Questions From Readers
● Does the Bible indicate that a person who wants to serve God should refrain from using tobacco?—U.S.A.
The Bible does not mention tobacco, since it was not used, as far as history records, during the time of Bible writing. But we can arrive at a conclusion regarding tobacco use through a consideration of Bible principles.
The Christian is engaged in a race for life. The apostle Paul called this fact to the attention of the Christians in Corinth, who were familiar with the Isthmian games, held nearby. The contestants in these games underwent a rigid training schedule that occupied most of their time, under the strict supervision of judges. One who broke a rule was disqualified.
Paul, drawing on these facts, impressed upon the minds of Christians that they were constantly under the eye of the great Judge, Jehovah. Pointing out that living up to the rules of the Christian race entails fighting the desires of the flesh, he said: “Every man taking part in a contest exercises self-control in all things. . . . I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Cor. 9:24-27.
The apostle wrote later to Christians in Rome: “Present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.” (Rom. 12:1) “Holy” has the sense of cleanness both in a physical and a spiritual way. Christians are to cleanse themselves from “every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.”—2 Cor. 7:1.
Personal uncleanliness is undesirable and detrimental, particularly to a Christian. Willingly following a habit that involves taking poisonous substances into the body, contaminating it, hinders one in serving God. If the smell of tobacco, or the stained appearance in the mouth and on the teeth is noticeable to others, it distracts people’s attention from the Kingdom good news one is proclaiming. It also detracts from the fineness, beauty and attractiveness of the worship of God that one represents and advocates.
A person who caters to the desires of the fallen flesh and who habitually overeats or partakes of something detrimental to his body becomes a slave to his appetite. The apostle said: “All things are lawful for me; but I will not let myself be brought under authority by anything.” Then he went on to say, in effect, that the one letting himself be controlled by anything would be no more lasting than the thing controlling him. “Foods for the belly, and the belly for foods; but God will bring both it and them to nothing,” he declared. (1 Cor. 6:12, 13) Certainly we do not want to come under the control of something that is destroyed in being used, whether food, tobacco, or anything else.
These Scriptural thoughts regarding the use of tobacco are not new. Some, when learning them, had in mind applying them in their lives, yet put it off for a future day. They found they could associate with Jehovah’s witnesses without completely stopping their use of tobacco. So, now, though they have a certain feeling of guilt about their tobacco habit, they are not putting forth a real effort to break it.
However, such individuals ought to ask themselves sincerely: Does pursuing such a course that shows indifference toward the application of Bible principles meet with Jehovah’s approval? Does the person who continues to practice what he acknowledges to be wrong truly love Jehovah ‘with all his heart’? Or does he instead find pleasure in that which is displeasing to God? If he really wants to be found among those whom Jehovah will favor with life in his new order, he needs to put forth earnest effort to bring his life into harmony with God’s Word now. Remember that when certain ones of Jesus’ disciples asked him: “Lord, are those who are being saved few?” he counseled them to exert themselves vigorously because many would seek to get into the Kingdom but would not be able.—Luke 13:23, 24; Matt. 22:37.
Paul wrote in similar vein: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked. On this account cease becoming unreasonable [not using false or specious reasoning to support something we may want to justify], but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” (Eph. 5:8-17) One should ‘buy out’ the time and not delay in giving up a bad habit. The days are wicked and delay in obeying in one matter may lead to greater disobedience in other ways.
Christians want to have a good conscience toward God now, for this is essential to wholehearted worship of him. If one now using tobacco is contemplating baptism, he should consider this matter seriously, because baptism indicates, “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request made to God for a good conscience.” (1 Pet. 3:21) He should put away all filth of the flesh beforehand. He would be somewhat inconsistent in asking for a completely good conscience if he knew that he was failing or refusing to give up an unclean, harmful habit. And if he has already been baptized he should get rid of the habit now so that there is no hindrance to his good conscience, and be thankful to God for His undeserved kindness.—Heb. 4:16.
Some desiring to quit the tobacco habit may feel very discouraged and downhearted. But we have apostolic assurance that we can break any bad habit through faith in the power of Christ’s ransom sacrifice and with God’s help. Paul described his own fight against fallen, sinful flesh, concluding: “Miserable man that I am! Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death? Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” He also wrote: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Rom. 7:21-25; Phil. 4:13.
If you are having difficulty in breaking the tobacco habit, you should pray fervently to God for help. Additionally, you are counseled: “Remember those who are taking the lead among you, who have spoken the word of God to you, and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith.” (Heb. 13:7) Then you will observe the examples that please God. You will feel encouraged, for many of these men have experienced the difficulty you are having. They will help you. Talk with them, get their advice and prayers for you.—Jas. 5:13-18.
Further, to the extent that you are able, associate with those who are free from the habit. It is also a great help to have a close associate whom you can quickly call on the telephone or whom you can visit when you feel the “urge” to use tobacco. Then, keep yourself busy with a study of the Bible, with the things you have to do to care for your family, with meetings where the Bible is discussed, and any service of God that you can perform. Only by this course can you be sure to break the bad habit and substitute good habits. You will be doing it in order to be a better, more acceptable glorifier of Jehovah’s name. And God will be pleased with you.—Prov. 27:11.
● Isaiah 7:8 states that within “sixty-five years” Ephraim was to be “shattered to pieces so as not to be a people.” When did this happen?—U.S.A.
This prophecy was given after Pekah the king of Israel invaded Judah during the reign of King Ahaz. (Isa. 7:1) According to the Bible, Pekah reigned for a period of about twenty years, and in the seventeenth year of his reign, or in 762 B.C.E., Ahaz became king. (2 Ki. 15:27; 16:1) So it must have been not long after 762 B.C.E. that the sixty-five years of Isaiah’s prophecy began to count. In 740 B.C.E. the Assyrians overthrew the Northern Kingdom of Israel. So, that kingdom, with Ephraim as its dominant tribe, came to its end approximately twenty years after Isaiah foretold that Ephraim would be “shattered to pieces.” However, it was not until the reign of Esar-haddon the king of Assyria that a final transplantation of foreign peoples into Israelite territory occurred. (Ezra 4:2) Apparently with the deportation of Israelites and this final transplantation of foreigners, Ephraim was “shattered to pieces so as not to be a people.” Between the fall of the Northern Kingdom and Esar-haddon’s rule, the reigns of Assyrian kings Sargon and Sennacherib had intervened. Inscriptions show Esar-haddon to be a contemporary of Judean King Manasseh (whose rule ran from 716 B.C.E. to 661 B.C.E.). So, the interval extending from the time that the words of Isaiah 7:8 were uttered until Esar-haddon’s transplantation effort would certainly allow for the sixty-five-year period of Isaiah’s prophecy.