The Righteous Standard of the Changeless God
“I am Jehovah; I have not changed.”—Mal. 3:6.
1. What is Jehovah’s attitude and purpose with respect to all disorders?
SOVEREIGN Ruler of the whole universe is what Jehovah God is, and as such he is the champion of peace and order. (1 Cor. 14:33) In this capacity it is his unshakable purpose to maintain order, and, where disorder arises, to correct the situation and restore peace. He may ‘tolerate with much long-suffering’ those who fail to appreciate the value of order. (Rom. 9:22) Nonetheless, such ones will not be permitted to block his purpose indefinitely. Those who refuse to comply with his arrangements for universal good order are the ones who will suffer irretrievably.
2, 3. (a) What should impress us about the soulless creations of God in the heavens above us? (b) What would likely result were Jehovah’s controlling laws relaxed?
2 As we look out into the skies around our planet we should be deeply impressed with the order and harmony that are everywhere manifest. Marvelous laws, many of which are yet unknown to men, bind the countless stars in their galaxies into one vast system in which there is no jarring note of independence. Each star maintains its place in its assigned orbit, and all together they accomplish the will of the Creator. To each he has imparted the tremendous energy to go on rotating on its axis and at the same time to go on hurtling speedily on its orbital flight. The prophet Isaiah points to Jehovah as “the One who is bringing forth the army of them even by number, all of whom he calls even by name. Due to the abundance of dynamic energy, he also being vigorous in power, not one of them is missing.”—Isa. 40:26.
3 Were God to relax his laws governing the movements of his huge soulless creations in the sky, can you imagine what would happen? Doubtless they would fly off wildly on collision courses that would end up disastrously. Happily for us who live on this tiny sphere, there never will be such a contingency, for the very reason that Jehovah is the upholder of order.
4, 5. (a) Why are the heavenly bodies of more than superficial interest to us? (b) What features in common do astral and human creations have?
4 In his written Word the great Creator has caused stars to be compared with humans. Daniel, for example, writes: “The ones having insight will shine like the brightness of the expanse; and those who are bringing the many to righteousness, like the stars to time indefinite.” (Dan. 12:3) Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph was given a dream-vision of stars representing the members of his own family. (Gen. 37:9) And Abraham’s offspring were prophesied to become numberless like the stars.—Gen. 22:17.
5 The comparison is so fitting too! Humans, like the stars, have their own place or role in life to occupy. Like the variegated stars, humans differ from one another in appearance and in characteristics. (1 Cor. 15:41) Humans, too, can accurately reflect, if they will, the glory of their Creator, even as the stars do. And those foolish men who obstinately refuse to comply with God’s righteous standard for humans are appropriately described as “stars with no set course, for which the blackness of darkness stands reserved forever,” far from any opportunity to collide with God’s useful creations.—Jude 13.
MAN’S NEED FOR A RIGHT STANDARD
6. What, then, do we learn from the fact that unchangeable laws govern the soulless creation? (b) How is this backed up by God’s own record of his purpose?
6 Now, do you begin to realize the need for God to set up his righteous standard for the guidance of every human that lives? Not to deprive anyone of something essential to true happiness. Not just to be arbitrary or to show his authority. Not because he would withhold from anyone true freedom, for Jehovah’s spirit is the spirit of freedom. (2 Cor. 3:17) Rather, his grand purpose is to have an assemblage of perfect creatures in heaven and upon earth, like the billions of stars in the sky, all cooperating together in peace, with not even the trace of intrusion by one upon the rights of another. Read about this purpose of God, if you will, at Ephesians, chapter 1, verses 8 to 10.
7. What may we note about persons who insist upon unlimited freedom of decision and action?
7 To persons who are impatient of control, any kind of requirement may seem to be galling. They want to be free to do as they please. They do not want to be answerable to authority. They are like the popular writer who is reported as saying: “I must be able to live as I want or I don’t want to live at all.” It is not that they want to be treated like everyone else. They want to be treated as exceptions, as special cases. Yet they know quite well that, if everyone insisted on doing exactly what he felt like doing, conditions here on earth would be even more chaotic than they are. Refusing to take into account the limits imposed by the rights of fellow creatures, they are, in fact, dedicated to pleasing themselves.
8. What attitude early infected the human family, and with what results?
8 Early history offers many examples of those who claimed the right to map their own course. Eve disregarded God’s command, an action that selfishly dragged her husband into trouble. She allowed her eyes and her heart to lead her off into the way of sin. Adam, too, determined he would rather not live if he could not have life with his beautiful but lawless companion. Their firstborn, Cain, also turned out to be a man who wanted to have his own way. Though God gave him warning, he stubbornly refused counsel and ended up as a condemned murderer. It was not merely that Cain had inherited imperfection. No, for Abel also lived under such a handicap, yet he pleased God. Cain was an independent, and that attitude has been shared by multitudes of Adam’s posterity since those days.—1 John 3:12.
9. What contrasting attitudes were evident just prior to the great Delulge?
9 In course of time selfish angels “forsook their own proper dwelling place” in heaven, materialized as men and engaged in debauching the human race. (Jude 6; Gen. 6:1-8) Yet Noah “proved himself faultless among his contemporaries.” He maintained proper control of his family, shielding them from the immoral corruptions of a wicked world. He refused to run with the crowd of lawless creatures who ignored God’s standard for right conduct and paid for their willfulness with their lives.—Gen. 6:9.
10. What particular viewpoint of the changeless God was underlined by the overthrow of Sodom and her sister cities?
10 When Abraham’s nephew Lot was dwelling in the city of Sodom, “greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct,” Jehovah God determined to register his hatred of filthy sexual practices in a decisive manner. As Lot and his family were hurried from the scene, “Jehovah made it rain sulphur and fire,” completely overthrowing Sodom and its neighbor cities and snuffing out the lives of their inhabitants. (2 Pet. 2:7; Gen. 19:1-28) The record of that terrible punishment should be a reminder to all, of God’s insistence upon the sexual and moral cleanness of those who would have his favor.
11. How did Joseph view God’s righteous standard for human conduct, and against what powerful influences did he take his stand?
11 Into a land where women occupied a prominent and influential role in society Jacob’s son Joseph was sold as a slave. When exposed to the seductive importunities of his employer’s wife, which course did he choose? He did have a choice. He could have concluded that there was no harm in doing what his mistress required, leaving the full responsibility upon her. Instead, he took into account a far more important consideration. Note his words of decision as he tore himself from the presence of the seductress: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?”—Gen. 39:9.
12. How did the conduct of Esau and Jacob display their respectives attitudes toward God’s requirements?
12 Contrasting attitudes toward the standard of human conduct that God had communicated to men were displayed by Abraham’s grandsons, Esau and Jacob. Esau grew up to be “a man knowing how to hunt, a man of the field, but Jacob a blameless man, dwelling in tents.” (Gen. 25:27) The implication is that Esau was not blameless. May it have been because his love of the hunt took him away from the regular supervision of a godly household? His subsequent course proved him to be a wild, independent man, preferring his freedom to please himself to the quiet, industrious life of the keeper of flocks. As a self-pleaser he took wives from among the daughters of Heth, to the great vexation of his mother.—Gen. 27:46.
13. What wrong course might Moses have been tempted to follow, had he failed to cast his lot with the chosen people of God?
13 Moses, on the other hand, stands as a fine example of those concerned about adhering to God’s fine standard for his earthly servants. He could have continued in the lap of luxury as an Egyptian prince, doing and having whatever his heart or eyes desired. But the account tells how he “refused to be called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh, choosing to be ill-treated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin.”—Heb. 11:24, 25.
A WRITTEN STANDARD GIVEN
14. How was Moses rewarded, and what did Jehovah now furnish for the direction of his typical nation?
14 Because he did not please himself, but looked to the invisible God for direction and power to endure, Moses was greatly favored by being appointed as the mediator through whom God gave a written code to the nation he purchased for himself out of Egypt. Some of the basic statutes of that code are as follows: “You must not have any other gods against my face. Honor your father and your mother in order that your days may prove long upon the ground that Jehovah your God is giving you. You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely as a witness against your fellow man. You must not desire” anything belonging to your fellowman.—Ex. 20:3, 12-17.
15. The basic laws given to Israel at Mount Sinai embody what deep-lying principles of conduct?
15 It is worthy of notice that for any Israelite to insist on being his own judge of right and of wrong would, in effect, be setting himself up as a god. Submission to family authority is required. Depriving a fellow human of the right to live, to have a clean body, to retain his own property and to have a good name are actions that God forbids. Finally, going to the source of all troubles, God’s written standard warns against entertaining in the heart illegal and covetous desires. So that no Israelite might plead ignorance of these just requirements, parents were commanded to inculcate them in their children from infancy onward.—Deut. 6:6-9.
16. Against what wrongful course especially did Jehovah warn his people, if they would continue to enjoy his favor?
16 The filthy immoral rites of pagan worship were warned against: “For you must not prostrate yourself to another god, because Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, he is a jealous God; for fear that you may conclude a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, as they will certainly have immoral intercourse with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone will be certain to invite you, and you will certainly eat some of his sacrifice. Then you will have to take some of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters will be certain to have immoral intercourse with their gods and make your sons have immoral intercourse with their gods.”—Ex. 34:14-16.
17. Why the ban against ordinary social amenities with the peoples of the nations surrounding them?
17 Jehovah well knew the pattern of things to expect. It would start with apparently harmless social amenities. Just accept the hospitality of those pagans. Then, before the victim is aware of it, he has accepted some of the sacred food offered to the pagan idol, and has brought himself under obligation to comply with other requirements of the false religion, immoral and degrading though they might well be. In ancient times, to eat bread at a man’s table put one under obligation to remain in friendly, covenant terms with his host. To eat at the table of a false god likewise placed the partaker in friendly relationship with such a god. Jehovah, however, demanded exclusive devotion from his worshipers.
18. In what way did Jehovah remove any basis for doing what everybody else is doing?
18 Knowing that in time to come his people would observe the customs of neighbor nations who set up their own independent standards, and majority groups who would try to stampede them into the wrong way, Jehovah commanded: “You must not follow after the crowd for evil ends; and you must not testify over a controversy so as to turn aside with the crowd in order to pervert justice.” (Ex. 23:2) He left them no basis for going wrong and then claiming in justification, ‘Everyone else is doing it.’
19. How were the Israelites to guard themselves against violation of God’s righteous standard, and why did Zimri and other Israelites fail?
19 That his people might protect themselves against the onset of seductive sin, Jehovah commanded them: “Remember all the commandments of Jehovah and do them, and you must not go about following your hearts and your eyes, which you are following in immoral intercourse.” (Num. 15:39) Thus their safety lay in continually reminding themselves of God’s right standard of conduct and conforming their lives to it. Had this counsel been heeded by Zimri, son of Salu, and 24,000 other Israelites, they would not have had to suffer execution for indulging in immoral relations with the degraded women of Moab.—Num. 25:1-9.
NONE EXEMPTED FROM GOD’S STANDARD
20. What Scriptural example shows the relationship that often exists between materialism and moral looseness, and why did Jehovah act swiftly in that case?
20 Greed and lack of godly fear go hand in hand with sexual looseness, as may be noted in the account about Phinehas and his brother Hophni, sons of the priest Eli who served at God’s tabernacle in Shiloh. Not only did they treat with disrespect the sacrificial offerings of the people to Jehovah, but, taking advantage of their trusted office, “they would lie down with the women that were serving at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” (1 Sam. 2:17, 22, 34) God acted to uphold his standard. After full opportunity was given Eli to discipline his sons, a man of God appeared with the shocking message: “On one day both of [your sons] will die.” That sentence was soon executed when the Philistines defeated the Israelites in battle and carried off the sacred ark of the covenant. Neither position nor privilege excused Eli of parental responsibility and his sons from punishment for sacrilege.
21. What do we learn from King David’s bitter experiences following his sin in the matter of Bath-sheba?
21 No one can claim before God that he or she is a special case demanding departure from the strict rules governing right conduct. Not even the royal position of King David could excuse him for coveting the wife of another and then procuring the death of the husband so that his wrong desire might be satisfied. Though his own life was spared, the child Bath-sheba bore him died and he was destined to suffer throughout the remainder of his life from constant heartaches and troubles fomented by his own sons and trusted servants. Even his wives, his concubines, were to be publicly ravished by a rebellious son of his own house.—2 Sam. 12:1-14; 16:21, 22.
22. How did Solomon come to merit the announcement of the coming calamity of his kingdom?
22 In the latter part of his reign, Solomon, David’s second son by Bath-sheba, got to ignoring the right standard set by God. He multiplied wives for himself, taking women from pagan nations, women who insisted on importing the worship of their false gods into the land of Israel. The record tells how he catered to those insubordinate females who despised the God of their husband, and how he built temples for their idols. Jehovah decreed that a calamity would befall his kingdom after his death. Ten tribes revolted from the rule of his son and set up an independent kingdom. Two tribes only gave allegiance to the king in Jerusalem.
23. (a) Why did Jehovah foretell and permit the miserable fall of the kings of Israel and Judah? (b) What lesson had not yet been impresssed upon individual exile Jews up to the time of Ezra?
23 Later kings of Judah and Israel, with few exceptions, also proved unfaithful to God’s requirements, immoral in their intercourse with the false gods of the surrounding nations, filthy in their practice of lewd religious rites. Jehovah eventually gave their kingdoms over to the Assyrian and Babylonian conquerors, leaving the land of Judah a ruined desolation for seventy years. Then he mercifully gave them a release and return to their own land. But did they then subject themselves to his standard of right conduct? No, for they failed to maintain separation from the Canaanites and other mixed peoples around them. Scribe Ezra was shocked to learn how they had taken heathen women as wives for themselves and their sons. He lost no time in sounding the warning of God’s adverse judgment against the wrongdoers. At his sobering reminder the Jews agreed to make a clean break from their unclean state: “Let us conclude a covenant with our God to put away all the [pagan] wives and those born from them according to the counsel of Jehovah.” (Ezra 10:3) The choice was vital. They averted the dreadful consequences of Jehovah’s wrath.
NATIONS JUDGED ACCORDING TO GOD’S STANDARD
24. Hewing to the line in connection with his righteous standard, does Jehovah limit his actions to individuals who ignore his requirements? Give examples.
24 Not individuals alone, but whole nations stood or fell in times past according to whether they honored or ignored the right standard of the changeless God. Moab, Ammon and Edom, all of them Semitic nations who scorned and hated Israel, coveted their land and put on airs against Jehovah, were brought to ruin and desolation by decree of the righteous God. (Ezek. 25:1-14) The Phoenicians, dominated by commercial greed, broke covenant with Israel and began trading off captive Jews into slavery. Israel’s God brought calamity upon them first by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and later by Alexander of Greece.
25. How did God’s justice operate in connection with the entire nations of Judah and Israel, and why?
25 Even the kingdoms of Judah and Israel insisted on pleasing themselves and following in the way of the pagan nations round about. Jehovah by his prophets reproved them for their filthy and immoral practices. He calls them “daughters of prostitution” and describes them as “lusting after those passionately loving [them].” However, they ignored his warnings, and he brought upon them the threatened judgment slaughter: “There will be the bringing up of a congregation against them and a making of them a frightful object and something to plunder. And the congregation must pelt them with stones, and there will be a cutting of them down with their swords. Their sons and their daughters they will kill, and with fire their houses they will burn. And I shall certainly cause loose conduct to cease out of the land.” (Ezek. 23:46-48) How foolish of those highly favored peoples to despise the very standard that Jehovah designed for their welfare and happiness!
26. How does Jehovah, through his prophet Malachi, assure his typical people of his unchangeability with respect to his righteous standard?
26 Even after Ezra’s day the Jews again fell to the low moral level of the heathen peoples around them. Again by his prophet Malachi God sent solemn warning of their danger: “I will come near to you people for the judgment, and I will become a speedy witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against those swearing falsely, and against those acting fraudulently with the wages of the wage earner, with the widow and with the fatherless boy, and those turning away the alien resident, while they have not feared me. . . . For I am Jehovah; I have not changed.” (Mal. 3:5, 6) God’s view of these specifically mentioned wrongs remains the same. He has not changed and never will in this respect. He will not overlook the willful violators of his righteous standard.
NOT SWAYED BY THE CROWD
27. What is to be said about the majority view of imperfect humans in all such matters?
27 The individual or nation that is unduly influenced by the conduct of the majority of imperfect and sinful humans is led into a snare. Those who patterned their lives after the example of the majority in Noah’s day, for example, proved to be in the wrong and God’s adverse judgment came upon them. Safety was not in numbers. The popular, the orthodox way of viewing matters is seldom the way that accords with God’s will.
28. What right mental attitude was displayed by all the faithful men of old who are commended in God’s written Word?
28 On the other hand, those who viewed with suspicion the easy road of the majority were the ones who chose to keep their lives in harmony with God’s will. Noah, Abraham, Job, Jacob, Moses and other faithful servants of Jehovah followed the way of the minority. They were unswayed by the preponderance of numbers. They knew that the Creator’s thoughts and ways were far loftier and of far greater account than the thoughts and ways of men. (Isa. 55:9) They chose the future, everlasting reward of life in a clean New Order promised by God, rather than to have “the temporary enjoyment of sin,” or the satisfaction of pleasing themselves. (Heb. 11:25) Soon now such faithful ones will receive that rich reward.
29. What are some of the conclusions that God-fearing persons of today should reach?
29 It is the course of wisdom, today, to see in these choice records of human history set out in the Bible the counsel and direction so urgently needed in this day of global crisis. How wise to recognize that no individual can properly claim the right to run his own life just as he pleases, without regard for the interest and welfare of his fellow creatures and without respect for the right standard of conduct decreed by the Creator! Those individuals or nations who presume to act independently of God’s arrangement, who violate the moral standard that he has set up to guide his creatures, are headed for disaster.
30. Of what can we be assured relative to God’s dealings with people of the past?
30 God’s dealings with those who in the past either honored or despised his righteous standard of conduct are of vital moment to us who live today. Why? Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, answers: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4) Meantime we can be assured that God’s standard for human conduct does not change, for Jehovah is rightly described as “the Father of the celestial lights, and with him there is not a variation of the turning of the shadow.” (Jas. 1:17) He is, indeed, the changeless, the everlasting God.
[Picture on page 46]
Joseph fled from seduction