) In fact, with Gog of Magog’s attack coming on in the near future, there would be no survival of the spiritual remnant nor of their hundreds of thousands of companions if it were not for the protection of Jehovah God. Yet in his Word Jehovah has definitely advised that he will protect and preserve his spiritual remnant and their companions clear through the battle of Armageddon. After “the war of the great day of God the Almighty” is over, those of that remnant and their companions will thank Jehovah for this deliverance. (Rev. 16:14, 16) For a fact, in their case the words of Psalm 37:34 will prove true: “Hope in Jehovah and keep his way, and he will exalt you to take possession of the earth. When the wicked ones are cut off, you will see it.” That deliverance will be the result of God’s protection and will be a definite vindication of Jehovah’s holy name.