“Who Has Come to Know Jehovah’s Mind?”
1. (a) What challenging question does Paul quote from Isaiah 40:13? (b) How does a key word in his quotation differ from the original Hebrew?
MORE than 2,700 years ago the challenging question was posed before the ancient nation of Israel, as quoted by a onetime Jewish Pharisee in his letter, at Romans 11:34: “For ‘who has come to know Jehovah’s mind, or who has become his counselor?’” The question was quoted by the apostle Paul from the rendering made by the ancient Greek Septuagint Version of Isaiah 40:13, and this version there uses the word “mind” (nous) instead of the word for “spirit” as found in the original Hebrew text.
2. What do we understand by the human “mind”? Illustrate.
2 What, now, does the inspired expression “Jehovah’s mind” signify? In our own case as human creatures, the mind stands for our thinking processes. For example, we can ‘make up our mind,’ to have the same “mental attitude . . . that was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5; see also Genesis 11:6.) Our mental faculties are superior to those of any animal.
3-5. (a) What does Isaiah 55:8, 9 show as to Jehovah’s “mind”? (b) Why is it no wonder that Paul made the exclamation recorded at Romans 11:33? (c) What does the apostle mean by his comment at Romans 11:34? (d) Why could pre-Christian writers not know Jehovah’s “mind”?
3 What Jehovah God, the Creator, has in mind is immeasurably superior to what we imperfect human creatures may have in mind or could imagine of ourselves. He calls attention to this vital fact in the prophecy of Isaiah 55:8, 9, where it is written: “‘For the thoughts of you people are not my thoughts, nor are my ways your ways,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” Hence, he purposes something far better for his human creatures, especially for those who come into a covenant relationship with him, than we creatures here on earth could ever frame up. Little wonder, then, that, after discussing a unique feature of Jehovah’s arrangement and how it is being worked out, the “apostle to the nations” was impelled to exclaim: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are!” (Romans 11:13, 33) Certainly no man has traced out God’s ways in advance for him. Hence, the inspired apostle goes on to make this comment: “For ‘who has come to know Jehovah’s mind [noun], or who has become his counselor?’” (Romans 11:34) The Jerusalem Bible reads here: “Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor?”
4 By those words the apostle does not mean that, after God reveals what is on his mind, a man cannot know or understand His mind. No! For God has disclosed his mind to us humans on the pages of his inspired Word, the Holy Scriptures. What the apostle means is that no man, of his own origination and in advance of God’s framing His own mind or purpose, could ever have worked out or developed the same thing with his thinking faculties! Prior to God’s own revelation, no man has proved to have done so. Truly, then, prior to the divine revelation set out in the Bible, no man came to know “Jehovah’s mind.” None of the pre-Christian writers of the first 39 books of the Holy Scriptures did so, not even the lawgiver Moses.
5 No one, for example, could understand what Jehovah had in mind in dealing with Abraham and his seed, and no one could understand what all of that had to do with the events of the first century C.E.
Jehovah’s “Mind” as to the “Olive Tree”
6. (a) What promise had Paul been discussing in Romans chapter 11? (b) How was Abraham greatly favored, and because of what?
6 In Romans, chapter 11, the apostle had discussed the foretold “seed of Abraham,” down to Ro 11 verse 34. According to Moses’ records at Genesis 12:3 and Ge 22:17, 18, Jehovah God promised to bless the aged patriarch Abraham through his offspring, or “seed”; in this seed, or by means of it, the God of Abraham would bless all the families and nations of the earth in his due time. What a gorgeous promise to which to become the heir, and what a reward for faith and obedience it was for Abraham to become heir to that promise!
7. (a) What do the parts of the typical “olive tree” represent? (b) For what were the “branches” in line? (c) With regard to the “seed,” what in Jehovah’s “mind” had yet to be revealed?
7 The apostle likens what Jehovah originally had in mind to the development of an olive tree, a tree common to his native land of Israel. In agreement with this picture, the root of this typical olive tree was Abraham himself. The tree stock, or trunk, that sprang up from Abraham as the symbolic root was made up of his beloved son Isaac, his grandson Jacob, or Israel, and the 12 sons of Jacob, the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel. By nature all the descendants of those 12 patriarchs were branches in that typical olive tree. As such, they were directly in line to become the promised “seed of Abraham” by means of whom all the families and nations of the earth would be blessed according to Jehovah’s loving purpose or “mind.” But what they did not know about this “seed” was that it was not to be a fleshly seed by natural descent from the patriarch Abraham, for it was to be a spiritual “seed.” So its father would be someone greater than Abraham, higher than him. This one was to be no one else but the great Life-Giver, Jehovah God himself. Who, now, was to be the principal one of this “seed”?
8. (a) How did Jesus come to be One greater than Isaac? (b) Why were Jesus’ sacrifice and heavenly resurrection necessary for the blessing of all the families of the earth?
8 This one was greater than Isaac, the son of Abraham’s old age. It was the “man, Christ Jesus,” who was a descendant of Isaac but greater than Isaac and his son Jacob, or Israel, and the 12 sons of Jacob, the 12 foundations of the nation of Israel. (1 Timothy 2:5) The babe who was to be named Jesus was the “Son of God,” for he was begotten in the womb of his virgin mother Mary by the spirit of Jehovah God. In fact, his life was transferred from the spirit realm to Mary’s womb, and her husband, Joseph, was only the earthly foster father of Jesus. (Luke, chapters 1-3) But, as matters turned out, Jesus did not become the blesser of all the families and nations of the earth as a man on earth. True, by means of his perfect, sinless human sacrifice at Calvary outside Jerusalem in 33 C.E., Jesus can serve for all mankind’s blessing. But on the third day of his death in 33 C.E., Jehovah God, his heavenly Father, resurrected him from the dead and thereafter he returned to heaven as a spirit Son of God. It is from there that he blesses all families and nations of the ground.
9. (a) The symbolic olive tree now takes on what larger meaning? (b) What is the number of spiritual branches, and how do we know? (c) How does Galatians 3:28, 29 enlighten us with regard to these “branches”?
9 From this standpoint the apostle’s illustration of the olive tree takes on a new and vastly larger meaning. The “root” of that spiritual olive tree proves to be Jehovah God, the Great Life-Giver of all, the One greater than the patriarch Abraham. The only-begotten Son of this Greater Abraham proves to be Jesus Christ, the One greater than Isaac. This Greater Isaac proves to be the Head of the Christian congregation that is begotten by the spirit of the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God. The members of the Christian congregation are the spiritual branches that spring from this theocratic olive tree, and according to Revelation 7:1-8 and Re 14:1-3, they are to number, finally, 144,000 members. That is why we read in Galatians 3:28, 29: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.”
10. (a) Who were first in line to become spiritual branches? (b) Who of these were “saved,” and how did Paul quote prophecy to illustrate this?
10 The natural Jews of Jesus’ day, by being his natural brothers, were by natural descent from the patriarch Abraham first in line to become “branches” in that spiritual olive tree. They were in the Law covenant with the Greater Abraham by means of the mediator Moses. Jesus Christ came directly to no one on earth but to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 10:6) So the first ones to become “branches” in that spiritual olive tree, the root of which is Jehovah God, were natural Jews, the 12 faithful apostles of Jesus Christ and thousands of other natural Jews. But only a small “remnant” of the natural Jews were “saved” to be the seed of the Greater Abraham and to be heirs of his “promise,” just as foretold in Isaiah 10:22. Paul quotes this prophecy in Romans 9:27.
11. (a) When were prospective “branches” broken off? (b) How were wild olive “branches” now grafted in, and into which olive tree?
11 The breaking off of prospective “branches” of “Abraham’s seed” started with the conversion of circumcised Samaritans, and it came to full force three and a half years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Greater Isaac. At that point, the first non-Jewish, uncircumcised believers, the Roman centurion Cornelius and his family and believing friends, were converted by the apostle Peter and, after being begotten and anointed with Jehovah’s spirit, were baptized. (Acts, chapter 10) Thus the “branches” from a wild olive tree were grafted into the spiritual olive tree of which Jehovah God is the life-giving “root.”
12. (a) What would happen if broken-off “branches” repented? Illustrate. (b) This exemplified what? (c) Like Paul, how should we respond to such a revelation of Jehovah’s “mind”?
12 However, if any of the natural Jews that were broken off should reconsider matters and should repent, like Aquila and Priscilla, they would be grafted back into the spiritual privilege that the Jewish nation had lost through unbelief toward the Greater Isaac, Jesus Christ. (Acts 18:1-4, 26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19) This exemplified the loving-kindness of Jehovah God, the Greater Abraham. Such admirable generousness on the part of Jehovah God toward natural Jews, who were still beloved to God for their forefathers’ sake, was what extracted from the apostle the exclamation, “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge!” Does this revelation of Jehovah’s “mind” also excite our heartfelt sense of appreciation?
Loving God With All One’s Heart and With All One’s Mind
13, 14. (a) How did God provide the Law, and for what purpose? (b) What did Jesus say with regard to that Law, and to what “heart” does he here refer? (c) What two commandments were quoted by Jesus, and why should we keep them?
13 With the natural seed of the patriarch Abraham, the nation of Israel, Jehovah God made a covenant, with the prophet Moses serving as the mediator. That was away back in the year 1513 B.C.E. in the wilderness of the Sinaitic Peninsula and at Mount Sinai. There he gave them his Law. Concerning this Law the apostle Paul wrote: “Consequently the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith.” (Galatians 3:24) Now what did Christ Jesus say about the Law as given through Moses? When asked which was “the greatest commandment” of the Law code, Jesus replied: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart [Greek: kar·diʹa] and with your whole soul [psy·kheʹ] and with your whole mind [di·a·noiʹa].’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40) Here, the heart is referred to in relation to the mind, showing that it must be “heart” in a figurative sense.
14 Jesus was there quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5: “And you must love Jehovah your God with all your heart [Hebrew: le·babʹ] and all your soul [neʹphesh] and all your vital force.” Also, from Leviticus 19:18: “And you must love your fellow as yourself. I am Jehovah.” So Jesus ranked those two as the greatest and the next greatest commandments of the Mosaic Law covenant. We today are not under the Mosaic Law, but those fundamental requirements have not gone out of date. We should keep them.
15. (a) What triggers the physical heart, and how does it function? (b) What relation does the physical heart have to the brain and mind?
15 We know that it is the “spirit of life” that moves the physical heart. (Revelation 11:11; Genesis 7:22) This life force triggers the heart of living flesh so that it pumps the life blood to all parts of the human body, including the brain. Jehovah God said: “The soul [neʹphesh] of every sort of flesh is its blood by the soul in it. Consequently I said to the sons of Israel: ‘You must not eat the blood of any sort of flesh, because the soul of every sort of flesh is its blood.’” (Leviticus 17:14) For the whole body to live, the physical heart must propel the life-sustaining blood to all its parts, whether this circulation of the blood be by means of one’s natural God-given heart, by a heart transplanted from the body of someone else or by an insensitive, nonfleshly, mechanical heart. Thus the blood is pumped to the brain, its thinking faculties are stimulated and the mind functions. It becomes evident, therefore, that the physical heart nourishes the brain by reason of supplying it with the blood containing the active life force, the “spirit of life.” Regardless of whether a person is conscious or not, the heart keeps pumping the blood to the brain and all other parts of the body.
16. (a) According to the Bible, what is the figurative heart? (b) What is required of us in loving Jehovah with ‘all the heart’? (c) How do we love him with all our “mind”?
16 But let us look beyond the literal heart of living tissue. As used in the Bible, the heart stands for the seat of motivation and also of the emotions. This is the figurative heart, which actually means our innermost self. At 1 Peter 3:4 it is described as “the secret person of the heart” (NW), “the hidden person of the heart” (Revised Standard Version), “your inner self” (New International Version). So it is with ‘all the heart’ that we are under command to love Jehovah God. We are also commanded to love Jehovah God with all our soul, with the whole of our being. This calls upon us to love the one living and true God, the Almighty, with all our vital force, directing all our energies to the doing of the revealed will of God and the full performance of his work during this “conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3) In addition to this, there must be a loving of the God of the Bible with all our “mind,” our mental faculties.—Mark 12:29-31.
17. (a) If we love Jehovah with all our heart and mind, what assurance do we have? (b) According to Philippians 4:7, how will our hearts and minds be affected by the peace of God?
17 It goes without saying that if we express our love of Jehovah God with all our heart and mind, he will take pleasure in answering our prayers, and this assurance will keep us free from anxiety. We shall enjoy a peace that this turbulent world does not enjoy and cannot understand. Why so? Because, as the apostle Paul assured the beloved Christians in ancient Philippi, Greece, “the peace of God that excels all thought [Greek: noun] will guard your hearts [kar·diʹas] and your mental powers [no·eʹma·ta: “minds,” Authorized Version; RS] by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) Thus our figurative hearts will not become excited to any hasty wrong motivations and emotional disquietude, and the mental powers or mind will not be confused or twisted. A Christian will keep on pursuing his course according to God’s inspired Bible along with the help of the Leader, Christ Jesus.
Can You Answer?—
□ What is meant by Jehovah’s “mind”?
□ How was the theocratic olive tree used by Paul to illustrate Jehovah’s “mind”?
□ What is the figurative “heart”?
□ How are “heart” and “mind” involved in our loving God?
[Picture on page 9]
The theocratic olive tree: Disobedient Jewish “branches” were lopped off, being replaced by Samaritan converts and uncircumcised Gentiles
[Picture on page 11]
The physical heart propels life-sustaining blood to the brain