Making Jehovah Your God
IN Bible times, certain individuals enjoyed such a close relationship with Jehovah that he was spoken of as their God. For example, in the Scriptures, Jehovah is described as “the God of Abraham,” “the God of David,” and “the God of Elijah.”—Genesis 31:42; 2 Kings 2:14; 20:5.
How did each of these men come to have a close attachment to God? What can we learn from them so that we too can build and maintain a strong personal relationship with the Creator?
Abraham Put “Faith in Jehovah”
Abraham was the first person about whom the Bible speaks about putting faith in Jehovah. Faith was the preeminent quality of Abraham that gained him God’s approval. In fact, Abraham enjoyed such favor with Jehovah that the Creator later introduced himself to Moses as “the God of Abraham” and of his son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob.—Genesis 15:6; Exodus 3:6.
How did Abraham come to have this kind of faith in God? First of all, Abraham built his faith on a solid foundation. He may have been instructed in Jehovah’s ways by Noah’s son Shem, who was an eyewitness of God’s saving acts. Shem was a living testimony that Jehovah “kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people.” (2 Peter 2:5) Abraham might have learned from Shem that once Jehovah promised something, the fulfillment was certain. In any case, when Abraham himself received a promise from God, he rejoiced and based his course of life on the sure knowledge that the promise would be fulfilled.
Having a solid foundation, Abraham’s faith was then strengthened by works. The apostle Paul wrote: “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed in going out into a place he was destined to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, although not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8) That act of obedience enhanced Abraham’s faith, regarding which the disciple James wrote: “You behold that his faith worked along with his works and by his works his faith was perfected.”—James 2:22.
Furthermore, Jehovah allowed Abraham’s faith to be tested, making it more robust. Paul went on to say: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, as good as offered up Isaac.” Testing refines and strengthens faith, making it “of much greater value than gold.”—Hebrews 11:17; 1 Peter 1:7.
Although Abraham did not live to see the fulfillment of all that God had promised, he had the joy of seeing others follow his example. His wife Sarah and three other members of his family—Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph—are also commended in the Bible for their outstanding faith.—Hebrews 11:11, 20-22.
Faith Like Abraham’s Today
Faith is essential for anyone who desires to make Jehovah his God. “Without faith it is impossible to please [God] well,” wrote Paul. (Hebrews 11:6) How can a servant of God today develop strong faith like that of Abraham?
As with Abraham, our faith must be established on a solid foundation. That can best be done by regular study of the Bible and Bible-based publications. Reading the Bible and meditating on what is read can assure us that God’s promises will come true. We are then moved to fashion our way of life on the basis of that assured expectation. Our faith is further enhanced by acts of obedience, which include participation in the public ministry and attendance at Christian meetings.—Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20; Hebrews 10:24, 25.
Our faith will certainly be tested, perhaps by opposition, serious illness, the death of a loved one, or something else. Remaining loyal to Jehovah under test enriches our faith, making it more valuable than gold. Whether we live to see the fulfillment of all of God’s promises or not, our faith will draw us closer to Jehovah. Moreover, our example will encourage others to imitate our faith. (Hebrews 13:7) This was the case with Ralph, who observed and imitated the faith of his parents. He explains:
“When I was living at home, my parents encouraged the whole family to get up early in the morning so that we could read the Bible together. We read the entire Bible that way.” Ralph still reads the Bible each morning, and this gives him a fine start to the day. Ralph used to go in the public ministry with his father every week. “That is when I learned to make return visits and to conduct home Bible studies.” Ralph now serves as a volunteer at one of the branch offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Europe. What a fine reward for his parents’ faith!
A Man Agreeable to Jehovah’s Heart
David, born about 900 years after Abraham, is an outstanding figure among Jehovah’s servants mentioned in the Scriptures. Concerning Jehovah’s choice of David as future king, the prophet Samuel said: “Jehovah will certainly find for himself a man agreeable to his heart.” So close was the attachment between Jehovah and David that the prophet Isaiah later spoke to King Hezekiah of “Jehovah the God of David your forefather.”—1 Samuel 13:14; 2 Kings 20:5; Isaiah 38:5.
Though David was agreeable to Jehovah’s heart, there were occasions when he let his desires run away with him. Three times he made serious mistakes: He allowed the ark of the covenant to be transported improperly on its way to Jerusalem; he committed adultery with Bath-sheba and plotted the death of her husband, Uriah; and he conducted a census of the people of Israel and Judah that Jehovah had not commanded. On each occasion, David overstepped the Law of God.—2 Samuel 6:2-10; 11:2-27; 24:1-9.
When David was confronted with his sins, however, he accepted responsibility for them and did not shift the blame to others. He admitted that the transporting of the Ark had not been properly arranged, adding that “we did not search after [Jehovah] according to the custom.” When Nathan the prophet uncovered David’s adultery, David replied by saying: “I have sinned against Jehovah.” And once David became aware of the foolishness of counting the people, he admitted: “I have sinned very much in what I have done.” David repented of his sins and remained close to Jehovah.—1 Chronicles 15:13; 2 Samuel 12:13; 24:10.
When We Err
In our efforts to make Jehovah our God, David’s example is encouraging. If a man so agreeable to Jehovah’s heart was capable of such serious sins, we need not despair if, despite our best efforts, we at times err or even make big mistakes. (Ecclesiastes 7:20) We can take heart from the fact that when David repented, his sins were forgiven. That is what happened to Uwe* some years ago.
Uwe was serving as an elder in a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On one occasion, he succumbed to wrong desires and committed immorality. At first Uwe, like King David, tried to keep the matter to himself, hoping that Jehovah would turn a blind eye to his transgression. Eventually, Uwe’s conscience bothered him so much that he confessed to a fellow elder and action was taken to help Uwe recover from his spiritual disaster.
Uwe repented of his sins and stayed close to Jehovah and the congregation. He was so grateful for the help he received that some weeks later he wrote to the elders expressing his sincere and deeply felt gratitude for the assistance. “You helped me to clear the name of Jehovah of reproach,” he wrote. Uwe was able to retain his relationship with Jehovah and in time was reappointed as a servant in the same congregation.
“A Man With Feelings Like Ours”
Elijah, who lived in the century after David, was one of Israel’s foremost prophets. Elijah was a champion of true worship at a time when corruption and immorality were widespread, and he never wavered in his devotion to Jehovah. No wonder that his successor, Elisha, once called Jehovah “the God of Elijah”!—2 Kings 2:14.
Nonetheless, Elijah was not superhuman. James wrote: “Elijah was a man with feelings like ours.” (James 5:17) For instance, after he had dealt Baal worshipers in Israel a painful defeat, Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him. How did he react? He became afraid and fled into the wilderness. There, sitting under a broom tree, Elijah lamented: “It is enough! Now, O Jehovah, take my soul away, for I am no better than my forefathers.” Elijah no longer wanted to be a prophet but preferred to die instead.—1 Kings 19:4.
Jehovah, however, showed understanding of Elijah’s feelings. God strengthened him, reassuring Elijah that he was not alone, since there were others who were loyal to true worship. Moreover, Jehovah still trusted Elijah and had work for him to do.—1 Kings 19:5-18.
Elijah’s emotional turmoil was not a sign that he had lost God’s favor. About 1,000 years later, when Christ Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, whom did Jehovah choose to appear in the vision alongside Jesus? Moses and Elijah. (Matthew 17:1-9) Clearly, Jehovah regarded Elijah as an exemplary prophet. Although Elijah was just “a man with feelings like ours,” God appreciated his hard work in restoring pure worship and sanctifying His name.
Our Emotional Struggle
Servants of Jehovah today may at times feel discouraged or anxious. What a comfort to know that Elijah experienced the same emotions! And how reassuring that just as Jehovah understood Elijah’s feelings, He also understands our emotional struggle.—Psalm 103:14.
On the one hand, we love God and our fellowman and desire to do Jehovah’s work of proclaiming the Kingdom good news. On the other hand, we may be disappointed at the lack of response to our preaching or even anxious over threats from enemies of true worship. However, just as Jehovah equipped Elijah to carry on, He also equips his servants today. Take, for example, the case of Herbert and Gertrud.
Herbert and Gertrud were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses in Leipzig, in the former German Democratic Republic, in 1952. Life then was difficult for servants of God, since their public ministry was under ban. How did Herbert feel about preaching from house to house?
“We were very anxious at times. When we went from house to house, we did not know whether the authorities would suddenly appear and arrest us.” What helped Herbert and others to overcome their fear? “We did a great deal of personal Bible study. And Jehovah gave us the strength to carry on our preaching work.” In his public ministry, Herbert had a number of experiences that fortified—even amused—him.
Herbert met a middle-aged woman who showed interest in the Bible. When Herbert called back on her some days later, a young man was present and listened to the conversation. After several minutes Herbert caught sight of something that made him shudder. On a chair in the corner of the room was a police officer’s hat. It belonged to the young man, who was clearly a policeman determined to arrest Herbert.
“You are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses!” the young man exclaimed. “Let me see your ID.” Herbert handed over his identification card. Then the unexpected happened. The woman turned to the policeman and warned him: “If anything happens to this man of God, you are no longer welcome in this house.”
The young man paused for a moment, handed the ID to Herbert, and let him go. Herbert later learned that the policeman was courting the woman’s daughter. Obviously, he felt that he would do better to continue to court the girl than to turn Herbert in.
Make Jehovah Our God
What can we learn from these events? Like Abraham, we must have a robust faith in Jehovah’s promises. Like David, we should turn to Jehovah in true repentance whenever we err. And like Elijah, we need to lean on Jehovah for strength in times of anxiety. Doing so, we can make Jehovah our God now and for all eternity, since he is “a living God, who is a Savior of all sorts of men, especially of faithful ones.”—1 Timothy 4:10.
Name has been changed.
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Acts of obedience enhanced Abraham’s faith
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Like David, we should repent when we sin
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As Jehovah understood Elijah’s feelings, so he understands ours