Continue Steadfast as Seeing the One Who Is Invisible
“By faith he left Egypt, and not because he feared the king’s anger; for he was resolute, as one who saw the invisible God.”—Heb. 11:27, “New English Bible.”
1. (a) What evidence assures us that Jehovah lives? (b) Why does God’s invisibility cast no doubt on his existence?
NO ONE living now or who has lived on earth in the past has ever seen God with his literal eyes. Jehovah is too glorious for frail humans to endure the sight of him. However, his invisibility should not cause us to cast doubt on his existence, nor does it make it impossible for us to “see” him as a Person with the eyes of faith. His qualities and power can also be discerned. Certain facets of his personality are discernible by his creative works, as mentioned by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans: “His invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.” (Rom. 1:20) His invisibility casts no doubt on his existence, nor does it make it impossible for us to respect him as a Person, or to appreciate his qualities, ways and dealings with others, and especially with his own people. His unchangeableness in qualities and standards is also in evidence. This is confirmed by his own expression: “I am Jehovah; I have not changed.” (Mal. 3:6) Jehovah’s invisibility should not weaken faith in his personal qualities, in his comportment, as well as in the manner in which he deals with those who love him.
2, 3. What has faith accomplished in changing the lives of Jehovah’s people?
2 Even without seeing God physically, Jehovah’s people have exercised such strong faith in him that they have been moved to change their lives completely in order to do what pleases him. This is evident by the fact that many of Jehovah’s witnesses had, before they became Witnesses, been immoral, dishonest, violent, lovers of worldly pleasures, seekers of material gain, as well as being busy in making a “name” for themselves.—1 Cor 6:9-11.
3 Having “seen” him, many sincere persons have been caused to change their course of life and way of living and they have now ‘turned around’ so as to live according to the standards that He has set, by being honest and by showing appreciation for spiritual things, as well as by having uppermost in their hearts the doing of Jehovah’s will.—Acts 3:19; 1 Pet. 4:3, 4.
4. What has motivated God’s people to walk in his way?
4 And why such a change? Because they have come to see with eyes of discernment the loving God that Jehovah is, and this is what has motivated them to walk in a way that pleases him. It is this deep and lasting faith that has moved them to preach the “good news” year after year without letup, even though it may be discouraging at times because of persecutions and because the vast majority of persons do not want to listen. Because we have “seen” him, we have the utmost confidence in him and are happy in his service.—Eph. 1:18; Acts 5:42; Matt. 5:8, 10-12.
LOYAL IN THEIR FAITH
5. What is the attitude of those who have been long in Jehovah’s service?
5 Many who have responded to Jehovah’s command to preach the good news world wide have been doing so for twenty, thirty, forty or more years. The longer this service has been rendered, the deeper is their appreciation of His grand and glorious works. Their perspective of him is brighter. Those who are of long standing in Jehovah’s service never think of quitting or slowing down in their God-given assignment. They are determined to carry on, even to the attaining of the promised reward.—Jas. 1:12.
6. What have God’s loyal ones endured, and how have they regarded these trials?
6 Though they may have undergone severe persecutions, their faith remains strong. They have endured and will continue to endure opposition and are determined to maintain integrity to Almighty God. Persecutions have raged against Jehovah’s loyal ones in many parts of the world, particularly in Germany during the diabolical Nazi regime, and, more recently, under Malawi’s cruel and heartless dictator. Through most difficult trials Christian men, women and children have remained loyal to their heavenly Father, and like the first-century Christians, they have rejoiced in doing so. They have considered it a privilege to prove their loyalty to the Sovereign Ruler of the universe.—1 Pet. 4:12, 13; Ps. 145:10.
7-9. (a) In Germany and in Malawi, how have Jehovah’s witnesses demonstrated their faith? (b) What enabled them to endure?
7 Under Hitler’s wicked regime thousands of Jehovah’s witnesses lost their jobs, their businesses and their homes. Many were not allowed to carry on their accustomed trades. Their property was confiscated, pensions were refused, and they suffered other personal losses. There were 860 children taken away from their parents; a total of 6,019 had been arrested, several of them two, three, or even more times, so that, all together, 8,917 arrests were registered; and these persons served sentences amounting to 13,924 years in prison. Many of these faithful men and women were put into concentration camps and thus collectively spent 8,078 years undergoing vicious treatment there. A total of 635 died in prison, 253 were sentenced to death, with 203 of these actually being executed.
8 In more recent years the so-called “Christian” dictator of the African country of Malawi has followed in the footsteps of Hitler by bringing wave upon wave of persecution on Jehovah’s witnesses in that country. In 1972, more than 30,000 of these Christians and those studying the Bible with them were compelled to flee for their lives to neighboring Mozambique. But in August and September of 1975 a resurgence of nationalism in Mozambique resulted in their “repatriation” to Malawi. Here again, they have faced up to inhuman tortures, beatings and thefts of money, property and clothing. They have been stripped naked, and many of their womenfolk raped. In October 1975, entire congregations of adult Witnesses were rounded up and placed in Hitler-style concentration camps. And parents have been compelled to leave their children, even suckling babies, outside the camps! When the police were asked why the president of Malawi had ordered this, they replied: “You are responsible for teaching your children wrong things. So they will be kept by Malawi, and we will make them become citizens of Malawi.” Can you imagine anything more demonic? Jehovah’s witnesses in Malawi are left without country, home or children. Is Malawi rewriting the sadistic history of Nazism by persecuting those whose only “crime” is that they obey God’s Word, the Bible, in staying neutral as to “the world” and its politics?—John 17:16.
9 What a diabolic record this is! But what has enabled all these Christians to endure such vile treatment? They looked to the Holy Bible, God’s Word. They have found the record there of such examples in faithfulness and endurance as Moses, Joshua, the prophets and the first-century Christians. Particularly, they have kept in mind the example of faithfulness set by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.—Heb. 12:1-3.
“SEEING” WITH THE EYE OF FAITH
10. (a) What advantages did Moses enjoy in his early life? (b) What loyalty did he show toward Jehovah?
10 From a worldly viewpoint Moses was in an exceedingly advantageous position materially. He was the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and having this status he was in line to enjoy the finest of foods and the best of clothing, as well as living in royal style in the most luxurious surroundings. (Ex. 2:1-10) He would have a great deal of prestige and honor, and ultimately he would have inherited an extensive estate. He received the highest of educations, being “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” and becoming “powerful in his words and deeds.” Unquestionably, then, his position in the Egyptian world was a highly favored one. (Acts 7:20-22) Nevertheless, Moses was more concerned about his relationship with Jehovah. Therein he provided a proper example for all Christians, 1,900 years ago and down to today. Loyalty to God and his people caused him to make the decision to refuse “to be called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh.” The Bible record by the apostle Paul shows Moses’ vision and understanding when it states: “By faith he left Egypt, but not fearing the anger of the king, for he continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible. By faith he had celebrated the passover and the splashing of the blood, that the destroyer might not touch their firstborn ones. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as on dry land, but on venturing out upon it the Egyptians were swallowed up.”—Heb. 11:23-29.
11. How was Moses groomed for his future assignment?
11 Moses’ great desire was to be used by Jehovah in bringing deliverance to His people. For forty years he was away in Midian undergoing training in a godly way. The qualities of patience, meekness, humility, long-suffering, mildness of temper, self-control, and learning to wait upon Jehovah needed to be developed. As a shepherd in that wilderness land he was groomed and prepared to endure disappointments and hardships that would be encountered. At the same time he learned that it was necessary to be calm and show strength, because these qualities would be necessary in his future assignment, in leading Jehovah’s people out from bondage.—Acts 7:29, 30.
12. (a) Why did Moses and Aaron have to exercise courage in relying on Jehovah? (b) How did Jehovah come to the aid of the Israelites?
12 Would it not take courage and valor on the part of Moses to appear before so great a king as Pharaoh and give him an ultimatum that he must let God’s people go? He and Aaron, his fleshly brother, did this, not only once, but on many occasions. At last Pharaoh thrust the Israelites out, but soon he relented and set out in pursuit of them. The chances of escape from Pharaoh’s power seemed nil. The Egyptian army was closing in behind them, and before them lay the great Red Sea. But Jehovah said to Moses: “Stretch your hand out over the sea.” Then He made the sea go back by a strong east wind all night long, converting the sea basin into a wide area of dry land. The Israelites began to go through on dry ground. As they went out of the bed of the sea, the Egyptians took up the pursuit. Jehovah then told Moses: “Stretch your hand out over the sea, that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, their war chariots and their cavalrymen.” Thus Jehovah saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians! “Israel also got to see the great hand that Jehovah put in action against the Egyptians; and the people began to fear Jehovah and to put faith in Jehovah and in Moses his servant.”—Ex. 14:15-31.
13. (a) How did Joshua and the Israelites come to “see” Jehovah? (b) Who, inside Jericho, “saw” Jehovah, and why?
13 Moses’ successor Joshua also manifested faith. He too “saw” Jehovah. When the priests carrying the ark of the covenant stepped into the Jordan River, the waters upstream were miraculously dammed up. While the priests stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, the Israelites walked across a dried-up riverbed. Jehovah’s presence was real to those Israelites. On to Jericho! There, on each of six consecutive days, they marched once around the city and then seven times on the seventh day. When the priests blew horns and the people shouted, the seemingly impregnable walls around Jericho crumbled. Truly the Israelites could “see” Jehovah in all of this. (Josh. 3:15-17; 6:10-16) But someone inside Jericho also “saw” Jehovah on that occasion. It was Rahab. By reason of her faith in Jehovah’s great power, she was spared, as also was her family. She had demonstrated her faith by her works in hiding Joshua’s messengers.—Josh. 2:1-21; 6:25; Jas. 2:25; Heb. 11:30, 31.
14. How did a widow in Zarephath “see” Jehovah?
14 On a later occasion the prophet Elijah was visiting a widow in Zarephath. The woman’s child fell sick and died. Elijah said to her: “Give me your son.” Then he “carried him up to the roof chamber, where he was dwelling, and laid him upon his own couch.” There “he proceeded to stretch himself upon the child three times and call to Jehovah and say: ‘O Jehovah my God, please, cause the soul of this child to come back within him, . . . so that the soul of the child came back within him and he came to life.” Did that widow actually “see” Jehovah? Yes, but it was not with literal eyes. It was with the eyes of her faith, for her answer to Elijah was: “Now, indeed, I do know that you are a man of God and that Jehovah’s word in your mouth is true.”—1 Ki. 17:7-24; Heb. 11:35.
15. What may we learn from the example of the “so great a cloud of witnesses”?
15 Faithful men of old—Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and others down to Moses’ time, all of those mentioned in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews and countless others—testify to their having “seen” God. Of these, Hebrews 12:1 says: “So, then, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” In manifesting faith, these men gave irrefutable witness concerning God and his unchangeable purposes. They actually “saw” God, not with literal eyes, but with their eyes of faith. Do you, too, have strong faith like theirs?
FAITH MOVES TO ACTION
16. How do we “see” with the eye of faith?
16 When we have not seen something in actuality with our literal eyes, but have discerned it through the experiences or accomplishments of others, we are exercising this quality of faith. We may make the statement that we recognize or “see” a new order, near at hand. Not that we have been given a literal vision, though we truly enjoy a foretaste of it in our present spiritual paradise; but this really means that we have seen it with our eyes of faith. This point is drawn to our attention in Paul’s words at Romans 1:19, 20: “God is manifest . . . For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they [the unbelievers] are inexcusable.” Faith is built upon concrete evidence. The reliability of God’s word and the accurate fulfillment of his prophecies instill confident faith in our hearts.
17. How may we show ‘steadfastness in seeing the One who is invisible’?
17 It is Jehovah’s desire that all “attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) Therefore we must be steadfast in preaching to others. We may feel limited in our preaching abilities, but that does not give us reason to hold back from such faith-building work. Jehovah wants all who accept “life’s water” to extend the same to others as well. Like Moses, let us continue “steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible,” and help others also to “see” Him. At Revelation 22:17 we are told: “The spirit and the bride keep on saying: ‘Come!’ And let anyone hearing say: ‘Come!’ And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.” Holding strong faith, we should share wholeheartedly in extending that invitation.
18. In what way may we overcome our limitations?
18 In himself, Moses did not feel adequate to carry out his commission. He excused himself, saying that he was not fluent as a speaker. (Ex. 4:10) Nevertheless, with Jehovah’s backing, he proved successful. We can be confident that Jehovah will strengthen us, too, in carrying out our commission regardless of personal limitations that we may have. Have not many already experienced this feeling, and perhaps on more than one occasion? When you started attending congregational meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses, did you say: “Why, I could never speak up like all the others”? Did you also perhaps think: “I could never speak before an audience, large or small”? But actually, are you not now doing all these things that you once thought impossible? This is because you have studied God’s Word and know that his spirit is with you and that it gives you strength.—2 Cor. 12:10.
19. (a) In whose work are we sharing? (b) What fine illustration confirms this?
19 We must remember that the work that Jehovah has given his people to do is not theirs. It is his, and it is he that opens the hearts of people in response. This is well illustrated by the apostle Paul’s experience when he preached in Philippi: “A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira and a worshiper of God, was listening, and Jehovah opened her heart wide to pay attention to the things being spoken by Paul.” Yes, it was Jehovah who opened Lydia’s heart, and, as a result, “she and her household got baptized.”—Acts 16:14, 15.
20, 21. (a) How may we meet the challenge of unresponsive territory? (b) How is Jehovah’s name involved?
20 Whatever abilities and qualities we have should be made use of in appealing to honest-hearted persons, regardless of their station in life. To what source should we look for strength? It is Jehovah who will strengthen us, just as he strengthened Moses and Aaron, to the point where we can act with boldness and fearlessness regardless of the occasion or the confrontation. By our constantly keeping Jehovah in “sight,” we will be able to continue exerting ourselves and declaring the “good news,” even if the majority of persons do not respond. (1 Tim. 4:10) Regardless of how unresponsive people may be, we cannot foresee what they may do in the future. They may change. Jehovah, in showing patience, gives them ample opportunity to change. (2 Pet. 3:9) Just as Moses presented himself before Pharaoh again and again, should we not visit and re-visit unresponsive people? We will do so if we keep Jehovah ever before us, remembering that his name is involved.—Ps. 16:8.
21 Even if people refuse to change, God’s name is being made known. Ample warning is given before his judgment is expressed. Then, at the latest, all nations “will have to know” that God is Jehovah.—Ezek. 39:7.
22. What is happening in many parts of the earth, and how should this encourage us?
22 In many parts of the earth today people are responding to God’s Word more than ever before. (Isa. 60:8, 22) In some places people come to Jehovah’s witnesses, pleading for home Bible studies. If this is happening in your territory, does it not move you to arrange your affairs so that you can help more people? Does it not encourage you to spend more time in calling on the people at their homes and also in assisting them to a greater extent by studying with them? In this way you can expand your preaching and disciple-making. Perhaps the next move that you can make is to take up temporary or regular pioneering (full-time service), thus assisting many more persons to “see” God with eyes of faith. The need for more workers and zeal for the harvest work was never greater!—Luke 10:2, 3.
23, 24. (a) What does repeated coverage of territory accomplish? (b) What attitude is here recommended to us?
23 Regardless of the situation in your neighborhood at this time, the more often people hear the truth the greater is their opportunity to take in the knowledge that means everlasting life. (John 17:3) We would not want laxity on our part to be responsible for some not having opportunity to study and learn more about the great Giver of life, would we?—Ezek. 33:8, 9.
24 Appreciating the seriousness of the people’s condition, should we not express pity and compassion for them? (Matt. 9:35-38) Should it not instill in us a willingness to sacrifice our time and effort to help them to learn the truth about Jehovah even at inconvenience to ourselves?—Eph. 5:15-17.
FIRM IN FACE OF OPPOSITION
25. (a) What has been the experience of many of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses in different parts of the earth? (b) How should we be affected by this?
25 Jehovah’s witnesses in various parts of the world have undergone severe trials; in many instances it has been to the point of losing their life. We have recounted how, in just the last few decades, many German Witnesses lost their lives. Even now, persecution is extremely severe in Malawi and other African countries, as well as in a number of Communist countries. When a person is faced with opposition he can draw a great deal of encouragement from the examples of these loyal ones. How adamant they have been on behalf of the truth and its righteous principles! They have the evidence that God is with them.—Jer. 1:19; 15:20, 21.
26, 27. (a) What has happened to faithful servants of Jehovah in the past? (b) What may we expect, and how should we react?
26 Unjustified ridicule has been endured in times past by many faithful servants of Jehovah. Remember how Job was derided and mocked and made a laughingstock because of maintaining his integrity. (Job 12:4; 17:2) Also, David was derided and mocked.—Ps. 22:7; 35:16.
27 Jeremiah was ridiculed and made an object of laughter and derision, and he even expressed a resolve to stop speaking about Jehovah. (Jer. 20:8, 9) But he did not quit. And why not? Because he appreciated Jehovah’s greatness and goodness and realized that Jehovah had been ever with him, even delivering him from death at the hands of those seeking his life. May we not, then, expect similar blessings in keeping steadfast, as did Jeremiah? As Jehovah’s modern-day witnesses, are we not hated by the world just as he was during his life? Truly, we can take comfort in that we have survived persecution and reproaches as a people. We can fully appreciate that Jehovah has sustained his people through these trials. (Jer. 20:11, 13) Hence, how foolish and faithless it would be for us to deny Jehovah’s supremacy or even to slow down in advancing the interests of the truth!
28. (a) Describe the trial of the three faithful Hebrews. (b) What instruction may we derive from their experience and from the words of Paul?
28 Even under severe trial, our plight is not as difficult as that of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Even when they were confronted with being tossed into the hot burning furnace, they stated: “If it is to be, our God whom we are serving is able to rescue us. Out of the burning fiery furnace and out of your hand, O king, he will rescue us.” (Dan. 3:17) And they did not stop at that. They went on to say: “But if not, let it become known to you, O king, that your gods are not the ones we are serving, and the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship.” (Dan. 3:18) A great deal of comfort is to be gained in recognizing that Jehovah can completely undo any damage that Satan may inflict upon us. So what is momentary suffering in comparison with eternal life under perfect conditions? Paul’s words to the Corinthians are most comforting and illustrate how we should look upon the matter: “For though the tribulation is momentary and light, it works out for us a glory that is of more and more surpassing weight and is everlasting; while we keep our eyes, not on the things seen, but on the things unseen. For the things seen are temporary, but the things unseen are everlasting.”—2 Cor. 4:17, 18.
29, 30. (a) What pattern of endurance should we follow? (b) What example do we have in Job’s faithfulness?
29 Oppression and persecution of our fellow witnesses of Jehovah may be saddening to us. It was to Moses when he saw the harsh treatment of the Israelites at the hands of Pharaoh. (Ex. 5:22, 23) The suffering that befalls our brothers should not frighten us, though we do, indeed, feel for them in their suffering. (1 Cor. 12:26) If like suffering should come our way, we will follow their pattern of endurance, confident that our faith will win out. As stated at 1 Peter 1:6, 7: “In this fact you are greatly rejoicing, though for a little while at present, if it must be, you have been grieved by various trials, in order that the tested quality of your faith, of much greater value than gold that perishes despite its being proved by fire, may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
30 It is important for us to have in mind that our keeping faith under test helps in proving that the Devil is a liar. Job was a fine example of this. Satan had made the challenge that he could cause Job to ‘curse God to his very face,’ but through all his trials, Job ‘held fast his integrity.’ He continued to honor the true God.—Job 2:4, 5, 9, 10; see also Proverbs 27:11.
31. To what can we look forward in faith?
31 With our eyes of faith we can look forward with anticipation. We can visualize Jehovah triumphing over his enemies and delivering his people from tribulation. Paul, in writing to the Thessalonians, mentioned what would happen to evildoers and persecutors: “These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction from before the Lord and from the glory of his strength.”—2 Thess. 1:9.
32. Why should we not be deterred regardless of what the enemy may bring against us?
32 Great comfort can be drawn from the examples of faith that have been set before us in God’s Word the Bible. So, regardless of what might develop against us because of the hatred of peoples or governments, we can appreciate the importance of maintaining absolute confidence in Jehovah’s ability to sustain us. This includes his protecting us as we render loyal service to him. Let us move forward, then, continuing to be resolute, ‘as seeing the invisible God,’ the One who can make us sharers in the blessings of his grand victory.
[Picture on page 83]
Moses stretched out his hand over the Red Sea and the waters parted, and the Israelites went through on dry ground