Appreciating the Treasure of Sacred Service
“It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.”—Matt. 4:10.
1-4. (a) For what services have many considered it an honor to make personal sacrifices, and how have they been viewed by the world? (b) What situation, nevertheless, still faces mankind?
DOWN through centuries of time, men and women have counted it a high honor to put themselves at the service of some worthy cause, one they viewed as noble.
2 Millions today look on service to the political state where they live as of greatest importance. Those dying in war on behalf of their nation are said to have made “the supreme sacrifice.”
3 Other persons look beyond the limits of their national boundaries, putting themselves at the service of all mankind, without regard to nation or race. They use their talents and resources and even sacrifice their health and strength to accomplish some good for mankind, perhaps in finding cures for diseases, or in bringing relief to the poor and the oppressed. People have praised such men and women as “humanitarians” and “philanthropists.” They have memorialized the deeds and sacrifices of the more prominent among them by erecting monuments and by naming public edifices or thoroughfares after them.
4 Yet, despite all these services, there is no nation on the surface of the earth today that does not face grave problems. Many nations are riddled with crime and corruption, and the systems of most of them are in a general state of crisis. Mankind as a whole remains a sick, disturbed and dying race.—Matt. 9:36; Rom. 8:22.
5. What service is of interest to genuine disciples of Christ Jesus, and of what can they be thoroughly convince?
5 True Christians should certainly be keenly interested in service, for service lies at the heart of Christianity. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, the service that concerns us is, however, one that surpasses in honor and worth any other in which humans could possibly share. It may cost us much—time, effort, sacrifices, yes, it could cost us even our lives. It will bring us no praise from the world; no monuments will be raised or streets named in our honor. But despite all such factors, this we do know: It is worth it. Yes, we know and are firmly convinced that we can engage in the noblest, the finest service and the one that will bring the greatest and most lasting good, universal good. That service is the service of our grand Creator, Jehovah God, truly a sacred service. Like the “glorious knowledge of God by the face of Christ,” it is a wonderful treasure.—2 Cor. 4:6-10, 16-18.
6. What is one reason why such “sacred service” is so superior to any other in which we could engage?
6 Why should we treasure this “sacred service” as superior to any other in which we might engage? For one thing, it will help people of all races and nations to see the realization of things that mankind has longed for throughout all history and has never achieved—a world at peace, and freedom from hunger, poverty, disease, oppression. But far more, it contributes toward their realizing something that most would hesitate even to hope for—freedom from death itself.—Rom. 8:18-21; Heb. 2:15.
7-9. (a) How did God’s Son show the superior rating he gave to such “sacred service” as compared to worldly services? (b) How does this point up the most powerful reason for treasuring this service above all others?
7 No man-made rule, no philanthropic or humanitarian effort can bring these things. They can never come, apart from God and his purpose. That is why his Son, Jesus Christ, refused to let himself be selected as king of his own homeland by enthusiastic crowds who appreciated his powers to do tremendous good in a humanitarian way. (John 6:15, 25-27) That is why he also turned down an offer to give him control of all the governments of this earth, for the one offering this wanted to put God completely out of the picture. The price of acceptance, in fact, was an act of worship, not to God, but to the offerer. Jesus’ reply was: “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’”—Matt. 4:8-10.
8 Therein lies the yet greater reason why we should treasure this “sacred service” so highly—because of the One to whom we render it. People living under monarchies have counted it a grand thing and a glory if they are appointed to a position where they can proudly say, “I am in his Majesty’s service.” How far grander and more glorious to be able to say, “I am in the service of the Creator of heaven and earth, the Supreme Being, Sovereign of all the universe”!
9 Yes, over and above all the satisfaction we can get from knowing how much our “sacred service” benefits and will benefit mankind, there is the satisfaction of knowing that it brings honor to the name of the Most High God. In view of all the loving acts that he has performed in the past and of those he will yet perform in the future, he of all persons merits our devoted and appreciative service. To him we owe life, and everything we have and enjoy.—Ps. 104:1, 14, 15, 24.
10. What grand reward should beckon us onward in such “sacred service”?
10 In appreciation for our service, God promises us—not monuments that eventually decay—but life, life in a righteous new order of peace, health and happiness. To an unnumbered great crowd of persons from all nations and peoples, he promises to grant survival through a rapidly approaching great tribulation, and then entrance into a new order of his own making. The apostle John was privileged to see in prophetic vision those who will survive, and he wrote of them at Revelation 7:14, 15: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before the throne of God; and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple.”
11, 12. (a) Who today claim to be rendering “sacred service”? (b) What circumstances place that claim in doubt?
11 How can we be sure that we are rendering true “sacred service” that receives God’s approval? Nearly a billion persons are now enrolled in the churches of Christendom. They view themselves as serving the God of the Bible. Millions of natural circumcised Jews support their synagogues and rabbis and consider themselves to be taking the right path of worship to God. Billions of others worship the many gods of non-Christian religions around the world.
12 True, but when we look at religious conditions today and the moral state that prevails in country after country, we have to ask ourselves if their views are not mistaken. Where is the evidence that they have cleansed themselves by faith in the “blood of the Lamb” and have taken up the discipleship that inseparably goes along with faith? Have they kept themselves from being a part of the world, unspotted by sexual immorality, lying and stealing, and are they personally helping others to understand God’s Word, assisting new disciples to render “sacred service” to Jehovah the Almighty God?—John 15:27–16:3; Acts 24:13, 14.
13, 14. Why is it so vital to know what constitutes genuine “sacred service,” and what does not?
13 We all need to know the correct answer, since, if these religious people are mistaken, the outcome of their course can only be one of shocking disappointment. The evidence is that such outcome will soon be manifest.
14 In the coming time of trouble Jesus Christ will give no favor and protection to any who are not rendering true “sacred service” to God as he did. He said: “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:22, 23) Mistaken service is not really “sacred service” and is not the way to surviving the approaching great tribulation that precedes God’s new order of righteousness.
DETERMINING THE MEANING OF “SACRED SERVICE”
15, 16. How does the Greek term for ‘rendering sacred service’ (la·treuʹo) differ from the term for ‘ministering’ (di·a·ko·neʹo)?
15 The Bible gives us the means for determining what constitutes the “sacred service” that will bring God’s approval and protection. The Greek word that is used in the account of Jesus’ turning back temptation is the verb la·treuʹo. (Matt. 4:10) This word is different from the Greek term di·a·ko·neʹo, which is rendered “to serve” or “to minister” in many translations. What is the difference?
16 While both words refer to service, di·a·ko·neʹo is used regularly with reference to service of a personal nature rendered by one human to other humans. (Luke 12:37) But la·treuʹo, as used in the Scriptures, is limited strictly to service rendered to God, or, in a few cases, to service rendered to those considered gods, false gods.—Acts 7:42; Rom. 1:25.
17, 18. (a) What reference does the apostle Paul make to “sacred service” performed in pre-Christian times? (b) Is “sacred service” for Christians limited to certain places or to a special class within the congregation?
17 The Bible reveals that “sacred service” on earth to the true God did not originate with Christ Jesus and the founding of Christianity. The apostle Paul shows this when he writes at Hebrews 8:5 of the Israelite priests as those who were “rendering sacred service in a typical representation and a shadow of the heavenly things,” when they served at the tabernacle, offering sacrifices to God.—Heb. 9:1, 6; 10:2; 13:10.
18 Well, then, is the “sacred service” of Christians limited to some special place or places, or confined to a special class or group like the ancient priesthood of Israel? No, for even among the Israelites it was not just those appointed to serve at the tabernacle who were supposed to engage in “sacred service.” It was the privilege and duty of the whole people of Israel to engage in such service.—Ex. 3:12; Acts 7:6, 7; Rom. 9:4.
19, 20. Why could the apostle Paul say that, in his day, the twelve tribes of Israel were “intensely rendering [God] sacred service night and day”?
19 When on trial before King Agrippa, the apostle Paul said that at that very time, not just the tribe of Levi with its Aaronic priesthood, but all the “twelve tribes” of fleshly Israel were still hoping to attain to the fulfillment of God’s promise to their forefathers. And how were they manifesting this hope? At Acts 26:7, Paul said that they were manifesting this “by intensely rendering [God] sacred service night and day.” How did they do this?
20 Anna the prophetess was one of those who, according to Luke 2:37, “was never missing from [where?] the temple, rendering sacred service night and day [how?] with fastings and supplications.” She was constant and regular in all public services at the temple. Not all the Jews lived in Jerusalem; hence, they could not be so often at the temple. But the Jews in all Israel could, and many of them did, as Paul said, ‘serve day and night’ by showing zeal for the Law covenant and its statutes, by paying in the tenth part of their produce for temple service, by sacrifices and by morning and evening prayer, also by regular attendance at the synagogues where God’s Word was discussed.*
21, 22. Why does “sacred service” today not center on a Law covenant and its sacrifices?
21 Does “sacred service” to God today revolve around such a Law covenant and its sacrifices? No, for just as the apostle stated, all of this was but “a typical representation and a shadow” of greater things to come. (Heb. 8:5) And at Hebrews 9:9, 10 he said that those sacrifices at the tabernacle were “legal requirements pertaining to the flesh and . . . imposed until the appointed time to set things straight.”—Compare Philippians 3:3.
22 The “time to set things straight” came with Christ Jesus. He fulfilled the ‘shadows’ of the Law. (Heb. 10:1-4) As the Lamb of God he “offered himself without blemish to God,” giving his life as the perfect sacrifice, one that needs no repeating. And, as the apostle states at Hebrews 9:14, it is Christ’s shed blood that, because of our faith, can “cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God.”
THE PATTERN FOR CHRISTIAN “SACRED SERVICE”
23. Why did the night and day “sacred service” of many Jews not bring them divine protection when Jerusalem fell?
23 The night and day service that so many of the Jews in Paul’s days were rendering did not gain for them divine protection and survival during the intense tribulation that came on Jerusalem in the first century, a tribulation foretold by God’s Son. Why not? Paul said of them: “They have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge.” (Rom. 10:2) They failed to see in Christ Jesus the fulfillment of Bible prophecies and to realize that by him God was now setting the standard for all future “sacred service” to Him. They lost sight of the fact that the heart is the key to pleasing God and they let their hearts become unresponsive to God’s direction and leading. (Deut. 10:12-14, 16; Matt. 15:8) If we want to avoid the grave consequences this brought upon them we need to learn all we can about God’s Son now in order that our service to God will be acceptable.
24, 25. (a) In what different ways did Christ Jesus set the standard for “sacred service”? (b) In what ways did he manifest compassion for people?
24 Jesus Christ said of his coming to earth: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) He bore witness to the truth by speaking it out boldly, the last three and a half years of his life being occupied in declaring the good news of God’s kingdom throughout the length and breadth of Israel. But it was not enough for him to talk about the truth. He had to live it. He had to prove God’s Word true by doing all the things that Word foretold about him and by living a life that would enable men to come to know and understand his Father and his Father’s ways and standards. (John 1:14, 18) He watched his entire course of conduct so that no reproach would fall on God’s name, which he always sanctified above all things.—Matt. 6:9.
25 Like his Father, Jesus had a deep, heartfelt compassion for the people of his day. The Bible says that “on seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36) He comforted them with the good news of the Kingdom. And he was one who did not just talk or give speeches. He also did things for people in the way of acts of human kindness. After talking to a large crowd that had come out to hear him, he said: “I feel pity for the crowd, because it is already three days that they have remained near me and they have nothing to eat; and if I should send them off to their homes fasting, they will give out on the road.” Then he fed them, miraculously. (Mark 8:2, 3) When a leper said with faith that Jesus could heal him ‘if he just wanted to,’ Jesus replied: “I want to,” and healed him immediately.—Mark 1:40, 41.
26. What primarily motivated these humanitarian acts of Jesus?
26 Why did Jesus do these works in relieving the suffering of the people? Simply because he was a humanitarian or philanthropist? No, he did these physical and material good things so that there would be solid ground for people to have faith in the good news as being indeed from God. He pointed not just to his words but to his works as testimony that he was truly God’s representative. Why should people accept him as the Messiah if he did not show by his works that he had the qualities of the God he was trying to get the people to come to know?—John 10:37, 38.
27. What should now be our resolve if we treasure this privilege of “sacred service”?
27 We today must follow his pattern if our service to God is to be acceptable. Realizing the vast good that can result from using our lives in this way, may we continue on steadfastly and see God’s backing of us through whatever may come in the way of difficulty or opposition. And may God hear our prayer, like that of Zechariah’s, that he “grant us, after we have been rescued from the hands of enemies, the privilege of fearlessly rendering sacred service to him with loyalty and righteousness before him all our days.”—Luke 1:74, 75.
Regarding Paul’s words at Acts 26:7, The Pulpit Commentary observes: “Serving (latreuon); i.e. serving with worship, prayers, sacrifices, and the like.”