Jehovah Blesses the Loyal Ones
“O you lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad. He is guarding the souls of his loyal ones.”—Ps. 97:10.
1. Why does Jehovah have the right to expect loyalty from us, and what actions does he have the right to take?
BY VIRTUE of being the Creator of all living things in heaven and on earth, Jehovah is the supreme King and only true God. The Bible speaks of him as being “King to time indefinite.” (Jer. 10:10) Does he not, then, have the right to require loyalty from his subjects whom he created? (Eph. 4:24) Is it not only reasonable for him to execute sanctions upon disloyal ones but to bless those who are loyal? Do not human rulers do the same?
2. To whom do most people think their primary loyalty should go? Why is this wrong?
2 Of the more than three billion (three thousand million) people on earth today, comparatively few give any thought to their obligation to be loyal to the Great Sovereign, Jehovah God. Nearsightedly they see only the nationalistic human government that is immediately over them. They think that loyalty to that government must come before all else. At its demand they are willing to violate the laws of God, doing what is bad in his eyes. But is this not a warped perspective of superiors? It is like employees in a business viewing the authority of supervisors as being above that of the owner. The authority of human rulers is not greater than that of the One who is King over all.
3. How did some men in the first century demonstrate their loyalty to God?
3 Back in the first century of our Common Era a group of men showed the correct perspective when a body of human rulers made demands on them that involved disobedience to the Supreme Sovereign. They showed their loyalty to him by their reply, saying: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) In a big issue such as this it may not be difficult for a person to be loyal to God, but how about seemingly small things? How about things that may appear innocent but that can lead one to even more serious acts of disloyalty?
4. What thoughts does the word “loyalty” convey?
4 The word “loyalty” conveys the thought of faithful adherence and devotion to a ruler or a leader. It also carries the thought of devotion to something or someone as well as trueness to any person or persons to whom one owes fidelity. In the Hebrew part of the Bible the Hebrew word for “loyalty” has reference to kindness. Yet it contains more than the thought of tender regard or kindness stemming from love, though it includes this so that the Hebrew word is often translated as “loving-kindness” or “loyal love.” It is kindness that lovingly attaches itself to an object until its purpose in connection with that object is fulfilled, and is such as God expresses toward his servants and that they express toward him. Thus it can be seen that loyalty can be two-way. It can be shown by subjects for a ruler and by a ruler for his subjects. Regarding Jehovah, it is written at 2 Samuel 22:26: “With someone loyal you will act in loyalty.” This has proved true, as he has never failed to fulfill a promise to loyal servants.
KING OF ISRAEL
5. How did Jehovah manifest loyalty to the Israelites?
5 By looking back at the ancient nation of Israel we can see how God acted loyally with respect to it. That nation had a unique relationship with him. By a strong hand he had delivered the people from slavery in Egypt and brought them safely to the foot of Mount Sinai in Arabia. There he made a covenant or agreement with them, something he had not done with any other national group. He gave them a code of laws and ruled them as their invisible King. Regarding this unusual relationship, Moses said to them: “It is you Jehovah your God has chosen to become his people, a special property, out of all the peoples that are on the surface of the ground.” (Deut. 7:6) Thus he was the real King of Israel. Jehovah also manifested his loyalty to them by giving them victories over enemy nations that were more populous and mightier than they.—Deut. 9:1-3.
6. What did he expect from them, and how did he make this clear to them?
6 Jehovah properly expected them to manifest loyalty to him by not seeking after other gods. This was clearly set out in the laws he gave them. The first of the famous Ten Commandments states: “I am Jehovah your God, who have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves. You must not have any other gods against my face.” (Ex. 20:2, 3) It would be a serious act of disloyalty to him, their God and King, for anyone in the nation to turn to the worship of foreign gods.
7. How was loyalty brought to the attention of the Israelites on the plains of Moab?
7 Many years later when they were on the plains of Moab preparing to enter the land that God had promised them, Moses warned of sanctions that their invisible King would bring upon them if they should act in a disloyal way. Among other things, he said: “Cursed will you be in the city, and cursed will you be in the field.” (Deut. 28:16) He also mentioned the blessings that would come upon them by being loyal.—Deut. 28:1-14.
8. What incentive did the Israelites have to be obedient and loyal?
8 The Israelites had, in what God had done for them, a very real incentive for continuing in the way of obedience and loyalty to him. He had delivered them from Egyptian slavery and had provided for their every need during their forty years in the wilderness. He gave them miraculous manna for food, provided them with water, gave them a sanitary code that protected their health, and even prevented their shoes and clothing from wearing out during that period.—Deut. 29:5.
9. How did the Moabites and Midianites react to the presence of the Israelites on the plains of Moab?
9 Toward the close of their forty years in the wilderness they were attacked by the Amorites under the leadership of the kings Sihon and Og. Jehovah aided Israel in vanquishing these enemies. (Deut. 2:32-36; 3:1-13) The Moabites noted this victory and became very fearful, especially when they saw the vast encampment of the Israelites spread out over the plains of Moab. They felt a “sickening dread of the sons of Israel.” (Num. 22:1-3) The nomadic Midianites were also worried, and so their older men (elders) consulted with the older men of the Moabites. The latter observed: “Now this congregation will lick up all our surroundings like the bull licking up the green growth of the field.” (Num. 22:4) Events thus developed that would cause a seemingly small thing to become a serious test of Israelite loyalty to Jehovah, their King.
BALAK PLOTS AGAINST ISRAEL
10. Why did Balak seek the help of Balaam, and what was his plea?
10 Knowing that they could not gain a military victory over the Israelites without divine help, Balak, the king of the Moabites, sought the help of Balaam, a man who lived in the distant town of Pethor, evidently in the upper Euphrates valley near Haran. Although not an Israelite, Balaam had some knowledge and recognition of Jehovah the true God. Balak and his Midianite allies sent a delegation to Balaam requesting him to come and curse the Israelites. They conveyed Balak’s plea: “Now do come, please; do curse this people for me, for they are mightier than I am. Perhaps I may be able to strike them and I may drive them out of the land; for I well know that the one whom you bless is a blessed one and the one whom you curse is cursed.” (Num. 22:6) Balaam turned down the request after inquiring of Jehovah, saying: “Go to your country, because Jehovah has refused to let me go with you.”—Num. 22:13.
11. How did Balaam reveal the motivation of his heart?
11 A second delegation of more honorable messengers was sent by Balak. They offered Balaam rich rewards if he would come and execrate Israel. Despite the fact that, upon the visit of the first delegation, God had told Balaam not to go, Balaam again sought permission to go, being moved by his greedy desire for the rich reward. Jehovah permitted Balaam to make his own decision to do what was in his heart, but when Balaam chose to go with the delegation, He was displeased and sent His angel to offer resistance. This angel said: “Look! I—I have come out to offer resistance, because your way has been headlong against my will.” (Num. 22:22-32) Disregarding this evidence of Jehovah’s displeasure, Balaam continued to do what was in his heart when the angel said he could go with the men.—2 Pet. 2:15, 16; Jude 11.
12. (a) Describe the results of Balaam’s efforts to curse the Israelites. (b) What alternate plan did he present to Balak and the Midianite elders?
12 After arriving in Moab, Balaam made three attempts to curse Israel, but each time Jehovah caused Balaam to pronounce a blessing. Understandably King Balak was furious. “It was to execrate my enemies that I called you, and, look! you have blessed them to the limit these three times.” (Num. 24:10) This further evidence of God’s displeasure over Balaam’s desire to curse Israel did not diminish Balaam’s greedy desire for the reward. He now reasoned with Balak and also with the Midianite rulers that if they could cause the Israelites to become disloyal to Jehovah, then Jehovah himself would curse them. Balaam suggested that they entice the Israelites into engaging in sex worship of Baal of Peor. (Num. 31:16) Regarding this, Revelation 2:14 says that Balaam “went teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication.” It was a clever scheme.
TEST OF LOYALTY
13. (a) At what weak point did Balaam plan to strike? (b) How had this weakness already caused their loyalty to God to be tried by seemingly small things?
13 By following Balaam’s plan, the Moabites and Midianites would be striking at a weak point of the Israelites, their fleshly desires. This weakness had already caused them trouble. On one occasion during their trek through the wilderness they yearned for certain types of foods they had enjoyed while in Egypt. It was a matter not of their being hungry, but of their succumbing to their fleshly desire for types of food they liked. They were dissatisfied with what God had provided them, and so they complained: “Who will give us meat to eat? How we remember the fish that we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers and the watermelons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic! But now our soul is dried away. Our eyes are on nothing at all except the manna.” (Num. 11:4-6) This ungrateful expression brought Jehovah’s anger upon them as it was a rejecting of his provisions. On another occasion they disrespectfully spoke of the manna as “contemptible bread.” (Num. 21:5) Something as small as food was able to cause them to complain against their invisible King. Balaam planned to use this fleshly weakness, which would seem like a small thing, to lead them into a serious act of disloyalty to God.
14. Describe how Balaam may have presented his plan to the Moabites and Midianites.
14 When presenting his plan to Balak and his allies, Balaam may have spoken something like this: ‘Look, please, how beautiful are the women of Moab and of Midian. And in their dances they are most alluring and seductive. And, is it not so that the Israelites have been in the wilderness for forty years and has not their God given them only manna to eat? Could it not be that they will look upon the produce of the land with hungry eyes? If, now, the women of Moab and Midian were to extend their hospitality, might not these wilderness wanderers be ready for a real banquet of the best food and wine of Moab? Let them sit down to eat and drink. Let them taste the tempting dishes of Moab, and let their spirits be warmed with the heady wine of Midian. When they have become accustomed to the practice, then the women will know how to draw them into having relations with them, and let Israel bow down to the gods of Moab.’
15, 16. (a) In what way may some of the Israelite men have reasoned when they received the invitation extended by the Moabite and Midianite women? (b) Why was their reasoning dangerous?
15 When the beautiful Moabite and Midianite women extended the invitation to the Israelite men to come to their festival, it no doubt seemed to the men as an innocent expression of hospitality. They may have reasoned in this manner: ‘What harm could there be in accepting the kind hospitality of the Moabites and Midianites? There would be no harm in sharing food and wine. The dances would be relaxing entertainment. Certainly, after the hard fight we had with the Amorites, we are entitled to some relaxation.’ Such reasoning would be dangerous rationalizing of actions that would put them in a very precarious situation.
16 It would seem like a small thing to accept the hospitality of the Moabites and Midianites and to eat their tempting variety of delicious foods. But there was the matter of bad associations. These people were pagan sex worshipers who engaged in licentious rites as part of their worship of Baal, including ceremonial prostitution. Repeated association with such people, especially in the relaxed atmosphere of a festival, was not safe. The good food and the generous quantities of wine would create a lighthearted spirit and lower resistance to what is bad in God’s eyes. Under these circumstances, would not Israelite men be enticed by the sight of scantily clad women of great beauty sensuously dancing before their banquet tables? Would they not succumb to the seductive invitation of these women to participate with them in the licentious rites of Baal worship? Thus bad associations would lead them into serious acts of disloyalty to their God and King.—Ex. 34:12-15; Hos. 4:11.
17. (a) What made the festivals more than just food and drink? (b) How did they ensnare the Israelites who attended them?
17 The festivals of those pagan peoples were religious in every aspect. Their music, dances and licentious rites were all part of their Baal worship. The dances their women performed in honor of their gods were intended to excite the sexual passions of those present. Those Israelite men who participated in this festival did indeed succumb to the enticements placed before them. Like a bull led to the slaughter they were led by their fleshly desires first to a seemingly innocent festival and then to lewd and idolatrous conduct, all of which was sin against God. (Prov. 7:22) “The people started to have immoral relations with the daughters of Moab. And the women came calling the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people began to eat and to bow down to their gods.”—Num. 25:1, 2.
18. To what did the seemingly small thing of accepting the invitation ultimately lead when the Israelite revelers returned to their camp?
18 As predicted by Balaam, the anger of Jehovah rose up because of this badness and disloyalty on their part. He caused a deadly plague to sweep through the Israelite encampment, killing 23,000 people. (1 Cor. 10:8) Numbers, chapter twenty-five, does not specifically state how many idolaters were killed by the judges of Israel, but likely these were included in the round figure 24,000 plague victims, apparently 1,000 slain. Thus the accepting of an invitation to attend a seemingly innocent festival led to this calamity for those Israelites.
19. How was the scourge in the Israelite camp brought to an end, and in what words did Hosea remind the Israelites centuries later of the disloyalty that occurred here?
19 The scourge was finally brought to an end when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the high priest, ran a spear through Zimri and the Midianite woman Cozbi, whom he had brought into his tent for immoral relations. Very likely Zimri was a ringleader among the disloyal ones. Since ceremonial prostitution was part of Baal worship, Zimri might be viewed as bringing Baal worship into the encampment of Israel when he brought Cozbi into his tent and had sex relations with her there. (Num. 25:6-8) Centuries later Jehovah reminded the Israelites of this disloyalty to him when he caused his prophet Hosea to write: “They themselves went in to Baal of Peor, and they proceeded to dedicate themselves to the shameful thing, and they came to be disgusting like the thing of their love.”—Hos. 9:10.
20. Why did Balaam’s scheme not succeed, and how did it backfire?
20 Balaam’s scheme, while causing great damage to the Israelites, did not succeed, because loyal Israelites resisted the fleshly enticements to do what is bad in God’s eyes. The scheme actually backfired on the Midianites, for God commanded the loyal Israelites to strike them down. “Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Let there be a harassing of the Midianites, and you men must strike them, because they are harassing you with their deeds of cunning that they committed against you cunningly in the affair of Peor and in the affair of Cozbi the daughter of a chieftain of Midian, their sister who was fatally struck in the day of the scourge over the affair of Peor.’” (Num. 25:16-18) The Midianite cities and walled camps in the area were consigned to the fire. Five kings of Midian, all the males, and every female who had had sexual intercourse, as well as Balaam, were put to death. (Num. 31:1-20) The Moabites, who were descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot, were not executed, but because of their part in the scheme God barred them from coming into the congregation of Jehovah, “even to the tenth generation . . . to time indefinite.”—Deut. 23:3, 4.
LOYAL ONES BLESSED
21, 22. How was Phinehas an example of loyalty to Jehovah, and what can we learn from what happened to the disloyal ones?
21 Priest Phinehas proved to be one of the loyal ones, and for his quick action against Zimri and Cozbi he received commendatory mention. He tolerated “no rivalry at all” toward Jehovah’s worship, and this was “counted to him as righteousness.” For this he was given a covenant of peace with Jehovah that “must serve as the covenant of a priesthood to time indefinite for him and his offspring after him.”—Num. 25:11-13; Ps. 106:30, 31.
22 It is the fine example of loyal Phinehas that we should want to follow today, not that of those who succumbed to fleshly desires. What happened to those disloyal ones serves as a warning example for us. (1 Cor. 10:11) It is an example of how the entertaining of wrong desires, even when seemingly small and insignificant, can lead to disaster.—Jas. 1:14, 15.
23. How does the position of loyal Christians today parallel that of the loyal Israelites on the plains of Moab, and what blessings do they anticipate?
23 As those Israelites, like Phinehas, who remained loyal to Jehovah were blessed with the privilege of entering the Promised Land, so Christians today who maintain loyalty to Jehovah can expect to receive the grand blessings God has in store for those loving him. They will enter the magnificent new era promised to come under the reign of his anointed King, Jesus Christ. “Of the increase of his government, and of peace, there will be no end.” He will rule “in justice and in righteousness, from henceforth, even forever.” (Isa. 9:7, An American Translation) What an incentive this is never to give in to fleshly temptations and engage in acts of disloyalty to God!
24. What must we recognize about fleshly desires, and why is our situation similar to that of the Israelites when on the plains of Moab?
24 With the hope of that new era ahead of us, we have a strong reason to resist temptations to do what is bad in Jehovah’s eyes. But we must recognize that fleshly desires are a human weak point today just as they were in the days of those Israelites who encamped on the plains of Moab. The temptations to indulge those desires are very great because we are surrounded with worldly people who have given themselves over to loose conduct and sexual uncleanness. In a sense they are engaging in sex worship as were the Moabites and Midianites. Their literature, stage shows, motion pictures and television programs feature every depraved lust of the flesh that can be imagined by a corrupt mind. We must resist that bad influence. To succumb to it and be led into doing what is bad in God’s eyes can be fatal for us, as it was for those 24,000 Israelites who perished for their disloyalty.
25. When confronted with fleshly temptations, what should we remember?
25 When you, therefore, are confronted with temptations that may appear as small things but which can actually lead to doing what is bad in God’s eyes, you will want to remember this test of loyalty that occurred on the plains of Moab. Choose the course of the loyal ones, and keep in mind what is written at Psalm 97:10: “O you lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad. He is guarding the souls of his loyal ones.”
[Picture on page 587]
By accepting what may have appeared to be an expression of Midianite hospitality, the Israelites were lured into acts of serious sin against the true God