What Sort of God Is Jehovah?
THERE is no question that there is a God named Jehovah. More than a million and a half persons render worship to him. And in at least 207 lands virtually everyone hears the name Jehovah talked about by these people and by others. His worshipers adhere to laws they read in the Bible, the book that declares his name.
At times the loyalty of these million and a half worshipers to their God Jehovah brings the Name into the public spotlight, in one country or another. Their sticking to strict neutrality as to the politics of the nations, their complete separation from Christendom’s churches, their insistence on obeying God’s command about the sanctity of blood, even at the cost of suffering—all these show Jehovah to be a God whose word has powerful effect on his worshipers.
Some nations, particularly the communistic ones, try not to hear the Name. They legislate against it and ban the proclamation of it. But they are unsuccessful in getting mention of it stopped. What sort of God is this One with the unliked name? And what is there about him that produces such loyal, active adherents?
We do not need to be in the dark as to this God’s qualities. We have a historical account in the Bible as God’s inspired record, written by men who personally experienced dealings with God. Secular history also gives us some corroborative details.
Take, for example, the people of Israel delivered from slavery to Egypt. Some 600,000 fighting men, with hundreds of thousands of women, children and older men, along with their livestock, walked across a dry seabed and saw the pursuing Egyptians trapped as the sea closed in on them. This event climaxed a period of intimate eyewitness experience of Jehovah’s dealings. Preceding the Red Sea incident were ten plagues on Egypt, each announced beforehand by Jehovah’s representative Moses, and each coming on time and in the way Moses predicted.
All this should have convinced everyone involved that Jehovah is the supreme God, and should also have been very informative as to his qualities. Prior to this event Israel’s forefathers had known God’s name. They had addressed him at times by the name Jehovah and knew that it designated him as the Purposer toward his people. But now they could appreciate the Name in a way they had never done before. This full understanding and appreciation of the Name’s significance was what God had referred to earlier when he said to Moses: “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty. But I did not let myself be known to them by my name JEHOVAH.”—Ex. 6:2, 3, New English Bible of 1970.
Now God had brought added illustriousness to that Name by fulfilling what it had signified to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Now the entire nation was obligated to be witnesses to the glory of that Name. Before whom? First, to their own children. (Ex. 10:1, 2) Also, they were to be a nation of Jehovah’s witnesses before the other nations who worshiped false gods—gods that could not make prophetic promises and bring them to fulfillment, as Jehovah could.—Isa. 43:1-12.
JEHOVAH’S CARE FOR HIS PEOPLE
But did Israel come to know other qualities of Jehovah? Yes, for on leaving Egypt they had before them a trek through “the great and fear-inspiring wilderness, with poisonous serpents and scorpions and with thirsty ground that has no water.‘’ (Deut. 8:15) Jehovah had brought them into this place. As their God, would he be concerned enough to care for them? Yes, for now both the welfare of his people and his own Name were involved.
The fact that the nation of Israel survived to enter the Promised Land with almost the same population as they had at the start, despite the rigorous conditions and also their own repeated derelictions from God’s laws, proved Jehovah to be their merciful Provider and Sustainer. Shortly after their leaving Egypt God allayed their anxiety about his ability and willingness to care for them when he supplied an abundance of quail and when the miraculous life-sustaining manna began to appear. (Ex. 16:1-18) As Moses afterward pointed out to them: “[God] brought forth water for you out of the flinty rock; [he] fed you with manna in the wilderness.” And as to God’s provision of clothing needs, they were reminded: “Your mantle did not wear out upon you, nor did your foot become swollen these forty years.”—Deut. 8:4, 15, 16.
Furthermore, Jehovah proved to be their Protector. Early in the wilderness journey, through his miraculous support Israel defeated the Amalekites. At this time Moses built an altar and named it Jehovah-nissi, meaning “Jehovah Is My Signal Pole.” He is a God around whom his people can rally for protection and help.—Ex. 17:8-16.
So, Israel’s forty years’ personal experience brought them to know Jehovah. At Mount Sinai, where the Law covenant was made with the nation, Moses made request to see God’s glory. Then, in the mountain, by means of his representative angel, “the LORD came down in the cloud and took his place beside him and pronounced the Name JEHOVAH. Then the LORD passed in front of him and called aloud, ‘JEHOVAH, the LORD, a god compassionate and gracious, long-suffering, ever constant and true, maintaining constancy to thousands, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin, and not sweeping the guilty clean away; but one who punishes sons and grandsons to the third and fourth generation for the iniquity of their fathers!”’—Ex. 33:18–34:7, NEB.
Already God had demonstrated these fine qualities when the people, less than four months after their deliverance at the Red Sea, made a golden calf and said: “This is your God, O Israel, who led you up out of the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 32:4) What ingratitude, disloyalty and faithlessness! But Jehovah did not cast them off. In fact, that very generation could have gone into the Promised Land, with Jehovah’s help.
However, when about to enter Canaan they manifested fear and rebellion, speaking of appointing for themselves a head to lead them back to Egypt. (Num. 14:1-4) Even then Jehovah forgave them, letting them live, but he deferred their entry into the land until all the rebellious men of that generation had died off.—Num. 14:18-20, 29, 34.
Moreover, God put up with their many complaints and rebellions during their forty-year wilderness journey, forgiving, protecting, providing and caring for them.
The qualities displayed by Jehovah distinguish him from all the so-called gods whom men and nations have worshiped. What reasonable person, with a proper appreciation, would not want to worship a God such as Jehovah is? He deserves to be worshiped. He has the exclusive and just right to command that he be worshiped by all his creatures in heaven and on earth.
PROVISIONS FOR WORSHIP
In Israel’s case Jehovah provided the nation with everything necessary to carry on worship of him. They had his laws, which were spiritual, holy and good. (Rom. 7:12, 14) When obeyed they worked for Israel’s welfare, both spiritual and physical. He arranged for a priesthood to serve Israel, in the family of Aaron the brother of Moses. He prescribed a list of sacrifices that they could offer to him on certain occasions and for certain reasons. By these means every individual in the nation could enjoy approach to his God. These sacrifices also had a special meaning, pointing forward to the Great Sacrifice that Jehovah would provide in due time to take away the sins of the whole world of mankind.
The architectural plans for the transportable tent of meeting or tabernacle and for the temple later built in Jerusalem were provided by Jehovah. Jehovah put his name there. Accordingly, what went on there was of special interest to Jehovah forasmuch as it reflected upon his holy name.
It was no light offense for anyone to defile his temple. Those who did would come to know that they could not do so with impunity. They would come to know that Jehovah, though a merciful, forgiving God to those who turn to him, is also a God of justice, the Universal Sovereign who insists on right-doing. In this he not only magnifies his own Name as the true God, but also protects his creatures, so that they may live in peace, security and happiness.
TEN-TRIBE KINGDOM MADE TO KNOW HIM
Centuries after entering the Promised Land ten of the tribes broke away from God’s appointed dynasty of the house of David and set up their own kingdom, also making calf images to worship. This kingdom, with its capital city Samaria, was called Israel, as distinguished from Judah, with Jerusalem as capital. Even then God gave idolatrous Israel an opportunity to know him by defeating their enemy Syria. But Israel, though they had known Jehovah in the past as their God, manifested no appreciation of his Godship.
Israel continued in its idolatry. That nation failed to profit religiously from having learned that the God of salvation is Jehovah. After an existence of 257 years, their capital city Samaria was destroyed by the Assyrians in 740 B.C.E. and the people were taken off into exile. The prophet Jeremiah explains why, saying: “Over the fact that they had not listened to the voice of Jehovah their God, but kept overstepping his covenant, even all that Moses the servant of Jehovah had commanded. They neither listened nor performed.”—2 Ki. 18:11, 12.
Do these examples mean anything in our time? They do! They serve as a strong warning to the so-called “Christian” nations. They have had every opportunity to know about Jehovah. They are accountable, because they claim to serve the God of the Bible, who states that Jehovah is his memorial Name.—Ex. 3:13-15.
But the other nations who do not claim to serve the God of the Bible, Jehovah, should not think that they will not also have to come to know who Jehovah is. This was foreshadowed by what happened to the nations surrounding God’s ancient kingdom of Judah. In 607 B.C.E. God allowed Babylon to overthrow Judah for unfaithfulness to him. At that time Babylon and the enemies of Judah rejoiced.
Speaking by his prophet Ezekiel to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, Jehovah comforted them, foretelling their restoration, and saying: “‘I shall certainly sanctify my great name, which was being profaned among the nations, which you profaned in the midst of them; and the nations will have to know that I am Jehovah,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘when I am sanctified among you before their eyes.”’—Ezek. 36:23.
In 539 B.C.E. Babylon was overthrown by the Medes and Persians and in 537 B.C.E., after seventy years’ exile, the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its temple. The enemies of Jerusalem were forced to sit up and take notice of what God had done for them.
HE IS TO BE MADE KNOWN TODAY
Today, is it important that this knowledge that he is Jehovah be made so widespread? Yes! In the entire prophecy of Ezekiel alone the Sovereign Lord God indicates the importance of it by repeatedly declaring that nations and peoples and individuals must “know that I am Jehovah,” making such a declaration sixty-two times. In the prophecy of Ezekiel the expression “Sovereign Lord Jehovah” occurs 215 times.
In this last third of the twentieth century one thing must not be overlooked with respect to the declaration, in Ezekiel’s prophecy, of God’s purpose that “the nations shall know that I am Jehovah.” What is that? This: the prophecy must come true “in the latter years,” “in the final part of the days.” (Ezek. 39:7; 38:8, 16, American Standard Version, New World Translation) When we take into consideration the things occurring since World War I, which broke out in 1914 C.E., more than fifty-seven years ago, the foretold latter years and days, the final part of the years and days, ought to be upon us soon! All nations of today are on the brink of coming to a knowledge of this one living and true God, Jehovah, in a way that they never knew him before. Not one of us can escape it. We are all part of those nations. Do we stand to gain or to lose when there is imparted to us that highly important knowledge of Jehovah?
In Ezekiel’s prophecy God made many declarations about what nations and peoples must come to know. Consequently, whether we now like Jehovah and his name or not, it is certainly worth our while to peer into that prophetic book. If so, we will observe how outstanding parts of it have had modern-day fulfillment. Many honest-hearted persons today are still confused about the Supreme Being, the Almighty God. They cannot do otherwise than benefit themselves by discovering his wise and timely counsel for today. Why be forced to know that he is Jehovah in the way that Pharaoh, the ancient ruler of Egypt, was? Far better is it for us as lovers of life and happiness to accept his gracious invitation to come to know Him now in a peaceful, friendly way.