To Whom Does It Apply?
“THERE are the pronouncing of curses and practicing of deception and murdering and stealing and committing of adultery that have broken forth, and acts of bloodshed have touched other acts of bloodshed.” (Hos. 4:2) ‘Why,’ the casual Bible reader may say, ‘that certainly describes ungodly persons today.’
True, the world of mankind alienated from God has for centuries engaged in such sinful acts. But reflect on that statement recorded by God’s prophet Hosea. To whom does it apply?
A WARNING AGAINST SPIRITUAL DECLINE
The preceding verse states: “Hear the word of Jehovah, O sons of Israel, for Jehovah has a legal case with the inhabitants of the land [in which the Israelites resided], for there is no truth nor loving-kindness nor knowledge of God in the land.” (Hos. 4:1) So the strong words of Hosea 4:1, 2 applied principally to whom? To people in a covenant relationship with God. They had failed to live up to his righteous requirements.
Since ‘all Scripture is beneficial for teaching and reproving,’ a Christian will be wise if he does not view these words as of concern only as they relate to the world in general. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) Rather, if he recognizes that they were originally directed to God’s people of that time, he will benefit personally. Not only will he realize that he must avoid such wrongdoing as the practicing of deception, but he will accept Hosea’s words as a personal warning against spiritual decline through departure from godly ways.
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS
The psalmist David said: “O Jehovah, why have my adversaries become many? Why are many rising up against me? Many are saying of my soul: ‘There is no salvation for him by God.’” (Ps. 3:1, 2) To whom did that statement apply? To worldly enemies of God’s people?
Jehovah’s people do have adversaries among those having no personal relationship with God. But these words of King David applied to adversaries among his own people, the Israelites. Many of them were saying, ‘God is not going to save David.’ In fact, as the Ps 3:superscription of the third Psalm shows, it is “a melody of David when he was running away on account of Absalom his son.” David’s enemies included a member of his own household, a man belonging to a nation of God’s people. Absalom had conspired against his own father and had driven him from the throne. This conspiracy ended in failure. (2 Sam. 15:1–18:33) Nevertheless, we may derive increased personal benefit from this psalm if we ask, How can I apply this information in my own service to God?
Since Absalom’s rebellion took place among God’s people of ancient times, the incident may alert a Christian to a personal need to guard his own spirit. It may serve as a warning against yielding to yearnings for personal prominence, perhaps by devious actions that are intended to exalt him and harm others devoted to Jehovah. Then, again, fully realizing to whom the words of the third Psalm 3 applied in David’s time may impress on a Christian the need for personal fidelity to family members and others who are whole-souled in their devotion to Jehovah. For example, even after becoming an adult, a child may thus be reminded that he should be loyal to aging Christian parents.—Prov. 19:26.
ATTITUDES TO BE AVOIDED
Centuries after David’s day, the Christian apostle Paul referred to certain enemies and wrote: “Such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness. But their end shall be according to their works.”—2 Cor. 11:13-15.
‘What an indictment of the false religious clergy of Christendom!’ someone may exclaim. But, in reading Paul’s scathing statement, ask yourself, To whom did it apply?
The apostle was writing to the Christian congregation in Corinth. His inspired letter was directed to believers—to God’s people. Some prominent men among them showed animosity toward Paul, were ‘false apostles, deceitful workers, ministers of Satan.’ And those unscrupulous men professed to be spirit-begotten followers of Jesus Christ. They evidently entertained the hope of one day ruling with Christ in heaven. In fact, those arrogant men apparently had already sought such prominence among fellow believers that it was as though they had already “begun ruling as kings”—of course, without the apostle Paul, whom they despised. (1 Cor. 4:8-14) Men with such attitudes would never be accepted as heavenly associate rulers with Christ, no matter how great and righteous they considered themselves to be. “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—Jas. 4:6.
By reflecting upon Paul’s words at 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, and by not applying them exclusively to worldly clergymen, Christians will be alerted to the personal danger of becoming haughty and deceitful. Moreover, we will be moved to accept and trust our proved and faithful fellow worshipers of Jehovah. Yes, we can be helped to avoid wrong attitudes when we thoughtfully ask, To whom did it apply then, and how can it benefit me now?
DO NOT MISS THE POINT
Our giving thought as to whom certain Scriptural words were directed can be beneficial to the Bible reader in many ways. For instance, when reading the book of James, one does well to realize that it dealt with problems inside the Christian congregation, “the Israel of God.” (Jas. 1:1; Gal. 6:16) This leads the present-day Christian to apply personally such counsel as that found in chapter two of that inspired letter. And this should prompt him to avoid showing favoritism and making class distinctions. This, in turn, will aid him to act with impartiality.
Of course, persons of the world engage in wrongdoing. They often lack fidelity to family members, as did Absalom. Also, they make false claims and show favoritism. Yet, how vital it is to consider the context when reading the Scriptures! Then a person is less likely to miss the full force of what he reads. Rather, he may realize true personal benefit if he pauses to ask, To whom does it apply?