God’s Service—A Cause for Joy
“The joy of Jehovah is your stronghold.”—Neh. 8:10.
1, 2. What especially impressed David while he was a shepherd, and how did he later express his feelings?
OUT on the Palestinian hills, far from any dwellings, a shepherd can feel close to Jehovah, the great Creator. He has time to meditate and to examine visually the creations of that almighty One. At night when he lies under a star-studded sky, he can marvel at the Creator’s wisdom and power in making the beautiful heavens. In comparison to them he is so small and insignificant that he has reason to rejoice that their Maker is aware of him and is interested in him. King David of Judah had this experience when, as a shepherd boy, he spent many nights out in the open fields caring for his father’s sheep.
2 David was a man of keen perception, with a genuine love for his God, Jehovah. As might be expected, he was deeply impressed by Jehovah’s creations, especially the starry heavens, the beauty of which he had enjoyed so much as a shepherd boy. Expressing his feelings, he said: “When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have prepared, what is mortal man that you keep him in mind, and the son of earthling man that you take care of him?” Then speaking of man’s position as being lower than the angels, he said: “You also proceeded to make him a little less than godlike ones, and with glory and splendor you then crowned him. You make him dominate over the works of your hands; everything you have put under his feet: small cattle and oxen, all of them, and also the beasts of the open field, the birds of heaven and the fish of the sea, anything passing through the paths of the seas. O Jehovah our Lord, how majestic your name is in all the earth!”—Ps. 8:3-9.
3. (a) Explain how man gained dominion over other earthly creatures. (b) What man since Adam was able to exercise this dominion properly, and how did David’s statement point to him?
3 At the time Jehovah God created man he gave him dominion over all the other creatures of the earth, saying to him: “Have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth and every moving animal that is moving upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:26) This was a God-given duty to man, which he has not properly exercised in his imperfect state. David’s inspired expression regarding man’s position has special significance because it prophetically pointed to the One who became the perfect man, Jesus Christ. This One was made lower than godlike ones, or angels, by giving up spirit life to become a man. Being a perfect man, he could properly dominate the earthly works of God’s hands. Due to his faithful service to God, he was crowned with honor and glory. (Heb. 2:9) David did not foresee this prophetic significance of what he wrote, but he did see how man had been blessed by God. So for the prominent position that God gave man on the earth and for the marvelous things of creation that man can gaze at in wonderment, David gave glory to Jehovah, saying: “How majestic your name is in all the earth!”
4. How did David show appreciation for the true God?
4 David showed his appreciation for the true God by never serving any of the man-made gods of the nations in his day. He found the greatest possible joy in serving Jehovah, the One who created the things at which he marveled. This was like a stronghold that helped to preserve him. Expressing his joy at being able to serve his Creator, David said: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts.” (Ps. 40:8) Throughout his life, David showed that God’s law was indeed within his inward parts, being close to his heart, his seat of motivation. By always striving to obey that law, by letting it guide his actions; and by constantly putting God’s will first in his life, David manifested the joy he had in serving the great Ruler of the universe.
WHAT GOD’S SERVICE INVOLVES
5, 6. What is the chief way to serve God? Give examples for your answer.
5 Being thoroughly familiar with what Moses was inspired to write, David was aware that the service of Jehovah involved a number of things, one of which is exclusive worship. This was made clear in what Moses told the twelve tribes of Israel just before they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land: “Jehovah your God you should fear, and him you should serve, and by his name you should swear. You must no walk after other gods, any gods of the peoples who are all around you, (for Jehovah your God in your midst is a God exacting exclusive devotion,) 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. 6:13-15) If they were to walk after other gods by worshiping them, they would be serving those gods. Repeatedly they were warned not to do this: “You must not serve their gods, because that will be a snare to you.”—Deut. 7:16.
6 While the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, Moses requested Pharaoh to permit them to leave Egypt that they might serve Jehovah. This Moses did at God’s direction, for God told him: “Go in to Pharaoh and you must state to him, ‘This is what Jehovah the God of the Hebrews has said: “Send my people away that they may serve me.”’” (Ex. 9:1) They would serve him by worshiping him, and this they did when they finally were freed from Egypt. Worshiping Jehovah God is the chief way a person can serve him.
7. Explain the relationship between obedience and God’s service.
7 Another way that God can be served is by obeying his commands. The importance of this was brought home to the Israelites whenever they were disobedient, and God caused them to suffer for it. In the Promised Land disobedience often resulted in his giving them into the hands of their enemies. By being obedient they could show that their worship of Jehovah was from the heart and was not empty formalism. For this reason the prophet Samuel said to their first king, Saul: “Does Jehovah have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Look! To obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams.” (1 Sam. 15:22) By obeying Jehovah’s righteous commands a person can serve him, even as a humble servant does his master. Such service of God means that he is walking in the way that pleases the Most High, and it becomes a source of joy as long as he continues in that way. For this reason it is wisely written: “Happy are the ones faultless in their way, the ones walking in the law of Jehovah.”—Ps. 119:1.
8, 9. (a) Explain how the Levites served God in an additional way and why this service was distinctive. (b) How could the Levites’ form of service be regarded as a cause for joy?
8 The giving of God service takes in, not only worship and obedience, but also activities that he has directed to be done. In the case of the Levites, their God-given work assignment was in connection with the services at the tabernacle. Jehovah’s presence was represented there in miraculous ways, impressing upon all the importance and the privilege of serving there. So valuable was this privilege of service that it became the Levite inheritance instead of a landholding as in the case of the other tribes. To them Jehovah said: “I am your share and your inheritance in the midst of the sons of Israel.” (Num. 18:20) This was a distinctive service privilege over which the Levites could rejoice.
9 One’s being close to God’s house where the miraculous shekinah light shone in the Most Holy, symbolizing his presence, was a delight. Serving the great God of the universe here was something to be desired. Expressing his love for this place that was so closely associated with Jehovah’s worship, David said: “Jehovah, I have loved the dwelling of your house and the place of the residing of your glory.” (Ps. 26:8) Levites that maintained the same attitude found great joy in serving Jehovah God at this place.
SERVICE FOR ALL
10, 11. (a) How were the twelve tribes privileged to serve God with respect to the tabernacle and later the temple? (b) How did they react to this service?
10 Opportunities to serve God in an active way were given to all the tribes. One such opportunity was when the tabernacle was about to be constructed. The people were privileged to make contributions for its construction, and by making such contributions they had the joy of sharing in something that was very important in their worship of the true God. That they found joy in this service privilege is indicated by their overwhelming generosity. The men in charge of receiving the contributions came to Moses and said: “The people are bringing much more than what the service needs for the work that Jehovah has commanded to be done.” (Ex. 36:5) The joy of serving God with valuable things was manifested again by this nation hundreds of years later when contributions were made for the constructing of Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem.
11 When David made known to the people the plans for building a temple during the reign of his son Solomon, he asked: “Who is there volunteering to fill his hand today with a gift for Jehovah?” (1 Chron. 29:5) Their answer was a flood of contributions—gold, silver, precious stones and copper. They rejoiced at this opportunity to serve Jehovah in an active manner. “The people gave way to rejoicing over their making voluntary offerings, for it was with a complete heart that they made voluntary offerings to Jehovah; and even David the king himself rejoiced with great joy.” (1 Chron. 29:9) But there were other ways that the twelve tribes could serve God with actions.
12. What were other active ways that the twelve tribes could serve God?
12 It was Jehovah’s purpose that the nation of Israel take possession of the Promised Land as an inheritance from him, but to receive that inheritance they had to engage in activity that was directly related to that purpose. They had to remove from the land the pagan squatters on it and destroy the false gods that those people worshiped. The victories they experienced with Jehovah’s help as they carried out this divine purpose were a cause for joy. They were happy in serving Jehovah God even though they were risking their lives in doing it. And then after they had conquered the land, they were able to serve him actively by coming to Jerusalem three times a year for the festivals God commanded them to observe. This required a great effort on their part, especially for those living a great distance from Jerusalem. Their participating in these festivals was an active service of God that was inseparably linked with their worship of him. Although these were joyous occasions, they were not times for drunken revelry and gluttony, as was the case with the festivals observed by pagans. In a holy manner the Israelites were to observe the festivals of God.
13. What new way of actively serving God was introduced with the advent of Christianity?
13 With the introduction of Christianity, the ways of actively serving God underwent some changes. No longer could God be served by the festivals, by the sacrificial offerings the people had been bringing to the temple and by the temple duties of the Levites. With the terminating of the law covenant by Christ’s sacrifice, God brought these forms of service to an end. The Christian ministry became a new way of actively serving the Most High. Publicly proclaiming and teaching God’s truths, purposes and the provision he made for man’s salvation through Christ was a new and an exceedingly joyous way of serving him. In fact, it was a way a person could offer a sacrifice of praise to him. “Let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.”—Heb. 13:15.
THE JOY THAT COMES FROM GOD’S SERVICE
14. Explain how a person can have joy without audibly expressing it.
14 The joy that a person experiences from serving God is not always expressed in an audible manner. It can be a pleasurable feeling of satisfaction in knowing that a person is doing what is pleasing and right in the eyes of the Most High God. His knowing that he is doing good work that is benefiting other people, that is advancing Jehovah’s interests in the earth and that is magnifying Him brings a sense of contentment and inner tranquillity that reflects the joy of God. This is a lasting joy that does not require audible expression. But there are times when something noteworthy happens that stimulates a momentary expression of the joy that a person feels inside.
15. Give examples of notable occasions that warranted audible expressions of joy.
15 When the Israelites moved the ark of the covenant from the house of Obed-edom to Jerusalem, their joy bubbled out in joyful expressions. This was a great occasion in their religious life that filled them with happiness, and so they expressed it. “All the Israelites were bringing up the ark of the covenant of Jehovah with joyful shouting and with the sounding of the horn and with trumpets and with cymbals, playing aloud on stringed instruments and harps.” (1 Chron. 15:28) Another occasion that caused expressions of joy was when Saul and David returned with the Israelite army after a victory over the Philistines. “It came about that at their coming in, when David returned from striking the Philistines down, the women began coming out from all the cities of Israel with song and dances to meet Saul the king, with tambourines, with rejoicing and with lutes.” (1 Sam. 18:6) These were notable occasions that stimulated the Israelites to express their joy in an audible way.
16. What should not be mistaken for audible expressions of godly joy? Why?
16 Audible expressions of joy that come naturally from a happy heart because of something fine that has taken place in connection with Jehovah’s worship or purposes are not the same as the emotional outbursts by persons in a religious fervor. Their nonsensical shouting and wild singing are not the fruitage of God’s spirit, which, among other things, produces mildness and self-control. It is not the “apparel of the quiet and mild spirit” that a servant of God is expected to wear, but, rather, the expression of wild, uncontrolled emotions that demons find easy to manipulate. (1 Pet. 3:4) On the contrary, the audible expression of joy coming from the happy heart of God’s servants is with their power of reason and is under their control. It is not a regular thing but something that results from notable happenings in the fulfillment of God’s purposes and the furthering of his interests or from pleasant experiences that bring honor to him.
17. How does a person get the long-lasting joy of serving God?
17 The long-lasting feeling of joy that goes unexpressed is something that a person cultivates as he grows in knowledge and understanding of God’s Word and purposes. As he grows in understanding and faith, his joy also grows. It is nourished by his meditation on Jehovah’s doings and instructions and by his continuing to feed himself spiritually. The person that neglects this can lose the joy of serving God as well as a close relationship with him.
18. (a) Who are the ones God loves, strengthens and preserves? (b) What contributes to their joyful feeling?
18 A close joy-inspiring relationship with the Almighty is possible for those who dedicate themselves to serving him and who remain faithful to their dedication. By their actions they reveal that dedication. Such are the ones that he loves, strengthens and preserves, just as it is written: “Jehovah is near to all those calling upon him, to all those who call upon him in trueness.” (Ps. 145:18) “His salvation is near to those fearing him.” (Ps. 85:9) Knowing this and being aware that complete trust can be placed in him, the dedicated person can experience the joy that comes from a feeling of well-being and security, a feeling that was expressed in Psalm 23:4: “Even though I walk in the valley of deep shadow, I fear nothing bad, for you are with me.”
JESUS CHRIST AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW
19. (a) How did Jesus manifest his joy in serving God? (b) What reveals that he had the joy of serving God before coming to earth?
19 Of all who have served the true God, Jesus Christ is the finest example of one that found joy in Jehovah’s service. He showed it in a mild and quiet manner, such as in the happiness he manifested in doing his Father’s will as well as in helping people learn about the grand purposes of his Father. In fact, he found joy in God’s service long before he came to the earth. While he was still in the heavens as a mighty spirit creature, the first that God created, he found delight in serving Him. Speaking under the symbolism of wisdom, he says in the book of Proverbs: “Then I came to be beside him as a master worker, and I came to be the one he was specially fond of day by day, I being glad before him all the time, being glad at the productive land of his earth, and the things I was fond of were with the sons of men.” (Prov. 8:30, 31; Col. 1:15; Rev. 3:14) The joy he found in serving God in the heavens he continued to have while a man on earth.
20. How did God’s only-begotten Son react to the privilege of serving God on earth?
20 When Jehovah opened a new field of service for this beloved, spirit Son of his that required him to be born as a perfect human, that faithful Son rejoiced. Regarding this it is written: “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” (Phil. 2:5-8) Whatever his Father wanted him to do he was willing to do out of love for Him. With this fine attitude Jesus Christ gave a splendid example for all who want to serve the true God.
21. Relate some of the ways Jesus served God.
21 While on earth he served God not only by worshiping Him and obeying divine laws but also by publicly proclaiming and teaching the truth about Him. He helped people to transform their thinking and their lives so they might become approved servants of God. He taught them love for God, for one another and for enemies and gave them a hope of a world government of God’s making as well as the hope of a resurrection from the dead. This brought the people close to Jehovah God, intensifying their desire to serve him in an undefiled manner. In this godly service, Jesus found joy. But an especially great source of joy for him was having a part in vindicating his Father’s good name of the reproach that had been cast upon it by His enemies and by worshipers that had proved unfaithful to Him.
22, 23. (a) What was an especially great joy for Jesus, and how did this become necessary? (b) Why has Jesus Christ been an inspiration to worshipers of God?
22 The great enemy of righteousness, Satan the Devil, had brought the integrity of God’s creatures into question. This was done in the days of the faithful man Job, at which time Satan told God: “Skin in behalf of skin, and everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his soul. For a change, thrust out your hand, please, and touch as far as his bone and his flesh and see whether he will not curse you to your very face.” (Job 2:4, 5) This challenge was bringing not only man’s integrity to God in question but also the integrity of God’s only-begotten Son, who was in a very favored position in the heavens. Would his integrity collapse under trial as Satan charged that man’s would? The test came when that Son was born as a man. He kept his integrity even to a violent death and proved Satan a liar. His faithfulness was a vindication for Jehovah God. The prospect of vindicating Jehovah’s name was a joy to Jesus Christ.
23 Speaking of Jesus’ course of integrity, the Bible tells us: “For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2) The joy of having a part in vindicating Jehovah’s great name enabled him to endure the torture stake to the point of death. As a reward for his faithful service, Jehovah raised him from the dead, restoring him to the realm of the angelic hosts with greater power and honor than he had before. Thus his example of joyful service of God has been an inspiration to all worshipers of the true God down to this day.
24. Explain how joy is a life-preserving stronghold.
24 When we consider how God’s service has been a cause for joy to faithful men throughout the ages past, we can see that such joy is a life-preserving stronghold. For those who cultivate it and maintain it, Jehovah becomes a source of strength and a protection. His truth shields them from the mind-warping falsehoods of this devilish world. He helps them to hold up under trials of their faith; and when this old system of things is swept away by his heavenly forces, he will preserve them to see the new earth he will usher in. Joy helps to keep a strong, protective shield of faith. It can, therefore, be said to them: “The joy of Jehovah is your stronghold.” (Neh. 8:10) It keeps them spiritually alive in a spiritually dead world.
25. Why can we feel the same joy in God’s service that David felt?
25 Like the shepherd David, who was so impressed by the starry heavens that he gave expression to his joy in serving the Creator of them, we today have ample reasons for feeling the same joy. We too can marvel at his wonderful creations, and we can turn to the inspired Scriptures to learn about his activities and to be instructed by him. By cultivating an appreciation for his life-giving truths and magnificent purposes for mankind, we can find in God’s service today a cause for great joy.
[Picture on page 333]
Israelites move ark to Jerusalem with joyful shouting