Seeking the Goodwill of God Now
“For the one finding [wisdom] will certainly find life, and gets goodwill from Jehovah.”—Prov. 8:35.
1, 2. (a) Why are millions failing in the search for health and life? (b) The one desiring good should consider what question?
FOR what are you seeking? Are you searching for that which will bring you good health, happiness, contentment, security, and long life? Millions of persons on earth fervently desire these blessings but have not been able to find them, for they are seeking them from a wrong source. Many are seeking material wealth and financial success, only to find that the rewards of riches are most uncertain and that money cannot buy health and life. Others search for pleasure and self-gratification, all too often at the cost of their morals and self-respect. Some strive for power and influence, while others merely seek for justice and equality. Some become sorely disillusioned by what they see about them and seek to change it all by rebellion and violence, while others seek an escape by deluding their minds with excessive drinking and brain-benumbing drugs.
2 But is any of this the source of true happiness and life? Do the present unsolved problems that plague and divide humanity cast the warm glow of hope upon the future? Do the unresolved issues that become more complex and confusing each day, issues that cause men and women to quarrel and fight, to hate and destroy one another—do these promise to provide what you are seeking? Does a world of increasing greed and hatred, of mushrooming crime, violence, immorality, drug addiction, delinquency and wickedness of every kind—does such a world offer you the prospect of attaining the good things you so fervently desire? If not, you might want to consider these words of wisdom from the Proverbs: “He that is looking for good, will keep seeking goodwill; but as for the one searching for bad, it will come upon him.” (Prov. 11:27) If you are seeking for good, then consider the question that more than any other will have a profound effect on your future—yes, upon that of all mankind—namely, Are you seeking the goodwill of God?
3. Why is now the appropriate time to seek God’s goodwill?
3 Why is this question so vital? Why at this time particularly must we make our decision as to the seeking of God’s goodwill? Because according to the unmistakable proofs from God’s Word the Bible we have reached the time in human history identified in the Scriptures as the “last days,” the time “to proclaim the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah and the day of vengeance on the part of our God.”—2 Tim. 3:1-5; Isa. 61:2.
4. How has God demonstrated his desire to extend goodwill toward mankind?
4 God has always shown his goodwill toward those who have exercised faith in him and who have shown appreciation for his goodness and loving-kindness. He has never rejected any of mankind who truly sought his favor. Many men of faith down through the centuries have sought after his righteousness and truth and thus gained his favor and blessing. They never regretted it, as the proverb states: “The blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.” (Prov. 10:22) Jehovah himself has always taken the initiative in making his loving-kindness and goodwill available to those of mankind who would desire it. The greatest evidence to date of that loving concern for the world of mankind was the sending forth of his Son Jesus to the earth, for it demonstrated God’s loving desire to bestow blessings and life upon those of earth’s inhabitants who would accept them, even as Jesus himself expressed it: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16; 1 John 4:9, 10.
5, 6. (a) How do the Bible prophecies indicate that God’s goodwill is shown toward humanity? (b) When did the princely king make his appearance in fulfillment of prophecy?
5 For centuries the inspired prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures had foretold God’s interest in the earth and its human inhabitants. The prophecies go back to the Garden of Eden right after the disobedience and downfall of the first human pair, Adam and Eve. That first prophecy foretold the “seed” that would hate the “serpent,” God’s chief enemy Satan, and that seed would eventually mortally “bruise” the “serpent” in the head, thereby bringing to an end mankind’s greatest enemy, the one who wickedly maneuvered the human family into sin and death. Later prophecies spoke of God’s promise of a king, greater than David, the seed of Abraham, who will bring to all nations of mankind the blessings of a just government with righteousness and peace, a king who will rule with wisdom and understanding, whose rulership will be an indefinitely lasting rulership, to whom all peoples can turn for justice and peace, a kingdom that will put an end to warring political kingdoms and governments, and stand in righteousness to time indefinite.—Gen. 3:15; 22:17, 18; Isa. 2:2-4; 11:1-5; Dan. 2:44; 7:13, 14.
6 Now came the next step in God’s purpose to bestow blessing and goodwill upon deserving mankind. How dramatically his loving interest in humanity was illustrated by the circumstance surrounding the miraculous events that occurred in 2 B.C.E. there in the Roman province of Judea. The time had come for the arrival of that promised Messiah King, the princely ruler of peace and righteousness foretold by the prophet Isaiah centuries earlier: “For there has been a child born to us, there has been a son given to us; and the princely rule will come to be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom in order to establish it firmly and to sustain it by means of justice and by means of righteousness, from now on and to time indefinite. The very zeal of Jehovah of armies will do this.”—Isa. 9:6, 7.
7, 8. (a) What were the circumstances of the angelic announcement, and what further promise of blessing did it contain? (b) How was interest in the promise and appreciation for God’s goodwill demonstrated by the shepherds?
7 The birth of that Messiah prince promised for centuries would certainly be a cause for joyful acclamation and good news to all who desired the goodwill of God and longed for peace and righteousness. On that occasion, even the very angels of God shared in the joyful announcement of that outstanding birth in the city of Bethlehem. The shepherds tending their flocks on the Judean hillside were the privileged and favored viewers of the fear-inspiring angelic spectacle that followed. For the benefit of those seeking the goodwill of God, the Bible writer Luke relates it for us: “The angel said to them: ‘Have no fear, for, look! I am declaring to you good news of a great joy that all the people will have, because there was born to you today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in David’s city. And this is a sign for you: you will find an infant bound in cloth bands and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there came to be with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: ‘Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.”’—Luke 2:8-14.
8 Those humble shepherds proved to be men interested in the goodwill of God, for they immediately made their way to Bethlehem to see the child whose birth moved even the angels to proclaim, ‘Glory to God in the heavens,’ and whose birth carried with it the promise of ‘peace on earth among men of goodwill.’ How favored of God they had been to have received the special announcement of this most important and extraordinary event in human history, not through the sophisticated electronic channels of communication to be later devised by men, such as radio or television, but by direct communication from superhuman extraterrestrial spirit sons of God. By his goodwill toward them, God through his angels had permitted them to be eyewitnesses of what he was doing in behalf of mankind by sending the promised Messiah or Christ the Lord, the royal descendant of King David, for Mary his mother was a descendant of David. Filled with appreciation for the goodwill shown them by God, “the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all the things they heard and saw, just as these had been told them.”—Luke 2:20.
9. What does it mean to become one of God’s “men of goodwill”?
9 Thus, as shown by the very special favor bestowed upon those faithful Judean shepherds, God’s “men of goodwill,” who receive his peace, are those upon whom God bestows his favor and good pleasure. This is the thought indicated by various Bible translations in their rendering of the words of that heavenly multitude of angels at Jesus’ birth. The American Standard Version translates Luke 2:14 this way: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.” Dr. Moffatt’s translation reads: “Glory to God in high heaven, and peace on earth for men whom he favours!” The New English Bible reads: “Glory to God in highest heaven, and on earth his peace for men on whom his favour rests.” Thus it is plain that the blessing of God’s peace is for those who have sought his goodwill and gained his good pleasure.
10. (a) In what ways did Jesus make it known that God’s goodwill was available to many? (b) How was it apparent that not all received goodwill from Jehovah?
10 During his earthly ministry, Jesus Christ called attention to the fact that God’s goodwill was then available to those of the Jewish nation who wished it. His very presence among them meant that God was specially exercising goodwill in their behalf, and their accepting his goodwill would work for their everlasting benefit. In the synagogue in the city of Nazareth, where he had been a carpenter until thirty years of age, Jesus on one occasion was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Out of it he read from chapter sixty-one, Isa 61 verses one and two: “The spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah is upon me, for the reason that Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news to the meek ones. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to those taken captive and the wide opening of the eyes even to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah and the day of vengeance on the part of our God.” When Jesus finished reading this prophecy, he turned to his audience and affirmed: “Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.” (Luke 4:17-21) Wonderful blessings are thus in store for those who accept the good news offered by Jesus. However, it is not difficult to note the strong contrast of thought in the references to the “year of goodwill” and the “day of vengeance on the part of our God.” Opposite destinies are obviously involved, which makes manifest the fact that God’s goodwill is not toward all persons. If it were, there would be no need for a “day of vengeance.”
AN EXAMPLE FOR OUR DAY
11. Explain why the Jews of Jesus’ day were enjoying a “year of goodwill” on the part of Jehovah.
11 Back there in first-century Jerusalem, that promise of a “year of goodwill” followed by the destructive “day of vengeance” saw a typical fulfillment in a series of circumstances that give cause for concern in this day. The proclaiming of the “year of goodwill” begun by Jesus, was later taken up by his faithful anointed followers after Pentecost. It featured a message of good news that centered around the promised Kingdom by God’s appointed Messiah, and was made public by the preaching activity of those whom God had anointed by his holy spirit. It offered to all those Jews there in Judea the very blessing for which their forefathers had hoped for centuries, those who had exercised faith in the promises written down by the prophets. God’s Chief Agent for salvation and life was among them. Truly this was their “year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah.”
12. Why was their “year of goodwill” not to last indefinitely?
12 But would they accept it? Would this “year of goodwill” with its prospects of blessings always be available to that Jewish nation so that they could turn to it if and whenever they pleased? No, the circumstances that followed indicate that such was not the case. Just as a year is a definite time period with a beginning and an end, so their “year of goodwill” would not last indefinitely. Those who truly desired to gain God’s goodwill and avail themselves of its benefits and blessings would have to act quickly and decisively before it ended, before the “day of vengeance on the part of our God” came upon them.
13. Jesus’ prophecy foretold what conclusion to the “year of goodwill” in the first century?
13 Jesus’ prophecy concerning what would befall those who rejected God’s goodwill had carried with it a warning of a limited time period. Jesus had described the sweeping events that would lead up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.: “Furthermore, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near.” With this warning in mind, those Jews in Judea who truly had a sincere desire to gain God’s goodwill would have a profound interest in the instructions that follow: “Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw, and let those in the country places not enter into her; because these are days for meting out justice, that all the things written may be fulfilled.” Then pinpointing just how limited that “year of goodwill” would prove to be for that nation, Jesus added the ominous warning: “Truly I say to you, This generation will by no means pass away until all things occur.”—Luke 21:20-22, 32.
14. (a) Did the Jewish nation choose to accept God’s goodwill? (b) What were they forced to accept, and how?
14 Exactly as Jesus foretold, 37 years later, within that very generation, that “year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah” came to a halt, to be followed quickly by the destructive “day of vengeance” that fell violently upon the Jewish people, especially upon Jerusalem. In the year 66 C.E. the armies of Rome came just as Jesus had warned and surrounded the city. When the Roman armies withdrew for a time, those who sought God’s goodwill still had time to heed Jesus’ warning to ‘flee to the mountains.’ This they did, and speedily. However, 70 C.E. saw the Roman general Titus come with his legions, this time to wreak a horrible desolation upon both people and city, slaughtering 1,100,000 Jews, and taking captive another 97,000 miserable slaves to be scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Thus just as God had used the military forces of the ungodly ruler Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 607 B.C.E. to punish the nation that had rejected him, so in 70 C.E. the military legions of Rome under General Titus served his purposes very well, as his destructive “day of vengeance” fell violently and painfully on the nation that chose to reject his “year of goodwill.” Those wretched victims who had persecuted and perpetrated the deaths of Jesus and his faithful followers, and who had turned deaf ears to the warning by Jesus and his obedient disciples to flee for their lives from the imminent disaster were forced to feel the harsh effects of God’s “day of vengeance,” an experience they could not avoid.
15. How did accepting God’s goodwill benefit the remnant of believers?
15 To that entire nation God had made his goodwill available through the announcement of his Son and his disciples, but only a few accepted it and demonstrated their faith in it by their obedience. Only a remnant sought to gain the peace of God’s men of goodwill, and these became Jesus’ disciples, publicly going on record as to their decision by being baptized as the followers of Jesus. Thus these “men of goodwill” escaped the destruction of Jerusalem and the enslavement of the miserable survivors because they heeded the warning and acted on the instructions given by Jesus.
LESSON FOR TODAY
16, 17. (a) For whom does the circumstance of that Jewish nation serve as a lesson? (b) What are some beneficial features of the “year of goodwill”? (c) Why is there still time to seek God’s goodwill?
16 In all of this there is a strong lesson for everyone living on earth today. The very “critical times” that now engulf all nations and families of the earth place us unmistakably in that period of time known as the “last days,” the time of the “conclusion of the system of things.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5; Matt. 24:3) This limited Scriptural time period, although filled with increasing world woes and trouble for the world of mankind, is at the same time a most happy time for those who love God. For in the prophecy of Isaiah read by Jesus on that sabbath day there in Nazareth, he described the spiritual blessings to be received by many prior to the “day of vengeance on the part of our God.” These include ‘telling good news to the meek ones, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to those taken captive and the opening of the eyes even to the prisoners,’ all to be accomplished along with the proclaiming of the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah.
17 This means we are living at the time when God’s goodwill may still be had, when it is not yet too late before the “day of vengeance on the part of our God” closes in on those who have not sought his goodwill. That “day of vengeance” will see its reality in the coming great tribulation that culminates in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty,” the battle of “Armageddon,” when God expresses his vengeance toward all those who have rejected his goodwill and lined themselves up against him, his kingdom, and his righteousness.—Isa. 61:1, 2; Rev. 16:14, 16.
18. What choice faces humans today?
18 The question therefore that faces us is: Will we be wise and accept the opportunity now open to us to seek the goodwill of God and allow him to favor us with life? Or, like those in Jerusalem in the first century who lacked faith, will we foolishly spurn the warning, and reject the instruction, thereby sealing our destiny in permanent death, the victims of God’s final “day of vengeance”?
19. Enumerate some of the evidence that proves Jesus’ prophecy is once again undergoing fulfillment.
19 According to God’s timetable as shown by the prophecies of the Bible and the events of this twentieth century, the year 1914 C.E. marked the beginning of the “time of the end” of this wicked system of things. This time has undeniably witnessed a steady worsening of human affairs since that time, punctuated by two major world wars, as well as dozens of smaller wars, some of which still continue, and others threaten to break out at any time. The increased selfishness, hatred, crime, immorality and godlessness of all kinds all point to the fact that the majority of mankind have not sought the goodwill of God, nor have they given him any cause to extend his goodwill in their behalf. Once again the prophecy of Jesus at Matthew twenty-four in which he provided a detailed description of the degradation of human relations in this day finds fulfillment, this time not merely in the land of Judea, but in the events that affect people of every nation of earth. He foretold that “nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom,” along with food shortages, “earthquakes in one place after another,” distress, and the persecution of God’s faithful servants. “Many will be stumbled and will betray one another and will hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and mislead many; and because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off.” (Matt. 24:7-13) No rational person can deny that these words are true in this generation, more than at any other time.
20. (a) To whom is God’s “year of goodwill” now made available? (b) What announcement does it feature? (c) To whom especially is the Kingdom announcement “good news”?
20 Truly this is a time when the goodwill of God is needed more than ever before. Happily, the “year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah” has opened up not merely to a limited community of fleshly Israelites, but to all the families of the inhabited earth. How so? Jesus explains a verse later in his prophecy for our day: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) Jesus is not here with us to preach that good news on earth. In obedience to that command, however, the worldwide body of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses has been preaching “this good news of the kingdom” earth wide, since the birth of that Kingdom in the year 1914, and with increasing effectiveness. They have been faithfully announcing to all lovers of righteousness who desire perfect and peaceful government on earth that God’s long-sought and prayed-for kingdom, with God’s exalted Son, Christ Jesus, upon its heavenly throne, was empowered by God in 1914. This announcement is “good news” to those who are seeking God’s goodwill, for it carries with it the prospect of gaining God’s favor and goodwill to their everlasting blessing and benefit under that perfect government. It is “good news” to God’s “men of goodwill,” for it means that God’s enthroned king will soon turn his attention decisively to the earth to execute the world-shaking changes necessary to permit the restoration of the earth to the delightful and peaceful conditions that God originally purposed.—Dan. 2:44; Zeph. 3:8; Ps. 37:10, 11.
21. What course does wisdom direct us to take? Why?
21 What a grand opportunity is now open to those who heed the warning and make the choice to seek God’s goodwill in the remaining time left in the “year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah.” Is it not wise to choose that which will benefit one most? Is it not the course of wisdom to seek future benefits from a source that is reliable and sure? Listen as Wisdom speaks to us out of the Proverbs of the Bible, saying: “For the one finding me will certainly find life, and gets goodwill from Jehovah. But the one missing me is doing violence to his soul; all those intensely hating me are the ones that do love death.” (Prov. 8:35, 36) Is it not practical wisdom then to protect one’s life? Is it not wisdom to prepare for and provide for one’s future? Those who reject godly wisdom and choose the course of lawlessness are hating wisdom and are the ones that “do love death.”
22, 23. (a) What ancient example illustrates the choice placed before those who would find favor with God? (b) Why is it important not to delay in seeking the goodwill of God?
22 The choice that faces us today is reminiscent of a choice that was placed before the wandering children of Israel on the wilderness plain of Moab just before they were to cross over the Jordan River into the land promised to their forefather Abraham. On that occasion Moses addressed the congregated throngs and offered this warning: “I do take the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you today, that I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the malediction; and you must choose life in order that you may keep alive, you and your offspring, by loving Jehovah your God, by listening to his voice and by sticking to him.”—Deut. 30:19, 20.
23 So likewise, we today have a choice. If we desire life, we will want to listen to Jehovah’s voice and take the steps that will guarantee his favor. If we desire what is good, we will do something toward gaining God’s goodwill, as Proverbs 11:27 admonishes: “He that is looking for good, will keep seeking goodwill; but as for the one searching for bad, it will come upon him.” Happily we are still in the “year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah.” There is still opportunity for us to seek and gain his everlasting favor and goodwill. Wisdom dictates that we must neither wait nor delay. Now is the time to make our decision, for the opportunity to seek the goodwill of God will not always be with us. So act now and choose life. Seek the goodwill of God and enjoy forever on earth God’s “peace among men of goodwill.”
[Picture on page 370]
At Jesus’ birth the angels proclaimed to humble shepherds, ‘Peace on earth among men of goodwill.’ Are you seeking the goodwill of God in these “last days”?