Men “With Feelings Like Ours”
HE WAS a king and a prophet but also a loving father. One of his sons grew up to become vain and proud. In a determined attempt to usurp the throne, this son launched a civil war, intent on his father’s death. But in the battle that followed, it was the son who was killed. When the father learned of his son’s death, he went alone to a roof chamber and wept: “My son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! O that I might have died, I myself, instead of you, Absalom my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33) The father was King David. Like other prophets of Jehovah, he was “a man with feelings like ours.”—James 5:17.
In Bible times the men and women who spoke for Jehovah were from every walk of life and were seen in everyday settings. Like us, they had problems and suffered from imperfections. Who were some of these prophets, and how were their feelings like ours?
Moses Went From Overconfidence to Meekness
A prominent prophet of pre-Christian times was Moses. Even at 40 years of age, however, he was not ready to serve as Jehovah’s spokesman. Why? While his brothers were oppressed by Pharaoh of Egypt, Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s household and was “powerful in his words and deeds.” The record tells us: “He was supposing his brothers would grasp that God was giving them salvation by his hand.” Overconfident, he acted aggressively in defense of a Hebrew slave, killing an Egyptian.—Acts 7:22-25; Exodus 2:11-14.
Now Moses was forced to flee, and he spent the next four decades as a shepherd in distant Midian. (Exodus 2:15) At the end of that time, Moses, now 80 years of age, was commissioned by Jehovah as a prophet. But Moses was no longer overconfident. He felt so unqualified that he questioned Jehovah’s commissioning him as prophet, using such expressions as, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” and, “What shall I say?” (Exodus 3:11, 13) With Jehovah’s loving reassurance and assistance, Moses went on to perform his assignment with great success.
Have you, like Moses, ever allowed overconfidence to lead you to do or say things that proved unwise? If so, accept further training with humility. Or have you felt unqualified to perform certain Christian responsibilities? Rather than declining, accept the help offered by Jehovah and his organization. The One who helped Moses can also assist you.
Elijah Had Feelings Like Ours in a Time of Discipline
“Elijah was a man with feelings like ours, and yet in prayer he prayed for it not to rain; and it did not rain upon the land for three years and six months.” (James 5:17) Elijah’s prayer was in harmony with Jehovah’s will to discipline a nation that had turned away from Him. Yet, Elijah knew that the drought he was praying for would cause human suffering. Israel was largely agricultural; dew and rain were the life of the people. Continuous drought would bring extreme distress. Vegetation would wither; crops would fail. Domestic animals used for work and food would die, and some families would be threatened with starvation. Who would suffer most? The common people. A widow later told Elijah that she was reduced to a handful of flour and a little oil. She fully expected that she and her son would soon starve to death. (1 Kings 17:12) For Elijah to pray as he did, he had to have firm faith that Jehovah would care for His servants—rich or poor—who had not abandoned true worship. As the record shows, Elijah was not disappointed.—1 Kings 17:13-16; 18:3-5.
Three years later, when Jehovah indicated that he would soon bring rain, Elijah’s earnest desire to see the drought end is seen in his repeated, intense prayers while he was “crouching to the earth and keeping his face put between his knees.” (1 Kings 18:42) Repeatedly, he urged his attendant: “Go up, please. Look in the direction of the sea” for some indication that Jehovah heard his prayers. (1 Kings 18:43) What joy he must have felt when finally, in response to his prayers, “the heaven gave rain and the land put forth its fruit”!—James 5:18.
If you are a parent or an elder in the Christian congregation, you may have to wrestle with deep feelings when administering correction. However, such human emotions need to be tempered with the conviction that discipline is necessary at times and that when it is administered with love, it “yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11) The results of obeying Jehovah’s laws are always desirable. Like Elijah, we pray from the heart that they be carried out.
Jeremiah Showed Courage Despite Discouragement
Of all the Bible writers, Jeremiah was perhaps the one who wrote the most about his personal feelings. As a young man, he was reluctant to accept his commission. (Jeremiah 1:6) He nonetheless proceeded with great courage to declare God’s word, only to collide with fierce opposition from fellow Israelites—from king to commoner. That opposition sometimes brought him to anger and tears. (Jeremiah 9:3; 18:20-23; 20:7-18) On different occasions he was mobbed, struck, fastened to a pillory, imprisoned, threatened with death, and left to die in the mud at the bottom of an empty cistern. At times even Jehovah’s message hurt, as illustrated by his words: “O my intestines, my intestines! I am in severe pains in the walls of my heart.”—Jeremiah 4:19.
Still, he loved Jehovah’s word, saying: “Your word becomes to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart.” (Jeremiah 15:16) At the same time, frustration led him to cry out to Jehovah: “You positively became to me like something deceitful, like waters that have proved untrustworthy,” as those of a brook that easily dry up. (Jeremiah 15:18) Nevertheless, Jehovah understood his conflicting feelings and continued to support him so that he could fulfill his commission.—Jeremiah 15:20; see also 20:7-9.
Do you, like Jeremiah, face frustration or opposition in carrying out your ministry? Look to Jehovah. Continue to follow his direction, and Jehovah will reward your efforts as well.
Jesus Had Feelings Like Ours
The greatest prophet of all time was God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. Although he was a perfect man, he did not suppress his emotions. We often read of his inner feelings, which must have been evident in his face and in his reaction to others. Jesus was often “moved with pity,” and he used the same expression in describing characters in his illustrations.—Mark 1:41; 6:34; Luke 10:33.
He must have raised his voice when he drove salesmen and animals from the temple with the words: “Take these things away from here!” (John 2:14-16) Peter’s suggestion, “Be kind to yourself, Lord,” drew the forceful response, “Get behind me, Satan!”—Matthew 16:22, 23.
Jesus had special affection for certain ones who were especially close to him. The apostle John was described as the “disciple whom Jesus used to love.” (John 21:7, 20) And we read: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”—John 11:5.
Jesus could also be hurt. Feeling the tragedy of Lazarus’ death, “Jesus gave way to tears.” (John 11:32-36) Revealing the pain of heart caused by his betrayal by Judas Iscariot, Jesus quoted a poignant expression from the Psalms: “He that used to feed on my bread has lifted up his heel against me.”—John 13:18; Psalm 41:9.
Even while experiencing excruciating pain on the stake, Jesus showed his depth of feeling. He tenderly entrusted his mother to “the disciple whom he loved.” (John 19:26, 27) When he saw evidence of repentance in one of the evildoers impaled alongside him, Jesus compassionately said: “You will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) We can feel the burst of emotion in his cry: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) And his dying words breathe heartfelt love and trust: “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.”—Luke 23:46.
What reassurance all of this gives us! “For we have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one [Jesus] who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.”—Hebrews 4:15.
Jehovah never regretted his choice of spokesmen. He knew their loyalty to him, and he compassionately overlooked the weaknesses of those who were imperfect. Yet he expected them to fulfill their commission. With his help they were able to do so.
Let us patiently show confidence in our loyal brothers and sisters. They will always be imperfect in this system of things, as will we. Still, we should never judge our brothers as unworthy of our love and attention. Paul wrote: “We, though, who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those not strong, and not to be pleasing ourselves.”—Romans 15:1; Colossians 3:13, 14.
The prophets of Jehovah experienced all the emotions that we experience. Nevertheless, they trusted in Jehovah, and Jehovah brought them through. More than that, Jehovah gave them reasons for joy—a good conscience, realization of his favor, loyal companions who sustained them, and the assurance of a happy future. (Hebrews 12:1-3) Let us also stick to Jehovah with full confidence as we imitate the faith of the prophets of old, men “with feelings like ours.”