Godly Subjection—Why and by Whom?
“I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”—JEREMIAH 10:23.
1. What forms of independence have been widely valued?
AMONG the most noted of human documents is the Declaration of Independence, by which 13 British colonies in North America in the 18th century declared their independence from their mother country, Britain. They wanted freedom, and independence from foreign control and freedom went hand in hand. Political and economic independence can be a great advantage. In recent times some Eastern European lands have moved toward political independence. However, it must be admitted that in those lands such independence has brought with it many serious problems.
2, 3. (a) What form of independence is not desirable? (b) How was this fact originally driven home?
2 As desirable as various forms of independence may be, there is one form of independence that is not desirable. What is that? Independence from man’s Maker, Jehovah God. That is not a blessing but a curse. Why? Because man was never meant to act independently of his Maker, as the prophet Jeremiah’s words quoted above so aptly show. In other words, man was meant to be in subjection to his Maker. To be in subjection to our Creator means to be obedient to him.
3 That fact was driven home to the first human pair by Jehovah’s command to them as recorded at Genesis 2:16, 17: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” Refusing to be in subjection to his Maker brought to Adam and all his offspring sin, suffering, and death.—Genesis 3:19; Romans 5:12.
4, 5. (a) What has resulted from humans’ refusing to be in subjection to God? (b) What moral law is inescapable?
4 Humans’ refusing to be in subjection to God is unwise as well as morally wrong. In the world it has resulted in widespread lawlessness, crime, violence, and sexual immorality with its fruits of sexually transmitted diseases. Besides, is not today’s plague of juvenile crime largely caused by the refusal of youths to be in subjection to Jehovah, as well as to their parents and to the laws of the land? This spirit of independence is seen in the outlandish and slovenly way many people dress and in the profane language that they use.
5 But there is just no escaping the Creator’s inexorable moral law: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh.”—Galatians 6:7, 8.
6, 7. What is the root cause of refusing to be in subjection, as seen by what examples?
6 What is the root cause of all this refusing to be in subjection? Simply put, it is selfishness and pride. That is why Eve, the first woman, let herself be deceived by the serpent and partook of the forbidden fruit. Had she been modest and humble, the temptation to be like God—deciding for herself what is good and bad—would not have appealed to her. And had she been unselfish, she would not have wanted something that had been expressly forbidden by her Maker, Jehovah God.—Genesis 2:16, 17.
7 Not long after Adam and Eve’s fall, pride and selfishness caused Cain to murder his brother Abel. Also, selfishness caused certain angels to act independently, leaving their original position and materializing so as to enjoy sensual pleasures. Pride and selfishness motivated Nimrod and have characterized most worldly rulers since his time.—Genesis 3:6, 7; 4:6-8; 1 John 3:12; Jude 6.
Why We Owe Jehovah God Subjection
8-11. What are four powerful reasons for our exercising godly subjection?
8 Why do we owe our Maker, Jehovah God, subjection? First of all because he is the Universal Sovereign. All authority rightfully resides in him. He is our Judge, Lawgiver, and King. (Isaiah 33:22) Well has it been written of him: “All things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting.”—Hebrews 4:13.
9 Moreover, since our Maker is almighty, no one can successfully oppose him; no one can ignore his obligation to be in subjection to Him. Sooner or later, those who refuse will come to grief as did Pharaoh of old and as will Satan the Devil in God’s due time.—Psalm 136:1, 11-15; Revelation 11:17; 20:10, 14.
10 Subjection is the obligation of all intelligent creatures because they exist for the purpose of serving their Maker. Revelation 4:11 declares: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” He is the Great Potter, and he makes human vessels to serve his purpose.—Isaiah 29:16; 64:8.
11 We should not overlook the fact that our Maker is all-wise, so he knows what is best for us. (Romans 11:33) His laws are ‘for our good.’ (Deuteronomy 10:12, 13) Above all, “God is love,” so he wants only what is best for us. How many compelling reasons we have for being in subjection to our Maker, Jehovah God!—1 John 4:8.
Jesus Christ, the Perfect Example of Godly Subjection
12, 13. (a) How did Jesus Christ manifest godly subjection? (b) What words of Jesus show his submissive attitude?
12 Without the shadow of a doubt, Jehovah’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, gives us the perfect example of godly subjection. The apostle Paul points this out at Philippians 2:6-8: “[Jesus], although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he [further] humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” When on earth, Jesus repeatedly stated that he did nothing out of his own initiative; he did not act independently, but always kept in subjection to his heavenly Father.
13 We read at John 5:19, 30: “Jesus went on to say to them: ‘Most truly I say to you, The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing. For whatever things that One does, these things the Son also does in like manner. I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative; just as I hear, I judge; and the judgment that I render is righteous, because I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.’” Likewise, he repeatedly prayed on the night of his betrayal: “Not as I will, but as you will.”—Matthew 26:39, 42, 44; see also John 7:28; 8:28, 42.
Ancient Examples of Godly Subjection
14. In what ways did Noah show godly subjection?
14 Among the early human examples of godly subjection was Noah. He demonstrated his subjection in three ways. First, by being a righteous man, faultless among his contemporaries, walking with the true God. (Genesis 6:9) Second, by constructing the ark. He “proceeded to do according to all that God had commanded him. He did just so.” (Genesis 6:22) Third, by sounding the warning of the coming Deluge as “a preacher of righteousness.”—2 Peter 2:5.
15, 16. (a) What fine example did Abraham set in godly subjection? (b) How did Sarah show subjection?
15 Abraham was another outstanding example of godly subjection. He manifested subjection by obeying God’s command: “Go your way out of your country.” (Genesis 12:1) That meant leaving his comfortable surroundings in Ur (no insignificant city, as indicated by archaeological discoveries) to wander as a nomad in a foreign land for a hundred years. In particular did Abraham show godly subjection by meeting the great test of being willing to offer up his son Isaac.—Genesis 22:1-12.
16 Abraham’s wife Sarah furnishes us with another fine example of godly subjection. Wandering about in a strange land no doubt brought with it many inconveniences, but nowhere do we read of her complaining. She set a fine example of godly subjection in the two instances when Abraham presented her as his sister before pagan rulers. Both times she cooperated, even though she almost became a member of their harems as a result. Testifying to her godly subjection is her way of referring within herself to her husband, Abraham, as “my lord,” showing that that was her genuine heart attitude.—Genesis 12:11-20; 18:12; 20:2-18; 1 Peter 3:6.
17. Why can it be said that Isaac showed godly subjection?
17 Let us not overlook the example of godly subjection furnished by Abraham’s son Isaac. Jewish tradition indicates that Isaac was about 25 years old when Jehovah commanded his father, Abraham, to offer him up as a sacrifice. Had Isaac wanted to, he could easily have resisted his father, who was a hundred years older than he was. But no. Although Isaac wondered about the lack of an animal for the sacrifice, he meekly submitted to his father’s placing him on the altar and then tying him hand and foot in order to prevent or control any involuntary reactions that might have occurred if the slaughtering knife had been used.—Genesis 22:7-9.
18. How did Moses show exemplary godly subjection?
18 Years later, Moses set a good example for us in godly subjection. That certainly is indicated by his being described as “by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground.” (Numbers 12:3) His obediently carrying out Jehovah’s commands for 40 years in the wilderness, even though he had the oversight of a rebellious people numbering two or three million, testifies further to his godly subjection. Thus the record says that “Moses proceeded to do according to all that Jehovah had commanded him. He did just so.”—Exodus 40:16.
19. By what expressions did Job show his subjection to Jehovah?
19 Job is another outstanding character who set us an excellent example in godly subjection. After Jehovah had permitted Satan to wipe out all of Job’s possessions, to kill his children, and then to strike him with “a malignant boil from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head,” Job’s wife said to him: “Are you yet holding fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” Nevertheless, Job showed his godly subjection by saying to her: “As one of the senseless women speaks, you speak also. Shall we accept merely what is good from the true God and not accept also what is bad?” (Job 2:7-10) Showing the same mental attitude are his words recorded at Job 13:15: “Even if he would slay me, would I not wait?” Although Job was, in fact, greatly concerned about his own justification, we should not overlook that in the end Jehovah said to one of his supposed comforters: “My anger has grown hot against you and your two companions, for you men have not spoken concerning me what is truthful as has my servant Job.” Undoubtedly, Job furnishes us a fine example of godly submission.—Job 42:7.
20. In what ways did David demonstrate godly subjection?
20 To mention just one more example from the Hebrew Scriptures, there is David. When King Saul hunted David as if he were an animal, David had two opportunities to end his troubles by slaying Saul. Yet, David’s godly subjection kept him from doing so. His words are recorded at 1 Samuel 24:6: “It is unthinkable, on my part, from Jehovah’s standpoint, that I should do this thing to my lord, the anointed of Jehovah, by thrusting out my hand against him, for he is the anointed of Jehovah.” (See also 1 Samuel 26:9-11.) He likewise showed his godly subjection by accepting reproof when he made mistakes or sinned.—2 Samuel 12:13; 24:17; 1 Chronicles 15:13.
Paul’s Example of Subjection
21-23. In what various instances did the apostle Paul show godly subjection?
21 In the Christian Greek Scriptures, we have an outstanding example of godly subjection in the apostle Paul. He imitated his Master, Jesus Christ, in this as he did in all other aspects of his apostolic ministry. (1 Corinthians 11:1) Although Jehovah God used him more mightily than any of the other apostles, Paul never acted independently. Luke tells us that when the question came up as to whether the Gentile converts needed to be circumcised, “they [the brothers at Antioch] arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.”—Acts 15:2.
22 As to Paul’s missionary activity, we are told at Galatians 2:9: “When they came to know the undeserved kindness that was given me, James and Cephas and John, the ones who seemed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of sharing together, that we should go to the nations, but they to those who are circumcised.” Rather than act independently, Paul sought direction.
23 Similarly, the last time Paul was in Jerusalem, he accepted the counsel given by the elders there in connection with going to the temple and following the procedure of the Law so that all could see that he was not an apostate as far as the Law of Moses was concerned. Since his doing so seemed to end disastrously with a mob being stirred up against him, was his being in subjection to those elders a mistake? By no means, as is evident from what we read at Acts 23:11: “The following night the Lord stood by him and said: ‘Be of good courage! For as you have been giving a thorough witness on the things about me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.’”
24. What further aspects of subjection will be discussed in the next article?
24 Truly, the Scriptures give us powerful reasons for our being in subjection and striking examples of those who manifested such subjection. In the following article, we will consider the various areas in which we can be in subjection to Jehovah God, the aids to our being so, and the rewards that result.
How Would You Answer?
□ What form of independence is not desirable?
□ What is the root cause for refusing to be in subjection?
□ For what reasons do we owe Jehovah subjection?
□ What fine examples do the Scriptures give of godly subjection?
[Picture on page 10]
Nimrod, the first postflood ruler to rebel at godly subjection
[Picture on page 13]