Living by Faith in God’s Promises
“I am the Divine One and there is no other God, nor anyone like me; the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done.”—ISAIAH 46:9, 10.
1, 2. What are some differing views about God’s involvement in earth’s affairs?
HOW involved is God in earth’s affairs? Opinions vary. One view is that he is not involved at all. Having set things in motion through creation, he is either unwilling or unable to act in our behalf. In this view, God is like a father who puts his son on a new bicycle, steadies it, and gives it a push to start his son down the road. After that, the father walks away. The boy is on his own; he may fall, or he may not. Either way, the matter is out of the father’s hands.
2 Another view is that God is actively directing every aspect of our lives and that he is directly involved with every occurrence throughout his creation. If this is so, however, some would conclude that God causes not only the good things that happen but also the crime and tragedy that afflict humankind. Knowing the truth about God’s dealings will help us know what to expect of him. It will also fortify our faith in the certain fulfillment of his promises.—Hebrews 11:1.
3. (a) How do we know that Jehovah is a God of purpose? (b) Why is Jehovah spoken of as ‘forming,’ or fashioning, his purpose?
3 Central to the question of God’s involvement in human affairs is the fact that Jehovah is a God of purpose. That is implicit in his very name. “Jehovah” means “He Causes to Become.” With progressive action, Jehovah causes himself to be the Fulfiller of all his promises. Consequently, Jehovah is spoken of as ‘forming,’ or fashioning, his purpose concerning future events or actions. (2 Kings 19:25; Isaiah 46:11) These terms are from the Hebrew word ya·tsarʹ, related to the word meaning “potter.” (Jeremiah 18:4) Just as a skillful potter can shape a lump of clay into a beautiful vase, Jehovah can shape, or maneuver, things to accomplish his will.—Ephesians 1:11.
4. How did God prepare the earth for human habitation?
4 For example, God purposed that the earth would be a place of exquisite beauty to be inhabited by perfect, obedient humans. (Isaiah 45:18) Long before he created the first man and woman, Jehovah made loving preparation for them. The opening chapters of the book of Genesis describe how Jehovah established day and night, land and sea. Next he created vegetation and animal life. This preparation of the earth for human habitation involved many thousands of years. The project was successfully completed. The first man and woman began their lives in Eden, a delightful paradise that was fully provisioned so that they could enjoy life. (Genesis 1:31) Thus Jehovah was directly involved in earth’s affairs, progressively fashioning his works to his lofty purpose. Did the expansion of the human family change his involvement?
Jehovah Limits His Dealings With Humans
5, 6. Why does God limit his dealings with humans?
5 Though having the power to do so, Jehovah does not direct and control every detail of human activity. There are reasons for this. One is that humans were created in God’s image, having free will, being free moral agents. Jehovah does not force us to do his bidding; neither are we puppets. (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20; Joshua 24:15) Though he holds us accountable for our acts, God has lovingly allowed us considerable freedom to decide how we will manage our lives.—Romans 14:12; Hebrews 4:13.
6 Another reason why God does not direct everything that happens relates to the issue that Satan raised in Eden. Satan challenged God’s sovereignty. He offered Eve what seemed to be an opportunity for independence—an offer that she and later her husband, Adam, accepted. (Genesis 3:1-6) In response, God has allowed humans to rule themselves for a period of time to prove whether Satan’s challenge was justified. For this reason, the wrong things that people do today cannot be blamed on God. Moses wrote of rebellious people: “They have acted ruinously on their own part; they are not [God’s] children, the defect is their own.”—Deuteronomy 32:5.
7. What is Jehovah’s purpose for the earth and for humankind?
7 However, while allowing for free choice and experiments in independent rulership, Jehovah has not adopted a hands-off policy concerning earth’s affairs, which would leave us with little hope that he will fulfill his promises. Though Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s sovereignty, Jehovah did not alter his loving purpose for the earth and for humankind. He will without fail transform the earth into a paradise populated with perfect, obedient, and happy people. (Luke 23:42, 43) The Bible record from Genesis to Revelation describes how Jehovah has progressively been working to accomplish that aim.
God Acts to Accomplish His Will
8. What was involved in bringing the Israelites to the Promised Land?
8 In his dealings with the nation of Israel, God demonstrated that he will accomplish his purpose. For example, Jehovah assured Moses that He would deliver the Israelites from Egypt and bring them into the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. (Exodus 3:8) This was a momentous and reassuring proclamation. It would involve releasing those Israelites—numbering with their companions about three million—from a mighty nation that strongly opposed their departure. (Exodus 3:19) The land to which they would be brought was inhabited by powerful nations that would strongly resist their arrival. (Deuteronomy 7:1) In-between was a wilderness where the Israelites would need food and water. This was a situation that allowed Jehovah to display his supreme power and Godship.—Leviticus 25:38.
9, 10. (a) Why was Joshua able to testify that God’s promises are reliable? (b) How important is it that we have confidence in God’s ability to reward his faithful ones?
9 God led the Israelites out of Egypt through a series of mighty acts. First, he brought ten devastating plagues on the nation of Egypt. Next, he parted the Red Sea, enabling the Israelites to escape while the pursuing Egyptian army perished. (Psalm 78:12, 13, 43-51) Following that, he cared for the Israelites during their 40 years in the wilderness, feeding them with manna, providing water, and even seeing to it that their mantles did not wear out and that their feet did not become swollen. (Deuteronomy 8:3, 4) After the Israelites entered the Promised Land, Jehovah led them to victory over their enemies. Joshua, who exercised strong faith in Jehovah’s promises, was an eyewitness of all these things. Thus, he could confidently say to the older men of his day: “You well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you.”—Joshua 23:14.
10 Like Joshua of old, Christians today are fully confident that God is willing and able to act in behalf of those who serve him. This conviction is an essential part of our faith. The apostle Paul wrote: “Without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he . . . becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Hebrews 11:6.
God Foresees the Future
11. What factors enable God to fulfill his promises?
11 So far, we have seen that while God allows for free will and independent human rulership, he has both the power and the will to act to accomplish his purpose. Yet, there is another factor that contributes to the certain fulfillment of God’s promises. Jehovah can foresee the future. (Isaiah 42:9) Through his prophet, God said: “Remember the first things of a long time ago, that I am the Divine One and there is no other God, nor anyone like me; the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done; the One saying, ‘My own counsel will stand, and everything that is my delight I shall do.’” (Isaiah 46:9, 10) An experienced farmer knows when and where to plant seed, but there still might be some uncertainty about how things will develop. However, “the King of eternity” has accurate knowledge to foresee precisely when and where he should act to carry out his purpose.—1 Timothy 1:17.
12. In what way did Jehovah exercise foreknowledge in the days of Noah?
12 Consider how God exercised foreknowledge in the days of Noah. Because of the widespread badness that had filled the earth, God determined to bring an end to disobedient humankind. He set a time when he would do this, 120 years into the future. (Genesis 6:3) In setting that specific period, Jehovah took into consideration more than the destruction of the wicked, something that he could do at any time. Jehovah’s timetable also provided for the preservation of the righteous. (Compare Genesis 5:29.) In his wisdom, God foreknew when to assign the work that would lead to that end. He gave sufficiently detailed information to Noah. Noah was to build an ark “for the saving of his household,” and the wicked were to be destroyed by a global deluge.—Hebrews 11:7; Genesis 6:13, 14, 18, 19.
A Colossal Building Project
13, 14. Why was the building of the ark a challenging assignment?
13 Consider this assignment from Noah’s viewpoint. Because Noah was a man of God, he knew that Jehovah could destroy the ungodly. Before that would happen, however, there was work to be done—a work that required faith. The construction of the ark would be a colossal project. God had specified its dimensions. The ark would be longer than some modern-day sports fields and as high as a five-story building. (Genesis 6:15) The builders would be inexperienced and few. They would not have the sophisticated tools and equipment available today. Moreover, since he did not have Jehovah’s ability to foreknow the future, Noah had no way of knowing what situations would develop over the years that might either help or hinder the building project. Noah likely pondered many questions. How would the building materials be accumulated? How would he gather the animals? What food would be needed and how much? When, exactly, would the foretold Deluge occur?
14 Then there were the social conditions. Wickedness abounded. The mighty Nephilim—the hybrid offspring of wicked angels and women—filled the earth with violence. (Genesis 6:1-4, 13) Furthermore, ark building would not be a project that could be carried out in secret. People would wonder what Noah was doing, and he would tell them. (2 Peter 2:5) Could they be expected to approve? Hardly! Some years earlier, faithful Enoch had proclaimed the destruction of the wicked. So unpopular was his message that God “took him,” or cut his life short, evidently to prevent him from being slain by His enemies. (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5; Jude 14, 15) Not only was Noah to proclaim a similarly unpopular message but he was also to build an ark. As that ark was being constructed, it would serve as a powerful reminder of Noah’s faithfulness in the face of wicked contemporaries!
15. Why did Noah have confidence that he could carry out his assignment?
15 Noah knew that the project had the backing and blessing of Almighty God. Had not Jehovah himself assigned the work? Jehovah had assured Noah that he and his family would enter a completed ark and be preserved alive through the global Flood. God even underscored the certainty of that with a solemn agreement. (Genesis 6:18, 19) Likely, Noah recognized that Jehovah both anticipated and evaluated all that was involved before making the assignment. Moreover, Noah knew that Jehovah had the power to step in to help him when needed. So Noah’s faith moved him to action. Like his descendant Abraham, Noah was “fully convinced that what [God] had promised he was also able to do.”—Romans 4:21.
16. As the construction of the ark progressed, how was Noah’s faith fortified?
16 As the years passed and the ark took shape, Noah’s faith was fortified. Construction and logistic problems were resolved. Trials were overcome. No opposition could halt the work. Noah’s family experienced Jehovah’s support and protection. As Noah pressed on, ‘the tested quality of his faith worked out endurance.’ (James 1:2-4) Eventually, the ark was completed, the Flood came, and Noah and his family survived. Noah experienced the fulfillment of God’s promises, as Joshua did later. Noah’s faith was rewarded.
Jehovah Backs Up the Work
17. In what ways does our time parallel the days of Noah?
17 Jesus foretold that our day would parallel the days of Noah. God has again determined to destroy the wicked and has set a time for this to happen. (Matthew 24:36-39) He has also set things in motion for the preservation of the righteous. Whereas Noah was to build an ark, God’s servants today are to proclaim Jehovah’s purposes, teach his Word, and make disciples.—Matthew 28:19.
18, 19. How do we know that the preaching of the good news has Jehovah’s backing?
18 If Jehovah had not been with Noah to support and sustain him, the ark would not have been built. (Compare Psalm 127:1.) Similarly, without Jehovah’s backing, true Christianity would be unlikely to survive, much less prosper. This was recognized in the first century by Gamaliel, an esteemed Pharisee and teacher of the Law. When the Jewish Sanhedrin wanted to do away with the apostles, he cautioned that court: “Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone; (because, if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them.)”—Acts 5:38, 39.
19 The success of the preaching activity, both in the first century and today, has proved that this is not a work from men, but is of God. The following article will discuss some of the exciting circumstances and developments that have helped to make this work so successful on such a vast scale.
Never Give Up!
20. Who support us as we preach the good news?
20 Though we live in “critical times hard to deal with,” we can be sure that Jehovah is fully in control. He is supporting and sustaining his people as they work to complete the preaching of the good news before God’s appointed time to end this wicked system of things arrives. (2 Timothy 3:1; Matthew 24:14) Jehovah invites us to be “fellow workers” with him. (1 Corinthians 3:9) We are assured, too, that Christ Jesus is with us in this work and that we can rely on angelic backing and direction.—Matthew 28:20; Revelation 14:6.
21. In what conviction should we never give up?
21 Because Noah and his family exercised faith in Jehovah’s promises, they were saved through the floodwaters. Those who exercise similar faith today will be saved through the coming “great tribulation.” (Revelation 7:14) We live in times that are truly exciting. Momentous events lie ahead! Soon, God will act to usher in glorious new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness will dwell. (2 Peter 3:13) Never, never give up in your conviction that whatever God says, he is also able to do.—Romans 4:21.
Points to Recall
□ Why does Jehovah not control all details of human activity?
□ How was Jehovah’s ability to carry out his purpose evident in his dealings with Israel?
□ How was Jehovah’s ability to see the future demonstrated in Noah’s day?
□ What confidence may we have in God’s promises?