Take as a Pattern the Prophets of God
“Brothers, take as a pattern of the suffering of evil and the exercising of patience the prophets, who spoke in the name of Jehovah.”—JAMES 5:10.
1. What helps Jehovah’s servants to be joyful even when they are persecuted?
JEHOVAH’S servants radiate joy despite the gloom rampant worldwide in these last days. This is so because they know that they are pleasing God. Witnesses of Jehovah also bear up under persecution and opposition to their public ministry because they realize that they are suffering for righteousness’ sake. Jesus Christ told his followers: “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens; for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you.” (Matthew 5:10-12) Indeed, whenever God’s servants face trials of faith, they consider these a joy.—James 1:2, 3.
2. According to James 5:10, what can help us to exercise patience?
2 The disciple James wrote: “Brothers, take as a pattern of the suffering of evil and the exercising of patience the prophets, who spoke in the name of Jehovah.” (James 5:10) W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich define the Greek word here rendered “pattern” (hy·poʹdeig·ma) as “example, model, pattern, in a good sense as someth[ing] that does or should spur one on to imitate it.” As shown at John 13:15, “this is more than an example. It is a definite prototype.” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) So, then, Jehovah’s modern-day servants can take his faithful prophets as a pattern with respect to ‘suffering evil’ and ‘exercising patience.’ What else can we discern when we study their lives? And how can this help us in our preaching activity?
They Suffered Evil
3, 4. How did the prophet Amos react to opposition from Amaziah?
3 Jehovah’s prophets often suffered evil or ill-treatment. In the ninth century B.C.E., for instance, the calf-worshiping priest Amaziah wickedly opposed the prophet Amos. Amaziah falsely claimed that Amos conspired against Jeroboam II by prophesying that the king would die by the sword and that Israel would go into exile. Contemptuously, Amaziah told Amos: “O visionary, go, run your way off to the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and there you may prophesy. But at Bethel you must no longer do any further prophesying, for it is the sanctuary of a king and it is the house of a kingdom.” Undeterred by this verbal onslaught, Amos answered: “I was not a prophet, neither was I the son of a prophet; but I was a herdsman and a nipper of figs of sycamore trees. And Jehovah proceeded to take me from following the flock, and Jehovah went on to say to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’”—Amos 7:10-15.
4 Jehovah’s spirit empowered Amos to prophesy courageously. Imagine Amaziah’s reaction as Amos said: “Hear the word of Jehovah, ‘Are you saying: “You must not prophesy against Israel, and you must let no word drop against the house of Isaac”? Therefore this is what Jehovah has said: “As regards your wife, in the city she will become a prostitute. And as regards your sons and your daughters, by the sword they will fall. And as regards your ground, by the measuring rope it will be apportioned out. And as regards you yourself, on unclean ground you will die; and as regards Israel, it will without fail go into exile from its own ground.”’” That prophecy came to pass. (Amos 7:16, 17) How shocked apostate Amaziah must have been!
5. What parallel can be drawn between the situation of Jehovah’s modern-day servants and that of the prophet Amos?
5 This is similar to the situation of Jehovah’s people today. We suffer evil as those who declare God’s messages, and many people speak contemptuously about our preaching activity. True, our authorization to preach does not come from a theological seminary. Rather, Jehovah’s holy spirit impels us to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. We neither change nor water down God’s message. Instead, like Amos, we obediently declare it regardless of the reaction of our hearers.—2 Corinthians 2:15-17.
They Exercised Patience
6, 7. (a) What characterized Isaiah’s prophesying? (b) How do Jehovah’s present-day servants act like Isaiah?
6 God’s prophets exercised patience. For instance, patience was displayed by Isaiah, who served as Jehovah’s prophet in the eighth century B.C.E. God told him: “Go, and you must say to this people, ‘Hear again and again, O men, but do not understand; and see again and again, but do not get any knowledge.’ Make the heart of this people unreceptive, and make their very ears unresponsive, and paste their very eyes together, that they may not see with their eyes and with their ears they may not hear, and that their own heart may not understand and that they may not actually turn back and get healing for themselves.” (Isaiah 6:9, 10) The people did indeed react that way. But did this cause Isaiah to quit? No. Rather, he patiently and zealously declared Jehovah’s warning messages. The Hebrew structure of God’s words just quoted supports the thought of the “long continuance” of the prophet’s proclamations, which people heard “again and again.”—Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar.
7 Today many react to the good news just as people reacted to Jehovah’s words conveyed by Isaiah. Like that faithful prophet, however, we repeat the Kingdom message “again and again.” We do so with zeal and patient persistence because this is Jehovah’s will.
“They Did Just So”
8, 9. In what ways is Jehovah’s prophet Moses a fine example?
8 The prophet Moses was exemplary in patience and obedience. He chose to take his stand with the enslaved Israelites, but he had to wait patiently for the time of their deliverance. For 40 years he lived in Midian until God used him to lead the people of Israel out of slavery. When Moses and his brother Aaron were before Egypt’s ruler, they obediently said and did what God commanded. In fact, “they did just so.”—Exodus 7:1-6; Hebrews 11:24-29.
9 Moses patiently endured Israel’s 40 rigorous years in the wilderness. He also obediently followed divine direction in the construction of Israel’s tabernacle and the making of other things used in Jehovah’s worship. So closely did the prophet follow God’s instructions that we read: “Moses proceeded to do according to all that Jehovah had commanded him. He did just so.” (Exodus 40:16) In carrying out our ministry in association with Jehovah’s organization, let us remember Moses’ obedience and apply the apostle Paul’s counsel to ‘be obedient to those taking the lead among us.’—Hebrews 13:17.
They Had a Positive Attitude
10, 11. (a) What indicates that the prophet Hosea had a positive outlook? (b) How can we maintain a positive attitude when we approach people in our territories?
10 The prophets needed to have a positive attitude as they delivered judgment messages as well as prophecies reflecting God’s loving concern for faithful ones scattered about in Israel. This was true of Hosea, who was a prophet for no less than 59 years. In a positive way, he kept on delivering Jehovah’s messages and concluded his prophetic book with the words: “Who is wise, that he may understand these things? Discreet, that he may know them? For the ways of Jehovah are upright, and the righteous are the ones who will walk in them; but the transgressors are the ones who will stumble in them.” (Hosea 14:9) As long as Jehovah allows us to give a witness, let us have a positive attitude and keep on looking for those who will wisely accept God’s undeserved kindness.
11 To ‘search out deserving ones,’ we need to persevere and to view matters positively. (Matthew 10:11) For example, if we were to misplace our keys, we might retrace our steps and search in the various places where we had been. We might find them only after doing this repeatedly. Let us similarly persevere in searching out sheeplike ones. What joy we have when they respond to the good news in often-worked territory! And how we rejoice that God is blessing our work in lands where restrictions formerly limited our public ministry!—Galatians 6:10.
Sources of Encouragement
12. What prophecy of Joel is having a 20th-century fulfillment, and how?
12 The words of Jehovah’s prophets can be of great encouragement to us in our ministry. For instance, consider the prophecy of Joel. It contains judgment messages that were directed to apostate Israelites and others in the ninth century B.C.E. Yet, Joel was also inspired to prophesy: “It must occur that I [Jehovah] shall pour out my spirit on every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will certainly prophesy. As for your old men, dreams they will dream. As for your young men, visions they will see. And even on the menservants and on the maidservants in those days I shall pour out my spirit.” (Joel 2:28, 29) This proved true of Jesus’ followers from Pentecost 33 C.E. onward. And what a grand fulfillment of this prophecy we see in this 20th century! Today we have millions who “prophesy,” or proclaim Jehovah’s message—among them well over 600,000 in the full-time pioneer service.
13, 14. What can help young Christians to find joy in the field ministry?
13 Many Kingdom proclaimers are young people. It is not always easy for them to talk to older ones about the Bible. Sometimes youthful servants of Jehovah are told: ‘You are wasting your time preaching,’ and ‘you should be doing something else.’ Tactfully young Witnesses of Jehovah may reply that they are sorry the person feels that way. One youthful preacher of the good news finds it helpful to add: “I feel I really benefit from talking to older people like you, and I enjoy it.” Of course, preaching the good news is certainly no waste of time. Lives are at stake. Through Joel, God further declared: “It must occur that everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe.”—Joel 2:32.
14 Children who accompany their parents in Kingdom-preaching activity welcome parental help in setting personal goals. Step-by-step such youngsters progress from reading a scripture to explaining their Bible-based hope and offering appropriate literature to interested people. As they see their own progress and Jehovah’s blessing, young Kingdom publishers find great joy in preaching the good news.—Psalm 110:3; 148:12, 13.
Zeal and a Waiting Attitude
15. How can Ezekiel’s example help us to rekindle our zeal for the Kingdom-preaching work?
15 God’s prophets were also exemplary in displaying both zeal and a waiting attitude—traits we need in our ministry today. When we first learned the truth from God’s Word, likely we were fired with zeal that moved us to speak out boldly. But years may have passed since then, and we may have covered our witnessing territory often. Fewer people may now be accepting the Kingdom message. Has this dampened our zeal? If so, consider the prophet Ezekiel, whose name means “God Strengthens.” Though Ezekiel faced hardhearted people in ancient Israel, God strengthened him and figuratively made his forehead harder than flint. Thus, Ezekiel was able to carry out his ministry for many, many years whether the people listened or not. His example shows that we can do the same, and it can help us to rekindle our zeal for the preaching work.—Ezekiel 3:8, 9; 2 Timothy 4:5.
16. What attitude of Micah should we cultivate?
16 Noteworthy for his patience was Micah, who prophesied in the eighth century B.C.E. “As for me,” he wrote, “it is for Jehovah that I shall keep on the lookout. I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7) Micah’s confidence was rooted in his strong faith. Like the prophet Isaiah, Micah knew that what Jehovah purposed He would surely do. We know this too. (Isaiah 55:11) Let us therefore cultivate a waiting attitude toward the fulfillment of God’s promises. And let us preach the good news with zeal, even in areas where people show little interest in the Kingdom message.—Titus 2:14; James 5:7-10.
Exercising Patience Today
17, 18. What ancient and modern examples can help us to exercise patience?
17 Some of Jehovah’s prophets patiently persisted in their assignments for years but did not see the fulfillment of their prophecies. Yet, their patient perseverance, often while suffering ill-treatment, helps us to realize that we can fulfill our ministry. We can also benefit from the example of faithful anointed ones in the early decades of the 20th century. Though their heavenly hopes were not realized as quickly as they expected, they did not allow disappointment over a seeming delay to dampen their zeal for doing God’s will as he revealed it to them.
18 For years, many of these Christians regularly distributed The Watchtower and its companion journal, Awake!, (formerly named The Golden Age and later Consolation). They zealously made these valued journals available to people on the streets and at their homes on what we today call magazine routes. One elderly sister who finished her earthly course was quickly missed by passersby accustomed to seeing her witnessing on the street. What a witness she gave during her many years of faithful service, as shown by the appreciative remarks of those who had observed her public ministry! As a Kingdom proclaimer, are you regularly placing The Watchtower and Awake! in the hands of those you meet in your ministry?
19. What encouragement does Hebrews 6:10-12 offer us?
19 Consider, too, the patience and faithful service of the brothers who serve as members of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Several of them are now in the ninth or tenth decade of their life, but they are still Kingdom proclaimers who zealously care for their assigned duties. (Hebrews 13:7) And what of other elderly ones with the heavenly hope and even some among the “other sheep” who are getting along in years? (John 10:16) They can be sure that God is not unrighteous so as to forget their work and the love they show for his name. Along with younger fellow believers, may aged Witnesses of Jehovah press on in doing what they can, exercising faith and showing patience in God’s service. (Hebrews 6:10-12) Then, whether by resurrection, as with the prophets of old, or by survival right through the coming “great tribulation,” they will reap the rich reward of life eternal.—Matthew 24:21.
20. (a) What have you learned from the “pattern” of the prophets? (b) How can prophetlike patience help us?
20 What a fine pattern God’s prophets have left us! Because they endured suffering, exercised patience, and manifested other godly qualities, they were privileged to speak in Jehovah’s name. As his modern-day Witnesses, let us be like them and be as resolute as the prophet Habakkuk, who declared: “At my guard post I will keep standing, and I will keep myself stationed upon the bulwark; and I shall keep watch, to see what [God] will speak by me.” (Habakkuk 2:1) Let us have similar determination as we exercise patience and joyfully continue to make public declaration to the illustrious name of our Grand Creator, Jehovah!—Nehemiah 8:10; Romans 10:10.
Did You Grasp These Points?
□ What courageous example did the prophet Amos set?
□In what ways was the prophet Moses exemplary?
□ How can Jehovah’s modern-day Witnesses act like Amos and Isaiah?
□ What can Christian ministers learn from the conduct of Hosea and Joel?
□ How can we benefit from the examples of Ezekiel and Micah?
[Picture on page 16]
Despite Amaziah’s rabid opposition, Jehovah’s spirit empowered Amos to prophesy courageously
[Picture on page 18]
Faithful anointed ones have set a fine example by exercising patience in Jehovah’s service