Asserting One’s Independence from God Leads to Calamity
“I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”—Jer. 10:23.
1. When is it proper for a person to choose independence? Illustrate.
AT BIRTH humans are completely helpless and, for years thereafter, remain dependent on others. But this does not work to their harm. If children are to become balanced adults, prepared to handle the responsibilities that must be shouldered by those who leave their parents to establish an independent existence, they need direction, care and discipline. Says the proverb: “The rod and reproof are what give wisdom; but a boy let on the loose will be causing his mother shame.” (Prov. 29:15) On the other hand, complete dependence on parents would be wholly undesirable and unnatural in the case of adult sons and daughters who are able to discharge their responsibilities properly in the marriage arrangement. Such dependence would also be out of harmony with what God stated at the time he instituted marriage: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) Obviously, then, the needs and circumstances of an individual determine whether he can rightly choose to be independent with reference to someone else.
2. Can a person rightly follow a course of independence with reference to God?
2 Whereas the propriety of independence in adulthood and complete dependence in infancy are readily apparent, many find it hard to accept that they should submit themselves to God. They desire to follow their own standards. But are their circumstances such that they can rightly follow a course of independence with reference to the Creator? The words of the prophet Jeremiah provide an answer to this question: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”—Jer. 10:23.
DEPENDENCE ON GOD IS REASONABLE AND PROPER
3. Who has the absolute right to determine how man should conduct himself, and why?
3 By reason of his Creatorship, God, not creature man, has the absolute right to set the standard by which his intelligent creatures should direct their steps. Thought-provoking questions raised many centuries ago emphasize this fact: “Will the ax enhance itself over the one chopping with it, or the saw magnify itself over the one moving it back and forth, as though the staff moved back and forth the ones raising it on high, as though the rod raised on high the one who is not wood?” (Isa. 10:15) “O man, who, then, really are you to be answering back to God? Shall the thing molded say to him that molded it, ‘Why did you make me this way?’ What? Does not the potter have authority over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for an honorable use, another for a dishonorable use?” (Rom. 9:20, 21) It is the height of presumptuousness for ‘men of clay’ to insist on asserting their independence from God. It is just as unreasonable as maintaining that a manufacturer has no right to give directions about the use of his products.
4. By what means did God impress upon Adam that man cannot safely ignore the divine standard of good and bad?
4 To the very first man, Adam, God indicated that disregarding the divine standard concerning proper conduct would lead to death. Jehovah God told Adam: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” (Gen. 2:16, 17) Since evidently nothing in the forbidden fruit itself was harmful, God’s prohibition regarding it was the only thing that made partaking of it bad. Hence, disobedience on Adam’s part would have signified that he took his wife’s side in eating of this fruit. He joined his wife, who asserted an independence from God, determining for oneself what was good and what was bad rather than abiding by God’s judgment in this matter.
5. Why was it right for Adam to be submissive?
5 It should be noted that there was nothing unreasonable about God’s command, and so there was nothing undesirable about Adam’s remaining submissive to his Creator. He was not enduring unbearable oppression that would have made it appear that independence and death were preferable to dependence and life. God’s command had not forced Adam into a difficult situation. There were many other fruit trees from which he could eat to satisfaction. All the things Adam had—his life, productive work and the beautiful garden home that he shared with his wife—were gifts from God and expressions of God’s love for him. From the creative works all around him Adam could readily see that the wisdom of Jehovah God was far superior to his own. On the basis of what his wise and loving God had done, Adam could rest assured that abiding by his Creator’s decision respecting good and bad would result in his continued happiness and well-being.
NO INTELLIGENT CREATURE CAN SAFELY ASSERT INDEPENDENCE FROM GOD
6, 7. (a) What led Eve to think that independence from God was desirable? (b) Why did Eve believe the serpent?
6 Like her husband Adam, Eve had every reason to remain submissive to God. She shared the same blessings. But Eve was the first human led to believe that disobeying God was the better course. Once, while not in the company of her husband, she heard a voice. It was not that of her husband nor that of God, but the voice of a serpent. Eve did not run away in fright, as God had earlier given her and her husband dominion over the animal creation, including serpents. (Gen. 1:28) So she listened. The serpent asked: “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” Eve replied correctly, for she was fully informed about the forbidden fruit and the death penalty associated with it. But the serpent contradicted God, implying that Eve was being kept in ignorance and that God would not enforce his law by putting the transgressor to death.—Gen. 3:1-5.
7 Completely deceived, Eve yielded to the selfish ambition to be like God in determining for herself what was good and what was bad, and ate the forbidden fruit. Seemingly two things led Eve to think that the serpent was telling the truth: (1) To her senses it was apparent that the tree’s fruit was good for food, and (2) the extreme cautiousness of the serpent made it appear that this creature could not be the source of wrong information. Apparently having experienced no adverse effects as a result of her transgression, Eve confidently approached her husband and talked him into eating the fruit.—Gen. 3:1, 6.
8. Who made it appear that the serpent was speaking?
8 Contrary to Eve’s expectations, the course of independence from God proved to be calamitous. It led to shame, the loss of a beautiful paradise home, physical and emotional pain, and finally death. (Gen. 3:7, 16-19) The words of the serpent proved to be a malicious lie. This being the first lie on record, the speaker of that lie, not the literal serpent but the one who made it appear that the serpent was speaking, would be the father or originator of lies. His identity was revealed by the Son of God, Christ Jesus, when he said to those seeking to kill him: “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie.” (John 8:44) In the Bible book of Revelation, this invisible spirit creature is referred to as the ‘great dragon, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan.’ (Rev. 12:9) He is symbolically described as a “great fiery-colored dragon, with seven heads and ten horns and upon its heads seven diadems; and its tail drags a third of the stars of heaven.”—Rev. 12:3, 4.
9. What is significant about the fact that the dragon’s tail drags a third of the stars?
9 The fact that the dragon’s tail drags a third of the stars of heaven indicates that the Devil evidently succeeded in influencing a considerable number of angels, “morning stars” (Job 38:7), to rebel against God. Bible evidence shows that this happened in the days of Noah, a distant descendant of Adam. At that time the majority of mankind refused to submit to God’s will, and numerous angels, contrary to the divine purpose respecting them, “forsook their own proper dwelling place” in the heavens and materialized human bodies so as to be able to have sexual relations with beautiful women on earth. (Jude 6; Gen. 6:1, 2) By asserting their independence in this way, these angels began a course leading to disaster.
10, 11. What happened to the disobedient angels after they dematerialized?
10 When Jehovah God brought a deluge that destroyed all humans except Noah and seven members of his immediate family, these angels were forced to dematerialize and return to the spirit realm. But they did not regain the position they had forsaken. God degraded them to a very low state, called “Tartarus.” Concerning this the Bible tells us: “God did not hold back from punishing the angels that sinned, but, by throwing them into Tartarus, delivered them to pits of dense darkness to be reserved for judgment; and he did not hold back from punishing an ancient world, but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people.” (2 Pet. 2:4, 5) “The angels that did not keep their original position but forsook their own proper dwelling place he has reserved with eternal bonds under dense darkness for the judgment of the great day.” (Jude 6) Rather than gaining freedom by their disobedience, these angels came under a form of restraint. That is why the apostle Peter speaks of them as “the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient when the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed, in which a few people, that is, eight souls, were carried safely through the water.” (1 Pet. 3:19, 20) It is evidently in view of this form of imprisonment that they are no longer able to materialize and live like husbands with women.
11 The Genesis record does not reveal whether Noah and his family were familiar with these details about the punishment meted out to the disobedient angels. But the destruction of the rebellious world of mankind amply testified to the fact that no intelligent creature could assert his independence from God without experiencing calamity.
INDEPENDENCE FROM GOD LEADS TO DEGRADATION
12. How did rebellion start anew after the Flood?
12 It seems hardly believable that anyone would thereafter have sought independence from God. Yet that is exactly what happened. Satan the Devil found a willing tool in the person of Nimrod, a great-grandson of Noah. With reference to Nimrod, the Genesis record states: “He made the start in becoming a mighty one in the earth. He displayed himself a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah. . . . And the beginning of his kingdom came to be Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.” (Gen. 10:8-10) Since Babel was included in Nimrod’s original realm, it must have been at his direction that the building of the city and its tower began. This project was undertaken in defiance of God, the divine purpose being that mankind spread about in the earth. Jehovah God frustrated the plans of the builders by confusing their language. No longer being able to understand one another, they gradually left off building the city, and were scattered.—Gen. 11:1-9.
13. What evidence is there that those who joined Nimrod in rebellion against God were not ignorant regarding His activities?
13 As Noah lived for 350 years after the flood (Gen. 9:28), it logically follows that he was still alive when the efforts of his great-grandson Nimrod were frustrated at Babel. The dispersal of the people must, therefore, have taken place at a time when the truth about earlier events, such as the Flood, was known. Indicative of this is the fact that the mythologies of the ancients echo the Bible account, but in a distorted, polytheistic form. Myths tell of the love affairs had by gods and earthly women, thus seemingly alluding to what the disobedient angels did before the Flood. Hardly a nation on the earth does not have a legend about a global flood. Also, traces of the tower-building incident are found in the myths.
14. To what degrading practices did the post-Flood rebellion lead?
14 All this suggests that the scattered peoples knew about the true God and his activities. However, since they had rebelled against him, they, by choice, were without his direction and guidance. Did this work to their benefit? The facts of history answer No. The scattered people and their descendants began making idol gods of wood, stone and other material. Before such images they prostrated themselves and called to lifeless gods for aid. In connection with the worship of these deities they began engaging in such revolting practices as ceremonial prostitution, child sacrifice, drunkenness and self-laceration to the point of causing blood to flow. (Compare 1 Kings 14:24; 18:28; Jeremiah 19:3-5; Hosea 4:13, 14; Amos 2:8.) The degradation to which men alienated from Jehovah God sank is well described by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans (1:21-31):
“Although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God nor did they thank him, but they became empty-headed in their reasonings and their unintelligent heart became darkened. Although asserting they were wise, they became foolish and turned the glory of the incorruptible God into something like the image of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed creatures and creeping things.
“Therefore God, in keeping with the desires of their hearts, gave them up to uncleanness, that their bodies might be dishonored among them, even those who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the One who created, who is blessed forever. Amen. That is why God gave them up to disgraceful sexual appetites, for both their females changed the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature; and likewise even the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full recompense, which was due for their error.
“And just as they did not approve of holding God in accurate knowledge, God gave them up to a disapproved mental state, to do the things not fitting, filled as they were with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, badness, being full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malicious disposition, being whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, insolent, haughty, self-assuming, inventors of injurious things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, false to agreements, having no natural affection, merciless.”
15. Do the degrading practices described by the apostle Paul still exist?
15 Today we do not need to be reminded that the very things mentioned by the apostle Paul still exist and have created a climate of fear and distrust. Every day disregard of the divine standard of good and bad threatens the life, happiness and welfare of others. Theft, rape and assault at the hands of criminals, delinquents and perverts are common occurrences. Sexual immorality has led to the spread of loathsome venereal disease, has broken up families, has deprived children of needed parental guidance and has contributed to the snuffing out of life by means of abortions. Physical, emotional and mental damage is in evidence among those who have disregarded the Creator. The outworking of God’s unchangeable law is clearly seen: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.”—Gal. 6:7.
BENEFITS FROM OBEDIENCE TO GOD
16, 17. What benefits result from obedience to God’s law?
16 On the other hand, lasting benefits result from faithful adherence to God’s law. This is because the Almighty, being a God of love (1 John 4:8) and infinitely wise (Rom. 16:27), has laid down only such laws as would be in man’s best interests. These laws are designed to protect man from injury and to see to it that good comes to him. All divine laws governing human relationships are based on love for one’s fellowman. As the apostle Paul wrote: “Do not you people be owing anybody a single thing, except to love one another; for he that loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. For the law code, ‘You must not commit adultery, You must not murder, You must not steal, You must not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there is, is summed up in this word, namely, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does not work evil to one’s neighbor.”—Rom. 13:8-10.
17 Certainly no reasonable person can deny that he would benefit if men everywhere manifested genuine neighbor love. Yes, it is only by subjecting themselves to God’s law that men can have happiness, peace and security. A careful student of law, the English jurist William Blackstone, was moved to conclude: “[God] has so intimately connected, so inseparably interwoven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual, that the latter cannot be attained but by observing the former; and, if the former be punctually obeyed, it cannot but induce the latter.” Knowing that God’s law is for our benefit, we should be moved to voice appreciation for it, as did the psalmist: “Seven times in the day I have praised you because of your righteous judicial decisions. Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, and for them there is no stumbling block.”—Ps. 119:164, 165.
REMAINING SUBMISSIVE TO GOD
18. Why is a thorough knowledge of the Bible essential for a person to please God?
18 Of course, if an individual is to enjoy the blessings that come from faithful adherence to God’s standard of good and bad, he must have a thorough knowledge of this standard as revealed in the Bible. Obviously, a person who has never examined the divine standard or who has merely accepted the word of someone else regarding it cannot be sure that he is conducting himself aright from God’s viewpoint. Says the proverb: “There exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward.”—Prov. 14:12.
19. (a) Why is knowledge alone not sufficient for one to remain an approved servant of Jehovah? (b) What is needed besides knowledge?
19 Knowledge, however, is not sufficient for a person to continue to be submissive to his Creator. Adam, for example, knew that partaking of the forbidden fruit would mean death for him; he “was not deceived.” (1 Tim. 2:14) Nevertheless, Adam transgressed God’s law deliberately. Why? Because he placed greater value on his relationship to his sinful wife than on his relationship to his Creator. This illustrates that an individual can be and remain an approved servant of God only if he has an unbreakable love for his Creator, a love that transcends all other affections. This means that he would be willing to sacrifice everything, even his own life, to remain obedient to God when outside pressures made it very difficult to do so. Do you have such love? Your lasting welfare depends upon having and maintaining it. As Christ Jesus said: “He that is fond of his soul destroys it, but he that hates his soul in this world will safeguard it for everlasting life.”—John 12:25.