Coming to Know Jehovah’s Ways
“Make me know . . . your ways, that I may know you.”—EXODUS 33:13.
1, 2. (a) Why did Moses react as he did when he saw an Egyptian mistreat a Hebrew? (b) To be suitable for Jehovah’s service, what did Moses need to learn?
MOSES had been reared in the household of Pharaoh and had been educated in the wisdom esteemed by the nobility of Egypt. Yet, Moses realized that he was not an Egyptian. He was born to Hebrew parents. In his 40th year, he went out to make an inspection of his brothers, the sons of Israel. When he saw an Egyptian mistreat one of the Hebrews, Moses was not indifferent. He struck down the Egyptian. Moses chose to side with Jehovah’s people and thought that God was using him to provide deliverance for his brothers. (Acts 7:21-25; Hebrews 11:24, 25) When this incident became known, Egypt’s royal house viewed Moses as an outlaw, and he had to flee for his life. (Exodus 2:11-15) If Moses was to be used by God, he had to become better acquainted with Jehovah’s ways. Would Moses be teachable?—Psalm 25:9.
2 For the next 40 years, Moses lived as an exile and a shepherd. Instead of letting himself be consumed with bitterness because his Hebrew brothers apparently did not appreciate him, Moses submitted to what God permitted. Although many years passed during which he received no apparent recognition, Moses allowed Jehovah to shape him. Not as a personal estimate, but under the influence of God’s holy spirit, he later wrote: “The man Moses was by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground.” (Numbers 12:3) Jehovah used Moses in outstanding ways. If we too seek meekness, Jehovah will bless us.—Zephaniah 2:3.
Given a Commission
3, 4. (a) What commission did Jehovah give Moses? (b) What support was provided for Moses?
3 One day an angel representing Jehovah spoke to Moses near Mount Horeb on the Sinai Peninsula. Moses was told: “Unquestionably I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their outcry as a result of those who drive them to work; because I well know the pains they suffer. And I am proceeding to go down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a land good and spacious, to a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:2, 7, 8) In this regard, God had work for Moses to do, but it had to be done Jehovah’s way.
4 Jehovah’s angel continued: “Now come and let me send you to Pharaoh, and you bring my people the sons of Israel out of Egypt.” Moses hesitated. He did not feel qualified, and in himself, he was not. However, Jehovah assured Moses: “I shall prove to be with you.” (Exodus 3:10-12) Jehovah empowered Moses to perform miraculous signs that would serve as credentials proving that he had truly been sent by God. Moses’ brother, Aaron, was to go along as spokesman. Jehovah would teach them what should be said and done. (Exodus 4:1-17) Would Moses faithfully fulfill that assignment?
5. Why did Israel’s attitude present a challenge to Moses?
5 Israel’s older men initially believed Moses and Aaron. (Exodus 4:29-31) Soon, however, “the officers of the sons of Israel” blamed Moses and his brother for making them “smell offensive” before Pharaoh and his servants. (Exodus 5:19-21; 6:9) When the Israelites were leaving Egypt, they were alarmed to see Egyptian chariots in pursuit. With the Red Sea before them and war chariots behind them, the Israelites felt trapped, and they blamed Moses. How would you have reacted? Though the Israelites had no boats, at Jehovah’s direction Moses urged the people to break camp. Then God pushed back the waters of the Red Sea, and the seabed became dry land so that Israel could pass through.—Exodus 14:1-22.
An Issue Greater Than Deliverance
6. What did Jehovah emphasize when commissioning Moses?
6 On commissioning Moses, Jehovah emphasized the importance of the divine name. Respect for that name and the One whom it represents was vital. When asked about his name, Jehovah told Moses: “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be.” Further, Moses was to tell the sons of Israel: “Jehovah the God of your forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” Jehovah added: “This is my name to time indefinite, and this is the memorial of me to generation after generation.” (Exodus 3:13-15) Jehovah is still the name by which God is known to his servants around the earth.—Isaiah 12:4, 5; 43:10-12.
7. What did God urge Moses to do despite Pharaoh’s arrogance?
7 Appearing before Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron delivered their message in the name of Jehovah. But Pharaoh arrogantly said: “Who is Jehovah, so that I should obey his voice to send Israel away? I do not know Jehovah at all and, what is more, I am not going to send Israel away.” (Exodus 5:1, 2) Pharaoh proved to be both hardhearted and deceitful, yet Jehovah urged Moses to deliver messages to him again and again. (Exodus 7:14-16, 20-23; 8:1, 2, 20) Moses could see that Pharaoh was irritated. Would any good come from confronting him again? Israel was eager for deliverance. Pharaoh was adamant in his refusal. What would you have done?
8. What benefit came from the way that Jehovah dealt with the situation involving Pharaoh, and how should those events affect us?
8 Moses delivered yet another message, saying: “This is what Jehovah the God of the Hebrews has said: ‘Send my people away that they may serve me.’” God also said: “By now I could have thrust my hand out that I might strike you and your people with pestilence and that you might be effaced from the earth. But, in fact, for this cause I have kept you in existence, for the sake of showing you my power and in order to have my name declared in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:13-16) Because of what would be done with hardhearted Pharaoh, Jehovah purposed to demonstrate his power in a way that would serve notice on all who defy him. This would include Satan the Devil, the one whom Jesus Christ later called “the ruler of the world.” (John 14:30; Romans 9:17-24) As foretold, Jehovah’s name was declared around the earth. His long-suffering led to preservation for the Israelites and a vast mixed multitude that joined them in worshiping him. (Exodus 9:20, 21; 12:37, 38) Since then, the declaration of Jehovah’s name has benefited millions more who have taken up true worship.
Dealing With a Difficult People
9. How did Moses’ own people show disrespect for Jehovah?
9 The Hebrews knew the divine name. Moses used that name when speaking to them, but they did not always show proper respect for the One to whom it belongs. Soon after Jehovah miraculously delivered the Israelites from Egypt, what happened when they did not quickly find suitable drinking water? They murmured against Moses. Next they complained about the food. Moses cautioned them that their murmuring was not merely against him and Aaron but against Jehovah. (Exodus 15:22-24; 16:2-12) At Mount Sinai, Jehovah gave the Israelites the Law, and this was accompanied by supernatural displays. The people, however, disobediently made a golden calf for worship and claimed that they were having “a festival to Jehovah.”—Exodus 32:1-9.
10. Why is Moses’ request recorded at Exodus 33:13 of special interest to Christian overseers today?
10 How was Moses to deal with a people whom Jehovah himself described as stiff-necked? Moses petitioned Jehovah: “If, please, I have found favor in your eyes, make me know, please, your ways, that I may know you, in order that I may find favor in your eyes.” (Exodus 33:13) In caring for Jehovah’s modern-day Witnesses, Christian overseers shepherd a far more humble flock. Yet, they similarly pray: “Make me know your own ways, O Jehovah; teach me your own paths.” (Psalm 25:4) Knowledge of Jehovah’s ways enables overseers to deal with situations in a manner that is in harmony with God’s Word and that is consistent with his personality.
What Jehovah Expects of His People
11. What guidelines did Jehovah provide for Moses, and why are we interested in them?
11 What Jehovah expected of his people was disclosed orally at Mount Sinai. Moses later received two tablets containing the Ten Commandments in written form. Upon descending from the mountain, he saw the Israelites worshiping the molten calf and angrily threw down the tablets, shattering them. Jehovah again inscribed the Ten Commandments on stone tablets that Moses had carved out. (Exodus 32:19; 34:1) These commandments had not changed since they were first given. Moses was to act in harmony with them. God also impressed upon Moses the sort of person that He is, thus showing Moses how to conduct himself as Jehovah’s representative. Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, but what Jehovah told Moses embodies many basic principles that have not changed and that continue to apply to all who worship Jehovah. (Romans 6:14; 13:8-10) Let us consider a few of these.
12. How should Jehovah’s exacting exclusive devotion have affected Israel?
12 Give Jehovah exclusive devotion. The nation of Israel was present when Jehovah declared that he requires exclusive devotion. (Exodus 20:2-5) The Israelites had seen abundant evidence that Jehovah is the true God. (Deuteronomy 4:33-35) Jehovah made it clear that regardless of what other nations were doing, he would not tolerate any form of idolatry or spiritism among his people. Their devotion to him was to be no mere formality. All of them were to love Jehovah with their whole heart, their whole soul, and all their vital force. (Deuteronomy 6:5, 6) This would involve their speech, their conduct—indeed, every aspect of their lives. (Leviticus 20:27; 24:15, 16; 26:1) Jesus Christ also made it clear that Jehovah requires exclusive devotion.—Mark 12:28-30; Luke 4:8.
13. Why did Israel owe God strict obedience, and what should motivate us to obey him? (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
13 Strictly obey Jehovah’s commandments. The people of Israel needed to be reminded that when they entered into a covenant relationship with Jehovah, they vowed to obey him strictly. They enjoyed much personal freedom, but in matters on which Jehovah had given them commandments, they had to be strictly obedient. Doing so would give evidence of their love for God and would benefit them and their offspring because all of Jehovah’s requirements were for their good.—Exodus 19:5-8; Deuteronomy 5:27-33; 11:22, 23.
14. How did God emphasize to Israel the importance of giving priority to spiritual pursuits?
14 Give priority to spiritual matters. The nation of Israel was not to allow caring for physical needs to crowd out attention given to spiritual activities. The Israelites’ lives were not to be devoted solely to mundane pursuits. Jehovah set aside time each week that he designated as sacred, time used exclusively for activity related to worship of the true God. (Exodus 35:1-3; Numbers 15:32-36) Each year, additional time was to be set aside for specified holy conventions. (Leviticus 23:4-44) These would provide opportunities to recount Jehovah’s mighty acts, to be reminded of his ways, and to express gratitude to him for all of his goodness. As the people expressed their devotion to Jehovah, they would grow in godly fear and love and would be helped to walk in his ways. (Deuteronomy 10:12, 13) The wholesome principles embodied in those instructions benefit Jehovah’s servants today.—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
Appreciating Jehovah’s Qualities
15. (a) Why was appreciation for Jehovah’s qualities beneficial to Moses? (b) What questions might help us to think deeply about each of Jehovah’s qualities?
15 Appreciation for Jehovah’s qualities would also help Moses in dealing with the people. Exodus 34:5-7 states that God passed by before Moses’ face and declared: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness for thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin, but by no means will he give exemption from punishment, bringing punishment for the error of fathers upon sons and upon grandsons, upon the third generation and upon the fourth generation.” Take time to meditate on those words. Ask yourself: ‘What does each quality mean? How did Jehovah demonstrate it? How can Christian overseers display this quality? How should the particular quality influence what each one of us does?’ Consider just a few examples.
16. How might we deepen our appreciation for God’s mercy, and why is doing this important?
16 Jehovah is “a God merciful and gracious.” If you have the reference work Insight on the Scriptures, why not read what it says under “Mercy”? Or do research on that subject with the use of the Watch Tower Publications Index or the computer program Watchtower Library (CD-ROM).a Use a concordance to find scriptures referring to mercy. You will see that in addition to allowing for a lightening of punishment at times, Jehovah’s mercy includes tender compassion. It moves God to take action to bring his people relief. As evidence of this, God provided for the Israelites both physically and spiritually during their trek to the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 1:30-33; 8:4) Jehovah mercifully allowed for forgiveness when mistakes were made. He showed mercy toward his ancient people. How much more so should his present-day servants show compassion to one another!—Matthew 9:13; 18:21-35.
17. How can our understanding of Jehovah’s graciousness promote true worship?
17 Jehovah’s mercy is coupled with graciousness. If you have a dictionary, read what it says under “gracious.” Compare this with scriptures that speak of Jehovah as being gracious. The Bible shows that graciousness on Jehovah’s part includes loving concern for disadvantaged ones among his people. (Exodus 22:26, 27) In any country, aliens as well as others may find themselves at a disadvantage. When teaching his people to be impartial and to show kindness toward such ones, Jehovah reminded them that they too had been aliens—in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 24:17-22) What about us as God’s people today? Graciousness on our part helps to unite us and to attract others to the worship of Jehovah.—Acts 10:34, 35; Revelation 7:9, 10.
18. What do we learn from the limitations that Jehovah taught Israel regarding the ways of people of other nations?
18 Kind concern for people of other nations, however, was not to override Israel’s love for Jehovah and his moral standards. Thus, the Israelites were taught not to take up the ways of the surrounding nations, not to adopt their religious customs and immoral life-styles. (Exodus 34:11-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-4) That also applies to us today. We are to be a holy people, even as our God, Jehovah, is holy.—1 Peter 1:15, 16.
19. How can understanding Jehovah’s view of wrongdoing safeguard his people?
19 So that Moses would understand His ways, Jehovah made it clear that although he does not approve of sin, he is slow to anger. He allows time for people to learn his requirements and comply with them. When there is repentance, Jehovah pardons sin, but he does not give exemption from deserved punishment for serious wrongs. He cautioned Moses that future generations could be affected, for good or for bad, by what the Israelites did. Having appreciation for Jehovah’s ways can safeguard God’s people from blaming God for situations that they have brought on themselves or from concluding that he is slow.
20. What can help us to deal appropriately with fellow believers and with those we meet in our ministry? (Psalm 86:11)
20 If you desire to deepen your own knowledge of Jehovah and his ways, continue to do research and to meditate when you read the Bible. Carefully examine the various fascinating aspects of Jehovah’s personality. Prayerfully consider how you might imitate God and conform your life more fully to his purpose. This will help you to avoid pitfalls, to deal appropriately with fellow believers, and to aid others in coming to know and love our magnificent God.
a All published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
What Did You Learn?
• Why was meekness important for Moses, and why is it vital for us?
• What good was accomplished by repeatedly confronting Pharaoh with Jehovah’s word?
• What are some outstanding principles that Moses was taught and that also apply to us?
• How can we deepen our understanding of Jehovah’s qualities?
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Moses faithfully delivered Jehovah’s word to Pharaoh
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Jehovah disclosed his requirements to Moses
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Meditate on Jehovah’s qualities