Jehovah Has Numbered “the Very Hairs of Your Head”
“Not one [sparrow] will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”—MATTHEW 10:29, 30.
1, 2. (a) Why did Job feel abandoned by God? (b) Did Job’s expressions mean that he had turned against Jehovah? Explain.
“I CALL to you, O God, but you never answer; and when I pray, you pay no attention. You are treating me cruelly; you persecute me with all your power.” The man who spoke those words was in great anguish, and no wonder! He had lost his livelihood, a freakish disaster had claimed the lives of his children, and now he was beset by a debilitating illness. The man’s name was Job, and his harrowing ordeal is recorded in the Bible for our benefit.—Job 30:20, 21, Today’s English Version.
2 Job’s expressions might make it appear that he had turned against God, but that was not the case. Job simply spoke from the depths of his distressed heart. (Job 6:2, 3) He did not know that Satan was the cause of his trials, so he mistakenly concluded that God had left him. At one point, Job even said to Jehovah: “Why do you conceal your very face and regard me as an enemy of yours?”*—Job 13:24.
3. When adversities strike, what might come to our mind?
3 Today, many of Jehovah’s people suffer unrelenting hardships as a result of wars, political or social upheavals, natural disasters, old age, sickness, dire poverty, and governmental bans. Likely you too are undergoing trials of one kind or another. At times, you may think that Jehovah is concealing his face from you. You well know the words of John 3:16: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son.” Still, when you are suffering with no relief in sight, you may wonder: ‘Does God really love me? Does he notice what I am going through? Does he care about me as an individual?’
4. What ongoing situation did Paul have to endure, and in what ways might such a situation affect us?
4 Consider what happened to the apostle Paul. “There was given me a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan, to keep slapping me,” he wrote, adding: “I three times entreated the Lord that it might depart from me.” Jehovah heard his entreaties. Nevertheless, he indicated to Paul that he would not intervene by means of a miraculous solution. Instead, Paul would have to rely on God’s power to help him cope with his “thorn in the flesh.”* (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) Like Paul, you may be experiencing a certain ongoing trial. Perhaps you wonder, ‘Does the fact that Jehovah appears not to have done anything about my trial mean that he is unaware of my situation or that he does not care about me?’ The answer is a resounding no! Jehovah’s deep concern for each of his faithful servants is underscored by what Jesus told his apostles shortly after he selected them. Let us see how his words can encourage us today.
“Have No Fear”—Why?
5, 6. (a) How did Jesus help the apostles not to be fearful of what lay ahead? (b) How did Paul show confidence in Jehovah’s care for him?
5 The apostles received extraordinary powers from Jesus, including “authority over unclean spirits, in order to expel these and to cure every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity.” Yet, this did not mean that their course would be free from trials and hardships. On the contrary, Jesus described in detail some of the things that were to befall them. However, he urged them: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”—Matthew 10:1, 16-22, 28.
6 To help his apostles understand why they need not be fearful, Jesus went on to give two illustrations. He said to them: “Do not two sparrows sell for a coin of small value? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore have no fear: you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31) Note that Jesus linked not being fearful in the face of adversity with being confident that Jehovah cares for us personally. Evidently, the apostle Paul had such confidence. He wrote: “If God is for us, who will be against us? He who did not even spare his own Son but delivered him up for us all, why will he not also with him kindly give us all other things?” (Romans 8:31, 32) No matter what challenges you face, you too can be sure that Jehovah cares for you personally as long as you remain loyal to him. This will become even more evident as we take a closer look at Jesus’ admonition to his apostles.
The Value of a Sparrow
7, 8. (a) How were sparrows viewed in Jesus’ day? (b) Why, evidently, does Matthew 10:29 use the diminutive form of the Greek word for “sparrows”?
7 Jesus’ word pictures effectively describe Jehovah’s concern for each of His servants. Consider first the matter of the sparrows. In Jesus’ day, sparrows were used for food, but because they were a threat to crops, they were largely viewed as pests. Sparrows were so abundant and cheap that two could be purchased for less than the equivalent of five cents in modern values. Twice that amount would buy not four but five sparrows—the extra bird being thrown in, as if it had no value at all!—Luke 12:6.
8 Think, too, about the size of this common bird. Compared to many other birds, even a full-grown sparrow is quite small. Yet, the Greek word translated “sparrows” at Matthew 10:29 specifically refers to little sparrows. Jesus evidently wanted his apostles to imagine a bird of the very least significance. As one reference work says, “Jesus cites a very small bird and uses a diminutive even of that!”
9. What powerful point is made by Jesus’ illustration of the sparrows?
9 Jesus’ analogy of the sparrows makes a powerful point: What seems valueless to humans is important to Jehovah God. Jesus further emphasized this truth by adding that a little sparrow would not “fall to the ground” without Jehovah’s notice.* The lesson is clear. If Jehovah God takes note of the smallest and most insignificant bird, how much more will he be concerned about the plight of a human who has chosen to serve him!
10. What is the significance of the statement: “The very hairs of your head are all numbered”?
10 In addition to his illustration about the sparrows, Jesus said: “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10:30) This brief but profound statement amplifies the point of Jesus’ illustration about the sparrows. Consider: The average human head has about 100,000 strands of hair. For the most part, one hair seems just like the next, and no single hair seems to deserve our particular scrutiny. Yet, each hair is noticed and numbered by Jehovah God. Since this is the case, is there any detail of our life that Jehovah cannot know? Surely Jehovah understands the unique makeup of each of his servants. Indeed, he “sees what the heart is.”—1 Samuel 16:7.
11. How did David express his confidence in Jehovah’s concern for him personally?
11 David, who was no stranger to hardship, was confident that Jehovah noticed him. “O Jehovah, you have searched through me, and you know me,” he wrote. “You yourself have come to know my sitting down and my rising up. You have considered my thought from far off.” (Psalm 139:1, 2) You too can be certain that Jehovah knows you personally. (Jeremiah 17:10) Do not be quick to assume that you are too insignificant to be noticed by Jehovah’s all-seeing eyes!
“Put My Tears in Your Skin Bottle”
12. How do we know that Jehovah is fully aware of the adversities that his people suffer?
12 Jehovah not only knows his servants individually but is also fully aware of the adversities each one suffers. For example, when the Israelites were being oppressed as slaves, Jehovah said to Moses: “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.” (Exodus 3:7) How comforting it is to realize that when we are enduring a trial, Jehovah sees what is happening and hears our outcries! He is certainly not indifferent to our suffering.
13. What shows that Jehovah truly feels for his servants?
13 Jehovah’s care for those who have entered into a relationship with him is further seen in his feelings for the Israelites. Even though their suffering was often a result of their own stubbornness, Isaiah wrote concerning Jehovah: “During all their distress it was distressing to him.” (Isaiah 63:9) As a faithful servant of Jehovah, you can be sure, then, that when you are pained, Jehovah is pained. Does that not impel you to face up to adversity fearlessly and to continue doing your best to serve him?—1 Peter 5:6, 7.
14. What were the circumstances surrounding the composing of Psalm 56?
14 King David’s conviction that Jehovah cared for him and felt for him is made evident in Psalm 56, which David composed while running from murderous King Saul. David escaped to Gath, but he feared capture when he was recognized by the Philistines. He wrote: “My foes have kept snapping all day long, for there are many warring against me high-mindedly.” Because of his perilous situation, David turned to Jehovah. “All day long they keep hurting my personal affairs,” he said. “All their thoughts are against me for bad.”—Psalm 56:2, 5.
15. (a) What did David mean when he asked Jehovah to put his tears in a skin bottle or in a book? (b) When we are enduring a faith-challenging situation, of what can we be certain?
15 Then, as recorded at Psalm 56:8, David makes these intriguing statements: “My being a fugitive you yourself have reported. Do put my tears in your skin bottle. Are they not in your book?” What a touching description of Jehovah’s tender care! When we are under stress, we may cry out to Jehovah with tears. Even the perfect man Jesus did so. (Hebrews 5:7) David was convinced that Jehovah observed him and would remember his agony, as if preserving his tears in a skin bottle or inscribing them in a book.* Perhaps you feel that your tears would fill a good part of that skin bottle or many pages of such a book. If that is the case, you can take comfort. The Bible assures us: “Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.”—Psalm 34:18.
Becoming an Intimate Companion of God
16, 17. (a) How do we know that Jehovah is not indifferent to the problems his people face? (b) What has Jehovah done to allow people to enjoy intimacy with him?
16 The fact that Jehovah has numbered ‘the very hairs of our head’ gives us some idea of the kind of observant and caring God we are privileged to worship. Though we will have to wait until the promised new world for all pain and suffering to vanish, Jehovah is doing something marvelous for his people right now. David wrote: “The intimacy with Jehovah belongs to those fearful of him, also his covenant, to cause them to know it.”—Psalm 25:14.
17 “Intimacy with Jehovah.” Why, the very idea seems beyond comprehension for imperfect humans! Yet, Jehovah invites those who fear him to be guests in his tent. (Psalm 15:1-5) And what does Jehovah do for his guests? He causes them to know his covenant, according to David. Jehovah confides in them, revealing his “confidential matter” to the prophets, so that they could know what his purposes are and what they must do to live in harmony with them.—Amos 3:7.
18. How do we know that Jehovah wants us to have a close relationship with him?
18 Truly, it is heartwarming to know that we imperfect humans can become intimate companions of the Most High, Jehovah God. In fact, he urges us to do just that. “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you,” says the Bible. (James 4:8) Jehovah wants us to have a close relationship with him. Actually, he has already taken steps to make such a relationship possible. The ransom sacrifice of Jesus has opened the door for us so that we can have a friendship with Almighty God. The Bible states: “As for us, we love, because he first loved us.”—1 John 4:19.
19. How can endurance enhance our relationship with Jehovah?
19 That close relationship is enhanced when we endure under adverse circumstances. The disciple James wrote: “Let endurance have its work complete, that you may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.” (James 1:4) What “work” is accomplished by enduring hardship? Recall Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” What did endurance accomplish in his case? Paul said this about his trials: “Most gladly, therefore, will I rather boast as respects my weaknesses, that the power of the Christ may like a tent remain over me. Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in cases of need, in persecutions and difficulties, for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am powerful.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10) Paul’s experience was that Jehovah would supply the power needed—“the power beyond what is normal” if necessary—so that he could endure. That, in turn, drew him closer to Christ and to Jehovah God.—2 Corinthians 4:7; Philippians 4:11-13.
20. How can we be sure that Jehovah will support and comfort us in the face of adversity?
20 Perhaps Jehovah has allowed your trials to continue. If so, take to heart his promise to those who fear him: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) You can experience such support and comfort. Jehovah has numbered “the very hairs of your head.” He sees your endurance. He feels your pain. He genuinely cares for you. And he will never “forget your work and the love you showed for his name.”—Hebrews 6:10.
The Bible does not state just what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was. It might have been a physical affliction, such as poor eyesight. Or the expression “thorn in the flesh” might refer to false apostles and others who challenged Paul’s apostleship and ministry.—2 Corinthians 11:6, 13-15; Galatians 4:15; 6:11.
Some scholars suggest that the sparrow’s falling to the ground may allude to more than its dying. They say that the original-language phrase may refer to a bird’s alighting on the ground for food. If this is the case, it would imply that God notices and cares for the bird in its daily activities, not just when it dies.—Matthew 6:26.
In ancient times, skin bottles were made from the tanned hides of sheep, goats, and cattle. Such bottles were used to hold milk, butter, cheese, or water. Those that were subjected to a more thorough tanning process could hold oil or wine.
Do You Recall?
• What factors can cause a person to feel abandoned by God?
• What lesson do we learn from Jesus’ illustrations of the sparrows and of the numbering of the hairs of our head?
• What does it mean to have one’s tears put in Jehovah’s “skin bottle” or in his “book”?
• How can we come to enjoy “intimacy with Jehovah”?
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Why did Jehovah not remove Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”?
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What can we learn from Jesus’ illustration of the sparrows?
© J. Heidecker/VIREO
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By reading the Bible regularly, we can find assurance that God cares for us personally