‘O God, Send Out Your Light’
“Send out your light and your truth. May these themselves lead me.”—PSALM 43:3.
1. How does Jehovah reveal his purposes?
JEHOVAH is very considerate in the way he makes his purposes known to his servants. Instead of revealing the truth all at once in one blinding flash of light, he enlightens us progressively. Our trek along life’s pathway might be compared to a walk that a hiker takes down a long trail. He starts out early in the morning and sees little. As the sun begins to rise slowly over the horizon, the hiker is able to distinguish a few features of his surroundings. The rest he sees in hazy outline. But as the sun continues its ascent, he can see farther and farther into the distance. So it is with the spiritual light that God provides. He allows us to discern a few things at a time. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, provided spiritual enlightenment in a similar manner. Let us consider how Jehovah enlightened his people in ancient times and how he does so today.
2. How did Jehovah provide enlightenment in pre-Christian times?
2 The composers of the 43rd Psalm 43 likely were the sons of Korah. As Levites, they were privileged to teach God’s Law to the people. (Malachi 2:7) Of course, Jehovah was their Grand Instructor, and they looked to him as the Source of all wisdom. (Isaiah 30:20) “O God, . . . send out your light and your truth,” the psalmist prayed. “May these themselves lead me.” (Psalm 43:1, 3) As long as the Israelites were faithful to him, Jehovah taught them his ways. Centuries later, Jehovah favored them with light and truth of a most remarkable kind. God did so when he sent his Son to the earth.
3. In what way were the Jews put to the test by Jesus’ teaching?
3 As the man Jesus Christ, God’s Son was “the light of the world.” (John 8:12) He taught the people “many things with illustrations”—new things. (Mark 4:2) He told Pontius Pilate: “My kingdom is no part of this world.” (John 18:36) That was a new idea for a Roman and surely for nationalistic Jews, for they thought that the Messiah would bring the Roman Empire to its knees and restore Israel to its former glory. Jesus was reflecting light from Jehovah, but his words did not please Jewish rulers, who “loved the glory of men more than even the glory of God.” (John 12:42, 43) Many of the people chose to cling to their human tradition rather than to accept spiritual light and truth from God.—Psalm 43:3; Matthew 13:15.
4. How do we know that Jesus’ disciples would continue to grow in understanding?
4 However, a few honesthearted men and women joyfully embraced the truth that Jesus taught. They made steady progress in their understanding of God’s purposes. As the end of their Teacher’s earthly life drew near, though, they still had much to learn. Jesus told them: “I have many things yet to say to you, but you are not able to bear them at present.” (John 16:12) Yes, the disciples would continue to grow in understanding of God’s truth.
The Light Continues to Shine
5. What question arose in the first century, and who had the responsibility of settling it?
5 After Jesus’ death and resurrection, light from God shone more brightly than before. In a vision given to Peter, Jehovah revealed that uncircumcised Gentiles could henceforth become followers of Christ. (Acts 10:9-17) That was a revelation! Nevertheless, a question later arose: Did Jehovah require such Gentiles to get circumcised after they became Christians? That question had not been answered in the vision, and the matter became a subject of heated debate among Christians. It had to be settled, lest their precious unity be undermined. In Jerusalem, therefore, “the apostles and the older men gathered together to see about this affair.”—Acts 15:1, 2, 6.
6. What procedure did the apostles and older men follow when they considered the question of circumcision?
6 How could those present at that meeting determine God’s will for believing Gentiles? Jehovah did not dispatch an angel to preside over the discussions, nor did he favor those present with a vision. Still, the apostles and older men were not left entirely without direction. They considered testimony from certain Jewish Christians who had seen how God had begun dealing with people of the nations, pouring out his holy spirit upon uncircumcised Gentiles. They also searched the Scriptures for guidance. As a result, the disciple James made a recommendation based on an enlightening scripture. As they pondered the evidence, God’s will became clear. Those of the nations did not have to get circumcised in order to enjoy Jehovah’s approval. The apostles and the older men wasted no time in putting the decision in writing so that fellow Christians could be guided by it.—Acts 15:12-29; 16:4.
7. In what way were first-century Christians progressive?
7 Unlike the Jewish religious leaders, who clung to the traditions of their forefathers, most Jewish Christians rejoiced when they received this remarkable new understanding of God’s purpose respecting the people of the nations, even though accepting it required a change of viewpoint regarding Gentiles in general. Jehovah blessed their humble spirit, and “the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.”—Acts 15:31; 16:5.
8. (a) How do we know that more light could be expected after the first century came to a close? (b) What pertinent questions will we consider?
8 Spiritual light continued to shine throughout the first century. But Jehovah did not reveal every aspect of his purposes to the early Christians. The apostle Paul told first-century fellow believers: “At present we see in hazy outline by means of a metal mirror.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) Such a mirror did not have the best reflective surface. At first, then, comprehension of spiritual light would be limited. After the death of the apostles, the light grew dim for a while, but in recent times Scriptural knowledge has become abundant. (Daniel 12:4) How does Jehovah enlighten his people today? And how should we respond when he broadens our understanding of the Scriptures?
The Light Gets Progressively Brighter
9. What unique and effective method of Bible study was used by the early Bible Students?
9 In modern times the first real glimmer of light began to appear in the last quarter of the 19th century as a group of Christian men and women began an earnest study of the Scriptures. They developed a practical method for Bible study. Someone would raise a question; then the group would analyze all related Scripture texts. When one Bible verse seemed to contradict another, these sincere Christians endeavored to harmonize the two. Unlike the religious leaders of the day, the Bible Students (as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known) were determined to let the Holy Scriptures, not tradition or man-made dogma, be their guide. After they considered all available Scriptural evidence, they made a record of their conclusions. In that way their understanding of many basic Bible doctrines was cleared up.
10. Charles Taze Russell wrote what helpful Bible study aids?
10 Outstanding among the Bible Students was Charles Taze Russell. He wrote a series of six helpful Bible study aids entitled Studies in the Scriptures. Brother Russell intended to write a seventh volume, which would explain the Bible books of Ezekiel and Revelation. “Whenever I find the key,” he said, “I will write the Seventh Volume.” However, he added: “If the Lord gives the key to someone else, he can write it.”
11. What connection is there between timing and our understanding of God’s purposes?
11 The foregoing statement by C. T. Russell illustrates an important factor in our ability to understand certain Bible passages—timing. Brother Russell knew that he could not force the light to shine upon the book of Revelation any more than an anxious hiker can coax the sun to rise before its appointed time.
Revealed—But in God’s Due Time
12. (a) When is Bible prophecy best understood? (b) What example shows that our ability to understand Bible prophecy depends upon God’s timetable? (See footnote.)
12 Just as the apostles understood many prophecies concerning the Messiah only after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christians today understand Bible prophecy in its finest detail only after it has been fulfilled. (Luke 24:15, 27; Acts 1:15-21; 4:26, 27) Revelation is a prophetic book, so we should expect to understand it most clearly as the events it describes unfold. For example, C. T. Russell could not have correctly understood the meaning of the symbolic scarlet-colored wild beast mentioned at Revelation 17:9-11, since the organizations that the beast represents, namely, the League of Nations and the United Nations, did not even exist until after his death.*
13. What sometimes occurs when light is shed on a certain Bible subject?
13 When the early Christians learned that uncircumcised Gentiles could become fellow believers, that change led to a new question regarding the need for people of the nations to be circumcised. This moved the apostles and older men to reexamine the entire issue of circumcision. The same pattern holds true today. A brilliant flash of light on one Bible subject sometimes leads God’s anointed servants, “the faithful and discreet slave,” to reexamine related topics, as the following recent example illustrates.—Matthew 24:45.
14-16. How did an adjustment in our viewpoint regarding the spiritual temple affect our understanding of Ezekiel chapters 40 to 48?
14 In 1971 an explanation of Ezekiel’s prophecy was published in the book “The Nations Shall Know That I Am Jehovah”—How? A chapter of that book briefly discussed Ezekiel’s vision of a temple. (Ezekiel, chapters 40-48) At the time, the focus was on how Ezekiel’s temple vision would be fulfilled in the new world.—2 Peter 3:13.
15 However, two articles published in The Watchtower of December 1, 1972, affected our understanding of Ezekiel’s vision. They discussed the great spiritual temple described by the apostle Paul in Hebrews chapter 10. The Watchtower explained that the Holy compartment and the inner courtyard of the spiritual temple relate to the condition of the anointed while they are on the earth. When Ezekiel chapters 40 to 48 were reviewed years later, it was discerned that just as the spiritual temple is operating today, so the temple that Ezekiel saw in vision must also be functioning today. How so?
16 In Ezekiel’s vision, priests are seen moving about in the courtyards of the temple as they serve the nonpriestly tribes. These priests clearly represent the “royal priesthood,” Jehovah’s anointed servants. (1 Peter 2:9) However, they will not be serving in the temple’s earthly courtyard throughout the Thousand Year Reign of Christ. (Revelation 20:4) During most of that period, if not all of it, the anointed will be serving God in the spiritual temple’s Most Holy, “heaven itself.” (Hebrews 9:24) Since priests are seen going to and fro in the courtyards of Ezekiel’s temple, that vision must be undergoing fulfillment today, while some of the anointed are still on the earth. Accordingly, the March 1, 1999, issue of this magazine reflected an adjusted view on this subject. Thus, clear down to the end of the 20th century, spiritual light was shed upon Ezekiel’s prophecy.
Be Willing to Adjust Your Viewpoint
17. What adjustments have you made in personal viewpoint since coming to a knowledge of the truth, and how have they benefited you?
17 Anyone who wishes to come to a knowledge of the truth must be willing to bring “every thought into captivity to make it obedient to the Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) That is not always easy, especially when viewpoints are strongly entrenched. For example, before learning God’s truth, you may have enjoyed celebrating certain religious holidays with your family. After you began to study the Bible, you realized that these celebrations are actually of pagan origin. At first, you may have been reluctant to apply what you were learning. Finally, however, love for God proved to be stronger than religious sentiment, and you stopped engaging in celebrations that displease God. Has not Jehovah blessed your decision?—Compare Hebrews 11:25.
18. How should we react when our understanding of Bible truth is clarified?
18 We always benefit by doing things God’s way. (Isaiah 48:17, 18) So when our view of a Bible passage is clarified, let us rejoice in advancing truth! Really, our continuing to be enlightened confirms that we are on the right path. It is “the path of the righteous ones,” which “is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” (Proverbs 4:18) True, at present we see some aspects of God’s purpose “in hazy outline.” But when God’s due time arrives, we will see the truth in all its beauty, provided that our feet have remained firmly planted on “the path.” In the meantime, may we exult in the truths that Jehovah has made plain, awaiting enlightenment on those that are not yet clearly understood.
19. What is one way to show that we love the truth?
19 How can we demonstrate our love for the light in a practical way? One way is by reading God’s Word regularly—daily if possible. Are you following a regular program of Bible reading? The Watchtower and Awake! magazines also furnish us with an abundance of wholesome spiritual food to enjoy. Consider, too, the books, brochures, and other publications that have been prepared for our benefit. And what about the encouraging reports of the Kingdom-preaching activities that are published in the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
20. What connection is there between light and truth from Jehovah and our attendance at Christian meetings?
20 Yes, Jehovah has in a wonderful way answered the prayer expressed at Psalm 43:3. At the end of that verse, we read: “May [your light and truth] bring me to your holy mountain and to your grand tabernacle.” Do you look forward to worshiping Jehovah, along with a multitude of others? The spiritual instruction presented at our meetings is an important way that Jehovah provides enlightenment today. What can we do to deepen our appreciation for Christian meetings? We invite you to consider this subject prayerfully in the following article.
After C. T. Russell’s death, a publication designated as the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures was prepared in an attempt to provide an explanation of the books of Ezekiel and Revelation. The volume was based, in part, on comments that Russell had made on those Bible books. However, the time to reveal the meaning of those prophecies had not yet come, and in general, the explanation offered in that volume of Studies in the Scriptures was hazy. In the ensuing years, Jehovah’s undeserved kindness and developments on the world scene have allowed Christians to discern the meaning of those prophetic books more accurately.
Can You Answer?
• Why does Jehovah reveal his purposes progressively?
• How did the apostles and older men in Jerusalem settle the issue of circumcision?
• What method of Bible study did the early Bible Students adopt, and why was it unique?
• Illustrate how spiritual light is revealed in God’s due time.
[Picture on page 12]
Charles Taze Russell knew that light would shine on the book of Revelation in God’s due time