Who Can Be God’s Friend?
YOU can be God’s friend. Some 4,000 years ago, the man Abraham put faith in Jehovah God. This was counted to him as righteousness, and that patriarch came to be called “Jehovah’s friend.” (James 2:23) So if you have faith in Jehovah, you can also be God’s friend.
Friends are likely to be invited to a meal as guests. In fact, part of the well-known 23rd Psalm represents God as a gracious host. It says: “You [Jehovah] arrange before me a table in front of those showing hostility to me. . . . My cup is well filled.”—Psalm 23:5.
On another occasion, the same psalmist—King David of ancient Israel—asked: “O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent? Who will reside in your holy mountain?” (Psalm 15:1) Figuratively, this means having access to Jehovah in acceptable prayer and worship. What an awesome privilege! How can imperfect humans possibly qualify to be God’s friends and guests?
The 15th Psalm answers this question. It mentions ten specific requirements for those desiring to be God’s friends and guests. Let us consider these requirements one by one, starting with Ps 15 verse 2.
“He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness”
Abraham’s offspring flourished greatly because Abraham was morally faultless in walking before Jehovah. (Genesis 17:1, 2) “Walking” sometimes means pursuing a certain course in life. (Psalm 1:1; 3 John 3, 4) For God’s friends and guests, it is not enough to belong to a religion, delight in its ornate buildings, and share in formal observances. Not all who say “Lord, Lord” or declare that they know God will enjoy the blessings of his Kingdom. (Matthew 7:21-23; Titus 1:16) Jehovah’s friends ‘walk faultlessly’ in his sight and ‘practice righteousness’ according to his standards.—Micah 6:8.
This rules out every form of dishonesty, sexual immorality, and corruption. God himself tells us why, saying: “You must be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) Does your religion adhere to God’s high standards, even disfellowshipping those who refuse to conform to his requirements? Do you insist on righteous conduct for yourself and your family? If so, you will be meeting the next requirement for God’s friends and guests.
“And speaking the truth in his heart”
If we want God’s friendship, we cannot lie or resort to smooth talk with a double heart. (Psalm 12:2) We must ‘speak the truth in our heart,’ not just have it on our lips. Yes, we have to be inwardly honest and must give evidence of “faith without hypocrisy.” (1 Timothy 1:5) Some people lie or speak half-truths to save face. Others cheat on school tests or falsify tax returns. Such actions betray a lack of love for what is true. But truthfulness and upright acts come from the very hearts of God’s friends. (Matthew 15:18-20) They are not devious or deceptive.—Proverbs 3:32; 6:16-19.
The apostle Paul wrote: “Do not be lying to one another. Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality.” (Colossians 3:9, 10) Yes, those who really speak the truth in their heart clothe themselves with “the new personality.” Are you completely honest with yourself and others, speaking the truth in your heart? If you are, that should affect what you say about others.
“He has not slandered with his tongue”
To meet this requirement for God’s guests, we must never speak maliciously about others. (Psalm 15:3) The Hebrew verb rendered “slandered” is derived from the word for “foot” and means “to foot it” and thus “to go about.” The Israelites were commanded: “You must not go around among your people for the sake of slandering. You must not stand up against your fellow’s blood. I am Jehovah.” (Leviticus 19:16; 1 Timothy 5:13) If we slander someone, robbing him of his good name, we cannot be God’s friends.
David declared: “Anyone slandering his companion in secrecy, him I silence.” (Psalm 101:5) We too can silence slanderers if we refuse to listen to them. And a good rule is to say nothing about a person behind his back that we would not be willing to say to his face. It is fine if we have our tongue under such control. Yet, how important it is to control our actions too!
“To his companion he has done nothing bad”
Noteworthy here are Jesus’ words: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) To enjoy God’s favor, we must refrain from doing what is bad. The psalmist said: “O you lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad. He is guarding the souls of his loyal ones; out of the hand of the wicked ones he delivers them.” (Psalm 97:10) So if we want God’s friendship and help, we must accept his standards.
Shunning what is bad includes not wronging anybody in business dealings or in other ways. In word and deed, we must do nothing to harm our companion, but we should be doing good things for him. This can touch every aspect of life. For instance, when driving, we may courteously yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. We can help the elderly, encourage the despondent, comfort the grieving. In this regard, Jehovah sets the prime example. As Jesus said, God “makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-48) Akin to doing good to others is complying with what the psalmist next mentions.
“And no reproach has he taken up against his intimate acquaintance”
All of us make mistakes, and how grateful we are when friends choose to overlook these minor errors! We would be distressed if an intimate friend revealed our minor but embarrassing weaknesses to others. Some people do this to divert attention from their own faults or to make themselves appear superior to others. But such acts do not befit those desiring to be God’s friends.
“The one covering over transgression is seeking love, and he that keeps talking about a matter is separating those familiar with one another,” says Proverbs 17:9. Of course, we should not try to conceal serious wrongdoing. (Leviticus 5:1; Proverbs 28:13) But if we want to be God’s friends, we will not ‘take up,’ or receive as true, reproachful stories about upright acquaintances. (1 Timothy 5:19) Jehovah’s friends speak well of God’s servants instead of spreading tales about them, adding to what they already bear from evil reproaches by ungodly men. God’s friends and guests also guard their associations, for David adds in Ps 15 verse 4:
“In his eyes anyone contemptible is certainly rejected”
Seeking selfish benefits, some people keep company with rich or prominent persons even if they are corrupt. (Compare Jude 16.) But we cannot be Jehovah’s friends if we associate with the wicked. We should hate evil so much that we do not want to have fellowship with those who practice it. (Romans 12:9) So bad was Israel’s king Jehoram that the prophet Elisha told him: “As Jehovah of armies before whom I do stand is living, if it were not that it is the face of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah for which I am having consideration, I would not look at you or see you.” (2 Kings 3:14) To be God’s friends, we must heed Paul’s warning: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Corinthians 15:33.
If we value Jehovah’s friendship, then, we will refuse to associate with wrongdoers. We will do only necessary business with them. Our friends will be chosen for their good relationship with God, not for their standing in the world. We will choose friends wisely if we have a reverential fear of God. In this regard, note the seventh requirement to be met by Jehovah’s guests.
“But those fearing Jehovah he honors”
To be God’s friends and guests, we must fear him. Says Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge.” What is “the fear of Jehovah”? It is reverential awe for God and a wholesome dread of displeasing him. This results in true knowledge, lifesaving discipline, and heavenly wisdom that is a sure guide.
Those fearing Jehovah adhere to his righteous standards even if this results in ridicule. For instance, many scoff when those fearing God work industriously, are honest on the job, or seek to help others spiritually. But how does a godly individual look upon such upright persons? ‘He honors those fearing Jehovah,’ holding them in high esteem, even if this means bearing reproach along with them. Do you have such respect for those fearing God? Citing another requirement for divine favor, the psalmist adds:
“He has sworn to what is bad for himself, and yet he does not alter”
The principle here is that of fulfilling our promises, as God does. (1 Kings 8:56; 2 Corinthians 1:20) Even if we later find that doing what we promised is very difficult, we should not change our mind and renege on our promise. Here the Greek Septuagint, Syriac Peshitta, and Latin Vulgate texts say, “sworn to his neighbor.” If we swear to do something or make a proper vow, we should live up to it. (Ecclesiastes 5:4) Of course, if we learn that something we promised is unscriptural, we should not do it.
Joshua did not break a covenant with the Gibeonites even though he later learned that they had deceived him into making it. (Joshua 9:16-19) So we should be men, women, and young persons who keep our word. Let us not make promises to others and then leave them in the lurch when more appealing opportunities open up to us. Jesus said: “Just let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No.” (Matthew 5:37) Especially should those dedicated to Jehovah be determined to live up to their promise to serve him eternally as his Witnesses. Besides keeping promises, we should be considerate in financial matters, as David shows in the 15th Psalm, verse 5 Ps 15:5 .
“His money he has not given out on interest”
Money lent for business purposes can rightly be repaid with interest. But here David meant ‘giving out money’ to the destitute. The Mosaic Law specified: “If you should lend money to my people, to the afflicted alongside you, you must not become like a usurer to him. You must not lay interest upon him.” (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35, 36) When Nehemiah found the poor suffering as victims of usurers, he stopped such exploitation.—Nehemiah 5:1-13.
For “interest,” David used a Hebrew word derived from another one signifying “to bite.” This suggests that greedy usurers were devouring the poor and the little that they had. Clearly, it is much better to help the poverty-stricken without expecting any return. Jesus made such a point by saying: “When you spread a dinner or evening meal, . . . invite poor people, crippled, lame, blind; and you will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous ones.” (Luke 14:12-14) A person desiring to be God’s friend and guest would never take undue advantage of his neighbor’s poverty and would comply with what the psalmist goes on to mention.
“And a bribe against the innocent one he has not taken”
A bribe has a corrupting influence. The Israelites were commanded: “You must not . . . accept a bribe, for the bribe blinds the eyes of wise ones and distorts the words of righteous ones.” (Deuteronomy 16:19) It is especially evil to take a bribe to do injury to an “innocent one,” perhaps by changing court testimony. How despicable Judas Iscariot was in accepting a bribe to betray innocent Jesus!—Matthew 26:14-16.
We may consider ourselves faultless in this regard. But have we ever been tempted to buy our way out of an embarrassing situation? The prophet Samuel never accepted “hush money,” or a bribe. (1 Samuel 12:3, 4) All of us must conduct ourselves in that way if we are to be God’s friends and guests.
“He that is doing these things will never be made to totter”
After its tenfold description of an upright person, the 15th Psalm concludes with the foregoing words. They may well make us analyze our religion. If it is the true faith, it should teach us to (1) walk faultlessly and practice righteousness, (2) speak the truth even in the heart, (3) avoid slandering others, and (4) refrain from doing anything bad. Religion acceptable to God will (5) keep us from taking up reproaches against upright acquaintances and will (6) make us avoid association with contemptible persons. The true faith will move us to (7) honor those fearing Jehovah, (8) carry out what we have promised to do if it is proper, (9) give to the impoverished without charging interest, and (10) never take a bribe against an innocent person.
David does not say that anyone reading, hearing, speaking, or even believing these things “will never be made to totter.” This will be the experience only of the individual “that is doing these things.” Faith without works to back it up is dead and does not result in divine approval. (James 2:26) Doers of the good things mentioned in the 15th Psalm will not totter, for Jehovah will protect and uphold them.—Psalm 55:22.
There is, of course, more to pure worship than the ten points mentioned in the 15th Psalm. Jesus’ followers later learned other things about worshiping God “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24) So can you, for people who do these things exist today. Regular association with these Witnesses of Jehovah and study of the Bible will build up hope of life in an earthly paradise where you can be God’s guest and friend forever.