They Responded Unselfishly to God’s Love
“O let people give thanks to Jehovah for his loving-kindness and for his wonderful works to the sons of men.”—PSALM 107:8.
1. How does the apostle John emphasize the quality of love in his first letter?
“GOD is love.” How full of meaning those words are! No wonder the apostle John felt it necessary to repeat them in his first letter. (1 John 4:8, 16) Not only is Jehovah God love but he is also the embodiment, or personification, of love.
2. In what ways did God display love in creating man and woman and providing for them?
2 Think of the love God displayed in the way he created us. David’s appreciative words are so fitting. As an inspired psalmist, he said: “I shall laud you because in a fear-inspiring way I am wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) So that we can live in health and happiness, God made endless delights possible for us by means of our five senses—seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and feeling. What beauty we see in creation all around us! How wonderful are the many and varied plants and animals, to say nothing of the beauties of human forms and features! God also put a most delightful array of fruits, vegetables, and other foods within our reach. (Psalm 104:13-16) For good reason, the apostle Paul reminded the inhabitants of ancient Lystra that God “did good, giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts to the full with food and good cheer.”—Acts 14:17.
3. With what wondrous faculties has God endowed us?
3 Think also of all the blessings associated with happy family life. More than that, reflect on all the pleasures it is possible for us to enjoy because of our mental and emotional faculties: imagination, reason, memory, conscience, and particularly the capacity to worship—all of which puts us far above the animals; nor should we overlook the pleasures that music can give us. These and many other gifts are manifestations of God’s love for us.
4. What manifestations of God’s love have humans experienced since the transgression of their first parents?
4 There is no question that Adam and Eve enjoyed manifold delights in their perfect state in the garden of Eden. (Genesis 2:7-9, 22, 23) But when they failed to respond unselfishly to all the evidences of the divine love they were enjoying, did God cast off the human race? Not at all! He promptly made provision for righting all the wrongs resulting from the transgression of our first parents. (Genesis 3:15) Jehovah also manifested love by patiently putting up with Adam’s imperfect offspring. (Romans 5:12) For how long? Why, for some 6,000 years till now! Especially has God displayed love in dealing with his servants. True are the words: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness for thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin.”—Exodus 34:6, 7.
5. How did Jehovah show loving patience in dealing with the nation of Israel?
5 Yes, great indeed was the patience Jehovah God showed in his dealings with the Israelites from the time when he brought them forth as a nation at the foot of Mount Sinai until their waywardness compelled him to cast them off completely. As we read at 2 Chronicles 36:15, 16: “Jehovah the God of their forefathers kept sending against them by means of his messengers, sending again and again, because he felt compassion for his people and for his dwelling. But they were continually making jest at the messengers of the true God and despising his words and mocking at his prophets, until the rage of Jehovah came up against his people, until there was no healing.” But there were those who did respond unselfishly to Jehovah God’s love. To see how they did so, let us now examine the lives of some of these individuals. This will lay the groundwork for showing how we ourselves may respond to Jehovah’s love in very practical ways.
How Moses Responded Unselfishly
6. In what ways was Moses’ example outstanding, and in what capacities did he experience God’s love?
6 Moses was an outstanding example of a person who responded unselfishly to God’s love. What opportunities were set before Moses as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter! But he chose “to be ill-treated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin, because he esteemed the reproach of the Christ as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt.” (Hebrews 11:25, 26) At one time, Moses wanted to deliver his brothers, the Israelites, from Egyptian bondage. But they did not appreciate his efforts, nor was it God’s due time for their deliverance. (Acts 7:23-29) Decades later, however, because of Moses’ faith and unselfish desire to help his brothers, Jehovah empowered him to perform many miracles and to serve the Israelites for 40 years as His prophet, judge, lawgiver, and mediator. In these capacities, Moses experienced many instances of Jehovah’s love for him and his fellow Israelites.
7. How did Moses respond to expressions of God’s love?
7 How did Moses respond to God’s love and undeserved kindness? Did he ‘accept Jehovah’s undeserved kindness and miss its purpose’? (2 Corinthians 6:1) By no means! Moses unselfishly responded to Jehovah’s expressions of love toward him by being wholly God-oriented. He looked to Jehovah at all times and had an intimate relationship with his Maker. How highly God spoke of Moses when rebuking Aaron and Miriam for criticizing their brother! Yes, Jehovah spoke “mouth to mouth” with Moses and let him behold “the appearance of Jehovah.” (Numbers 12:6-8) In spite of Moses’ many privileges, he continued to be the meekest of men and carried out Jehovah’s commands “just so.”—Exodus 40:16; Numbers 12:3.
8. How did Moses show that he was truly God-oriented?
8 Moses also showed that he was unselfishly God-oriented by the concern he showed for Jehovah’s name, reputation, and pure worship. Thus, on two occasions Moses pleaded successfully with Jehovah to extend mercy to Israel because God’s name was involved. (Exodus 32:11-14; Numbers 14:13-19) When the Israelites became involved in idolatrous calf worship, Moses demonstrated zeal for pure worship by calling out: “Who is on Jehovah’s side? To me!” After that, Moses and those with him executed 3,000 of the idolaters. Then, for 40 years he put up with a complaining and rebellious people. There surely is no doubt that Moses responded unselfishly to expressions of God’s love, setting a fine example for us today.—Exodus 32:26-28; Deuteronomy 34:7, 10-12.
David’s Fine Response
9. (a) How did David respond to Jehovah God’s love? (b) Like David, how can we honor Jehovah with valuable things?
9 Another outstanding Bible character who set a fine example of unselfishly responding to God’s love was the psalmist David, the second king of Israel. His zeal for Jehovah’s name motivated him to do battle with the taunting Philistine giant Goliath, over whom God granted David the victory. (1 Samuel 17:45-51) That same zeal impelled David to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 6:12-19) And was not David’s desire to build Jehovah a temple another expression of his zeal and appreciation for God’s love and goodness? Of course it was. Being denied that privilege did not deter David from preparing for the project and honoring Jehovah by personally contributing gold, silver, and precious stones of very great value. (2 Samuel 7:1-13; 1 Chronicles 29:2-5) Similar unselfish response to God’s love should motivate us to ‘honor Jehovah with our valuable things’ by using our material resources to further Kingdom interests.—Proverbs 3:9, 10; Matthew 6:33.
10. In what respect is David’s course worthy of imitation?
10 Though David made serious mistakes, throughout his life he proved to be ‘a man agreeable to Jehovah’s heart.’ (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) His psalms are filled with expressions of appreciation for God’s love. The International Standard Bible Encyclopædia says that David “abounded more and more with thankfulness than any other that is mentioned in Holy Scripture.” The psalmist Asaph said that God “chose David his servant and took him from the pens of the flock. . . . He brought him in to be a shepherd over Jacob his people and over Israel his inheritance. And he began to shepherd them according to the integrity of his heart.” (Psalm 78:70-72) Truly, David’s course was one for us to imitate.
Jesus Christ, Our Perfect Exemplar
11, 12. How did Jesus show that he was truly God-oriented?
11 Of course, Jesus Christ is the finest Scriptural example of a man who responded unselfishly to God’s love. What did this move Jesus to do? First of all, he was motivated to give Jehovah exclusive devotion. There is no question that Jesus was God-oriented through and through. Appreciation for his heavenly Father’s love and goodness moved him to be a truly spiritual man. He had a close, intimate relationship with God. Jesus was a man of prayer, and he loved to talk to his heavenly Father. Time and again, we read that Christ was praying. On one occasion he spent a whole night in prayer. (Luke 3:21, 22; 6:12; 11:1; John 17:1-26) In response to God’s love, Jesus lived the truth that ‘man does not live on bread alone but on every utterance coming forth from Jehovah’s mouth.’ In fact, doing his Father’s will was food for him. (Matthew 4:4; John 4:34) Should we not respond similarly to God’s love, giving him exclusive devotion?
12 Unselfishly responding to God’s love, Jesus Christ always directed attention to his God and Father. When someone addressed Jesus as “Good Teacher,” he objected and said: “Nobody is good, except one, God.” (Luke 18:18, 19) Jesus repeatedly stressed that he could do nothing of his own initiative. He never missed an opportunity to magnify his Father’s name, and he most fittingly began his model prayer with the petition: “Let your name be sanctified.” He prayed: “Father, glorify your name.” And shortly before he died, Christ said to his Father: “I have glorified you on the earth, having finished the work you have given me to do.” (Matthew 6:9; John 12:28; 17:4) Surely, in response to God’s love, we should seek to glorify Jehovah, praying for the sanctification of his holy name.
13. How did God’s love prompt Jesus to act?
13 Now, please note a second way in which an unselfish response to God’s love motivated Jesus. It caused him to love righteousness and hate wickedness, as foretold at Psalm 45:7. (Hebrews 1:9) He was “loyal, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners.” (Hebrews 7:26) Jesus challenged his malicious opposers to convict him of sin, but they could not do so. (John 8:46) On two occasions, his hatred of wickedness caused him to cleanse the temple of greedy religionists. (Matthew 21:12, 13; John 2:13-17) And how scathingly Jesus denounced the hypocritical religious leaders, even telling them that they were of the Devil!—Matthew 6:2, 5, 16; 15:7-9; 23:13-32; John 8:44.
14. In response to Jehovah’s love, how did Jesus deal with his disciples?
14 Still another way in which Jehovah’s love motivated Jesus can be seen in his dealings with his apostles and other disciples. How loving, patient, and long-suffering he was with them! They must have tried him sorely with their rivalry, arguing even down to the very night of his betrayal about who was the greatest. (Luke 22:24-27) Yet, Jesus always showed himself to be mild-tempered and lowly in heart. (Matthew 11:28-30) True, Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied him three times, and the other apostles fled when a mob came to arrest him. But he never became bitter or resentful. How do we know? Well, upon rejoining the apostles after his resurrection, Jesus gave them no stinging rebuke over having yielded to fear. Rather, he comforted and strengthened them for further Kingdom service.—John 20:19-23.
15. How did Jesus unselfishly minister to the physical needs of people?
15 Let us consider yet another way in which Jesus Christ responded unselfishly to God’s love. He did so by sacrificing himself in behalf of others, down to an ignominious and painful death on a torture stake. (Philippians 2:5-8) Jesus ministered to the physical needs of people by miraculously feeding multitudes and performing many cures. (Matthew 14:14-22; 15:32-39) He always put the interests of others ahead of his own. That is why he could say: “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” (Matthew 8:20) Jesus was sensitive to the operation of God’s spirit as it flowed from him in performing miraculous cures. But he never tried to profit materially from the use of such supernatural power, as when a woman subject to a flow of blood for 12 years touched his outer garment in faith and was made well. (Mark 5:25-34) Moreover, Jesus never used supernatural powers in his own behalf.—Compare Matthew 4:2-4.
16. In what ways did Christ minister to the people’s spiritual need?
16 Although Jesus unselfishly attended to the physical needs of the people by healing their maladies and feeding them miraculously, the main motivation in his earthly ministry was to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom, to teach, and to make disciples. In spite of all the marvelous cures he performed, he was not known as the Great Physician or Miracle Worker but as the Good Teacher. (Matthew 4:23, 24; Mark 10:17) Jesus referred to himself as the Teacher, as did his disciples and even his enemies. (Matthew 22:16; 26:18; Mark 9:38) And what truths he taught, as in his Sermon on the Mount! (Matthew 5:1–7:29) How apt his illustrations were, and how striking his prophetic parables and other prophecies! No wonder the soldiers sent to arrest Jesus on one occasion could not bring themselves to lay hold on him!—John 7:45, 46.
17. (a) How did Jesus provide us the perfect pattern of love? (b) What will be discussed in the next article?
17 Unquestionably, Jesus Christ set us the perfect example of responding unselfishly to God’s demonstrations of love toward us. Jesus gave his heavenly Father the first place in his life and affections. He truly loved righteousness, dealt lovingly with his apostles and other disciples, and spent his life ministering to the spiritual and material needs of people. Finally, Jesus crowned his ministry by giving his life as a ransom. (Matthew 20:28) But what about us? True, we are imperfect, like Moses and David. However, as the next article shows, there are practical ways in which we can imitate our Exemplar in responding unselfishly to manifestations of God’s love.
How Would You Respond?
□ Why can it be said that “God is love”?
□ How did Moses respond to manifestations of God’s love?
□ In what ways did David respond to Jehovah God’s love?
□ What example did Jesus Christ set in responding to the love of God?
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Do you know how Moses responded to God’s love?
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Jesus responded to God’s love by helping others spiritually and physically and by giving his life as a ransom