Maintain Your Fear of Jehovah
“‘I am a great King,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘and my name will be fear-inspiring among the nations.’”—MALACHI 1:14.
1, 2. (a) What powerful message is contained in the book of Malachi? (b) What lesson is provided by the opening words of Jehovah’s message?
“A PRONOUNCEMENT: The word of Jehovah concerning Israel by means of Malachi.” (Malachi 1:1) This brief, stirring statement begins the Bible book of Malachi. In the Bible a pronouncement is usually a denunciation of wickedness. This is certainly true in the case of the book of Malachi with its direct and forceful message to the nation of Israel. Our considering it will highlight the need to maintain our fear of Jehovah and our love for him.
2 The first two verses of the book provide a lesson in giving counsel. Jehovah assures his listeners of his desire to help them: “‘I have loved you people,’ Jehovah has said.” What a reassuring, heartwarming introduction for honesthearted ones of delinquent Israel. The message continues: “And you have said: ‘In what way have you loved us?’ ‘Was not Esau the brother of Jacob?’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘But I loved Jacob, and Esau I have hated; and I finally made his mountains a desolated waste and his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.’”—Malachi 1:2, 3.
3. What were the reasons for Jehovah’s feelings toward Jacob and Esau?
3 Why did Jehovah love Jacob and, later, the descendants of Jacob, the Israelites? It was because Jacob was God-fearing and he respected his God-fearing parents. Esau, on the other hand, was a selfish person, lacking fear of God. Also, he lacked respect for his parents, who had the God-given, natural right to expect his obedience. Rightly, Jehovah loved Jacob but hated Esau. This is a warning to us. We must avoid ever losing the fear of God and becoming a materialist like Esau, who sought only to satisfy his fleshly desires.—Genesis 26:34, 35; 27:41; Hebrews 12:16.
4, 5. (a) The course in life of Jacob and Esau had what effect upon their descendants? (b) How should this have affected the Israelites?
4 Just as Jacob’s course proved to be a blessing for his descendants, the Israelites, so Esau’s course proved to be the exact opposite for his descendants, the Edomites. The Edomites did not enjoy Jehovah’s blessing. Instead, by their vicious opposition to his covenant people, they incurred Jehovah’s hatred. They were overrun by Nebuchadnezzar’s armies and later by the Arabians. Eventually, as prophesied by Jehovah, the Edomites vanished as a nation.—Obadiah 18.
5 God’s judgments upon Edom started before Malachi’s day. How should this have affected the Israelites? Jehovah tells them: “Your own eyes will see it, and you yourselves will say: ‘May Jehovah be magnified over the territory of Israel.’” (Malachi 1:5) Down through the centuries, Israel had seen with its “own eyes” the love Jehovah had for it as a nation.
Our Actions Will Show Whether We Fear God
6. What accusation did Jehovah make against the Israelites?
6 The pronouncement continues: “‘A son, for his part, honors a father; and a servant, his grand master. So if I am a father, where is the honor to me? And if I am a grand master, where is the fear of me?’ Jehovah of armies has said to you, O priests who are despising my name.” (Malachi 1:6; Exodus 4:22, 23; Deuteronomy 32:6) Jehovah had corrected the Israelites, provided for them, and protected them, just as a father would his son. What did he rightly expect in return? To be honored and feared. The nation, including the priests, failed to do this but, rather, showed a disrespect for Jehovah’s name, and a despising of it. They became “renegade sons.”—Jeremiah 3:14, 22; Deuteronomy 32:18-20; Isaiah 1:2, 3.
7. How did the Israelites feel about this accusation, and what was Jehovah’s reply to them?
7 The Israelites asked: “In what way have we despised your name?” Jehovah forcefully replied: “‘By presenting upon my altar polluted bread.’ And you have said: ‘In what way have we polluted you?’ By your saying: ‘The table of Jehovah is something to be despised.’ And when you present a blind animal for sacrificing: ‘It is nothing bad.’ And when you present a lame animal or a sick one: ‘It is nothing bad.’ ‘Bring it near, please, to your governor. Will he find pleasure in you, or will he receive you kindly?’ Jehovah of armies has said.”—Malachi 1:6-8.
8. What were the Israelites indicating by their actions?
8 One can imagine an Israelite looking over his flock and slyly selecting a blind or a lame animal to offer to Jehovah. In this way he could go through the motions of making a sacrifice and yet selfishly keep the best of the flock for himself. He would not dare to do such a thing to the governor! But the Israelites did it to Jehovah—as if he could not see their scheming and cheating. Rightly, Jehovah asked them, “Where is the fear of me?” By their words, they may have claimed to fear Jehovah, but their actions clearly indicated otherwise.—Deuteronomy 15:21.
9. How did the priests react to what the people were doing?
9 What was the reaction of the priests to these contemptible sacrifices? They said: “It is nothing bad.” They justified the wicked course of the Israelites. So even though the exiles who returned from Babylon made a zealous start in restoring true worship, they later became careless, proud, and self-righteous. They lost their fear of Jehovah. Hence, their temple service became a mockery, and they kept the festivals in a formalistic way.—Malachi 2:1-3; 3:8-10.
10. (a) What sacrifice does Jehovah want today? (b) How only can our sacrifice meet with Jehovah’s approval?
10 Some may object: ‘This does not apply to us; we no longer offer animal sacrifices.’ But we have another type of sacrifice to offer. Note Paul’s urgent appeal: “I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.” (Romans 12:1) The sacrifice Jehovah wants today is you! That is, your energies, assets, and abilities. Our sacrifice will meet with his approval only if it is our best. Offering Jehovah the leftovers, like a lame, sick sacrifice, is sure to affect our relationship with him.
11. What scrutinizing should each dedicated servant of Jehovah do?
11 Even though some may say, in effect, “It is nothing bad,” we know how Jehovah feels about it. Let us, therefore, carefully scrutinize the “sacrifice” of “sacred service” we are offering, which includes the share we have in preaching, personal study, prayer, and attending the meetings. Are you satisfied that you are offering Jehovah your best, or is it just leftovers? There is a danger of getting so involved in entertainment or recreation on the weekend that one does not have time or energy to preach the Kingdom good news and attend meetings. Our whole way of life, our day-to-day living, including attitudes and motives, should be tied in with the sacrifice that we make to Jehovah. Let it be nothing but the best!
Identifying True Fearers of God
12. What counsel is now given?
12 “And now,” says the prophecy, “please, soften the face of God, that he may show us favor.” (Malachi 1:9) Jehovah urges the Israelites to do what is right, show proper fear of God, and offer him what he deserves. We must do the same today. Only by living up to Jehovah’s requirements can we gain and maintain his favor.
13. (a) Without fear of God, into what trap could we fall? (b) How did greed affect the Israelite priests?
13 Without proper fear of God, our service to him may be done merely out of formalism and for selfish gain. Note how Jehovah questions the Israelite priests regarding their temple service: “‘Who also is there among you that will shut the doors? And you men will not light my altar—for nothing. No delight do I have in you,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘and in the gift offering from your hand I take no pleasure.’” (Malachi 1:10) Oh, yes, the priests were there performing temple duty, locking the doors of the sanctuary, lighting the altars. But they did not do this for nothing. They were looking for handouts and bribes from the Israelites who came to make sacrifices at the temple. Jehovah found no pleasure then, and he finds no pleasure now, in service that is done merely for selfish gain. It is disgusting to him.
14. Why is there an ever-present need for guarding against greed?
14 The need to be on guard against selfishness and greed has not diminished in our day. Repeatedly the Scriptures warn us against greed, stating that greedy people are not favored by Jehovah. (1 Corinthians 6:10; Ephesians 5:5) In fulfilling our ministry, may our love and fear of Jehovah keep us free from ever performing it for selfish gain. We should be quick to root out any such tendencies that may arise in our heart. Elders and ministerial servants are particularly cautioned not to be “greedy of dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:7; 1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Peter 5:2) Some may purposely cultivate relationships only with brothers who can help them materially, resulting in favoritism and a reluctance to counsel such ones. Never do we want to become like the greedy priests of Israel who were looking for handouts and bribes from their fellow Israelites.
15. (a) How did Malachi indicate that there would be fearers of Jehovah in all parts of the earth? (b) What other scriptures support this?
15 Today, if Jehovah asked the question, “Where is the fear of me?” could any people reply, ‘Here we are, the ones who fear you’? Most definitely! Who? Jehovah’s faithful witnesses, who are found in all parts of the earth. This international group of people and the work they would do was foretold at Malachi 1:11: “‘For from the sun’s rising even to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and . . . a presentation will be made to my name, even a clean gift; because my name will be great among the nations,’ Jehovah of armies has said.”—See also Psalm 67:7; Isaiah 33:5, 6; Isa 59:19; Jeremiah 32:39, 40.
16. From sunrise to sunset could have what different meanings, and how is this being fulfilled?
16 How aptly Malachi here tells of the great work being done in our day with the preaching of the good news in all the earth. (Matthew 24:14; Revelation 14:6, 7) From sunrise to sunset, in a geographical sense, means from east to west. No matter where we look in the earth today, we find fearers of Jehovah doing his will. From sunrise to sunset also means all day long. Yes, praise is constantly being offered up by God-fearing servants. As Jehovah promised, his name is being declared in all the earth by those who truly fear him.—Exodus 9:16; 1 Chronicles 16:23, 24; Psalm 113:3.
Maintain Proper Fear of God
17. What may be the result of losing our respect for Jehovah and our fear of him?
17 For those who fail to respect and fear Jehovah, worship and service become a burden. Jehovah said to the Israelites: “You men are profaning me by your saying, ‘The table of Jehovah is something polluted, and its fruit is something to be despised, its food.’ And you have said, ‘Look! What a weariness!’” (Malachi 1:12, 13) The same can be true in modern times. For those who lose the fear of Jehovah, meetings, field service, and other Christian activities could become a burden.
18. From time to time, what has happened to some of God’s modern-day servants?
18 Notice how such ones were described in The Watchtower of January 1, 1937: “To those unfaithful ones the privilege of serving God by bringing the fruits of the kingdom before others, as the Lord has commanded, has become only a tiresome ceremony and formality, which offers them no opportunity to shine in the eyes of men. The carrying of the kingdom message from house to house in printed form, and presenting this to the people, is too humiliating for such self-important ones. They find no joy in it . . . Therefore they have said, and continue to say: ‘This carrying books about is merely a book-selling scheme. What a wearisome task that is!’” Even today there are those who, from time to time, find the field service a drudgery and attending meetings tedious. This is what can happen when we lose our fear of Jehovah and, along with it, our love for him.
19. How may we continue to demonstrate our appreciation for Jehovah’s provisions?
19 Maintaining fear of Jehovah will keep us humble before him and ever appreciative of all that he is doing for us. Whether we are at a small gathering in a home or at a large gathering of tens of thousands in a stadium, we are thankful to Jehovah for the privilege of being with our Christian brothers. We will show our thankfulness by being present there and by inciting others present to “love and fine works” by our upbuilding conversation and by the comments we make during meetings. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) If it should be our privilege to care for parts at meetings, we will avoid putting off preparation to the last minute, hastily gathering some ideas together. Never treat such assignments as something commonplace. They are sacred privileges, and the way we care for them is another indication of how we respect and fear Jehovah.
20. (a) What must we never forget? (b) To what conclusion do we come?
20 How sad the outcome is for those who lose the fear of God! They lack appreciation for the undeserved privilege of having a relationship with the Sovereign of the universe. “‘I am a great King,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘and my name will be fear-inspiring among the nations.’” (Malachi 1:14; Revelation 15:4) May we never forget that. May each of us be like the psalmist who said: “A partner I am of all those who do fear you.” (Psalm 119:63) After considering this matter, we come to the same conclusion that Solomon did when he said: “Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man. For the true God himself will bring every sort of work into the judgment in relation to every hidden thing, as to whether it is good or bad.”—Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14.
Lessons From the Book of Malachi—
□ Why did the Israelites owe Jehovah their fear?
□ How do our actions show whether we truly fear Jehovah?
□ What proves that there are fearers of Jehovah earth wide today?
□ Why must we maintain proper fear of God?
[Blurb on page 18]
From sunrise to sunset, Jehovah’s name will be made great
[Picture on page 17]
Israelites despised Jehovah by offering blind, lame, or sick animals as sacrifices