Come Before Jehovah with Thanksgiving
“It is good to give thanks to Jehovah.”—Ps. 92:1.
1. (a) Do many people know who Jehovah is? (b) What provisions has Jehovah made to help mankind to know him?
GETTING to know Jehovah God has been the happy lot of only a minority of people. He is unknown to the majority. The apostle Paul observed this fact some nineteen hundred years ago during his visit to Athens, where, on an altar, it was publicly acknowledged that God was unknown. Today we can visit almost any place on the face of the earth and find existing a similar general lack of knowledge of Jehovah. Few are those who give thought to the true God. However, this is not because Jehovah God prevents people from having knowledge of him and his ways. Jehovah has provided a written word, the Bible, that now has become available to the majority of peoples throughout the world in their own languages. Also, he has sent out witnesses, such as Paul, drawing attention to his Godship. Failure to give attention is an individual responsibility.—Acts 17:23; Rom. 1:19-21.
2. (a) What results from knowing Jehovah? (b) What is the invitation in Psalm 95:1-3, and how do these verses identify Jehovah?
2 It is necessary to know a person and some of his good qualities before one can really appreciate him. Those who have known Jehovah and appreciated all that he has done for mankind have seen the privilege and duty to express themselves in reverence and with thanks. In ancient days Jehovah God chose the descendants of Israel as his nation and revealed himself to them, speaking to them through prophets, judges and priests. He did many good things for that chosen nation. Appreciation of Jehovah’s greatness and majesty moved his worshipers to invite one another enthusiastically to come together and unitedly express thanksgiving. One example is Psalm 95:1-3: “O come let us cry out joyfully to Jehovah! Let us shout in triumph to our Rock of salvation. Let us come before his person with thanksgiving; let us with melodies shout in triumph to him. For Jehovah is a great God and a great King over all other gods.” How is Jehovah here identified? First of all, it is by his name, Jehovah. He is the great God and King over all. Then the Psalm goes on to reveal him as the Creator; everything belongs to him. His greatness contrasts with the unworthiness of his earthly worshipers, and the alert ones who appreciate Jehovah therefore have good cause to express thanksgiving, to be joyful and to sing together the praises of God. Why? Because they have come to know the great Jehovah.
3. (a) What example shows that Jehovah is interested in having people congregate? (b) How was it beneficial to assemble in ancient times? Who benefited?
3 Jehovah has interest in the human family. Whenever Jehovah has dealt with people, he has instructed them and caused them to assemble together in united worship and thanksgiving for their good and blessing. As recorded at Deuteronomy 31:12, 13, God had the command given by his prophet Moses before the chosen nation of ancient days went into the land promised to them: “Congregate the people, the men and the women and the little ones and your alien resident who is within your gates, in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn, as they must fear Jehovah your God and take care to carry out all the words of this law. And their sons who have not known should listen, and they must learn to fear Jehovah your God all the days that you are living upon the soil to which you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of it.” Who are involved here? This sweeping command takes in everybody in the land, the entire family plus the alien residents associated with them. So on occasions for worship the families should be together. There was no segregation of the children. All assembled together. Why? What should they do? It was a time to listen. It was a place to learn. If they faithfully did this, they would not forget God’s law, and the children coming along would learn of their relationship to Jehovah.
4. What were some of the good things accomplished through assembling in the time of Joshua?
4 Ancient Israel as a nation, when faithful, remembered to come before Jehovah for thanksgiving and worship. One example of this was in the days of Joshua shortly after they entered the land promised to them. “And all Israel and their older men and the officers and their judges were standing on this side and on that side of the Ark in front of the priests, the Levites, carrying the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, the alien resident as well as the native, one half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and the other half of them in front of Mount Ebal, (just as Moses the servant of Jehovah had commanded,) to bless the people of Israel first of all. And after this he read aloud all the words of the law, the blessing and the malediction, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There proved to be not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read aloud in front of all the congregation of Israel, together with the women and the little ones and the alien residents who walked in their midst.” (Josh. 8:33-35) So, this arrangement was not simply for the benefit of Jehovah, who was receiving their worship. The law was read aloud by Joshua for the good of everyone, including non-Israelites. By keeping familiar with God’s law they were able to comply with God’s requirements. And what were the results to them? Jehovah prospered the people in the days of Joshua, giving them many victories as they came to be settled in the land. Do you not think Jehovah God would do the same for his people today if they complied with his requirements?
IN THE DAYS OF SOLOMON
5. (a) How was Solomon used by Jehovah in connection with pure worship? (b) What did the people learn through hearing the prayer of Solomon?
5 Centuries passed and Jehovah kept his people together as a nation. Eventually Solomon became the earthly king. A great responsibility was placed in Solomon’s care, namely, oversight of construction of Jehovah’s temple at Jerusalem. Never had there been such a temple of Jehovah; therefore, completion of the building must have been regarded as something special in the eyes of all, cause for united thanksgiving to Jehovah. The worship was organized as follows: “Solomon proceeded to congregate the older men of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the chieftains of the paternal houses of the sons of Israel, to Jerusalem, to bring the ark of the covenant of Jehovah up from the city of David, that is to say, Zion.” (2 Chron. 5:2) A multitude of animals were sacrificed. There was singing of praises to Jehovah, and finally a period of instruction as King Solomon stood and prayed aloud before the multitude. This prayer, recorded at 2 Chronicles chapter 6, helped the people to see how this temple would benefit them and it magnified Jehovah’s greatness, his concern for man and His mercies. Jehovah was too great to dwell in this house that had been built, though it was a magnificent structure. The house was to be used as a center of worship and prayer. It also was a place for giving thanks. People could straighten out their ways and regain Jehovah’s favor by their repentance and returning to worship Jehovah in connection with his temple. Foreigners could worship Jehovah too. After hearing the provisions to be made for the nation and the people by having this temple, everyone should have a heart filled with thanksgiving.
6. (a) How did Jehovah answer Solomon’s prayer? (b) What feature of Solomon’s reign showed Jehovah’s blessing?
6 When Solomon finished his prayer, Jehovah gave the people evidence that He was in harmony with the prayer and accepted the temple by sending fire from heaven to consume the offering and sacrifices, and his glory filled the house. Provision had been made for the entire nation to be united in his worship, coming before Jehovah with thanksgiving when praying toward the house that had been built in Jerusalem. (2 Chron. 7:1, 2) During Solomon’s reign the nation enjoyed great material prosperity. It was a reign of peace as Jehovah had promised, giving ample evidence that when there is pure worship of Jehovah God blessings always follow.
7. What are some of the notable events of Hezekiah’s reign as recorded in 2 Chronicles chapters 29 and 30?
7 Many years later Hezekiah became king at Jerusalem, and during his reign there were notable gatherings before Jehovah. Chapters 29 and 30 of Second Chronicles tell of efforts made to assemble the people for worship. Runners were sent out by the king, carrying invitations to people all through the land of Judah and also to people living under the ten-tribe Kingdom of Israel. Those who responded to the invitation received the benefits. “And there came to be great rejoicing in Jerusalem, for from the days of Solomon the son of David the king of Israel there was none like this in Jerusalem.” (2 Chron. 30:26) What a pity that all through the years from the time of Solomon to Hezekiah the people had not always faithfully come before Jehovah with thanksgiving. What joy they missed! Those who were present in the days of Hezekiah had every reason to give thanks, because Jehovah was blessing their efforts to return to Him and His ways.
8. (a) In his youth, how did King Josiah show respect for Jehovah God? (b) How is this an example for youths today?
8 Following the death of Hezekiah, pure worship broke down and troubles came to the people. After some years a good king named Josiah came to the throne and was a mere eight years of age when he began his rule. But he had a heart inclined toward God and searched for God. This is a fine Biblical example for youths of all generations; indeed, no age is too early to begin searching for God. By the time Josiah was nineteen years of age, he had learned many things about true worship and false worship so he embarked on a campaign to cleanse the land of all false worship. “And in the eighth year of his reigning, while he was still a boy, he started to search for the God of David his forefather; and in the twelfth year he started to cleanse Judah and Jerusalem from the high places and the sacred poles and the graven images and the molten statues. Further, they pulled down before him the altars of the Baals; and the incense stands that were up above he cut down from off them; and the sacred poles and the graven images and the molten statues he broke in pieces and reduced to powder, and then sprinkled it upon the surface of the burial places of those that used to sacrifice to them.” (2 Chron. 34:3, 4) The center for pure worship and thanksgiving had to be put in order and so Josiah organized repairing of Jehovah’s house.
9. (a) Did Josiah appreciate God’s law? (b) What does 2 Chronicles chapter 35 show to be outstanding about the assembly organized by Josiah?
9 When about twenty-five years old, Josiah rejoiced that a copy of the book of God’s law had been found. Consideration of the law revealed how far away from proper worship the people had fallen; the king understood what they should be doing. Annually they should have been holding a passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, so Josiah set about to celebrate a passover in the eighteenth year of his reign. How well this was done is summed up at 2 Chronicles 35:17, 18: “And the sons of Israel that were to be found proceeded to hold the passover at that time and also the festival of the unfermented cakes for seven days. And there had never been held a passover like it in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet, neither had any of the other kings of Israel themselves held a passover like that which Josiah and the priests and the Levites and all Judah and Israel that were to be found and the inhabitants of Jerusalem held.” Going back to Samuel’s day meant a period of more than four hundred years, even beyond the time of Solomon. So who will deny that the people on that occasion had cause for thanksgiving?
10. What troubles came to God’s covenant people? Why?
10 It was Jehovah God who arranged that his people have periods of assembling for worship and giving thanks. If his covenant people kept the terms of their agreement, they always benefited and were blessed very much. But by far the majority of kings who ruled in the land of Israel and Judah turned away from Jehovah and his arrangements. This always led the people to unhappiness in many forms and disasters. Eventually even the capital city, Jerusalem, was destroyed, the temple was demolished, many people were killed, others were taken as exiles to faraway lands and great suffering occurred.—2 Chron. 36:11-20.
11. (a) How was Jehovah’s loving-kindness shown to those who survived the exile? (b) What were the outstanding reasons to come before Jehovah with thanksgiving at that time?
11 Jehovah had foretold through the prophet Jeremiah that Jerusalem would lie devastated for a period of seventy years, and, when that time ran out, Jehovah’s mercy and loving-kindness were shown toward his covenant people in allowing a remnant of them to be freed from exile and return to the site of Jerusalem. This was for the purpose of rebuilding the city and its temple of worship so that eventually God’s servants would come before him in thanksgiving there. (2 Chron. 36:21-23) The faith of those who engaged in the rebuilding work was put to the test by opposers. Efforts were made to frustrate the building campaign, so that God’s servants had to put up a hard fight. For a time all construction work was stopped because of the enemy conspiracy. (Ezra chap. 4; Neh. 4:15-18) By making appeal to the highest authority in the empire God’s servants succeeded in receiving an order from Darius the king that the building work might proceed and in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the temple stood completed at Jerusalem. Jehovah had blessed his servants with success, and the culmination was a joyful assembly for thanksgiving at the temple’s completion. “And the sons of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the former exiles held the inauguration of this house of God with joy.” (Ezra 6:16) These were faithful servants of Jehovah with many reasons for thanksgiving in ancient times. But what about our times? Should there not be more thanksgiving on the part of Christians?
IN CHRISTIAN TIMES
12. How did Jesus Christ assemble with others?
12 Jesus Christ made it a practice to be with groups of people for the worship of Jehovah. He kept God’s laws regarding annual celebrations such as the passover. He used opportunities to praise Jehovah God and call attention to God’s purposes in the presence of groups or crowds of people. At Nazareth it was his custom to go to the synagogue each sabbath day, and there he read aloud from God’s Word. He taught at the synagogues and the temple, all of which should have given the people reasons for expressing thanks to God.—Luke 4:16; John 7:14; 18:19, 20.
13. Give examples showing how it was beneficial to assemble with Christ Jesus on the mountain.
13 Besides the synagogues and the temple, Jesus found other places to gather people together for teaching and instruction. Early in his ministry when crowds followed him, he went up on a mountain. What he said to his disciples is written in Matthew chapters 5 through 7. Today we enjoy reading of the happinesses with which he opened his sermon. He explained how to live with others, even with enemies, and he said a man should love his enemies just as God shows love. The gathered ones heard him tell how to pray, what forgiveness really means; the proper viewpoint on material things was also a subject for consideration, and stress was laid on seeking first the kingdom of heaven, laying up treasures in heaven. Outstanding too was the illustration about a tree and its fruit and how those who do the will of the Father will enter the Kingdom. What a wonderful experience it must have been actually to hear this sermon on the mountain!
14. What were some outstanding points made by Jesus Christ in the service assembly described at Matthew chapter 10?
14 A small service assembly was held with the twelve apostles when Jesus sent them out to preach about the Kingdom. He described the things they would face, the experiences in going from house to house, how they would be taken care of, how they would have opposition. But they should not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot destroy the soul. He told how families would become divided because some desire to worship God and others do not agree.—Matthew chap. 10.
15. (a) As shown by Luke’s account, what are some things that were learned at the time the apostles were assembled at the last passover with Jesus? (b) What outstanding teachings did John record in connection with the same occasion of assembly?
15 On another occasion, as recorded at Luke 22:19-30, the passover had concluded and Jesus instituted the Lord’s evening meal with the bread and wine. He made a covenant with them for a Kingdom. Calmly and in a kind way he settled a heated dispute about who would be the greatest. This was an example for them to copy. Chapters 13 through 17 of John contain many of the good things Jesus told his assembled followers on that occasion. Here was given the new commandment to love one another. They were impressed with the importance of bearing fruit to the glory of Jehovah God. Jesus showed that as they were manifesting love and bearing fruit to God’s glory they would be hated and persecuted even as he was. Jesus explained the Christian position of neutrality in Joh chapter 15 and emphasized it again in his prayer in Joh chapter 17. Truly, everyone present at that meeting should have had many reasons for expressing thanks to Jehovah God.
16. What spiritual building work did Jesus do that should make us feel thankful to Jehovah?
16 What Jesus was doing by gathering people together for teaching and instruction was the founding of the Christian congregation. It was a building work. He himself is the great foundation cornerstone, and the faithful apostles are part of the foundation as well. “You have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone.” (Eph. 2:20) Christ Jesus is also designated as the head of this congregation or assembly. “He is the head of the body, the congregation. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that he might become the one who is first in all things.” (Col. 1:18) Thinking about the wonderful organization that the Christian congregation is and the great building work Jesus did in assembling living stones to make up the building is sufficient to cause any person interested in God and his purposes to feel moved with thanksgiving, which he expresses to God in heaven. But someone may ask, “Where is that building of ‘living stones’ today?” You will see. But please read the next article and learn what happened since the death of Christ right up to our day.
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Completion of the temple was cause for united thanksgiving to Jehovah. Should there not be even more thanksgiving on the part of Christians?