Know Jehovah—The Personal God
COMPARING the Hindu concept of God with that of other systems of religion, Dr. Radhakrishnan of India observes: “The God of Hebrews is of a different type. He is personal and active in history and interested in the changes and chances of this developing world. He is a Being who communicates with us.”
The Hebrew name for the God of the Bible is יהוה, commonly translated “Jehovah.” He transcends all other gods. What do we know about him? How did he deal with men in Bible times?
Jehovah and Moses “Face to Face”
“Face to face” intimacy existed between Jehovah and his servant Moses, even though Moses could not literally see God. (Deuteronomy 34:10; Exodus 33:20) In his youth, Moses’ heart was with the Israelites, who were at that time enslaved in Egypt. He turned his back on his life as a member of Pharaoh’s household, “choosing to be ill-treated with the people of God.” (Hebrews 11:25) As a result, Jehovah gave Moses many special privileges.
As a member of Pharaoh’s household, “Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” (Acts 7:22) But to lead the nation of Israel, he also needed to cultivate the qualities of humility, patience, and meekness. This he did during his 40 years as a shepherd in Midian. (Exodus 2:15-22; Numbers 12:3) Jehovah, although remaining invisible, revealed himself and his purpose to Moses, and through angels God entrusted the Ten Commandments to him. (Exodus 3:1-10; 19:3–20:20; Acts 7:53; Hebrews 11:27) The Bible tells us that “Jehovah spoke to Moses face to face, just as a man would speak to his fellow.” (Exodus 33:11) Indeed, Jehovah himself said: “Mouth to mouth I speak to him.” What a precious, personal relationship Moses enjoyed with his invisible but personal God!—Numbers 12:8.
In addition to the early history of the nation of Israel, Moses recorded the Law code with all its ramifications. He was also entrusted with another priceless privilege—that of writing the book of Genesis. The latter part of that book was history accurately known within his own family and therefore relatively easy to record. But from where did Moses get the details of man’s earliest history? It is possible that Moses possessed ancient written documents, preserved by his forefathers, to use as source material. On the other hand, he could have received details through oral transmission or directly by divine revelation from Jehovah. Reverential men of all ages have long acknowledged the personal relationship that Moses enjoyed with his God in this regard.
Jehovah—Elijah’s Personal God
The prophet Elijah also knew Jehovah as a personal God. Elijah was zealous for pure worship and served Jehovah despite becoming the target of great hatred and opposition from the worshipers of Baal, the chief god of the Canaanite pantheon.—1 Kings 18:17-40.
Ahab, King of Israel, and his wife, Jezebel, sought to kill Elijah. Fearing for his life, Elijah fled to Beer-sheba, west of the Dead Sea. There he wandered into the wilderness and prayed to die. (1 Kings 19:1-4) Had Jehovah abandoned Elijah? Was He no longer interested in his faithful servant? Elijah may have thought so, but how wrong he was! Later, Jehovah quietly spoke to him, asking: “What is your business here, Elijah?” After a dramatic demonstration of supernatural power, “there was a voice for him, and it proceeded to say to him [again]: ‘What is your business here, Elijah?’” Jehovah manifested this personal interest in Elijah in order to encourage his trustworthy servant. God had more work for him to do, and Elijah eagerly responded to that call! Elijah faithfully fulfilled his assignments, sanctifying the name of Jehovah, his personal God.—1 Kings 19:9-18.
Following his rejection of the nation of Israel, Jehovah no longer spoke personally to his servants on earth. This did not mean that his personal interest in them had waned. By means of his holy spirit, he still directed and strengthened them in his service. Take, for example, the apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul.
Paul’s Direction by Holy Spirit
Saul came from Tarsus, a prominent city of Cilicia. His parents were Hebrews, but he was born a Roman citizen. Saul’s upbringing, however, was according to the strict tenets of the Pharisees. Later, in Jerusalem, he had the opportunity to be educated “at the feet of Gamaliel,” a prominent teacher of the Law.—Acts 22:3, 26-28.
On account of Saul’s misguided zeal for Jewish tradition, he became party to a vicious campaign directed against the followers of Jesus Christ. He even approved the murder of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. (Acts 7:58-60; 8:1, 3) Later he admitted that although he was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and an insolent man, “[he] was shown mercy, because [he] was ignorant and acted with a lack of faith.”—1 Timothy 1:13.
Saul was motivated by a genuine desire to serve God. Following Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, Jehovah used him mightily. Ananias, an early Christian disciple, was directed by the risen Christ to help him. Thereafter Paul (the Roman name by which Saul became known as a Christian) was guided by Jehovah’s holy spirit to accomplish a long and fruitful ministry throughout parts of Europe and Asia Minor.—Acts 13:2-5; 16:9, 10.
Can the same direction by holy spirit be identified today? Yes, it can.
Atheism No Bar to Jehovah’s Personal Interest
Joseph F. Rutherford was the second president of the Watch Tower Society. He was baptized in 1906 as a Bible Student—the designation Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known by—was appointed the Society’s legal counsel the following year, and became its president in January 1917. Yet, at one time this young lawyer was an atheist. How did he become such a motivated Christian servant of Jehovah?
In July 1913, Rutherford served as chairman of an International Bible Students Association convention held in Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.A. A reporter from the local newspaper, The Homestead, interviewed Rutherford, and the account was reprinted in the souvenir report of that convention.
Rutherford explained that at the time he planned to marry, his religious views were those of the Baptist denomination, but those of his wife-to-be were Presbyterian. When Rutherford’s pastor said that “she was going to hell fire because she had not been immersed and that he was going straight to heaven because he had been, his logical mind revolted and he became an atheist.”
It took Rutherford several years of careful research to rebuild his faith in a personal God. He worked, he said, from the premise that “that which cannot satisfy the mind has no right to satisfy the heart.” Christians “must be sure that the Scriptures in which they believe are true,” Rutherford explained, adding: “They must know the foundation on which they stand.”—See 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
Yes, it is possible even today for an atheist or an agnostic to search the Scriptures, build up faith, and develop a strong personal relationship with Jehovah God. After a careful study of the Bible with the aid of the Watch Tower publication Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, one young man confessed: “I did not believe in God when I started this study, but now I find that knowledge of the Bible has turned my whole thinking around. I am beginning to know Jehovah and to trust in him.”
“The Fool” and God
“It never occurred to any writer of the OT [Hebrew Scriptures] to prove or argue the existence of God,” says Dr. James Hastings in A Dictionary of the Bible. “It is not according to the spirit of the ancient world in general to deny the existence of God, or to use arguments to prove it. The belief was one natural to the human mind and common to all men.” This does not mean, of course, that all men at that time were God-fearing. Far from it. Psalm 14:1 and 53:1 both mention “the senseless one,” or as the King James Version says, “the fool,” who has said in his heart, “There is no Jehovah.”
What kind of person is this fool, the man who denies the existence of God? He is not intellectually ignorant. Rather, the Hebrew word na·valʹ points to a moral deficiency. Professor S. R. Driver, in his notes to The Parallel Psalter, says that the fault is “not weakness of reason, but moral and religious insensibility, an invincible lack of sense, or perception.”
The psalmist goes on to describe the moral breakdown that is a result of such an attitude: “They have acted ruinously, they have acted detestably in their dealing. There is no one doing good.” (Psalm 14:1) Dr. Hastings sums up: “Counting on this absence of God from the world and on impunity, men become corrupt and do abominable deeds.” They openly embrace ungodly principles and discount a personal God to whom they have no wish to be accountable. But such thinking is as foolish and senseless today as it was when the psalmist wrote his words over 3,000 years ago.
Warnings From Our Personal God
Let us now return to the questions raised in our opening article. Why are so many people unable to reconcile a personal God with the suffering that pervades today’s world?
The Bible contains written information from men who “spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21) It alone reveals to us the personal God, Jehovah. It also warns us about an evil personality, invisible to men, who is powerful in directing and controlling human thinking—Satan the Devil. Logically, if we have no belief in a personal God, how can we believe that there is also a personal Devil, or Satan?
Under inspiration the apostle John wrote: “The one called Devil and Satan . . . is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Revelation 12:9) Later John said: “We know we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) These statements reflect the words of Jesus, which words John himself recorded in his Gospel: “The ruler of the world is coming. And he has no hold on me.”—John 14:30.
How remote this Scriptural teaching is from what people now believe! “Talk of the Devil is distinctly unfashionable today. Our sceptical and scientific age, has pensioned off Satan,” says the Catholic Herald. Yet, Jesus forcefully said to those men who had murderous intent toward him: “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father.”—John 8:44.
The Bible’s explanation of Satan’s power makes sense. It clarifies why, despite the desire of the majority of people to live in peace and harmony, the world is plagued with hatred, wars, and senseless violence, as demonstrated at Dunblane (mentioned on pages 3 and 4). Moreover, Satan is not a lone enemy with whom we must contend. The Bible gives additional warnings concerning devils, or demons—wicked spirit creatures who long ago joined forces with Satan to mislead and abuse mankind. (Jude 6) Jesus Christ faced the power of these spirits many times, and he was able to overpower them.—Matthew 12:22-24; Luke 9:37-43.
The true God, Jehovah, has purposed to cleanse this earth of wickedness and finally stamp out the activities of both Satan and his demons. Based on our knowledge of Jehovah, we can have firm faith and trust in his promises. He says: “Before me there was no God formed, and after me there continued to be none. I—I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no savior.” Jehovah truly is a personal God to all who know, worship, and serve him. We can look to him, and him alone, for our salvation.—Isaiah 43:10, 11.
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An 18th-century engraving that depicts Moses writing Genesis 1:1 under inspiration
From The Holy Bible by J. Baskett, Oxford
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Jesus Christ overpowered the demons many times