Our Choice to Work with Jehovah God
“Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.”—Josh. 24:15.
1, 2. What choice did Elijah cause his people of Israel to make, and by what means?
ALL day long the prophets and priests of Baal had been hobbling around an altar upon which lay a sacrifice. Imploring their god Baal to make himself known by consuming the offering by fire, they even went to the length of gashing themselves with knives. But all to no avail!
2 Then it was the turn of Elijah the prophet, the spokesman of Jehovah God. After building an altar, laying wood and a slain animal upon it, he had this drenched with water, after which he prayed to his God Jehovah. The result? Fire came down from heaven and consumed, not only the wood and the sacrifice, but even the very stones of the altar. At that the Israelite onlookers cried out: “Jehovah is the true God! Jehovah is the true God!” For years they had been “limping upon two different opinions,” but now they chose to recognize Jehovah the true God as their God.—1 Ki. 18:21-40.
3. Why can man be termed a “free moral agent,” and why uniquely so?
3 Man’s ability to choose between right and wrong, between serving the true God Jehovah or serving self and false gods shows him to be a free moral agent, created in the image and likeness of Jehovah God. (Gen. 1:27) The animals have no such ability. You can teach a dog not to take something, but you cannot reason with him as to why it is wrong to steal. Unfortunately, for some six thousand years, men have abused their moral freedom, and that is why the world is in its present mess.—Compare Deuteronomy 32:5.
4. (a) Who was the first one to abuse this freedom, and why did he do so? (b) Who were among those that followed his example?
4 The first one to abuse this ability and freedom of choice was none other than the one who became Satan the Devil. He chose to follow selfish desire; this gave birth to the sin of rebellion, which will lead eventually to his destruction, annihilation. (John 8:44; Jas. 1:14, 15) Adam and Eve, the antediluvians in the days of Noah, the angels that did not keep their original position, Nimrod and his crowd after the Flood, the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah and a host of others through the centuries down to our day—these have chosen to follow the example of Satan the Devil by making selfish, wrong and bad choices.
THOSE WHO MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE
5. Who were among those who made the right choice?
5 On the other hand, there was Abel who chose to serve Jehovah God, and who did so at the cost of his life. After him came Enoch, Noah and the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. From the apostle Paul’s words at Hebrews 11:13-16, we can see that these patriarchs made the right choice. Then there was Moses. Reared in the palace of Pharaoh, educated in all the wisdom and learning of Egypt, a man of fame, power and wealth, he found himself at the age of 40 faced with the need to make a choice. What kind of choice did he make? He chose “to be ill-treated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin, because he esteemed the reproach of the Christ as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt.” (Heb. 11:25; Acts 7:20-29) Would you have done likewise?
6. What choice did (a) Moses, (b) Joshua, present to the people?
6 Toward the end of his long career as Jehovah’s prophet and leader of His people, Moses put the matter of choice squarely before His people: “I do take the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you today, that I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the malediction; and you must choose life in order that you may keep alive, you and your offspring, by loving Jehovah your God, by listening to his voice and by sticking to him.” (Deut. 30:19, 20) Moses’ successor, Joshua, put a like choice before the people of Israel at the end of his long career. He himself made the right choice, as did the prophet Elijah centuries later.—Josh. 24:15; 1 Ki. 19:10.
7. (a) What choice did Jesus make when tempted by the Devil? (b) What choice did his disciples make?
7 The man Jesus Christ had to make a choice when Satan the Devil offered him all the kingdoms of the world in return for one act of worship. Jesus made the right choice. (Matt. 4:10) Similarly, Jesus’ first disciples made the right choice; they recognized him as the Messiah, the Son of God, and accepted him as their Leader and King. (John 1:49) And so did Saul of Tarsus. When he was on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, Jesus Christ miraculously appeared to him. Saul asked, “What shall I do, Lord?” Upon receiving an answer, he chose to accept and follow the direction given, becoming a baptized Christian.—Acts 22:10.
8. (a) The preaching of the “good news” of God’s kingdom requires people to make what kind of choice? (b) Why is there an urgency about it?
8 Today, as the result of the preaching of “this good news of the kingdom,” a choice faces all who hear. What is it? It is whether to set out on a course of righteousness and to serve Jehovah God, the Creator of the universe, as well as its Sustainer and Sovereign, or to continue in a course of selfishness under the dominance of Satan the Devil, the “god of this system of things.” This opportunity to make a choice will not continue indefinitely, for we are living in the ‘conclusion of this system of things,’ in ‘the critical hard times of the last days,’ as fulfillment of Bible prophecy clearly shows. Yes, we are involved. The choice is there to be made and we cannot avoid it.—Matt. 24:14; 2 Cor. 4:4; Matt. 13:39; 2 Tim. 3:1.
WHY CHOOSE TO WORK WITH JEHOVAH GOD?
9, 10. Giving heed to the preaching of the “good news” should result in an individual’s taking what steps?
9 By giving heed to the preaching of the “good news” of God’s kingdom, an individual gains an accurate knowledge of God’s Word and help in applying it in his life. This, in turn, can result in sincere repentance of whatever wrong course a person may have been taking, followed by a turning around or converting to take a course that is pleasing to Jehovah God. As the apostle Peter told the Jews of his day: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out.”—Acts 3:19.
10 Taking these two steps should logically lead a person in making the choice to do God’s will, to work with Him and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Such a choice must be a distinct formal step, a step that Jesus himself took at the age of 30, at which time he is prophetically pictured as saying: “Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.” (Heb. 10:7; Ps. 40:7, 8) To follow Jesus’ example in this means to dedicate oneself to do God’s will and to symbolize such a dedication by water baptism. Taking this step is the truly wise, the truly right and the truly loving thing to do.
11-13. Why is taking the steps of dedication and baptism (a) truly wise? (b) truly right and just? (c) truly loving and an evidence of gratitude?
11 The truly wise thing to do? Yes, Jehovah God knows what is best for us. His Word abundantly shows the folly of pursuing a selfish, unrighteous course. That is why we read that “godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8) As Jehovah through his ancient prophet expressed it: “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself.” (Isa. 48:17) To help us to benefit ourselves we have the “holy writings,” the inspired Scriptures. (2 Tim. 3:15-17) They remind us that “whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7) Yes, “the blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.” (Prov. 10:22) Truly, then, making the choice to work with Jehovah God is the course of wisdom.
12 To choose to dedicate ourselves to do Jehovah’s will is also the just, the right thing to do. In fact, we owe it to God to do his will. Why? Because Jehovah God, by reason of his having created all things, owns this earth and all things and creatures on it. He made us not merely to enjoy our own pleasure but also to serve his purpose, to do his will. Not only did he create all things in the first place but he also keeps sustaining all things, providing the sunshine and the rain. That is why we read: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.”—Rev. 4:11.
13 Additionally, to dedicate ourselves to do Jehovah’s will and be baptized in symbol thereof is the loving, the grateful thing to do. When we think of all the love that Jehovah God has showered on humankind to make life possible and a joy (Acts 14:17), when we think of his patience in dealing with humankind for the past 6,000 years (2 Pet. 3:8, 9), and when we think of his loving us so much as to give his only-begotten Son to be our Savior and Redeemer (John 3:16)—what must we conclude? The least that we can do to keep self-respect is to dedicate ourselves to our loving heavenly Father to do his will, and then to symbolize that dedication by water baptism.
DEDICATION AND BAPTISM IMPERATIVE
14, 15. (a) What questions might some raise as to the need of dedication and baptism? (b) What Scriptural illustration shows the need of formally dedicating ourselves to do God’s will?
14 But could we not please Jehovah God and gain the reward of everlasting life by merely leading a clean life? believing in God and Jesus Christ? associating with God’s people? telling others about the “good news”? without formally dedicating ourselves to do God’s will and getting baptized? Apparently there are some persons who think so, because, while they do these other things, they stop short of dedicating themselves and getting baptized. But in this they are mistaken.
15 For Jehovah God to reward us we must exercise faith in him and love him to the extent of dedicating ourselves to do God’s will and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. For example: At Mount Sinai, Jehovah God set before the nation of Israel his laws and the rewards that they would get from obeying his laws. The Israelites formally agreed to do God’s will so that they might receive God’s guidance, protection and blessing. Likewise, his servants today must make such a commitment. (Ex. 19:3-8) They must heed Jesus’ command that those who would observe his commandments must begin by getting baptized.—Matt. 28:19, 20.
16, 17. (a) Illustrate the inconsistency of those who want to serve God without being baptized. (b) How may Romans 10:9, 10 be applied in this regard? (c) How might the lack of sincerity of some persons delaying baptism be illustrated?
16 We might illustrate the matter in this way: A certain man walking along a road in the country sees a great many people helping to harvest a crop. He feels impelled to join them and so helps them for days until the crop is fully harvested. However, when the time comes for the workers to receive their pay, can he rightly expect any wages to be paid him? No, because he was not hired. He made no contract with the master of the harvest for payment. He did not come under the normal arrangement for a worker to get paid. The situation is similar with those who become God’s servants. That is why Romans 10:9, 10 does not apply to just any public declaration, but has particular application to a formal public declaration such as that made at the time one who has dedicated himself to do God’s will gets baptized. “For if you publicly declare that ‘word in your own mouth,’ that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” That public declaration gives notice to all that a person has made the choice to work with Jehovah God. Yes, we cannot expect God to reward us with everlasting life if, as it were, we do not sign up to work for him.
17 Or, to use another illustration: A young man keeps calling on a young lady. He protests that he loves her very much. He takes her out to dine, to the theater, and buys gifts for her. Others think he is courting her, but he studiously avoids the subject of marriage. Can he be said to love the young lady? What she most likely has in mind is getting married. However, he does not want to lose his freedom, he does not want to be “tied down” to her. So all his protestations of loving her are empty, insincere. It is similar with any person who professes that he loves Jehovah God and that he appreciates all that God has done for him. If within a reasonable period of time he does not dedicate himself to do God’s will, following in Jesus’ footsteps, his professions have a hollow ring, betray a lack of love, trust and faith in Jehovah God and may actually be insincere.
18. What does 1 Peter 3:21 show as to the need for a person’s getting baptized?
18 Furthermore, baptism is essential for gaining a good conscience toward God. The apostle Peter makes this point clear at 1 Peter 3:21: “That which corresponds to this [that is, the flood of Noah’s day] is also now saving you, namely, baptism, (not [merely] the putting away of the filth of the flesh [important as that is], but the request made to God for a good conscience,) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
19. (a) How fitting is the symbol of baptism? (b) What practical aspects does it have?
19 Baptism is a most fitting symbol of our having made our choice to work with Jehovah God by dedicating ourselves to do his will as footstep followers of Jesus Christ. By going down into the water, being covered by it, we are, as it were, buried. We die as to our former course of action; it marks the death of our selfish course, our choosing to do as WE please. Being raised up out of the water well pictures our being made alive to the doing of God’s will, so as to walk ‘in newness of life.’ Water baptism might also be said to have a very practical aspect, as a person might easily forget that he orally agreed to do God’s will, or even forget that he once signed a paper to that effect; for how many things we forget that we have said or even written down! But can one forget that once, after hearing a discourse on baptism and joining in prayer, he changed his clothes to a bathing suit and got baptized in the presence of many witnesses? Hardly! Having taken such a step, one has the obligation of following through by being a co-worker with Jehovah God. What all this involves will be considered in the succeeding article.