Are You Learning From Our Grand Instructor?
“I STUDIED law for five years at one of the best universities in Spain,” explained Julio. “But what I learned when I began studying the Bible was far superior. The university taught me how to study; the Bible taught me how to live.”
Through the Bible we have access to God’s thoughts, his principles, and his instructions. The Scriptures describe Jehovah as the “Grand Instructor” because he is the best teacher in the universe. (Isaiah 30:20) Literally, the Hebrew text calls Him “instructors”—a plural indicating excellence. This should remind us that being taught by Jehovah is far superior to studying under any other teacher.
Practical Wisdom From Jehovah
Why is divine teaching so beneficial? First of all, because of its invaluable content. Jehovah’s teaching gives us “practical wisdom.” Moreover, God-given wisdom “preserves alive” those who put it into practice.—Proverbs 3:21, 22; Ecclesiastes 7:12.
The composer of Psalm 119 realized that Jehovah’s wisdom had safeguarded him throughout his life. For instance, he sang: “The law of your mouth is good for me, more so than thousands of pieces of gold and silver. If your law had not been what I am fond of, then I should have perished in my affliction. Wiser than my enemies your commandment makes me, because to time indefinite it is mine. More insight than all my teachers I have come to have, because your reminders are a concern to me.”—Psalm 119:72, 92, 98, 99.
The psalmist is not the only one who would have ‘perished in his affliction,’ were it not for Jehovah’s law. Rosa, a young woman from Spain, is convinced that her life was saved because she applied godly principles. “By the age of 26, I had already attempted to commit suicide twice,” she recalls.
Rosa had become involved in prostitution, as well as alcohol and drug abuse. “One day, when I was at the very depths of despair,” she says, “a Witness couple spoke to me about how the Bible can help us solve our problems. I began to study God’s Word, which I found fascinating. Within a month I had the strength to make a clean, fresh start in life. Now that I had a purpose in life, I no longer needed the crutch of alcohol or drugs. And since I wanted so much to be Jehovah’s friend, I was determined to live by his standards. If it hadn’t been for the practical wisdom of God’s Word, I am sure that by now I would have put an end to my life.”
Truly, wisdom from Jehovah is lifesaving. Therefore, we can benefit not only from the priceless content of divine teaching but also from the means Jehovah uses to instruct his servants. Since God’s Son, Jesus Christ, commanded us to be teachers and disciple-makers, we want to learn the most effective methods of imparting instruction.—Matthew 28:19, 20.
Jehovah’s Use of Illustrations
Mark’s Gospel says that “without an illustration [Jesus] would not speak to them.” (Mark 4:34) This characteristic feature of Jesus’ teaching is not surprising. He simply imitated one of the ways that Jehovah’s prophetic messages were conveyed to the nation of Israel. These contain a number of graphic illustrations.—Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 18:1-11; Ezekiel 15:2-7; Hosea 11:1-4.
Notice, for example, how Jehovah uses a powerful illustration to teach us that idols are useless. Isaiah 44:14-17 states: “There is one whose business is to cut down cedars; and he takes a certain species of tree, even a massive tree . . . He planted the laurel tree, and . . . it has become something for man to keep a fire burning. So he takes part of it that he may warm himself. In fact he builds a fire and actually bakes bread. He also works on a god to which he may bow down. He has made it into a carved image, and he prostrates himself to it. Half of it he actually burns up in a fire. Upon half of it he roasts well the flesh that he eats, and he becomes satisfied. . . . But the remainder of it he actually makes into a god itself, into his carved image. He prostrates himself to it and bows down and prays to it and says: ‘Deliver me, for you are my god.’” Illustrations like these are powerful tools in helping honesthearted ones to reject idolatry and false doctrines.
The Bible also contains examples of how Jehovah adjusted the thinking of some of his servants by means of thought-provoking questions. The patriarch Job was one of these. Jehovah patiently helped him to evaluate his own littleness in relation to God. This was done by means of a series of questions, which Job was hopelessly unqualified to answer.
“Where did you happen to be when I founded the earth?” Jehovah asked Job. “Who barricaded the sea with doors? . . . Can you tie fast the bonds of the Kimah constellation, or can you loosen the very cords of the Kesil constellation? . . . Do you have an arm like that of the true God?” This humbling interrogation included the very important question: “Will you pronounce me [Jehovah] wicked in order that you may be in the right?”—Job 38:4, 8, 31; 40:8, 9.
These searching questions made Job realize that he had spoken without understanding. Hence, he made a retraction and repented. (Job 42:6) As in this case, well-chosen questions may help to readjust incorrect thinking on the part of our children or Bible students.
What if we need to assist someone who feels unworthy or incapable? Helpful in this regard is a conversation between Jehovah and his prophet Moses. When God assigned Moses to be his spokesman before Pharaoh and the Israelites, the prophet felt incapable of handling the task. “I am slow of mouth and slow of tongue,” he said. However, God replied: “Who appointed a mouth for man? . . . Is it not I, Jehovah? So now go, and I myself shall prove to be with your mouth and I will teach you what you ought to say.”—Exodus 4:10-12.
Jehovah assigned Moses’ brother Aaron as his spokesman, and they proceeded to carry out their work in Egypt. (Exodus 4:14-16) Not a few Witnesses of Jehovah have shared Moses’ feelings of inadequacy when first engaging in the house-to-house ministry or in street witnessing. As in Moses’ case, our knowing that we have Jehovah’s backing and that we will be accompanied by an experienced minister can enable us to overcome our hesitancy. Even as Moses was able to cultivate confidence to the point of making the powerful speeches found throughout the Bible book of Deuteronomy, with Jehovah’s help we too can build up speaking ability.
An Object Lesson
A sincere desire to help others is also indispensable. That was a quality that the prophet Jonah lacked. Jehovah assigned Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh about the impending destruction of the city. Surprisingly, the Ninevites repented. (Jonah 3:5) As a consequence, Jehovah postponed the calamity. Instead of being overjoyed at the success of his preaching campaign, however, Jonah felt angry that his prediction would not be fulfilled. How did Jehovah help him get the right perspective?
Jehovah used a bottle-gourd plant to teach Jonah the importance of caring about others. The plant miraculously grew up overnight and provided some welcome shade for Jonah, who had set up a booth on the outskirts of Nineveh. Jonah began to “rejoice greatly” over this humble plant. But then Jehovah caused a worm to strike the plant so that it dried up. Exposed to the sun and to a parching wind, Jonah became angry and said: “My dying off is better than my being alive.” (Jonah 4:5-8) What was the lesson in all of this?
Jehovah spoke to Jonah and said: “You, for your part, felt sorry for the bottle-gourd plant, which you did not toil upon or make get big, which proved to be a mere growth of a night and perished as a mere growth of a night. And, for my part, ought I not to feel sorry for Nineveh the great city, in which there exist more than one hundred and twenty thousand men who do not at all know the difference between their right hand and their left, besides many domestic animals?”—Jonah 4:9-11.
What a powerful object lesson! Jonah was more interested in the bottle-gourd plant than in thousands of people. Although concern for any part of God’s creation is laudable, helping to save the lives of people is our most important task.
Instructing With Patience
As Jonah discovered, it is not always easy to accomplish our ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5) However, a patient attitude toward others will help.
How do you react when one of your Bible students is slow or somewhat unreasonable? Our Grand Instructor teaches us how to deal with such a problem. He showed extraordinary patience when Abraham plied him with questions about the impending judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah. “Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” Abraham asked. “Suppose there are fifty righteous men in the midst of the city,” Abraham pleaded. “Will you, then, sweep them away and not pardon the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are inside it?” Jehovah’s answer prompted Abraham to keep pleading until the number was reduced to ten. Jehovah knew that Lot’s family alone deserved to be spared, and provision had been made toward that end. But God patiently allowed Abraham to keep questioning him until he grasped the magnitude of Jehovah’s mercy.—Genesis 18:20-32.
Jehovah made allowances for Abraham’s limited understanding and for his feelings of concern. If we also comprehend our student’s limitations, it will help us to show patience while he struggles to understand a particular doctrine or to overcome an ingrained habit.
Keep On Learning From Jehovah
Jehovah God is unquestionably the Grand Instructor. Through such means as illustrations, questions, and object lessons, he patiently imparts understanding. To the extent that we imitate his teaching methods, we ourselves will become better teachers.
Since those who teach others should not neglect teaching themselves, we must continue to be “taught by Jehovah.” (Isaiah 54:13) Isaiah wrote: “Your eyes must become eyes seeing your Grand Instructor. And your own ears will hear a word behind you saying: ‘This is the way. Walk in it, you people,’ in case you people should go to the right or in case you should go to the left.” (Isaiah 30:20, 21) By continuing to walk in Jehovah’s way and helping others to do so, we can have the unique privilege of learning from our Grand Instructor forever.
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Jehovah asked Job: “Is it at your order that an eagle flies upward and that it builds its nest high up?”
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By means of a bottle-gourd plant, Jehovah taught Jonah to be more concerned about people