Are You Ready for Life in God’s New Order?
1-3. (a) What awesome experience did Israel have at the Red Sea? (b) Did it change the Israelites? How do we know?
THINK back to the time of ancient Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Reaching the western shores of the Red Sea, the Israelites found themselves trapped as Pharaoh’s forces advanced on them from behind. They broke out in murmuring and complaint: ‘This Moses, why has he brought us into the desert to be slaughtered with our wives and children?’ They showed lack of faith in God’s direction. Yet Jehovah instructed Moses to extend his rod over the sea, and then God caused the sea to open up, forming a path through it to the eastern shores. Some three million persons may have been involved, and as the book Aid to Bible Understanding (page 546) points out:
“Since Israel crossed the sea in one night, it could hardly be assumed that the waters parted in a narrow channel. Rather, it must have been a mile (1.6 kilometers), or some miles, in width. Though in fairly close marching formation, such a group, along with what wagons they had, their baggage and their cattle, even when rather closely ranked, would occupy an area of perhaps three square miles (7.7 square kilometers). . . . It would take such a column several hours to get into the seabed and travel across it.”
2 What a tremendous experience it would have been to make that march through the sea to the other side and, once there, to turn and see the waters surge back again and drown Pharaoh’s forces like trapped rats! Awesome, thrilling, indeed! But did it change the Israelites? Were they different persons on the eastern shores of the Red Sea from what they had been on the western shores?
3 Read the account and you will see that within a month their complaining and murmuring had broken out again—now there was not sufficient water. In this and subsequent murmuring they did not lift their faces heavenward and complain directly against God. No, they complained against the visible human agency he was using. Their lack of faith continued.—Ex. 15:22-24; 16:1, 2.
4-6. (a) What determines whether miracles or other awesome experiences have a lasting effect on one or not? (b) How does Luke 17:11-19 illustrate this?
4 Whether a mighty act of God has only a momentary effect or actually changes a person depends on whether that person’s heart is affected or not. This was true of the miracles that God’s prophets and his own Son performed. Who has not heard of leprosy, a dreaded ailment that attacks various parts of the body—fingers, toes, ears, nose, lips? These are gradually consumed. Suppose this happened to you and you had to see your body and face slowly suffer such disfigurement. But what, then, if someone healed you, restored your body and face to health so that the experience became as a nightmare that had now passed? How would you feel? What would you say?
5 At Luke 17:11-19, we read of Jesus’ encounter with ten lepers, while he was traveling from one village to another. As the Law prescribed, these men stood at a distance, and they cried out, “Jesus, Instructor, have mercy on us!” He did have mercy on them, instructing them to go and report to the priests, according to the Law. On the way all ten were healed. What did they then do?
6 Only one returned to Jesus to express thanks, and he was a Samaritan. The other nine? They doubtless continued on their way rejoicing. They had received what they wanted. And what was that? Physical health.
7. Does a strong desire for physical health demonstrate that we are preparing for life in God’s new order?
7 Whom do we resemble here? It is natural for us to anticipate the physical health that God’s new order will bring. (Rev. 21:3, 4) But, then, how many people do you know that would not like to have perfect health, be free from aches and pains, or who would not like to retain or regain youthful vigor? Obviously, the vast majority on earth today would. So how could mere desire for physical health be a distinctive factor marking us as persons prepared for life in God’s new order? There must be something more than that. There must be the right motive for desiring the perfect health that God’s new order offers.
8. (a) How did the one leper who returned to Jesus illustrate the right attitude? (b) When reading the Bible promises of New Order blessings, what should we always endeavor to do?
8 We need to be like the one man who turned around and went back to Jesus, doubtless feeling as though his heart was about to burst from his chest and perhaps with tears streaming down his face. How did he differ from the others? The difference was that God’s kindness through Christ Jesus reached his heart. In his healing he saw evidence of what a grand God Jehovah is, and he was filled with desire to praise him. He had the right attitude; he had spiritual appreciation. We, too, should realize the need, when considering each of the many blessings the New Order offers, to think about what they tell us of our God. Then they will build up in us increased appreciation for him and develop strong desire—not just for perfect health and endless life in themselves—but to have these blessings so as to be able to serve our grand Creator and to be able to show love for our neighbors as well.
PERSONALITY CHANGES NOT BY DIVINE MIRACLE
9. (a) Why will even a resurrection from the dead not of itself transform persons for righteousness? (b) How does Matthew 21:31, 32 show why people of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom might progress better in God’s new order than the people of the cities Jesus rebuked?
9 Even a resurrection from the dead will not—of itself—change people. We know this because of Jesus’ saying to the people of certain cities of Israel: “It will be more endurable for Tyre and Sidon [and the land of Sodom] on Judgment Day than for you.” (Matt. 11:20-24) Why? Because these people in ancient Tyre, Sidon and Sodom had not had the benefit of the preaching, teaching and performing of powerful works that these first-century Jews were receiving through God’s Son. So, Jesus was saying that when the residents of such cities as Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida returned in the resurrection during his thousand-year reign they would return with the same proud, stubborn personalities they were then manifesting. Though clearly unrighteous, the people of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom had not manifested such traits and so would be in better position as to accepting truth and instruction in God’s righteous principles.—Compare Matthew 21:31, 32.
10. What will ‘soundness of mind’ tell us as to the prime factor for our gaining everlasting life in the New Order?
10 Being “sound in mind,” then, we will not count on some mighty event, even as great as the “great tribulation” ahead, to work some magical transformation in us that will assure our success in God’s new order. And we will realize that, in the final analysis, whether we gain everlasting life is not going to depend merely upon association with a certain people or organization. In the final analysis it is going to depend upon what we are as persons, what our personal qualities are.
11, 12. (a) Illustrate how serious spiritual weaknesses now, if uncorrected, could hinder progress to perfection on the part of survivors into God’s new order. (b) Who will bear the blame if one fails to live up to the contents of the “scrolls” opened then?
11 So, in all seriousness and in full possession of our senses, we must be honest in our appraisal of ourselves, not minimizing or glossing over wrong habits or attitudes that betray serious spiritual weakness. A man, for example, might have what some call ‘roving eyes.’ He may not be a fornicator or adulterer in the literal sense, but his interest in the opposite sex is excessive; his eyes rove from this one to that one. If such a one does indeed have the awesome experience of surviving the “great tribulation,” his eyes may look ‘straight ahead’ for a time. But if he has not really set his heart against lustful inclinations, his eyes may soon begin roving again, yes, even though he is in the New Order. The same would be true of the person who lets himself be overly dependent on alcoholic beverages. Though not a drunkard, if his interest in it is immoderate and he fails to correct the matter, it may cause him problems later as a possible survivor into the New Order. The absence of an alcoholic beverage industry would not prevent this, any more than it prevented Noah’s overindulgence on one occasion after the global flood.—Gen. 9:20, 21.
12 So, too, with other dangerous habits or personality traits. Tendencies toward selfish ambition, boastfulness, envy, gossiping, sheer laziness, or lack of submission to headship—there are numerous things that could create problems for us if we do not learn how to get them under control. They could hinder or block our making progress to perfection during the thousand-year period in which Christ Jesus and his heavenly joint heirs will serve as priests for the healing of the earthly subjects of the Kingdom. (Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 5:10; 22:1, 2) If any of us should fail to qualify for life by failing to live in harmony with the contents of God’s “scrolls” then, we will have no one to blame—not the present wicked world, nor Satan and his demons—but only ourselves.
VIGILANCE AS TO PRAYER
13. What is involved in being “vigilant with a view to prayers”?
13 We can readily see why, after exhorting to ‘soundness of mind’ in view of the nearness of the “end of all things,” the apostle Peter then urged, “be vigilant with a view to prayers.” (1 Pet. 4:7) While prayers at customary times, as at mealtimes, on arising or retiring, are certainly appropriate, is this being “vigilant with a view to prayers”? Rather, we want to be ‘seeking Jehovah’s face’ throughout the day, praying not only with our voices or lips but with our hearts. (Ps. 27:8, 9) We want to be sensitive to our need for his help and turn to him for guidance and strength whenever we sense any weakening whatsoever in our faith or any tendency toward drifting from Jehovah’s righteous principles.
14, 15. (a) What relationship merits the greatest vigilance as to maintaining it in a fine state? (b) What kind of prayer demonstrates readiness for life in the New Order?
14 Are we alert in our dealings with others, watchful so as not to cause offense, to avoid danger or to see that our commercial dealings are successful? How much greater should be our vigilance and alertness as to maintaining a fine relationship with Jehovah God and availing ourselves of his full help and direction! Our need for prayer is urgent now. It will not cease simply upon our entry into the coming new order.
15 When we talk to God we can show we are not complacent or routine but, rather, are opening up our hearts to him, telling him of our problems, our efforts to improve and perhaps our disappointment in ourselves, seeking his help and undeserved kindness, asking him to show us compassion. Vigilance and sensitivity to the need for prayer now will certainly do much to equip us for life then. Heartfelt prayer is evidence of deep faith.
RESPECT FOR THEOCRATIC HEADSHIP
16, 17. (a) How do we know that the principle of headship will be in operation in God’s new order among earthly survivors? (b) What questions does this raise as to our readiness for life then?
16 Such faith will contribute greatly to our success in God’s new order. Among the things we do know about life then is that headship will be in operation. As King David recognized: “Yours is the kingdom, O Jehovah, the One also lifting yourself up as head over all.” (1 Chron. 29:11) In the rightful exercise of his sovereignty, Jehovah has made headship one of the basic principles of the divine arrangement. Whether it be headship exercised by individuals, as by the King Jesus Christ or by individual family heads, or headship exercised through a body of persons charged with giving direction or making decisions and judgments under God’s appointed King, will we respect such headship in the New Order? Do we respect it now?
17 During the thousand-year reign Christ Jesus will fully carry out his role as a “leader and commander” for all his subjects. (Isa. 55:4) His government will replace those of “Caesar” and will be an active government whose direction of earth’s affairs will be felt in many ways. Will we willingly respond to the King’s commands? Progress to perfection and even life itself will depend on this.
18. What contrasting situations arose on the plains of Shinar and in restored Jerusalem illustrating the effect of headship on persons’ living circumstances?
18 After the global flood of Noah’s day, Jehovah God instructed survivors to spread out and fill the earth. When many, congregated on the plains of Shinar, decided otherwise and determined to concentrate in a large city, Jehovah enforced his sovereign will, confusing their language and thus “scattered them from there over all the surface of the earth.” (Gen. 9:1; 11:1-9) In a reverse direction, many centuries later when returned Jewish exiles rebuilt Jerusalem, Nehemiah’s records show that the city was underpopulated, and so lots were cast and evidently one family head out of every ten was selected to move into the city with his family. Apparently still others volunteered to do so and were blessed by the people for this. Not all those selected may have particularly liked the idea of moving into Jerusalem. But their response evidenced faith and concern to see the “holy city” able to function effectively.—Neh. 7:4; 11:1, 2.
19, 20. (a) What questions does this raise for us as we contemplate life in God’s new order? (b) How can we show ourselves prepared now as regards such aspects of New Order living?
19 What, then, if in God’s new order you were instructed to move to another area, perhaps even a distant place, and make that your home? Would you respond? What if you were requested to move into a more populated area, a community where some special work of the Kingdom government was being carried out that called for group effort and cooperation? Or what if opportunity were given you to volunteer to make such a move? What would you do? Would you let personal preference govern you, and would you feel that your happiness was inseparably tied in with some geographical area or setting of your own choosing?
20 To a certain degree, we can show our right disposition now by our willingness to respond to opportunities or suggestions of at least a somewhat similar nature. Even in such small things as requests to cooperate in filling certain seats in a meeting place or in an assembly, do we respond willingly? In the work of preaching the good news, are we reluctant to serve in certain local territories? Circumstances and personal obligations or duties allowing, do we volunteer to serve where the need is greater even though this means our ‘pulling up roots,’ as it were, and perhaps sacrificing certain personal conveniences and likes? How much do we show faith and sincere concern for promoting the interests of the “New Jerusalem,” God’s Kingdom government by Christ Jesus?
RESPECTFUL DESPITE IMPERFECTIONS
21. How does God’s use of human representatives call for genuine faith on our part?
21 Along with this we must recognize the need for faith in the ability of Jehovah God and his Son to use human representatives in governing. One might respond with alacrity to instructions or assignments spoken by an angel or transmitted by a powerful, even thundering, voice from heaven. But what if an assignment comes through human representatives of the heavenly government? This calls for more faith, does it not?
22, 23. (a) To what extent does human imperfection affect the service of these earthly representatives, and how might it affect us? (b) Will imperfections, mistakes and errors in judgment disappear immediately after the “great tribulation”? (c) What questions does this raise?
22 Today, bodies of elders function within local Christian congregations and a governing body of elders serves the congregation earth wide. Those now forming such bodies are all imperfect men; but by the help of God’s holy spirit they are able to serve His will and purpose well. Do we find it hard to respect such ones or cooperate with them because we are aware that they are not perfect? What, then, of the initial period of the New Order?
23 While from its start God’s new order should bring great joyfulness, nevertheless, imperfection will not disappear the first day, week, month, year or even the first decade after the “great tribulation” and the abyssing of Satan. If that were the case, why set aside a thousand years for complete restoration of perfection and full reconciliation of mankind with God? What, then, if some imperfection on the part of persons charged with responsibility as Kingdom government representatives were to affect one of us adversely, perhaps result in some act or arrangement that we feel is not just as it should be, causing us a measure of unpleasantness or dissatisfaction? Will we become impatient and get excited if matters are not immediately corrected? Will we be tempted to ‘take matters into our own hands’ to try to rectify what we believe needs correcting? How do we react now to similar circumstances as we prepare for life in God’s new order?
24, 25. (a) Why did Uzzah die at God’s hands? (b) What motive may he have had, and what attitude did it manifest?
24 We have an example to guide us in the occasion of David’s attempt to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. Rather than having the ark transported on poles on the shoulders of the Kohathite Levites (according to the Law), it was placed in a wagon. At a certain point the cattle pulling the wagon “nearly caused an upset,” and a man named Uzzah reached out and grabbed hold of the ark. What resulted? Jehovah God “struck him down there for the irreverent act, so that he died there close by the ark.” (2 Sam. 6:1-7) What was wrong?
25 God’s law specifically prohibited any but the authorized priestly representatives from touching the sacred ark, on pain of death. The law was publicly known, and as Uzzah was undoubtedly a Levite (but not a priest), he should have known better than others God’s express command. He chose to violate that command, perhaps assuming that circumstances warranted it. He may have felt that if he did not act to steady the ark it was sure to fall. If so, he lacked faith in God’s power to care for matters in such a way that none of his servants need disobey his express commands. On the other hand, he may have thought he had an opportunity to make a ‘hero’ of himself, gaining lasting fame as ‘Uzzah, the man who kept the sacred ark from falling.’ Either way he showed disrespect.
26. What vital lesson do we gain from this that will protect our life interests in the New Order?
26 Unscriptural actions and methods, presumptuousness and usurpation are never justified. With so many causes for rejoicing in God’s new order, any initial conditions then reflecting human imperfection should not cause us to become heated up nor to speak or act rashly. We need to ‘keep our senses in all things,’ realizing that the principle, “better is the end afterward of a matter than its beginning,” will hold true even in the thousand-year reign of God’s Son, and “better is one who is patient than one who is haughty in spirit . . . for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones.”—2 Tim. 4:5; Eccl. 7:8, 9.
27, 28. When some matter appears to need correcting or rectifying, what is the right course to take to ensure God’s favor and blessing?
27 If we are not authorized to act in a certain matter, we can inform those who are. Rather than thereafter impatiently try to ‘steady the ark’ ourselves, we can then show trust in God’s direction of matters, confident that in time he will cause only good to result. As Psalm 4:4 counsels: “Be agitated, but do not sin. Have your say in your heart, upon your bed, and keep silent.”—Compare Psalm 63:6-8.
28 We can, therefore, prepare for God’s new order now by showing respect for the arrangements his Son puts into effect in the Christian congregation, having the certainty that Jehovah God and Christ Jesus are never uninformed or unaware of things needing adjustment or correction.
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Does having a desire for physical health mean that one is ready for life in God’s new order? Ten lepers sought healing from Jesus, but only one had a heart that moved him to give glory to God. How is your heart?