Cultivating the Finest Friendship in All the Universe
“But you, O Israel, are my servant, you, O Jacob, whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.”—ISAIAH 41:8.
1. What is it that causes a genuine friendship never to fail?
HOW precious a true friend! But what is the basis for having a genuine friend? What is at the rock bottom of an enduring friendship? It is something that never fails, so that a true friend never fails. What is it? Why, it is the quality that the apostle Paul cited when saying, “Love never fails”!—1 Corinthians 13:8.
2. The verb from which the Greek word for “friend” is derived has what special meaning?
2 In the Hebrew Scriptures, the noun translated “love” is drawn from a verb meaning “to love.” (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5; compare Matthew 22:37.) And in the Greek Septuagint Version, the verb translating “you must love” from the Hebrew text is a·ga·panʹ. However, in that ancient version and in the Christian Greek Scriptures the noun translated “friend” is not based upon that verb but is the Greek noun phiʹlos, derived from a verb meaning “to have affection for.” So, according to the original Greek, loving affection is expressed toward a friend or between friends. Even in the English language the word “friend” is drawn from an Anglo-Saxon verb meaning “to love.”
3. Compared with God’s love for the world of mankind, with what kind of love were Jesus’ disciples bound to him?
3 The Greek verb from which “friend” is drawn therefore expresses an emotion warmer and more intimate than the love expressed by the verb a·ga·panʹ, appearing in the Greek text of John 3:16, where Jesus is quoted as saying: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” Thus the love (Greek, a·gaʹpe) on the part of Jehovah God is broad enough to embrace the whole world of mankind in spite of the sinfulness of the human race. But the only-begotten Son of God told his 11 faithful apostles that they were bound to him by a warmer, more intimate kind of love.
A Precious Kind of Friendship
4. By doing what could Jesus’ disciples continue as his “friends,” and to what intimacy would this status admit them?
4 Jesus told those apostles that they would continue to be his “friends” if they kept on doing the things that he commanded them to do. Showing that this would include the privileged intimacy resulting from mutual confidence, he said: “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, because all the things I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14, 15) In saying that, Jesus applied the term phiʹlos to each one of those apostles.
5. The friendship referred to at Proverbs 18:24 rests upon what, and how solid is such a relationship?
5 According to Proverbs 18:24, the inspired wise man declared: “There exist companions disposed to break one another to pieces, but there exists a friend sticking closer than a brother.” Such a friendship is not based upon fleshly relationships; it rests upon an appreciation of the true worth of the one befriended. Yes, fleshly relatives may part company with one another for various selfish reasons, but a solid friend will be unwavering and will adhere to his friendship regardless of the trialsome or difficult conditions, or the heart-searching circumstances that may develop.
6. Of whose strong friendship are we reminded, and how did David later requite that friendship?
6 Here we may think of Jonathan, son of rejected King Saul, and of David, whom Jehovah God had chosen and anointed to be Israel’s king. Their friendship persisted down to the death of Jonathan on the field of battle. On hearing the sad news, David gave way to the lament recorded in 2 Samuel 1:17-27. Showing how tender his relationship with Jonathan was, David said: “I am distressed over you, my brother Jonathan, very pleasant you were to me. More wonderful was your love to me than the love from women.” A friendship like that was not to be forgotten or to go unrequited. It accounted for King David’s display of mercy toward Mephibosheth, the surviving son of Jonathan.—2 Samuel 9:1-10.
7. (a) Has friendship like that of David and Jonathan died off, especially in this “conclusion of the system of things”? (b) To what expression of intimacy does such friendship admit a person, as Jesus explained to his faithful apostles?
7 That precious kind of friendship has not died off the face of the earth. Today, in this “conclusion of the system of things” when ‘the love of the greater number has cooled off,’ the warmth of such a loving friendship is strongly felt among the dedicated, baptized witnesses of Jehovah God who are giving the worldwide Kingdom witness that Jesus foretold. (Matthew 24:3-14) Friends are inclined to reveal things to one another because of having confidence in one another. Remember that while conversing late at night with the 11 apostles that had stuck with him, Jesus said: “I have called you friends, because all the things I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14, 15) Yes, the spiritual things of God’s Word that are due to be fulfilled or to be applied would be disclosed first to the true spirit-begotten “friends” of the Master, Jesus Christ. Then these “friends” would have the privilege and responsibility to disclose such hitherto secret things to those wanting to enter into friendly relations with Jehovah God, with whom such secret things originate.
8. To whom does Jehovah accord intimacy with him, and how did Jesus refer to the covenant involved with such intimacy?
8 That is the way Jehovah has proceeded with his spirit-begotten worshipers taken into his new covenant through the Mediator, Jesus Christ. When instituting the Lord’s Evening Meal, Jesus said: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.” (Luke 22:20) This was in harmony with Psalm 25:14, which says: “The intimacy with Jehovah belongs to those fearful of him, also his covenant, to cause them to know it.” What extraordinary knowledge is imparted to those who come into a friendly relationship with Jehovah God and his Mediator, Jesus Christ!
Those Whom Jehovah Befriends
9. Is it presumptuous for us to think that Jehovah would take mere human creatures into his friendship, and what Bible texts can we furnish to verify our answer?
9 Oh, but can we really have the Most High and Almighty God as our personal Friend? Has he really humbled himself to such an extent as to become our Friend? It is not presumptuous to think so. In a letter written to spiritual Israelites before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., James wrote: “The scripture was fulfilled which says: ‘Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness,’ and he came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’” (James 1:1; 2:23; Genesis 15:6; Galatians 6:16) In one Hebrew “scripture” to which James there referred we read this appeal made to God by King Jehoshaphat when the security of Jerusalem was threatened by a large-scale invasion: “Did not you yourself, O God of ours, drive away the inhabitants of this land from before your people Israel and then give it to the seed of Abraham your lover [“thy friend,” King James Version], to time indefinite?” (2 Chronicles 20:7) Here we can note that the basic Hebrew word translated “friend” (KJ) means “a lover.” Indisputably, Abraham was a lover of Jehovah, the God who called him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and brought him into the Promised Land. As such a lover, Abraham was a man whom Jehovah could befriend, or take into His friendship.
10. At Isaiah 41:8, who spoke for himself on the matter of friendship, and on the basis of what attitude toward Jehovah was Abraham given a special rating with God?
10 However, at Isaiah 41:8 Jehovah spoke for himself and said these encouraging words to the descendants of Abraham as a nation: “But you, O Israel, are my servant, you, O Jacob, whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.” The Most High God honored this friendship with Abraham by assigning him to be the illustrious forefather of Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind, including Abraham himself. This descendant of Abraham was more than a friend of Jehovah God, for he is God’s beloved Son.—John 3:16.
11. Why is friendship with Jehovah bound to be put to the test?
11 From all the foregoing, what conclusion can we draw? That it is possible for human creatures down here on Jehovah’s “footstool” to be his friends. (Isaiah 66:1) Of course, our precious friendship with him in this old world will be put to the test, for Satan the Devil, “the god of this system of things,” will try to break it up.—2 Corinthians 4:4.
12. Like Job of the land of Uz, what should we be determined to do about our own friendship with the Most High?
12 Consider the case of that outstanding man of ancient times named Job, of whom the Christian disciple James said: “Look! We pronounce happy those who have endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.” (James 5:11) Job was no mythical person but actually lived in the land of Uz. The Devil doubted the enduring quality of Job’s friendship with God, and Jehovah let Satan put Job to a very severe test. By means of heartbreaking calamities that he brought upon Job, Satan endeavored to make him renounce Jehovah. But Job refused to support the Devil by renouncing God, which would have resulted in Job’s dying on Satan’s side of the issue of universal sovereignty. To the contrary, Job proved Satan the Devil to be a base liar. On earth, Jesus Christ proved the same thing. But what about us today? Those who treasure Jehovah’s friendship are determined to uphold his side of this controversy of universal interest. And they will do so until Satan and his demons are finally abyssed and put to silence before the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ.—Revelation 20:1-4.
13. How does friendship with Jehovah God and his only-begotten Son rank, and what course must we pursue in order not to be classified figuratively as “adulteresses”?
13 No friendship in existence outranks that with the Most High God, Jehovah. Friendship with the only-begotten Son of God ranks next. Such an amicable relationship with them means everlasting life in boundless happiness for us. They rightly demand exclusive allegiance from us. We cannot be hobnobbing with this doomed old world and at the same time be cultivating their friendship. Spiritually speaking, we do not want to be classified as adulteresses, according to James 4:4, which puts the matter point-blank and says: “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” Those words were directed to the spiritual Israelites of the first century C.E., but they also apply to Jehovah’s Witnesses living in this 20th-century world, or system of things.
Shun Friendship That Will Fail
14. As regards friendship, how do Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid having the experience foretold at Zechariah 13:4-6?
14 Because of not constituting themselves friends of this corrupt, violent old world, Jehovah’s Witnesses are misrepresented, maltreated, and persecuted. So was the greatest witness of Jehovah ever on earth, Jesus Christ, and they are not better than he was. (Revelation 1:5; 3:14) Because they honestly keep adjusting their thinking according to the Word of their finest Friend, Jehovah God, they have been spared the experience described prophetically at Zechariah 13:4-6, where it is written: “It must occur in that day that the prophets will become ashamed, each one of his vision when he prophesies; and they will not wear an official garment of hair for the purpose of deceiving. And he will certainly say, ‘I am no prophet. I am a man cultivating the soil, because an earthling man himself acquired me from my youth on.’ And one must say to him, ‘What are these wounds on your person between your hands?’ And he will have to say, ‘Those with which I was struck in the house of my intense lovers [“friends,” KJ].’”
15. Why have the clergymen of Christendom worn special garments publicly, and with whom have they made self-seeking friendships?
15 For centuries now, the clergymen of Christendom have worn ‘official garments’ for the purpose of calling attention to their religious profession and for the self-honoring purpose of distinguishing themselves from the members of their congregations whom they style “the laity.” This these clerics do, although there is not a shred of evidence to prove that Jesus Christ and his apostles and the evangelizers he sent out ever wore official religious garments to call attention to their status and to magnify it. Now we are deep into “the conclusion of the system of things” that began with the end of “the appointed times of the nations,” or “the times of the Gentiles,” in the year 1914. (Matthew 24:3; Luke 21:24; KJ) Long have the clergy tried to be the best of friends with the commercial, military, and political elements of this world. This they have done for their own selfish benefit and without any qualms of conscience. But their selfish friendships of this kind will be short-lived!
16. (a) According to Bible prophecy, what will worldly “friends” shortly do to the clergy class? (b) Even though in a new status, what final experience will the clergy not escape?
16 The clergy and the laity alike find themselves in a highly scientific age. Worldly relationships are being strained to the limit under the pressure of these times. The clergy, despite their claimed standing with the God of heaven, have gained no favor from him for the commercial, military, and political arrangement of things and are providing no relief for the worsening world situation. Shortly, their worldly “friends” will be brought to the realization that the clergy are worthless, yes, burdensome to them, false in their prophecies of materially better times apart from Jehovah’s Kingdom by Christ. Indeed, those worldly “friends” will finally be moved to give full vent to their loss of confidence, their contempt, yes, their hatred. They will violently destroy the clergy or at least defrock them of their professional official garment and reduce them to an unprofessional, laical position, as explained at Zechariah 13:4-6. But this change of status will not spare them from annihilation with Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, as foretold in Revelation chapters 17 and 18. The clergy’s worldly “friends” will fail them utterly.
17. What friendship is worthy of cultivation, and for how long?
17 In the face of this, how important it is to shun selfish friendships of the wrong kind! But how precious the finest friendship in all the universe should be to us! It is worthy of our cultivating it forever.
What Are Your Thoughts?
□ Only by doing what can Jesus’ disciples continue to be his friends?
□ How do we know that humans can enjoy Jehovah’s friendship, and to whom does he grant intimacy with him?
□ Why is friendship with God bound to be put to the test?
□ With regard to friendship, how do Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid experiencing what was foretold at Zechariah 13:4-6?
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David and Jonathan enjoyed heartfelt, precious friendship. So can you
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Abraham was “Jehovah’s friend.” Are you?