Honoring the God of Hope
“The utterance of Jehovah is: . . . ‘Those honoring me I shall honor, and those despising me will be of little account.’”—1 SAMUEL 2:30.
IN VIEW of the prospects that we can have, based on the Bible, it is altogether fitting and reasonable for us to honor “the God of hope,” “the God who gives hope.” (Romans 15:13, King James Version; New World Translation) Why is that? How can we, who are but tiny, imperfect humans, honor the Grand Creator of the entire universe? And will he honor us in return?
2. How did Jesus feel about honor being given to God?
2 We can learn from what occurred with Jesus. None of us would deny that Jesus always wanted his Father to be honored, glorified. (John 5:23; 12:28; 15:8) In fact, Jesus criticized Pharisees and scribes who ‘honored God with their lips but whose hearts were far removed from him.’ Please note, their not honoring God involved inappropriate motives and actions. (Matthew 15:7-9) Can we, though, say that in Christ’s honoring God, his hope was involved? And how did Jehovah respond to being thus honored?
3. How do we know that Jesus hoped in Jehovah?
3 Jesus took to heart David’s words at Psalm 16:10: “You will not leave my soul in Sheol. You will not allow your loyal one to see the pit.” Because he had this hope of being resurrected, Jesus Christ could say electrifying words to an evildoer impaled beside him: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43) That evildoer soon died, so he was not able three days later to witness the confirmation of Jesus’ hope of being raised. But an eyewitness reported: “This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses.” (Acts 2:31, 32) It was a fact.
4. What honor did Jesus merit and receive? (Revelation 5:12)
4 Many of the common people to whom Jesus ministered knew that he merited esteem, or honor. (Luke 4:15; 19:36-38; 2 Peter 1:17, 18) Then he died like a criminal. Did that change things? No, for Jesus had the approval of the God in whom he hoped. Thus, Jehovah brought him back to life. The fact that “the God of hope” raised his Son to life and clothed him with immortality in the spirit realm proves that the Father was continuing to honor his Son. Paul says: “We behold Jesus . . . crowned with glory and honor for having suffered death, that he by God’s undeserved kindness might taste death for every man.”—Hebrews 2:7, 9; Philippians 2:9-11.
5. In what special way was Jesus honored, resulting in what added honor to God?
5 Jesus, who had honored Jehovah, mentioned one special way in which the Father honored him. In an appearance to his faithful apostles, he said: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit . . . Look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 28:18-20) So the Father additionally honored the Son by giving him unique authority. This was to be used in behalf of humans who would do a work that brings honor to the One whom Jesus strives to honor. Does this mean, then, that we imperfect humans can in some way honor the Father and be honored by him in return?
Humans Honor God
6. Is it appropriate to desire to be honored, but what danger exists in this? (Luke 14:10)
6 Most humans hardly think of honoring God first, for they are more interested in gaining honor for themselves. Some might even say that it is normal for us to want to be honored. There is a measure of truth in this, as it is normal to desire a good reputation, with a measure of honor from this. (1 Timothy 3:2, 13; 5:17; Acts 28:10) Yet, the desire for honor from men can easily be exaggerated. This is evident by the many who will chase fame at any cost or who will do anything to save face.
7. Why is being honored by men of such limited value?
7 When you think about it, even the greatest honor from men is fleeting, for all soon die. Oh, the memory of a few heroes may be honored for a while, but most of the dead are forgotten. How many people know their great-grandparents’ names or know who were the leaders of their nation a hundred years ago? Actually, whether someone lived or did not live does not change matters. He is but a minute speck of dust on the scales of time, a tiny drop in the stream of life. And even if he is honored briefly after death, he is unaware of it. (Job 14:21; 2 Chronicles 32:33; Ecclesiastes 9:5; Psalm 49:12, 20) The only thing that can make a difference is having the hope that God provides, honoring him, and being honored in return. We can see this in the lives of two contemporaries in ancient Israel.
8. Eli fell into what trap involving the giving of honor?
8 Eli was one. He served God in the unique position of high priest for 40 years and was also privileged to judge Israel. (1 Samuel 1:3, 9; 4:18) Nonetheless, in time he showed weakness concerning his sons Hophni and Phinehas. Though being priests, they abused their office by stealing parts of the sacrifices and by engaging in immoral sex. When their father did little more than mildly criticize them, God declared that Eli ‘kept honoring his sons more than me.’ Jehovah had promised to continue the Aaronic priesthood, but he would cut off the house of Eli from the high-priestly office. Why? God explained: “Those honoring me I shall honor, and those despising me will be of little account.”—1 Samuel 2:12-17, 29-36; 3:12-14.
9. How was Samuel given the opportunity to honor Jehovah?
9 In contrast there was Samuel. You likely know that his parents brought him at a young age to serve at the tabernacle in Shiloh. One night Jehovah spoke to the lad. You may enjoy reading this account at 1 Samuel 3:1-14, imagining this boy’s being awakened, not by a thunderous roar, but by a low voice that he mistook for elderly Eli’s. Then think how intimidating it must have been for young Samuel to have to tell the aged high priest of God’s determination to punish the house of Eli. Yet Samuel did it; he honored God by obedience.—1 Samuel 3:18, 19.
10. In response to being honored, how did God honor Samuel?
10 Samuel honored Jehovah for years as a prophet, and God honored him. Note this at 1 Samuel 7:7-13. Jehovah quickly responded to Samuel’s prayer for help to defeat the Philistines. Would you not feel honored to have such divine recognition? When Samuel’s sons did not follow his lead, God did not reject him as he had rejected Eli. This evidently was because Samuel did all he could to honor God. Further showing this, Samuel disapproved of the people’s request for a human king. (1 Samuel 8:6, 7) God used Samuel to anoint both Saul and David. At Samuel’s death, Israel honored him by mourning. More importantly, however, God honored him by mentioning him in the Bible among men of faith who will be blessed with a resurrection and the good things God has in store for them. (Psalm 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1; Hebrews 11:6, 16, 32, 39, 40) Does this not show that honoring “the God of hope” is of great value?
Will You Honor “the God of Hope”?
11, 12. What do we need to consider about honoring Jehovah, and what is one way for us to do that?
11 The cases of Jesus and Samuel, to give just two Bible examples, establish that humans can put honoring their “God of hope” as the highest priority in life. And those two cases show that by our doing so we can fittingly seek and receive honor from God. But how can you do this with reasonable assurance that you will please God, will be honored by him, and will attain your Bible-based hope?
12 Having a genuine, respectful fear of displeasing God is one way. (Malachi 1:6) Likely we readily agree with that statement. Yet, remember Eli’s sons. If you had asked them whether they wanted to honor God by respectfully fearing him, most likely they would have said yes. The problem comes in translating into the reality of actions in everyday life our desire to honor God by fearing him.
13. Illustrate how a desire to honor God by fearing him can help us.
13 If we are faced with a tempting situation in which we could steal or engage in some sexual impropriety without its becoming general knowledge, would our desire to honor God affect our actions? We ought to cultivate the feeling, ‘Even if the wrongdoing could remain hidden, my very giving in to such sin is a dishonor to “the God of hope” whose name I bear.’ And the fact is that the wrong will not permanently remain hidden, any more than did the things that Eli’s sons committed. This is borne out by Paul’s words concerning “God’s righteous judgment”: “He will render to each one according to his works: everlasting life to those who are seeking glory and honor and incorruptibleness by endurance in work that is good; however, for those who are contentious and who disobey the truth but obey unrighteousness there will be wrath and anger.”—Romans 2:5-8.
14. What is another way in which we can honor God, and what might we ask ourselves?
14 On the other hand, Paul mentions participation “in work that is good,” which honors God and results in “glory and honor” from him. A primary work of this kind today is what Jesus mentioned at Matthew 28:19, 20: ‘Make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all the things that I have commanded you.’ Earth wide, millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses are active in this God-honoring preaching and teaching work. Many are even exerting themselves to be full-time ministers as pioneers, either on a permanent basis or during vacation from secular work or school. With this in mind, each one of us can beneficially consider how he stands as to this work. You might ask, for example, ‘Am I honoring “the God of hope” by having a full share in the preaching work?’
15. What has happened to some Christians in regard to honoring Jehovah through the public ministry?
15 Some Christians who for years were active preachers have gradually slowed down. They have settled into a pattern of having only a small or infrequent share in the important disciple-making work. We do not mean individuals who have physical limitations and slow down because of the effects of old age. Quite aside from such, a slowing down is seen among certain Witnesses of various ages. Interestingly, Paul was not referring to a certain age group when he warned Christians against ‘tiring out.’ Rather, no matter what a person’s age, the crux of the matter is that regular participation in the ministry requires effort. As evidently occurred in Paul’s day, some today are reasoning, ‘I’ve done my share over the years, so now newer Christians can exert themselves.’—Galatians 6:9; Hebrews 12:3.
16. Why might we benefit from self-examination in this regard?
16 Those who have been affected in this way are certainly in the minority, but you might ask, ‘Do I frankly recognize any such tendency in my case? How does my share in the ministry compare with that in the past?’ Whether any slowing down has occurred or not, we all should bear in mind that our “God of hope” promises to provide “glory and honor and peace for everyone who works what is good.” (Romans 2:10) Paul used a Greek word that means “to work something, produce, perform.” How vital it is that we avoid what befell the Pharisees and scribes, who simply honored God by a form of lip service! (Mark 7:6; Revelation 2:10) Conversely, when from the heart we actively share in the public ministry, we confirm to ourselves and to others that we do have a real hope. We honor our Creator and Life-giver. And we come in line to be honored by him, now and endlessly.—Luke 10:1, 2, 17-20.
With Our Valuable Things
17, 18. What is another way in which we can honor God, and why is reluctance to do so not valid?
17 As to one other way in which we can honor our “God of hope,” Proverbs 3:9 says: “Honor Jehovah with your valuable things and with the firstfruits of all your produce.” Spurrell renders this verse: “Glorify Jehovah with thy wealth, and with the best of all thine increase.”—A Translation of the Old Testament Scriptures from the Original Hebrew.
18 Since various clergymen have become notorious for their boundless greed and opulent life-style, many individuals hesitate to give to churches and religious organizations whose aim clearly seems to be just the gaining of wealth. (Revelation 18:4-8) Such abuses, however, do not alter the validity of Proverbs 3:9. In accord with that inspired counsel, how can we use our “valuable things” to “honor Jehovah,” our “God of hope”?
19. Illustrate how some have applied Proverbs 3:9.
19 Jehovah’s Witnesses find that the growing number of people responding to the Kingdom message requires the expanding of Kingdom Halls or the building of new ones. Here, then, is one way to “glorify Jehovah with thy wealth.” Young and old have shared in doing this, such as by personally resolving to contribute toward the building funds. To hold to such secret resolves may take personal discipline or even some sacrifice, particularly if the planning and completing of a building project extends over a long period of time. (2 Corinthians 9:6, 7) Still, using funds in this way truly honors Jehovah, for the Kingdom Halls are places where Christians worship him and where they and their associates gain knowledge of God. Jesus’ words at Matthew 6:3, 4 give us good reason to trust that God will honor those who have thus honored him.
20. (a) Why is self-scrutiny in order in applying Proverbs 3:9? (b) What questions might we ask ourselves?
20 A word of caution, though: The Pharisees and scribes, who Jesus said were not putting foremost the honoring of God, made sure that they were the first ones to benefit from their wealth. So the counsel at Matthew 15:4-8 recommends that we submit to self-scrutiny as to ‘honoring Jehovah with our valuable things.’ (Jeremiah 17:9, 10) For example, a Christian who has become somewhat wealthy through his business might rationalize his continuing to work full-time so as to earn still more. He might reason, ‘Others enter the pioneer ministry or move to serve where preachers are especially needed, but my special way to serve God is by earning more and then having plenty to donate.’ His contributions may do much good. But he could well ask, ‘Does my personal life-style reflect that using money in honoring God is my primary motive for earning more and more?’ (Luke 12:16-19; compare Mark 12:41-44.) And, ‘Could I arrange my affairs to have a greater personal share in the most important work for our day—declaring the good news?’ In fact, no matter what our circumstances in life are, we can examine our motives and actions and ask, ‘How can I more fully honor my Life-giver and “God of hope”?’
21. What prospect do we have if we honor Jehovah now?
21 Jehovah will not disappoint us. What a delightful prospect it is that he might, now and on into the future, say about us what he said of faithful Israel: “Owing to the fact that you have been precious in my eyes, you have been considered honorable, and I myself have loved you”! (Isaiah 43:4) That same One promises “everlasting life to those who are seeking glory and honor.” This promise he directs to those who endure “in work that is good.” What a “God of hope”!
How Would You Answer?
□ As to humans honoring Jehovah, what can we learn from Jesus’ example?
□ How did Eli and Samuel differ regarding honoring God?
□ What are some ways in which you can increase the honor you bring to God, and what response may you receive?
□ What future awaits those who put first the honoring of our “God of hope”?
[Box on page 20]
LETTERS ABOUT CONTRIBUTIONS
Here are some excerpts from letters received by the Brooklyn, New York, office of the Watch Tower Society:
“My name is Abijah. I am nine years old. I want to give you $4 for the brothers working on the Kingdom Halls. They can use it for lumber or for a candy bar, I don’t mind.”—Oregon.
‘You will find enclosed my personal check. I am past 96 years old and very hard of hearing, but I really enjoy saving my money for this. Yes, I know, I am driving a secondhand car, and I do not spend my winters in Florida or California. I can do such a little toward getting the good news of the Kingdom preached by knocking on doors. But by saving my money and sending some to you, I feel that I am still having a part in it.’—Ohio.
‘Thank you for everything you did for the Kingdom Hall. This money [$5] is to help you with books and The Watchtowers for us to read. The money is from my piggybank. Thanks for the School brochure to tell us about drugs.’
“Enclosed please find a check. Two hundred dollars of it is for the Kingdom Hall Building Fund. The rest is to be used any way you see fit to promote the preaching work.”—Missouri.