Return to Jehovah While There Is Yet Time
AS WE read the history of the nation of Israel in the Bible we cannot fail to be impressed by the frequency of their falling away from the pure worship of Jehovah in violation of their covenant with him. Not once, not twice, but dozens of times they broke his commandments and turned aside to the impure worship of idol gods. This displeased Jehovah intensely. We might expect that after several experiences of this kind he would have cast aside the whole nation as irretrievably wicked. But more than a thousand years after giving them his commandments, what do we find?
The nation was still turning aside into unfaithful ways, but Jehovah was still calling upon them to return to him. “‘For I am Jehovah; I have not changed. And you are sons of Jacob; you have not come to your finish. From the days of your forefathers you have turned aside from my regulations and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,’ Jehovah of armies has said.” (Mal. 3:6, 7) What a wonderful record Jehovah sets for us in the qualities of long-suffering and mercy. Can we learn anything from this today?
NEED TO RETURN TODAY
Unhappily there are many today who have followed the same course as Israel. They have learned of Jehovah through a study of his word and by associating with his people and have shared in the work of making public declaration of the good news of God’s kingdom, even in some cases dedicating their lives to Jehovah and serving him happily for a number of years. Then something has occurred in their lives that has caused their love to cool off. They have quit associating with other Christians in meetings and service to Jehovah. This has proved to be due to a variety of causes.
Some were evidently stumbled from the Christian path because they had mistakenly looked upon it as a short sprint rather than a long race of endurance. Weariness overtook them because the road seemed long and the way hard. Perhaps they might have been encouraged by Paul’s words: “So let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.”—Gal. 6:9.
Others were overcome by opposition and even outright persecution from members of their own family, relatives, friends. They might have been helped to endure by perfecting the love of God, for John says: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love throws fear outside, because fear exercises a restraint. Indeed, he that is under fear has not been made perfect in love.”—1 John 4:18.
Many young people in particular have been turned aside by what the apostle Paul calls “the desires incidental to youth.” Instead of fleeing from them, as Paul admonishes, they have sought after them, very often in companionship with unbelieving young people, forgetting that bad associations spoil useful habits. (2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Cor. 15:33) Other young ones, despairing of finding a suitable marriage mate in the congregation of Jehovah’s people, have looked outside, in violation of the apostle’s instruction to marry “only in the Lord,” and many have suffered shipwreck of their faith.—1 Cor. 7:39.
Some were making good progress in serving Jehovah when they took offense over something another Christian brother or sister said or did. Because they failed to handle this matter as outlined in God’s Word, it eventually assumed gigantic proportions in their minds and stumbled them out of the way of the truth.—Matt. 18:15-17; Eph. 4:26.
Additionally, not a few have been ensnared by Satan in serious sin, often in some form of sexual immorality. This has produced a bad conscience and a consequent loss of holy spirit. Being overtaken by shame, they have cut themselves off from association with Jehovah’s people and have slipped back into the world.
Another powerful force that has turned many back from serving Jehovah has been the strong current trend for love of ease and comfort, making life as easy as possible. It often leads to excessive love of pleasure and seeking after material possessions.
Many have looked forward eagerly to having children and training them up in Jehovah’s service, only to be overcome by their inability to cope with the attendant difficulties and to maintain spirituality at the same time. Even a seemingly simple operation, such as moving to another town or another country, has been a cause of turning many aside from the active Christian life to which they dedicated themselves. Failing to get in touch immediately with fellow Christians in their new location, and thinking they would wait until they were thoroughly settled down and had everything shipshape in the home, they discovered that through their long absence they lost the desire to share in spiritual activities and studies. These problems were surely encompassed by Jesus when he said: “But pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare.”—Luke 21:34, 35.
Do you perhaps recognize yourself as one who formerly served Jehovah but who for some reason turned aside? If so, have you ever felt that you would love to return to Jehovah if you could? Have you perhaps felt, as some have, that you have strayed from Jehovah so long and so far that you cannot return? If you feel that way, then please be assured that Jehovah God does not feel the same way. Be assured that he is as keenly interested in you today as he was in those Israelites in Malachi’s day to whom he said: “Return to me, and I will return to you.”
WHY SHOULD YOU RETURN?
The simple answer, which we are sure you know very well, is that this means your life, your eternal life. “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) To keep on taking in this life-giving knowledge you must reassociate with Jehovah’s congregation.
You have known the hope of life. You have had the joy of looking forward to eternal life in the new order, free from sickness, pain, fear, anxiety and worry, and surrounded by your loved ones. Do you have anything now that can really compare with this hope? Will this system of things really allow you to enjoy life to the full today? All around you people are slaving night and day for riches, cheating and lying for power and possessions, plunging into the mad pursuit of sensual pleasure to shut out the frightening facts of a world facing disintegration. You really want something better than that for yourself and your family, do you not?
And what of God’s promise of the resurrection of the dead in his new order so close at hand? Doubtless you have loved ones whom you sorely miss. Do you not want to be there to welcome them back when Jehovah raises them to the prospect of eternal life in a paradise earth? Of course you do! These are powerful reasons why you should now return to Jehovah while there is yet time.
TIME TO RETURN RUNNING OUT
If you are one who formerly studied God’s Word with Jehovah’s witnesses, you well know the abundance of Bible evidence proving that since the year 1914 this whole system of things has been in its “time of the end” and is facing complete destruction soon at the universal war of Armageddon. You have read Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13 describing the world wars we have seen, accompanied by famine, pestilence and great earthquakes. You have read his description of the lawlessness and the violence that are now sweeping the entire earth, threatening to plunge even the greatest nations into anarchy. You have also read the apostle Paul’s description in Second Timothy 3:1-5 of the moral degeneracy in public and private life that certainly marks this generation as being in its last critical days.
Do you not recall that Jesus, in prophesying of this period of the last days which commenced in 1914, also said: “Truly I say to you, This generation will by no means pass away until all things occur”? (Luke 21:32) People who were only just old enough to understand what was happening to the world in 1914 are now approaching seventy years of age. Yes, the numbers of that generation are dwindling fast, but before they all pass away this system must meet its end in the war of Armageddon. Surely this highlights what a very short time now remains to return to Jehovah.
THE WAY OF RETURN
“He that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb. 11:6) Do you believe this? Are you earnestly seeking Jehovah? Do you believe that he will reward your search? If you do, then you must return to Jehovah with your whole heart. You must approach him in humble, earnest prayer, entreating him to direct your steps in the future, while you resolve that you will put forth a consistent effort backed by his holy spirit to follow his direction. “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you indecisive ones. Humble yourselves in the eyes of Jehovah, and he will exalt you.”—Jas. 4:8, 10.
Yes, it calls for humility to turn back to Jehovah. “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” (Jas. 4:6) In a cold world, do you not want to feel the warmth of God’s kindness, even though you may feel you do not deserve it? Then, “humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”—1 Pet. 5:6.
Resolve that right away, this week, you will start once again to attend the meetings at your local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you do not know the address, write to the branch office of the Watch Tower Society in your country and they will be glad to put you in touch. Your Christian brothers will welcome you. They will be happy to see you and to help you in your study of the Bible.
If you feel that you need to be reestablished in an accurate knowledge of the truth, they will be glad to conduct you through a comprehensive six-month study of the essential truths of the Bible with the aid of the Watch Tower Society’s 192-page Bible-study aid The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. And that is what you really want, is it not? They will really give you all the practical assistance you may need to get your feet firmly fixed once more on the way to life. They feel as Jesus felt when he gave the illustration in Matthew 18:12-14:
“What do you think? If a certain man comes to have a hundred sheep and one of them gets strayed, will he not leave the ninety-nine upon the mountains and set out on a search for the one that is straying? And if he happens to find it, I certainly tell you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that have not strayed. Likewise it is not a desirable thing with my Father who is in heaven for one of these little ones to perish.”
JEHOVAH WILL WELCOME YOUR RETURN
Never forget that Jehovah is a God of infinite mercy to those who are of a humble and contrite heart. (Isa. 57:15) Do not feel that you have sinned too deeply to return. “Though the sins of you people should prove to be as scarlet, they will be made white just like snow; though they should be red like crimson cloth, they will become even like wool.” (Isa. 1:18) Do not feel that you have separated yourself from Jehovah over too long a period of time to be able to close the gap. Some have returned to Jehovah after straying away for many years. In this year 1969 an aged man in Britain is again studying the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses and attending their meetings. His previous contact with them was fifty-five years ago during World War I when he studied with one of Jehovah’s witnesses for two years and then fell away. Now he is returning to Jehovah.
If you feel that you have strayed from Jehovah, be assured that he wants you to return, and so do your brothers. It is not difficult to find Jehovah, for, “in fact, he is not far off from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27) Humbly call upon him today in prayer, begging him to forgive your past sins and mistakes. Open your heart to him and ask him to help you bear your load. (1 Pet. 5:7) Earnestly entreat him to give you liberally of his holy spirit to enable you henceforth to do his will. (1 John 5:14) Then act! Do not delay! Do not put it off! Time is rapidly running out. Get back into association with Jehovah and with his people. Yes, return to Jehovah now, while there is yet time.