Why Study the Bible?
BILL was young, athletic, educated, and financially stable. Yet, he was not content. His life had no direction, and that troubled him deeply. Trying to find a purpose in life, he examined various religions, but he did not find what he was looking for. In 1991 he met one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who left him a book that discussed what the Bible says about the meaning of life. A Bible study was arranged so that Bill could address this subject as well as others.
Bill recalls: “We had our first study, and because we referred to the Bible so often, I knew that this was what I had been looking for. The answers in the Bible were very exciting. After that study, I drove up to the mountains, got out of my truck, and cried out loud for sheer joy. I was thrilled that I was finally learning the answers to my questions.”
Of course, not everyone who finds Bible truth literally cries out with delight. Yet, learning the answers to life’s important questions is a joyous experience for many. They feel like the man in Jesus’ parable who discovered a treasure hidden in a field. Jesus said: “For the joy he has he goes and sells what things he has and buys that field.”
The Key to a Meaningful Life
Bill had pondered a basic question, What is the purpose of life? Philosophers, theologians, and scientists have struggled with that question for millenniums. Countless volumes have been written by individuals attempting to answer it. Their efforts have been in vain, and many have concluded that the question cannot be answered. Still, there is an answer. Though profound, it is not complicated. It is explained in the Bible. The key to a happy, meaningful life is this: We must have a proper relationship with Jehovah, our Creator and heavenly Father. How do we achieve that?
There are two seemingly contradictory aspects of drawing close to God. Those who do so both fear him and love him. Let us consider two scriptures supporting that statement. Long ago, wise King Solomon made a careful study of humankind and recorded his findings in the Bible book of Ecclesiastes. Summing up his observations, he wrote: “The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) Centuries later, when asked what was the greatest commandment in the Law given to Moses, Jesus responded: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matthew 22:37) Does it seem odd to you that we should both fear God and love him? Let us examine the importance of fear and love and how they work together to produce a satisfying relationship with God.
What the Fear of God Means
A respectful fear is fundamental if we are to worship God acceptably. The Bible says: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10) The apostle Paul wrote: “Let us continue to have undeserved kindness, through which we may acceptably render God sacred service with godly fear and awe.” (Hebrews 12:28) Similarly, an angel in midheaven seen in vision by the apostle John began his proclamation of good news with the words: “Fear God and give him glory.”
This fear of God, so essential to a meaningful life, is not the same as morbid dread. We might feel dread if we are threatened by a cruel and dangerous criminal. But fear of God
Fear and Love Work Together
Nevertheless, Jehovah does not want people to serve him simply because they are in awe of him. Jehovah is outstandingly a God of love. The apostle John was moved to write: “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Jehovah God has dealt very lovingly with mankind, and he wants people to respond by loving him in return. How, though, is such love compatible with godly fear? The two are actually linked. The psalmist wrote: “The intimacy with Jehovah belongs to those fearful of him.”
Just think of the feeling of respect and awe that a child has for a strong and wise father. At the same time, such a child will respond to the father’s love. The child will trust the father and look to him for guidance, confident that this guidance will bring benefits. Similarly, if we love and fear Jehovah, we will obey his direction, and this will benefit us. Notice what Jehovah said concerning the Israelites: “If only they would develop this heart of theirs to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, in order that it might go well with them and their sons to time indefinite!”
Yes, godly fear leads not to bondage but to freedom, not to sadness but to joy. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus: “There will be enjoyment by him in the fear of Jehovah.” (Isaiah 11:3) And the psalmist wrote: “Happy is the man in fear of Jehovah, in whose commandments he has taken very much delight.”
Obviously, we can neither fear God nor love him if we do not know him. That is why a study of the Bible is so important. Such a study helps us to understand God’s personality and to come to appreciate the wisdom of following his direction. As we draw closer to God, we want to do his will and we are motivated to keep his commandments, knowing that they will benefit us.
It is a joy to know that one is on the right track in life. This is true of Bill, mentioned at the outset. He recently said: “In the nine years that have passed since my first Bible study, my relationship with Jehovah has grown. The initial outburst of joy that I felt has developed into a truly joyful way of life. I have a consistently positive outlook on life. My days are filled with meaningful activity, not with an aimless search for pleasure. Jehovah has become a real person to me, and I know that he has my best interests at heart.”
In the following article, we will consider further how a knowledge of Jehovah brings joy and benefits to those who apply it in their lives.
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Drawing close to God means that we both love him and fear him
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Jesus was joyful in the fear of Jehovah