Jehovah Blesses and Protects Those Who Are Obedient
“As for the one listening to me, he will reside in security and be undisturbed from dread of calamity.”—PROVERBS 1:33.
1, 2. Why is obedience to God important? Illustrate.
THE fluffy, yellow hatchlings are busily pecking for food in the short grass, totally unaware of a hawk hovering high above. Suddenly, the mother hen gives a tremulous, high-pitched warning call and spreads her wings. Her chicks run to her, and in seconds they are safely concealed beneath her pinions. The hawk aborts its attack.* The lesson? Obedience saves lives!
2 That lesson is especially important to Christians today, for Satan is making an all-out effort to prey on God’s people. (Revelation 12:9, 12, 17) His goal is to destroy our spirituality so that we lose Jehovah’s favor and the prospect of everlasting life. (1 Peter 5:8) However, if we stay close to God and respond swiftly to the direction we receive through his Word and organization, we can be assured of his protective care. “With his pinions he will block approach to you, and under his wings you will take refuge,” wrote the psalmist.—Psalm 91:4.
A Disobedient Nation Becomes Prey
3. What was the result of Israel’s repeated disobedience?
3 When the nation of Israel was obedient to Jehovah, it regularly benefited from his watchful care. Yet, all too often the people left their Maker and turned to gods of wood and stone—“unrealities that are of no benefit and that do not deliver.” (1 Samuel 12:21) After centuries of such rebellion, the nation as a whole had become so steeped in apostasy that it was beyond recovery. Hence, Jesus lamented: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you.”—Matthew 23:37, 38.
4. How did Jehovah’s abandonment of Jerusalem become evident in 70 C.E.?
4 Jehovah’s abandonment of renegade Israel was made painfully evident in 70 C.E. In that year Roman armies, holding high their standards emblazoned with the image of the eagle, swooped down upon Jerusalem to inflict a terrible slaughter. The city was then crowded with Passover celebrants. Their many sacrifices failed to win them God’s favor. That was a tragic reminder of Samuel’s words to disobedient King Saul: “Does Jehovah have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Look! To obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams.”—1 Samuel 15:22.
5. What kind of obedience does Jehovah require, and how do we know that such obedience is possible?
5 Despite his insistence on obedience, Jehovah is well aware of the limitations of imperfect humans. (Psalm 130:3, 4) What he requires are sincerity of heart and obedience based on faith, love, and a wholesome fear of displeasing him. (Deuteronomy 10:12, 13; Proverbs 16:6; Isaiah 43:10; Micah 6:8; Romans 6:17) That such obedience is possible was demonstrated by a ‘great cloud of pre-Christian witnesses,’ who held to their integrity in the face of formidable trials, even death. (Hebrews 11:36, 37; 12:1) How these ones made Jehovah’s heart rejoice! (Proverbs 27:11) Others, however, started out faithful but failed to remain in a course of obedience. One of these was King Jehoash of ancient Judah.
A King Ruined by Bad Associations
6, 7. What kind of king was Jehoash while Jehoiada was alive?
6 King Jehoash narrowly escaped assassination as an infant. When Jehoash reached seven years of age, High Priest Jehoiada courageously took him out of hiding and made him king. Because God-fearing Jehoiada acted as father and adviser to Jehoash, the young ruler “kept doing what was right in Jehovah’s eyes all the days of Jehoiada the priest.”—2 Chronicles 22:10–23:1, 11; 24:1, 2.
7 Jehoash’s good deeds included renovating Jehovah’s temple—an act that was “close to the heart of Jehoash.” He reminded High Priest Jehoiada of the need to collect the temple tax from Judah and Jerusalem, as “ordered by Moses,” so as to finance the repair work. Evidently, Jehoiada had succeeded in encouraging the young king to study and obey God’s Law. As a result, work on the temple and temple utensils was quickly completed.—2 Chronicles 24:4, 6, 13, 14; Deuteronomy 17:18.
8. (a) What primarily contributed to Jehoash’s spiritual demise? (b) What did the king’s disobedience eventually lead him to do?
8 Sadly, Jehoash’s obedience to Jehovah failed to last. Why? God’s Word tells us: “After Jehoiada’s death the princes of Judah came in and proceeded to bow down to the king. At that time the king listened to them. And gradually they left the house of Jehovah the God of their forefathers and began serving the sacred poles and the idols, so that there came to be indignation against Judah and Jerusalem because of this guilt of theirs.” The unwholesome influence of Judah’s princes also led the king to turn a deaf ear to God’s prophets, one of whom was Jehoiada’s son Zechariah, who courageously reproved Jehoash and the people for their disobedience. Rather than repent, Jehoash had Zechariah stoned to death. What a heartless, disobedient man Jehoash had become—all because he succumbed to the influence of bad associations!—2 Chronicles 24:17-22; 1 Corinthians 15:33.
9. How does the final outcome of Jehoash and the princes underscore the folly of disobedience?
9 Having abandoned Jehovah, how did Jehoash and his wicked princely associates fare? A military force of Syrians—just “a small number of men”—invaded Judah and “brought all the princes of the people to ruin.” The invaders also forced the king to give over his own possessions as well as the gold and silver of the sanctuary. Although Jehoash survived, he was left a broken and diseased man. Shortly thereafter, conspirators from among his own servants assassinated him. (2 Chronicles 24:23-25; 2 Kings 12:17, 18) How true Jehovah’s words to Israel: “If you will not listen to the voice of Jehovah your God by taking care to do all his commandments and his statutes . . . , maledictions must also come upon you and overtake you”!—Deuteronomy 28:15.
A Secretary Saved by Obedience
10, 11. (a) Why is it helpful to reflect on Jehovah’s counsel to Baruch? (b) What counsel did Jehovah give Baruch?
10 Do you sometimes feel weary because few among the people you meet in the Christian ministry show any interest in the good news? Do you occasionally feel a tinge of envy toward the well-to-do and their indulgent life-styles? If so, reflect on Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary, and on Jehovah’s loving counsel to him.
11 Baruch was in the process of writing down a prophetic message when he himself became the focus of Jehovah’s attention. Why? Because Baruch began to rue his lot in life and to desire something better than his special privilege of service to God. Observing this shift in Baruch’s attitude, Jehovah gave him clear but kind counsel, saying: “You keep seeking great things for yourself. Do not keep on seeking. For here I am bringing in a calamity upon all flesh, . . . and I will give you your soul as a spoil in all the places to which you may go.”—Jeremiah 36:4; 45:5.
12. Why should we avoid seeking “great things” for ourselves in the present system of things?
12 Can you sense in Jehovah’s words to Baruch His deep concern for this fine man, who had served him so faithfully and courageously alongside Jeremiah? Likewise today, Jehovah is deeply concerned about those who are tempted to pursue what they think are greener pastures in this system of things. Happily, like Baruch, many of such ones have responded to loving readjustment by responsible spiritual brothers. (Luke 15:4-7) Yes, may all of us discern that there is no future for those who seek “great things” for themselves in this system. Not only do such ones fail to find true happiness but, worse still, they will soon pass away with this world and all its selfish desires.—Matthew 6:19, 20; 1 John 2:15-17.
13. What lesson in humility does the account about Baruch teach us?
13 The account about Baruch also teaches us a fine lesson in humility. Note that Jehovah did not counsel Baruch directly but spoke through Jeremiah, whose imperfections and idiosyncrasies Baruch probably knew quite well. (Jeremiah 45:1, 2) Yet, Baruch was not overcome by pride; he humbly discerned the real source of the counsel—Jehovah. (2 Chronicles 26:3, 4, 16; Proverbs 18:12; 19:20) So if we ‘take some false step before we are aware of it’ and receive needed counsel from God’s Word, let us imitate Baruch’s maturity, spiritual discernment, and humility.—Galatians 6:1.
14. Why is it good for us to be obedient to those who are taking the lead among us?
14 Such a humble attitude on our part also helps those giving the counsel. Says Hebrews 13:17: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account; that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.” How often elders pour their heart out to Jehovah, praying for the courage, wisdom, and tact necessary to fulfill this difficult aspect of their shepherding work! Let us “recognize men of that sort.”—1 Corinthians 16:18.
15. (a) How did Jeremiah demonstrate his confidence in Baruch? (b) How was Baruch rewarded for his humble obedience?
15 That Baruch readjusted his thinking is evident, for Jeremiah next gave him a most challenging assignment—to go to the temple and read aloud the very judgment message he himself wrote down at Jeremiah’s mouth. Did Baruch obey? Yes, he did “all that Jeremiah the prophet had commanded him.” In fact, he even read the same message out to the princes of Jerusalem, which no doubt took considerable courage. (Jeremiah 36:1-6, 8, 14, 15) When the city fell to the Babylonians some 18 years later, imagine how grateful Baruch must have been for being spared because he had heeded Jehovah’s warning and stopped seeking “great things” for himself!—Jeremiah 39:1, 2, 11, 12; 43:6.
Obedience During a Siege Saved Lives
16. How did Jehovah show compassion for the Jews in Jerusalem during the Babylonian siege in 607 B.C.E.?
16 When Jerusalem’s end came in 607 B.C.E., God’s compassion for the obedient again came to the fore. At the height of the siege, Jehovah said to the Jews: “Here I am putting before you people the way of life and the way of death. The one sitting still in this city will die by the sword and by the famine and by the pestilence; but the one who is going out and who actually falls away to the Chaldeans who are laying siege against you will keep living, and his soul will certainly come to be his as a spoil.” (Jeremiah 21:8, 9) Though Jerusalem’s inhabitants were deserving of destruction, Jehovah showed compassion for those who obeyed him, even at that critical, late hour.*
17. (a) In what two ways was Jeremiah’s obedience tested when Jehovah instructed him to tell the besieged Jews to ‘fall away to the Chaldeans’? (b) How can we benefit from Jeremiah’s example of courageous obedience?
17 Telling the Jews to surrender no doubt tested Jeremiah’s obedience as well. For one thing, he was jealous for God’s name. He did not want it to be reproached by enemies who would attribute their victory to lifeless idols. (Jeremiah 50:2, 11; Lamentations 2:16) Additionally, Jeremiah knew that in telling the people to surrender, he was putting his own life at great risk, for many would interpret his words as seditious. Yet, he did not cower, but he obediently spoke Jehovah’s pronouncements. (Jeremiah 38:4, 17, 18) Like Jeremiah, we too bear an unpopular message. It is the same message for which Jesus was despised. (Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 24:9) So let us not ‘tremble at men,’ but like Jeremiah, let us courageously obey Jehovah, trusting fully in him.—Proverbs 29:25.
Obedience in the Face of Gog’s Attack
18. What future tests of obedience will Jehovah’s servants face?
18 Soon, Satan’s entire wicked system will be destroyed in an unprecedented “great tribulation.” (Matthew 24:21) No doubt prior to and during that time, God’s people will experience major tests of their faith and obedience. For instance, the Bible tells us that Satan, in his role as “Gog of the land of Magog,” will make an all-out attack against Jehovah’s servants, mobilizing hordes that are described as “a numerous military force . . . , like clouds to cover the land.” (Ezekiel 38:2, 14-16) Outnumbered and unarmed, God’s people will look to the refuge of Jehovah’s “pinions,” which he extends to shield the obedient.
19, 20. (a) Why was obedience on the part of Israel vitally important when they were at the Red Sea? (b) How can prayerful reflection on the Red Sea account benefit us today?
19 This situation reminds us of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt. After striking Egypt with ten devastating plagues, Jehovah led his people, not on the shortest route toward the Promised Land, but down to the Red Sea, where they could easily be cornered and attacked. From a military standpoint, that seemed a disastrous move. If you had been there, would you have obeyed Jehovah’s word through Moses and marched down to the Red Sea with full confidence, knowing that the Promised Land lay in a somewhat different direction?—Exodus 14:1-4.
20 As we read on in Exodus chapter 14, we see how Jehovah delivered his people in an awesome display of power. How such accounts can strengthen our faith when we take the time to study and reflect upon them! (2 Peter 2:9) Strong faith, in turn, fortifies us to obey Jehovah, even when his requirements seem to go contrary to human reasoning. (Proverbs 3:5, 6) So ask yourself, ‘Am I striving to build up my faith through diligent Bible study, prayer, and meditation, as well as by regular association with God’s people?’—Hebrews 10:24, 25; 12:1-3.
Obedience Instills Hope
21. What blessings, present and future, will come to those who obey Jehovah?
21 Those who make obedience to Jehovah their way of life experience even now the fulfillment of Proverbs 1:33, which says: “As for the one listening [obediently] to me, he will reside in security and be undisturbed from dread of calamity.” How marvelously these comforting words will apply during Jehovah’s coming day of vengeance! In fact, Jesus told his disciples: “As these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:28) Clearly, only those obedient to God will have the confidence to heed these words.—Matthew 7:21.
22. (a) What reason for confidence do Jehovah’s people have? (b) What matters will be discussed in the following article?
22 Another reason for confidence is that “the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will not do a thing unless he has revealed his confidential matter to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) Today, Jehovah does not inspire prophets as in the past; instead, he has commissioned a faithful slave class to provide timely spiritual food to his household. (Matthew 24:45-47) How important, therefore, that we have an obedient attitude toward that “slave”! As the following article will show, such obedience also reflects our attitude toward Jesus, the ‘slave’s’ master. He is the One to whom ‘the obedience of the peoples belongs.’—Genesis 49:10.
Though often portrayed as timid, “a mother hen will fight to the death to protect her chicks from harm,” says one humane society publication.
Jeremiah 38:19 reveals that a number of Jews ‘fell away’ to the Chaldeans and were spared death but not exile. Whether they surrendered in response to Jeremiah’s words, we are not told. Nevertheless, their survival confirmed the prophet’s words.
Do You Recall?
• What was the result of Israel’s repeated disobedience?
• How was King Jehoash affected by his associations, both early in his life and later?
• What lessons can we learn from Baruch?
• Why do Jehovah’s obedient people have no cause for fear as the present system nears its end?
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Under Jehoiada’s guidance, young Jehoash was obedient to Jehovah
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Bad associates influenced Jehoash to have God’s prophet killed
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Would you have obeyed Jehovah and witnessed his awesome saving power?