Zeal for Jehovah’s House
“Sheer zeal for your house has eaten me up.”—Ps. 69:9.
1. What powerful message was proclaimed in the spring of 29 C.E.?
IT IS spring of the year 29 C.E. In the wilderness of Judea appears a striking figure with camel’s hair clothing and a leather girdle. He is John the Baptizer. Hear his electrifying message!—“Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” Among those who come to the baptism are many of the Sadducees and Pharisees. John does not mince words as he puts these religious hypocrites in their place. “You offspring of vipers,” he calls them. And he makes it clear that the coming King will baptize with holy spirit and with fire—that wheatlike persons will be gathered for preservation, but worthless chafflike ones for a fiery judgment of eternal destruction.—Matt. 3:2-12.
2. How was the King identified?
2 It becomes autumn, and the King-designate appears. John baptizes this perfect One, upon whom God’s spirit now descends like a dove. Jehovah’s own voice is heard from heaven, declaring: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.”—Matt. 3:13-17.
3. (a) What challenging words rang out in the spring of 30 C.E.? (b) How had God’s anointed one already shown zeal for his Father’s house?
3 Again it is spring, of the year 30 C.E. The Passover has been celebrated. And once more, in Galilee, those challenging words ring out!—“Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt. 4:17) Who is the proclaimer of this kingdom? It is none other than the anointed King himself, who has now drawn near. Back in Jerusalem, on the occasion of the Passover, he had indicated his love of righteousness by driving out of Jehovah’s temple those merchants who were trying to commercialize God’s worship. It was then that the disciples of this man, Jesus, recalled that the psalmist had written of him, “Sheer zeal for [Jehovah’s] house has eaten me up.”—Ps. 69:9; John 2:13-17.
ZEALOUS IN PRAYER AND ACTIVITY
4. How did Jesus show his deep concern for the vindication of his Father’s name?
4 Jesus was always zealous for Jehovah’s name and reputation. He taught his disciples to pray for that name to be hallowed, or sanctified. (Luke 11:2) And in prayer to Jehovah, before being parted from his disciples, he said: “I have made your name known to them and will make it known, in order that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in union with them.” (John 17:26) Jesus was deeply concerned about seeing his Father’s name cleared of all reproach—vindicated.
5. (a) On what did Jesus’ ministry focus? (b) For what other beneficial purpose had he come?
5 This pioneering minister came with a world-shaking message. (Compare Hebrews 2:10; 12:2, Revised Standard Version.) His was a dynamic preaching of the Kingdom for which he also taught his disciples to pray, “Let your kingdom come.” On that same occasion, on a mountain of Galilee, he counseled his listeners not to set their hearts on material things but, rather, to ‘keep on seeking God’s kingdom and his righteousness.’ (Matt. 6:10, 19-21, 24-34) Jesus came to minister to mankind, of whom he is the future king. Also, he came “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) All who would exercise faith in his ransom sacrifice would find everlasting life in the realm of his kingdom.—John 17:3.
6. Where and how did Jesus preach, and with what exemplary attitude?
6 What glorious “good news” this was! Jesus engaged in preaching it through the length and the breadth of the land of Palestine. On the mountainside, in private houses, in the synagogues, in the temple, on the seashore and in other public places, he preached.a He also performed miracles of healing, thus demonstrating how, in his kingdom, he would heal all mankind upon this earth. Thus he would bring them back to perfection of life in a global paradise. The record states:
“Jesus set out on a tour of all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity. On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples: ‘Yes, the harvest is great, but the workers are few. Therefore, beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.’” (Matt. 9:35-38)
How were such prayers for “workers” answered?
MORE ‘WORKERS FOR THE HARVEST’
7. (a) How were the twelve disciples to carry out their work? (b) Where would they find deserving persons?
7 Jesus himself started to meet the need by instructing and sending forth those twelve disciples. And how were they to carry out their work? Why, with the same zeal that their Master had demonstrated! He told them: “Into whatever city or village you enter, search out who in it is deserving.” This would necessitate their going to the people’s homes, where “deserving” persons would heed the “good news.” In this way, those disciples would also find lodging for the night. But some cities would not show them hospitality. Thus, Jesus said: “Wherever you enter into a home, stay there and leave from there. And wherever people do not receive you, on going out of that city shake the dust off your feet for a witness against them.”—Matt. 10:11-15; Luke 9:1-6.
8. (a) What further indicates that home visits were made? (b) Then, and also now, how might the householder’s kindly attitude result to his blessing?
8 Those who received the twelve with kindness placed themselves in line to receive blessings from Jehovah through his Son, just as Jesus told those disciples, saying:
“He that receives you receives me also, and he that receives me receives him also that sent me forth. . . . And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, I tell you truly, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matt. 10:40-42)
Back there, as has so often happened also in modern times, a householder’s meek and considerate attitude would open the way for him to receive spiritual blessings with the prospect of everlasting life.—Compare Matthew 25:34-40.
9. Where did the 70 carry on harvesting activity, and with what twofold purpose?
9 However, still more workers had to be trained for the harvest. So, “after these things the Lord designated seventy others and sent them forth by twos in advance of him into every city and place to which he himself was going to come.” Whether they went to the synagogues or marketplaces, the record does not say. But they were instructed to go to the houses of the people. Jesus said to them: “Wherever you enter into a house say first, ‘May this house have peace.’ And if a friend of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if there is not, it will turn back to you.” The disciples were to accept gratefully the hospitality of those householders who listened to the “good news.” But if a household, or even an entire city, refused to heed the message, the disciples were at least to warn the people, saying: “Keep this in mind, that the kingdom of God has come near.” They thus established a pattern that Jehovah’s Witnesses seek to follow today. They pioneered a twofold work of teaching those households that gladly received them and of warning those who spurned the “good news” about God’s judgments to come.—Luke 10:1-16.
10. How may Jehovah’s Witnesses today find joy like that of the 70?
10 The record tells us that “the seventy returned with joy” because the demons had been made subject to them by the use of Jesus’ name. But Christ showed that his disciples should, rather, rejoice in their heavenly prospects and their spiritual enlightenment. (Luke 10:17-24) Likewise today, Christians who expend themselves in teaching and preaching at the homes of the people have reasons for a great deal of joy because of their own relationship with God, their knowledge of his purposes and Jehovah’s blessing on their efforts to declare the “good news” to others.
“JOY WITH HOLY SPIRIT”
11. How did the new Christian congregation react to persecutions?
11 The scene shifts to Pentecost of 33 C.E. and thereafter. The responsibility to proclaim the “good news” now rested squarely on the newly formed Christian congregation. Immediately, it met up with persecutions. But these only served to sharpen appreciation of its mission in upholding the sovereignty of Jehovah and in preaching his kingdom by Christ. Boldly Peter and John declared: “As for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” Along with the other believers, they praised Jehovah and petitioned him as the “Sovereign Lord, . . . the One who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all the things in them.”—Acts 4:18-24.
12. What exemplary stand did the apostles take in the face of persecutions, and with what result?
12 When a further wave of persecution struck those followers of Christ, they gave bold testimony before the religious Sanhedrin, saying:
“We must obey God as ruler rather than men. The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew, hanging him upon a stake. God exalted this one as Chief Agent and Savior to his right hand, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these matters, and so is the holy spirit, which God has given to those obeying him as ruler.” (Acts 5:29-32)
So long as those apostles remained unflinching in their support of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah and his Chief Agent, Jesus Christ, they would have holy spirit to help them in their preaching and teaching work.
13. How may Christians to this day maintain “joy with holy spirit”?
13 During that crucial period, there was no time for disputes about foods and other trivia. They had to close ranks and present a united front against the enemy without. So doing, they experienced that of which the apostle Paul later wrote, saying: “The kingdom of God . . . means righteousness and peace and joy with holy spirit.” (Rom. 14:17) To this day, Christians who boldly proclaim Jehovah’s sovereignty and kingdom, while upholding right principles in unity with their brothers, are assured of the help of holy spirit and of joy in their work.—Compare Matthew 25:21.
‘CONTINUING WITHOUT LETUP’
14. Though ordered to “stop speaking,” how did those disciples pursue their divine commission?
14 The “good news” was spreading like wildfire. There was no dampening the joy and zeal of the apostles. When lawyer Gamaliel’s wise advice to “let them alone” was heeded, they “went their way from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of [Jesus’] name.” And how did they react to the Sanhedrin’s order to “stop speaking upon the basis of Jesus’ name”? The account tells us that “every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.”—Acts 5:38-42.
15. Though some aspects of our work may be different, what basic activity can we carry on, after the apostles’ pattern?
15 Like those apostles, where we have the freedom we search “from house to house” for those who are worthy to receive the “good news.” When we find them, we can revisit them and aid them through a free Bible study in the home. Of course, certain aspects of our work are different today, in that we do not go to temples or synagogues to preach. Also, we now have the help of the printed page, automobiles and other means of travel to facilitate our work. Thus home visits are an admirable way of distributing the printed message and returning to teach God’s Word to those who respond to the “good news.”
‘DO NOT HOLD BACK’
16. (a) Where did Paul witness and teach? (b) What indicates that Paul made home visits similar to our house-to-house activity today?
16 The apostle Paul also set a fine example in public preaching. In the synagogues, in the marketplace, on a riverbank—wherever he could find Jews and others to talk to—Paul witnessed. For two years, in a school auditorium in Ephesus, he gave daily talks to new “disciples.” (Acts 16:13; 18:4; 19:9) And later, to those who had become elders in the congregation at Ephesus, Paul said: “From the very first day that I stepped into the district of Asia . . . I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. But I thoroughly bore witness.” To whom? Only to those who ultimately became elders? No, for Paul adds that he witnessed “both to Jews and to Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.” So, new persons who needed to know the elementary teachings on repentance and faith were included among those who were taught “publicly and from house to house” right from the start of Paul’s missionary service in Ephesus.—Acts 20:18-21; 18:19; 19:1-7; compare Hebrews 6:1.
17. (a) What is the basis for many Bible translations’ rendering the Greek kat oikous “from house to house”? (b) What would Paul’s ‘thorough witnessing’ indicate that Christian witnessing would include?
17 This phrase “from house to house” is translated from the Greek kat oikous. Though there are other renderings, many well-known versions of the Bible use this expression—“from house to house.”b This is because the Greek preposition kata is in a “distributive” sense. (Compare the similar use of kata at Luke 8:1—“from city to city,” “from village to village”; and at Acts 15:21—“in city after city.”) Thus it may be said that Paul’s ‘thorough witnessing’ was distributed house after house. Bible scholar Dr. A. T. Robertson comments as follows on Acts 20:20:
“By (according to) houses. It is worth noting that this greatest of all preachers preached from house to house and did not make his visits mere social calls.”
As Paul “thoroughly bore witness,” Christians today search for spiritually inclined householders, making return visits to those homes and studying with interested persons. Later, as necessary, shepherding calls are made by faithful overseers.c
18. Why would Paul and his companions not have held back from house-to-house preaching and teaching?
18 There was every reason why Paul and other Christians of his day should ‘not hold back’ in their house-to-house preaching and teaching. Those were critical times. The Jewish system of things was fast approaching its destruction. The Roman emperors were encouraging idolatry. By peoples who were “given to the fear of the deities,” there was a pressing need to seek “the God that made the world and all the things in it,” the One who was then “telling mankind that they should all everywhere repent.”—Acts 17:22-31.
19. (a) Why is the need for house-to-house witnessing, as well as other witnessing activity, most urgent today? (b) In what will our zealous ‘continuing in the faith’ result?
19 The need for ‘thorough witnessing’—from house to house, by informal witnessing, in the marketplaces, by making return visits, by conducting regular Bible studies in the homes—is urgent today. True, as in the apostle Paul’s day, the “good news” has been “preached in all creation that is under heaven.” But there is the need for further intensive effort before the “great tribulation” strikes. As the apostle Paul told those Colossian Christians, it is necessary for all of us to “continue in the faith, established on the foundation and steadfast and not being shifted away from the hope of that good news.”—Col. 1:23; Matt. 24:21.
20. How can whole-souled house-to-house preaching serve as a protection today?
20 As in the heyday of the Roman Empire, so today, worldly pressure is aimed at making Christians abandon themselves to the pleasures, so-called “recreation” and immoralities of godless people—“those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus—the very ones who are about to “undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction.” (2 Thess. 1:6-9) Our protection lies in working as did Paul and all other zealous Christians of his time, in “always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord,” in working “whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.” (1 Cor. 15:58; Col. 3:23) Great satisfaction and joy are to be found in working after the pattern of the apostle Paul and others of the first-century congregation, publicly and “from house to house” and in bearing ‘thorough witness’ that others may learn about “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:20, 21) As we thus serve, may it always be said of us, as it was of our Master: ‘The zeal for Jehovah’s house of worship has eaten me up.’—John 2:17.
a Matt. 5:1; 9:10, 28, 35; 12:9; 13:54; 15:29; 21:23; Mark 1:21, 38, 39; 2:13; 3:19, 20; Luke 4:15, 16; 5:1-3; 7:36; 8:1; 13:22; 19:1-6, 47; John 4:7-15; 7:14; 18:20.
b The New World Translation, Authorized Version, Catholic Douay Version, American Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, English Revised Version, Revised Standard Version of 1952, The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts (the Peshitta) by George M. Lamsa, A New Translation of the Bible (Moffatt), the Spanish Versión Moderna, the New Testament in an Improved Version (Newcomb), The New Testament (Spencer), The Englishman’s Greek New Testament (interlinear), the Catholic Confraternity translation of The New Testament, The Westminster Version of the Sacred Scriptures, The Riverside New Testament (Ballantine), New International Version, The New New Testament (interlinear).
c For a more detailed discussion of the subject, please see the article “From House to House” in The Watchtower, August 15, 1961, p. 503.
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As did Jesus’ apostles, present-day Christians search “from house to house” for those worthy of receiving the “good news”