Is Yours a Living Faith?
MOST desirable is the godly quality of faith. (John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 10:38) But faith involves much more than simple belief. “Do you care to know, O empty man,” asks Bible writer James, “that faith apart from works is inactive?” (Jas. 2:20) He adds: “Indeed, as the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (Jas. 2:26) A Christian’s faith cannot be static, but as vegetation that beautifies the land, faith must remain alive and continue to grow.—2 Thess. 1:3.
A valuable lesson in this regard can be learned from the way ancient Israel responded when God promised to give them the land of Canaan. God assured the Israelites of his superhuman backing, saying:
“Here I am sending an angel ahead of you to keep you on the road and to bring you into the place that I have prepared. Watch yourself because of him and obey his voice. Do not behave rebelliously against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; because my name is within him. However, if you strictly obey his voice and really do all that I shall speak, then I shall certainly be hostile to your enemies and harass those who harass you.”—Ex. 23:20-22.
Israel was under obligation to work along with God in exterminating the Canaanites. God commanded: “You should without fail devote them to destruction. You must conclude no covenant with them nor show them any favor. And you must form no marriage alliance with them.”—Deut. 7:2, 3.
After Israel entered the Promised Land and set up camp at Gilgal, to the east of Jericho, an angel, who identified himself as the “prince of the army of Jehovah,” appeared to Joshua. This angel revealed that God would cause the walls of Jericho to collapse by a miracle. And fall flat they did! (Josh. 5:13–6:27) How faith inspiring a demonstration that God was indeed proving to ‘be hostile to Israel’s enemies’!
But that was not all! Under guidance of Jehovah’s angel prince, city after city fell before Joshua and the Israelites. (Josh., chaps. 6, 10, 11) God’s people were given solid basis for being zealous in pursuing to its completion the divine commission to dispossess the Canaanites. But did they obey to the extent of keeping their faith fully alive?
No, for the Bible later mentions another appearance of God’s angel, this time with a gloomy message. We read:
“Then Jehovah’s angel went up from Gilgal to Bochim and said: ‘I proceeded to bring you up out of Egypt and to bring you into the land about which I swore to your forefathers. Furthermore, I said, “Never shall I break my covenant with you. And for your part, you must not conclude a covenant with the inhabitants of this land. Their altars you should pull down.” But you have not listened to my voice. Why have you done this? So I, in turn, have said, “I shall not drive them away from before you, and they must become snares to you, and their gods will serve as a lure to you.”’”—Judg. 2:1-3.
Showing how Israel had “not listened” to God, the Scriptures relate that the tribe of Judah neglected to dispossess the inhabitants of a certain area of southern Canaan “because [the inhabitants] had war chariots with iron scythes.” (Judg. 1:19) Apparently these scythed chariots frightened the tribe of Judah. Thereafter the tribes of Benjamin, Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali and Dan likewise failed to drive out the Canaanite inhabitants of numerous cities and dependent towns. Instead, they consented to dwell in among the Canaanites, setting some of them to “forced labor.”—Judg. 1:21-36.
Though Israel openly professed faith in Jehovah and had previously agreed to observe ‘all that Jehovah had spoken,’ godly deeds to demonstrate a living faith were often lacking. (Ex. 19:8; 24:3-7) Rather than bring benefits, their faithless course led to remorse. Concerning the angelic rebuke of Israel at Bochim, the Bible states: “It came about that as soon as Jehovah’s angel had spoken these words to all the sons of Israel, the people began to raise their voices and weep. Hence they called the name of that place Bochim [meaning, “weepers”].”—Judg. 2:4, 5.
And much worse consequences followed. Dwelling in among the depraved Canaanites ensnared Israel into idolatry, the sacrificing of their children to demons and the additional spilling of much innocent blood. Because of this, Jehovah’s anger blazed against them.—Ps. 106:34-42.
What can Christians today learn from these events of Bible history? While not commanded to dispossess literal peoples, Christians do have a challenging work to accomplish, one that takes them out among nonworshipers of Jehovah. Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach the “good news” of God’s kingdom throughout the earth and to ‘go and make disciples of people of all the nations.’—Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20.
Do you obediently share in this kingdom-preaching and disciple-making activity? The Scriptures assure us that this too has angelic backing and will be completed to God’s satisfaction. (Rev. 14:6) As noted above, ancient Israel succumbed to lack of faith and of zeal for fulfilling God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites. Likewise today Christians must beware of cooling off in their zeal for the work Jesus commissioned his followers to do.
And similar to God’s mandate that Israel ‘conclude no covenant’ with the Canaanites, Christians have the command: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. . . . ‘Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing.’” (2 Cor. 6:14-17) Have you shown that your faith is truly alive, by separating from all worldly uncleanness?
Faithless disobedience to God on the part of ancient Israel led to rebuke and weeping at Bochim. Similar unfaithfulness today can lead to an even more serious type of weeping. How so?
Earth-wide fulfillment of a “sign” that Jesus gave indicates that since the year 1914 we have been living during Christ’s ‘presence and the conclusion of the [present] system of things.’ (Matt. 24:3–25:46) It was concerning the present generation, therefore, that Jesus said in one of his parables: “That is how it will be in the conclusion of the system of things: the angels will go out and separate the wicked from among the righteous and will cast them into the fiery furnace. There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be.”—Matt. 13:49, 50; 24:3, 34.
According to the Scriptures, that “fiery furnace” symbolizes the “everlasting destruction” of the wicked at the time for bringing “vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thess. 1:6-10) On the other hand, survival into a new order of righteousness is the happy prospect for those who do obey the good news, those persons whose faith in God and Jesus Christ shines forth in Bible-based works that they perform from day to day. (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-5) Is yours such a living faith?