The Rightful Place of Jehovah’s Worship in Our Lives
“All day long I will bless you, and I will praise your name to time indefinite, even forever.”—PSALM 145:2.
1. As regards worship, what does Jehovah look for?
“I JEHOVAH your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.” (Exodus 20:5) Moses heard that declaration from Jehovah, and he later repeated it when addressing the nation of Israel. (Deuteronomy 5:9) There was no doubt in Moses’ mind that Jehovah God looked for His servants to worship Him exclusively.
2, 3. (a) What impressed on the Israelites that what happened near Mount Sinai was extraordinary? (b) What questions will we examine about the worship by the Israelites and by God’s servants today?
2 Encamped near Mount Sinai, the Israelites and the “vast mixed company” who had left Egypt with them witnessed something unusual. (Exodus 12:38) It bore no resemblance to the worship of the gods of Egypt, who were now humiliated by the ten blows, or plagues. As Jehovah manifested his presence to Moses, fear-inspiring phenomena occurred: thunder, lightning, and the deafening sound of a horn that made the whole camp tremble. Next came fire and smoke as the whole mountain quaked. (Exodus 19:16-20; Hebrews 12:18-21) If any Israelite needed further proof that what was happening was extraordinary, that was soon to come. Before long, Moses descended from the mountain after receiving a second copy of God’s laws. According to the inspired account, “the skin of [Moses’] face emitted rays and [the people] grew afraid of coming near to him.” Truly, an unforgettable, superhuman experience!—Exodus 34:30.
3 For that typical nation of God, there was no question about the place Jehovah’s worship occupied. He was their Deliverer. They owed their very lives to him. He was also their Lawgiver. But did they keep the worship of Jehovah in first place? And what about God’s modern-day servants? What place does Jehovah’s worship hold in their lives?—Romans 15:4.
Israel’s Worship of Jehovah
4. What was the layout of Israel’s camp during their wilderness sojourn, and what was at the center of the camp?
4 If you had had a bird’s-eye view of Israel encamped in the wilderness, what would you have seen? A vast, but orderly, array of tents housing possibly three million or more people, grouped according to three-tribe divisions to the north, south, east, and west. Peering closer, you would also have noticed another grouping nearer the middle of the camp. These four smaller clusters of tents housed the families of the tribe of Levi. At the very center of the camp, in an area cordoned off by a cloth wall, was a unique structure. This was the “tent of meeting,” or tabernacle, which “wise-hearted” Israelites had built according to Jehovah’s plan.—Numbers 1:52, 53; 2:3, 10, 17, 18, 25; Exodus 35:10.
5. What purpose did the tabernacle serve in Israel?
5 At each of about 40 campsites during their wilderness trek, Israel erected the tabernacle, and it became the focus of their encampment. (Numbers, chapter 33) Fittingly, the Bible describes Jehovah as dwelling among his people at the very center of their camp. His glory filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 29:43-46; 40:34; Numbers 5:3; 11:20; 16:3) The book Our Living Bible comments: “This portable shrine was of the utmost importance, since it created a religious rallying-centre for the tribes. It thus kept them united during the long years of wandering in the desert and made concerted action possible.” More than that, the tabernacle served as a constant reminder that the Israelites’ worship of their Creator was central to their lives.
6, 7. What structure for worship replaced the tabernacle, and how did it serve the nation of Israel?
6 After the Israelites arrived in the Promised Land, the tabernacle continued to be the focus of Israel’s worship. (Joshua 18:1; 1 Samuel 1:3) In time, King David proposed building a permanent structure. This proved to be the temple, constructed later by his son Solomon. (2 Samuel 7:1-10) At its inauguration a cloud descended to indicate Jehovah’s acceptance of that building. “I have successfully built a house of lofty abode for you,” Solomon prayed, “an established place for you to dwell in to time indefinite.” (1 Kings 8:12, 13; 2 Chronicles 6:2) The newly constructed temple now became the hub for the nation’s devotions.
7 Three times a year, all Israelite males went up to Jerusalem to attend joyous celebrations at the temple in recognition of God’s blessing. Appropriately, these reunions were designated “seasonal festivals of Jehovah,” focusing attention on God’s worship. (Leviticus 23:2, 4) Devout women attended along with other members of the family.—1 Samuel 1:3-7; Luke 2:41-44.
8. How does Psalm 84:1-12 testify to the importance of the worship of Jehovah?
8 The inspired psalmists eloquently acknowledged how prominently worship figured in their lives. “How lovely your grand tabernacle is, O Jehovah of armies!” sang the sons of Korah. They certainly were not lauding a mere edifice. Rather, they raised their voices in praise of Jehovah God, declaring: “My own heart and my very flesh cry out joyfully to the living God.” The Levites’ service brought them great happiness. “Happy are those dwelling in your house!” they proclaimed. “They still keep on praising you.” In fact, all of Israel could sing: “Happy are the men whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways. . . . They will walk on from vital energy to vital energy; each one appears to God in Zion.” Though an Israelite’s journey to Jerusalem may have been long and tiring, his strength was renewed as he reached the capital. His heart filled with joy as he extolled his privilege of worshiping Jehovah: “For a day in your courtyards is better than a thousand elsewhere. I have chosen to stand at the threshold in the house of my God rather than to move around in the tents of wickedness. . . . O Jehovah of armies, happy is the man that is trusting in you.” Such expressions reveal the priority those Israelites gave to Jehovah’s worship.—Psalm 84:1-12.
9. What happened to the nation of Israel when it failed to keep Jehovah’s worship to the fore?
9 Sadly, Israel failed to keep true worship to the fore. They allowed devotion to false gods to undermine their zeal for Jehovah. Consequently, Jehovah abandoned them to their enemies, allowing them to be taken into exile in Babylon. When they were restored to their homeland after 70 years, Jehovah provided Israel with the rousing exhortations of the faithful prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Priest Ezra and Governor Nehemiah stirred God’s people to rebuild the temple and reinstitute true worship there. But as the centuries passed, true worship again became a low priority in the nation.
First-Century Zeal for True Worship
10, 11. What place did Jehovah’s worship have in the lives of faithful ones when Jesus was on earth?
10 At Jehovah’s appointed time, the Messiah appeared. Faithful individuals were looking to Jehovah for salvation. (Luke 2:25; 3:15) Luke’s Gospel account pointedly describes 84-year-old Anna as a widow “who was never missing from the temple, rendering sacred service night and day with fastings and supplications.”—Luke 2:37.
11 “My food,” said Jesus, “is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) Recall how Jesus reacted when he confronted the money changers in the temple. He overturned their tables as well as the benches of the merchants selling doves. Mark relates: “[Jesus] would not let anyone carry a utensil through the temple, but he kept teaching and saying: ‘Is it not written, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations”? But you have made it a cave of robbers.’” (Mark 11:15-17) Yes, Jesus did not even allow anyone to take a shortcut through the temple courtyard when carrying items to another part of the city. Jesus’ actions reinforced his advice previously given: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) Jesus left us a marvelous example in rendering Jehovah his exclusive devotion. He truly practiced what he preached.—1 Peter 2:21.
12. How did Jesus’ disciples demonstrate the priority they gave to Jehovah’s worship?
12 Jesus also set a pattern for his disciples to follow by the way he fulfilled his commission to release the downtrodden, but faithful, Jews from the burdens of false religious practices. (Luke 4:18) In obedience to Jesus’ command to make disciples and baptize them, the early Christians boldly proclaimed Jehovah’s will in connection with their resurrected Lord. Jehovah was well pleased with the priority they gave to His worship. Thus, God’s own angel miraculously released the apostles Peter and John from custody and instructed them: “Be on your way, and, having taken a stand in the temple, keep on speaking to the people all the sayings about this life.” Reinvigorated, they obeyed. Every day, both in Jerusalem’s temple and from house to house “they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.”—Acts 1:8; 4:29, 30; 5:20, 42; Matthew 28:19, 20.
13, 14. (a) Since early Christian times, what has Satan attempted to do to God’s servants? (b) What have God’s faithful servants continued to do?
13 As the opposition to their preaching grew, God directed his faithful servants to pen timely advice. “Throw all your anxiety upon [Jehovah], because he cares for you,” wrote Peter shortly after 60 C.E. “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone. But take your stand against him, solid in the faith, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world.” The early Christians doubtless found reassurance in those words. They knew that after they had suffered a little while, God would finish their training. (1 Peter 5:7-10) During those final days of the Jewish system of things, true Christians elevated the loving worship of Jehovah to new heights.—Colossians 1:23.
14 As the apostle Paul had predicted, apostasy, a turning away from true worship, occurred. (Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Thessalonians 2:3) Testimony from the closing decades of the first century piled up evidence of this. (1 John 2:18, 19) Satan successfully sowed imitation Christians in among the genuine, making it difficult to distinguish these “weeds” from wheatlike Christians. Nevertheless, over the passing centuries, some individuals put the worship of God first, even at the risk of their lives. But not until the closing decades of “the appointed times of the nations” did God regather his servants to elevate true worship.—Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; Luke 21:24.
Jehovah’s Worship Elevated Today
15 In 1919, Jehovah empowered the anointed remnant to undertake a bold worldwide witnessing campaign that has raised the worship of the true God on high. With the influx of the symbolic “other sheep” from 1935 on, the stream of people who spiritually ascend to “the mountain of the house of Jehovah” has grown and grown. During the 1993 service year, 4,709,889 Witnesses of Jehovah praised him by inviting others to join in his elevated worship. What a contrast this makes to the spiritually debased condition of the sectarian “hills” of the world empire of false religion, notably in Christendom!—John 10:16; Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-4.
16. What do all of God’s servants need to do in view of what is predicted at Isaiah 2:10-22?
16 Adherents of false religion view their churches and cathedrals and even their clergy as “lofty,” attributing to them grandiose titles and honors. But note what Isaiah predicted: “The haughty eyes of earthling man must become low, and the loftiness of men must bow down; and Jehovah alone must be put on high in that day.” When will this be? During the fast-approaching great tribulation when “the valueless gods themselves will pass away completely.” In view of the imminence of that fear-inspiring time, all of God’s servants need to examine seriously what place the worship of Jehovah has in their lives.—Isaiah 2:10-22.
17. How do Jehovah’s servants today demonstrate the priority they give to Jehovah’s worship?
17 As an international brotherhood, Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known for their zeal in preaching the Kingdom. Their worship is no mere token religion, reserved for an hour or so a week. No, it is their whole way of life. (Psalm 145:2) Indeed, last year more than 620,000 Witnesses arranged their affairs to share in the Christian ministry full-time. The rest certainly do not neglect the worship of Jehovah. It figures prominently in both their everyday conversations and their public preaching, even if their family commitments require that they work hard at secular jobs.
18, 19. Cite examples of encouragement you may have received from reading Witnesses’ life stories.
18 The life stories of Witnesses published in The Watchtower provide insight into the ways different brothers and sisters have kept Jehovah’s worship first in their lives. One young sister who dedicated her life to Jehovah at six years of age set missionary service as her goal. You young brothers and sisters, what goal can you choose that will help you keep Jehovah’s worship foremost in your lives?—See the article “Pursuing a Goal Set at Six Years of Age,” in The Watchtower of March 1, 1992, pages 26-30.
19 A widowed older sister provides another fine example of putting Jehovah’s worship in its rightful place. She drew great encouragement to endure from those she had helped to learn the truth. They were her “family.” (Mark 3:31-35) If you find yourself in similar circumstances, will you accept the support and help of the younger ones in the congregation? (Please note how Sister Winifred Remmie expressed herself in “I Responded in Harvesttime,” published in The Watchtower of July 1, 1992, pages 21-3.) You full-time servants, demonstrate that the worship of Jehovah really comes first in your lives by humbly serving where you are assigned, submitting willingly to theocratic direction. (Please note Brother Roy Ryan’s example, as related in the article “Sticking Close to God’s Organization,” in The Watchtower of December 1, 1991, pages 24-7.) Remember that when we give priority to Jehovah’s worship, we have the assurance that he will care for us. We need not be anxious about where life’s necessities will come from. The experiences of Sisters Olive and Sonia Springate illustrate this.—See the article “We Have Sought First the Kingdom,” in The Watchtower of February 1, 1994, pages 20-5.
20. What pertinent questions should we now ask ourselves?
20 Individually, then, ought we not ask ourselves some penetrating questions? What place does the worship of Jehovah hold in my life? Am I living up to my dedication to do God’s will to the best of my ability? In what areas of life can I improve? A thoughtful consideration of the succeeding article will offer opportunity to reflect on how we use our resources in keeping with our chosen priority in life—the worship of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, our loving Father.—Ecclesiastes 12:13; 2 Corinthians 13:5.
□ As regards worship, what does Jehovah look for?
□ Of what did the tabernacle serve as a reminder?
□ In the first century C.E., who were outstanding examples of zeal for true worship, and how?
□ Since 1919, how has Jehovah’s worship been elevated?