A Nation Holds a Land in Trust for God
JEHOVAH God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He owns the earth and everything on it. Creatures living on the earth have ownership rights or rights of possession with relation to one another, and these must be respected. But it must be remembered that God is the real owner and in relation to him no creatures have ownership right.—Ps. 24:1.
A nation also has to recognize this fact and use the land unselfishly for its people. Whether it promotes the worship of the true God and holds to his principles or it defiles the land, ruining it, determines whether the nation can continue living on it or not. Nations that are atheistic or nations that are influenced by the false religious doctrines stemming from ancient Babylon, which defame the Creator and Owner of the earth, cannot exist long on the earth. While nations are permitted, by God’s allowance, to occupy the earth, yet none of them has really been granted land as his representative.
However, there was once a nation that was given a land grant by God. Not a grant of ownership, but a grant of land to be held in trust, with accountability to him for its continuance. It was the only nation ever having a divinely ordained body of laws. In these times when new nations are forming and governments are undergoing sweeping changes, a study of this nation and its outcome will help us, wherever we may live on earth, to know the course we must take if we desire to live on the land in security, freedom and happiness.
God had bought this people, which he considered as his firstborn son, Israel, from the furnace of slavery in Egypt. He was also their King. Under Moses he brought them to Mount Horeb to organize a nation. He proclaimed by means of an angel the matchless Ten Commandments. Not to the non-Jewish nations of the world, but only to the delivered nation of Israel could Jehovah give the following first two commandments of the Ten: “I am Jehovah your God, who have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves. You must not have any other gods against my face.
“You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion . . . ”—Ex. 20:2-6.
In regard to the land that he had promised to Abraham and his descendants, not to any Gentile nation, his fifth commandment said: “Honor your father and your mother in order that your days may prove long upon the ground that Jehovah your God is giving you.” (Ex. 20:12) And a sign to the Israelites, and to no other nation, was the commandment directing the observance of a weekly, seventh-day sabbath or cessation of all work, for the benefit of man and beast.—Ex. 20:8-11; 31:13.
LAND TO BE TREATED AS GOD DIRECTED
This was not the only sabbath law. God required a number of sabbaths to be kept for the very ground that he gave the Israelites. He commanded: “When you eventually come into the land that I am giving you, . . . Six years you should sow your field with seed, . . . But in the seventh year there should occur a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath to Jehovah. . . .
“And you must count . . . forty-nine years . . . And you must sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty in the land to all its inhabitants. It will become a Jubilee for you, and you must return each one to his possession and you should return each man to his family.”—Lev. 25:1-13.
This land given to the Israelites was a sacred trust and they must be faithful to that trust, recognizing the divine wisdom in providing for these sabbath years. It was good for the ground of the Promised Land to lie fallow or unworked regularly according to this schedule. Also, it tested the faith of the Israelites in Jehovah’s promise to provide such abundant crops during each sixth year that they would have enough food on hand to last over until the harvest of the eighth year. And in the forty-eighth year he would bless them with such good crops that they would have enough food to last through the sabbatical forty-ninth year and the fiftieth or Jubilee year down to the harvest of the fifty-first year. It was within God’s right to tell his tenant farmers when to work the land and when not to work it.—Lev. 25:20-22.
The fact that they held this land only in trust was emphasized in God’s law concerning the sale of a family estate of land: “So the land should not be sold in perpetuity, because the land is mine. For you are alien residents and settlers from my standpoint.” (Lev. 25:23) In the fiftieth or Jubilee year any Israelites who had lost their estates through debt were to have these lands restored to them and liberty was to be granted to those who had lost personal freedom and independence through debt or hardship. What a fine opportunity to show obedience to God and respect for the trust he had given them and to display brotherly love to their fellow Israelites! The count for these sabbath and Jubilee years would begin the very year they entered the land.—Lev. 25:1, 2.
Jehovah strictly told the Israelites that if they obeyed these laws they would dwell in security, but if they betrayed this sacred trust, then Jehovah would remove his protection and their enemies would take their land and scatter them among the nations. God would cause the land to lie desolate in order to pay off the sabbaths that the Israelites had failed to observe.—Lev. 25:18, 19; 26:27-39.
But even then God would not completely forget them. He expresses his love for Abraham and his great mercy when he tells them that if they would be humbled in heart at that time he would remember his covenant with their ancestors and restore them to the land.—Lev. 26:40-45.
Before bringing the Israelites into a covenant of law with him, Jehovah said by means of Moses as mediator of the covenant: “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. . . . ”—Ex. 19:5, 6.
HELP PROVIDED BY GOD
If they kept this covenant, then they would become like Melchizedek, who was both a king and a priest of Jehovah at Salem. But for the time being, Jehovah was the real and only King over their nation. To help them keep covenant, Jehovah gave Moses a pattern for a house of worship. It was set up on Nisan 1, 1512 B.C.E., at the base of Mount Horeb or Sinai. Its chief article of furniture was the gold-covered “ark of the testimony,” containing the stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. It was placed in the Most Holy compartment of this house, the Tabernacle. Jehovah expressed his approval by causing the cloud of his glory to reside over the tent and fill the Tabernacle.—Ex. 40:1-35.
Then Moses, at God’s command, anointed his brother Aaron as high priest and, by a ceremony that lasted seven days, installed the priesthood into office. Aaron thereby became the Anointed One or Messiah, or, as the Greek Septuagint Bible calls him, Christós, the Anointed of Jehovah, but only in a priestly sense. Aaron’s sons were underpriests and all other qualified male Levites were servants of the priesthood. God manifested his acceptance of this newly installed priesthood on the eighth day, the first day of their service as priests. He caused his glory to appear to all the people and fire came out and began consuming the burnt offering on the altar.—Lev. 8:1-30; 9:1-24.
This priesthood was not like that of Melchizedek, who was both king and priest. God was the invisible King, and so kept priesthood and kingship separate in Israel. But he foretold through Moses that the time would come when the Israelites would lose faith and would ask to have a visible human king.—Deut. 17:14-18.
Separation of priesthood and kingship continued after they got a human king and was a very serious matter. Centuries later, King Uzziah of Jerusalem ambitiously tried to add priestly duties to his kingdom powers and was smitten with leprosy, which barred him from the temple and obligated his son Jotham to take the throne as king.—2 Chron. 26:16-23.
TYPES OF GREATER THINGS
The offering up of incense, including that offered on the golden incense altar in the Tabernacle every morning and evening, was a duty assigned exclusively to the Aaronic priesthood. Also, they offered a male sheep as a burnt offering, the “constant burnt offering,” on the altar in the courtyard constantly, day after day.—Ex. 30:7, 8; Luke 1:8-11; Ex. 29:38-42.
On Nisan 14 the passover was celebrated. The next day, Nisan 15, was a sabbath, no matter on what day of the week it fell. On the following day, Nisan 16, the high priest must wave a sheaf of barley at the Tabernacle. (Lev. 23:5-11) After that they could eat new barley. So it was not by accident, on Nisan 16, 33 C.E., that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.—1 Cor. 15:20.
Then seven sabbaths or weeks were counted, starting the day of Nisan 16, and on the fiftieth day wheat firstfruits were offered. (Lev. 23:15-21) This came to be called Pentecost, because of the Greek word for fiftieth day being pentekosté, as in Acts 2:1. It was at Jerusalem, on that day of 33 C.E., which day happened to be our Sunday, or the first day of the Jewish week, that the holy spirit was poured out upon the first Christians, Christ’s followers.—Acts 2:1-36.
GREAT KING-PRIEST TO BRING PERMANENT BENEFITS
Aaron was not the Pontifex Maximus (“Greatest Bridge Maker”), for the city of Rome with its college of pontiffs was to be founded more than 750 years later. No, he was the chief cohén (priest) of Jehovah God in Israel. Before this the privilege of offering sacrifices to Jehovah had been enjoyed by the patriarchal heads of the people of Israel, such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The superiority of the priest to come was shown in the fact that Melchizedek blessed Abraham after he had returned from defeating the king of Babylonia and his allies. Abraham being the father of the Israelites, Levi, his great-grandson, was still in his loins when he was blessed by Melchizedek; thus Levi and Aaron his descendant were blessed. Aaron’s priesthood was therefore inferior to that of Melchizedek, for the rule is that the one who blesses is superior to the one being blessed. The coming Priest according to the manner of Melchizedek would also be greater than the Levitical priesthood of Aaron. He would be the Seed of God’s “woman.”—Heb. 7:4-17.
High Priest Aaron died at the age of 123 years in Mount Hor and was succeeded by his son Eleazar. (Num. 20:22-29) Because of man’s being born imperfect, sinful and subject to death, Israel’s priesthood was handed down in the family of Aaron from father to son. This was necessary until Jehovah should raise up his great royal Priest or Cohén like Melchizedek, and the “kingdom of priests” would be introduced. (Ex. 19:6) This one would have the power of everlasting life because of his sinlessness and perfection and would have no need of successors. He would be a far better priest than Aaron, able to offer a sacrifice that would result in eternal life to faithful men.
TRUST KEPT THROUGH LOVE FOR GOD
Aaron’s brother Moses died on Mount Pisgah, from which he could look westward across the Jordan River and survey the whole land “flowing with milk and honey.” (Deut. 34:1-8) In the second last month before the end of the forty-year journey through the wilderness, Moses gave farewell speeches, encouraging Israel to keep on serving and worshiping Jehovah as God. Moses under inspiration here uttered the greatest commandment of Israel’s covenant with their God:
“Listen, O Israel: Jehovah our God [Elohím] is one Jehovah. And you must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force. . . . Jehovah your God [Elohím] you should fear, and him you should serve . . . You must not walk after other gods, any gods of the peoples who are all around you, . . . for fear the anger of Jehovah your God may blaze against you and he must annihilate you from off the surface of the ground.”—Deut. 6:4-15.
Proving that this same principle and command applies to Christians, Jesus Christ, the Leader of Christianity, when asked, “Which commandment is first of all?” stated: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God [Theós] is one Jehovah, and you must love Jehovah your God [Theós] with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.’ The second is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”—Mark 12:28-31.
JESUS CHRIST NOT JEHOVAH GOD
Let it be noticed that Jesus Christ did not interpret Moses’ words and quote Moses as saying, ‘Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our Gods [Theoí] is three.’ He did not say that there were three Jehovahs and that he himself was one of such three Jehovahs. Jesus simply said: “Jehovah our God [Theós] is one Jehovah.” Jehovah is the whole Theós, the whole Elohím, the whole God. Jehovah is not sharing worship with two other Gods in a Babylonish triad.
So in quoting Moses and saying: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart,” Jesus was not meaning himself; he was not saying that he himself was Jehovah and the one to be thus loved. He was referring to his own God and Father. Right after this discussion Jesus proved that he himself was not Jehovah, for Mark 12:35-37 tells us: “Jesus began to say . . . ‘How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is David’s son? By the holy spirit David himself said, “Jehovah said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies beneath your feet.’” David himself calls him “Lord,” but how does it come that he is his son?’” Jesus thus proved that he was David’s “Lord” whom Jehovah addressed, because Jesus was David’s son and was to be made “Lord” over David.
We must be very careful, therefore, that we do not fall victim to false Babylonish religious ideas and teachings, which would cause us to ‘twist the Scriptures’ to our own destruction. Jehovah is only one God, one Person, not three. For that reason he demands that his obedient creatures give exclusive devotion, with the whole heart, soul, mind and strength, to but one Person, namely, to the only One whose name is Jehovah.—Ps. 83:18; Isa. 42:8.
Think of the things that God did in showing his love to the Israelites. He humbled the mighty First World Power, Egypt. He freed Israel and organized them into a nation. During the forty years in the wilderness he led and preserved the nation, providing food and drink for them. Not even their clothes wore out. He provided them a house of worship with a priesthood so that they might be able to continue in their sacred covenant with him. Now he cared for them by appointing Moses’ faithful minister, the military commander Joshua the son of Nun, to lead them across the Jordan River into the land of milk and honey.
If the Israelites continued to love and worship Jehovah and keep his commandments in the land it would mean life to them, with happiness, well-being and security, and they could be assured of continuing in the land as a nation, carrying out their sacred trust as God’s tenant farmers of the land. On the other hand, if they failed to keep the trust by maintaining true worship of Jehovah it would lead to moral degradation and decay, even to the ruining and desolating of the land on which they were graciously granted occupancy. What would the Israelites do? How they would get a king before the coming of the great King-Priest like Melchizedek, and how Jehovah’s words were fulfilled toward them, we shall see. Also, we shall see that God today has a people who are putting the love and worship of the one God Jehovah above all other things, giving him exclusive devotion. Has Jehovah organized them? What is the land that Jehovah grants them on this earth, and will they remain? How can you enjoy a share in such delightful land? These things will be considered in succeeding issues of The Watchtower.
Said Moses to the Israelites just before they entered the land that God was entrusting to them: “Jehovah your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of torrent valleys of water, springs and watery deeps issuing forth in the valley plain and in the mountainous region, a land of wheat and barley and vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil olives and honey, a land in which you will not eat bread with scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land the stones of which are iron and out of the mountains of which you will mine copper.”—Deut. 8:7-9.