Better Times Ahead
“WE DO one-zero-one,” says a woman.
“Things for me are even worse,” replies her friend. “I’m on zero-zero-one.”
In some parts of West Africa, such an exchange needs no explanation. Instead of eating three meals a day (one-one-one), a person on one-zero-one can afford to eat only twice a day—once in the morning and once in the evening. A young man on zero-zero-one explains his situation: “I eat once a day. I stuff my fridge with water. I take gari [cassava] at night before going to bed. That is how I’ve been coping.”
Such is the plight of growing numbers of people today. Prices go up, and the purchasing power of money goes down.
Food Shortages Foretold
In a series of visions given to the apostle John, God foretold the difficult conditions that many face today. Among them would be a shortage of food. John relates: “I saw, and, look! a black horse; and the one seated upon it had a pair of scales in his hand.” (Revelation 6:5) This sinister horse and rider picture famine—food would be so scarce it would be rationed out on scales.
Next the apostle John says: “And I heard a voice . . . say: ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius.’” In John’s day, a quart of wheat was the daily ration for a soldier, and a denarius was the money paid for a day’s work. Thus, the translation by Richard Weymouth renders the verse: “A whole day’s wage for a loaf of bread, a whole day’s wage for three barley cakes.”—Revelation 6:6.
What is a whole day’s wage today? The report State of World Population, 1994 observes: “Some 1.1 billion people, about 30 per cent of the developing world’s population, are living on about $1 a day.” Thus, for the world’s poor, a day’s wage literally buys a loaf of bread, more or less.
This, of course, is no surprise to those who are very poor. “Bread!” exclaimed one man. “Who eats bread? Nowadays bread is a luxury food!”
Ironically, there is no shortage of food. According to UN sources, during the past ten years, the world’s food production increased by 24 percent, which was more than the growth of the world’s population. However, this increase in food was not enjoyed by all. In Africa, for example, food production actually fell by 5 percent, while the population grew by 34 percent. So despite an overall abundance of food globally, food shortages continue in many countries.
Food shortage means higher prices. Lack of employment, low wages, and rising inflation make it more difficult to find the money to buy what is available. States the Human Development Report 1994: “People go hungry not because food is unavailable—but because they cannot afford it.”
Increasingly, there is hopelessness, frustration, and despair. “People have a feeling that today is bad, but tomorrow will be worse,” said Glory, who lives in West Africa. Another woman said: “People feel that they are approaching a catastrophe. They feel that the day will come when there will be nothing left in the market.”
Jehovah Cared for His Servants in the Past
Servants of God know that Jehovah rewards his faithful ones by supplying their needs and by giving them strength to cope with difficult conditions. Such confidence in God’s ability to provide is, in fact, an essential part of their faith. The apostle Paul wrote: “He that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Hebrews 11:6.
Jehovah has always cared for his faithful servants. During a three-and-a-half-year drought, Jehovah provided food for the prophet Elijah. Initially, God commanded ravens to bring Elijah bread and meat. (1 Kings 17:2-6) Later, Jehovah miraculously sustained the flour and oil supply of a widow who provided food for Elijah. (1 Kings 17:8-16) During the same famine, despite intense religious persecution brought upon them by wicked Queen Jezebel, Jehovah also saw to it that his prophets were provided with bread and water.—1 Kings 18:13.
Later, when the king of Babylon laid siege to apostate Jerusalem, people had to “eat bread by weight and in anxious care.” (Ezekiel 4:16) The situation became so desperate that some women ate the flesh of their own children. (Lamentations 2:20) Yet, even though the prophet Jeremiah was in custody because of his preaching, Jehovah saw to it that “there was a giving of a round loaf of bread to [Jeremiah] daily from the street of the bakers, until all the bread was exhausted from the city.”—Jeremiah 37:21.
Did Jehovah forget Jeremiah when the supply of bread became exhausted? Apparently not, for when the city fell to the Babylonians, Jeremiah was given ‘a food allowance and a present and let go.’—Jeremiah 40:5, 6; see also Psalm 37:25.
God Supports His Servants Today
Just as Jehovah sustained his servants in past generations, so he does today, caring for them both materially and spiritually. Consider, for example, the experience of Lamitunde, who lives in West Africa. He relates: “I used to own a fairly large poultry farm. One day, armed robbers came to the farm and stole most of the chickens, the standby generator, and the money we had. Shortly after that, the few chickens left died from disease. That ruined my poultry business. For two years I tried without success to find a job. Things were really tough, but Jehovah sustained us.
“What helped me to cope with the hard times was my recognizing that Jehovah allows things to happen to us to refine us. My wife and I kept up our routine of family Bible study, and this really helped us. Prayer was also a great source of strength. Sometimes I did not feel like praying, but when I did pray, I felt better.
“During that difficult period, I learned the value of meditating on the Scriptures. I used to think a lot about Psalm 23, which speaks of Jehovah as our Shepherd. Another scripture that encouraged me was Philippians 4:6, 7, which refers to ‘the peace of God that excels all thought.’ Another passage that strengthened me was 1 Peter 5:6, 7, which says: ‘Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; while you throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.’ All these verses helped me during those difficult times. When you meditate, you are able to replace the things in your mind that cause depression.
“Now I am employed again, but to be honest, it is not that things are easy. Just as the Bible foretold at 2 Timothy 3:1-5, we are living in ‘the last days,’ marked by ‘critical times hard to deal with.’ We cannot change what the scripture says. So I don’t expect life to be easy. Yet, I feel that Jehovah’s spirit is helping me to cope.”
Despite the critical times we are living in, those who trust in Jehovah and his King-Son, Christ Jesus, will not be disappointed. (Romans 10:11) Jesus himself assures us: “On this account I say to you: Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not the soul mean more than food and the body than clothing? Observe intently the birds of heaven, because they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses; still your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are? Who of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his life span? Also, on the matter of clothing, why are you anxious?”—Matthew 6:25-28.
Those certainly are heart-searching questions in these critical times. But Jesus continued with these reassuring words: “Take a lesson from the lilies of the field, how they are growing; they do not toil, nor do they spin; but I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. If, now, God thus clothes the vegetation of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much rather clothe you, you with little faith? So never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matthew 6:28-33.
Better Times Ahead
There is every indication that in many parts of the world, the deteriorating economic and social conditions will continue to worsen. Yet, God’s people recognize that these conditions are temporary. The glorious rule of King Solomon foreshadowed the righteous rulership of a King greater than Solomon who will rule over the entire earth. (Matthew 12:42) That King is Christ Jesus, the “King of kings and Lord of lords.”—Revelation 19:16.
Psalm 72, which had initial fulfillment regarding King Solomon, describes the magnificent rule of Jesus Christ. Consider some of the marvelous things it foretells concerning earth’s future under Christ as King.
Peaceful Conditions Worldwide: “In his days the righteous one will sprout, and the abundance of peace until the moon is no more. And he will have subjects from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”—Psalm 72:7, 8.
Concern for the Lowly: “He will deliver the poor one crying for help, also the afflicted one and whoever has no helper. He will feel sorry for the lowly one and the poor one, and the souls of the poor ones he will save. From oppression and from violence he will redeem their soul, and their blood will be precious in his eyes.”—Psalm 72:12-14.
An Abundance of Food: “There will come to be plenty of grain on the earth; on the top of the mountains there will be an overflow.”—Psalm 72:16.
Jehovah’s Glory to Fill the Earth: “Blessed be Jehovah God, Israel’s God, who alone is doing wonderful works. And blessed be his glorious name to time indefinite, and let his glory fill the whole earth.”—Psalm 72:18, 19.
So there truly are better times ahead.