Move Toward the Light
LIGHTHOUSES have saved an untold number of lives. To a weary traveler, though, a light seen in the distance does more than warn of dangerous reefs. It also announces that his destination is near. Paralleling that, Christians today are nearing the end of a long journey, one that has led them through a bedarkened, spiritually dangerous world. In the Bible, mankind in general—the masses alienated from God—are likened to “the sea that is being tossed, when it is unable to calm down, the waters of which keep tossing up seaweed and mire.” (Isaiah 57:20) God’s people are surrounded by such an environment. Yet, they have a bright prospect of salvation, which is for them a figurative, reliable light. (Micah 7:8) Thanks to Jehovah and his written Word, “light itself has flashed up for the righteous one, and rejoicing even for the ones upright in heart.”—Psalm 97:11.*
Some Christians, though, have allowed distractions to lure them away from Jehovah’s light so that their faith has been shipwrecked on what we might liken to treacherous rocks—materialism, immorality, or even apostasy. Yes, as in the first century, some today “have experienced shipwreck concerning their faith.” (1 Timothy 1:19; 2 Peter 2:13-15, 20-22) The new world might be likened to the home port for which we are heading. With it so close now, what a tragedy it would be for one to lose Jehovah’s favor!
Avoid ‘Shipwreck of Your Faith’
In past centuries, a ship might navigate a wide sea safely only to be wrecked as it approached port. Often the most treacherous leg of the trip came as the ship neared land. Similarly, for many the most dangerous period in human history is “the last days” of this present system of things. The Bible accurately describes these as “hard to deal with,” especially for dedicated Christians.—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
Why are these last days so difficult? Well, Satan knows that he has only “a short period of time” left in which to war against God’s people. Hence, he has escalated his vicious campaign to wreck their faith. (Revelation 12:12, 17) Yet, we are not without help and guidance. Jehovah continues to be a refuge for those who heed his counsel. (2 Samuel 22:31) He has furnished us with warning examples that expose Satan’s clever but malevolent designs. Let us now review two such examples involving the nation of Israel as they approached the Promised Land.—1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Corinthians 2:11.
Near the Promised Land
With Moses leading them, the people of Israel were able to escape from Egypt. Before long, they neared the southern border of the Promised Land. Moses then sent 12 men to spy out the land. Ten faithless spies brought back a negative report, saying that Israel would be unable to succeed against the Canaanites because they were of “extraordinary size” and were militarily strong. How did that affect the Israelites? The account tells us that they began to murmur against Moses and Aaron, saying: “Why is Jehovah bringing us to this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder. . . . Let us appoint a head, and let us return to Egypt!”—Numbers 13:1, 2, 28-32; 14:1-4.
Imagine! These very same people had seen Jehovah bring mighty Egypt—the world power of the day—to its knees by ten destructive plagues and an awe-inspiring miracle at the Red Sea. And the Promised Land was right before them, so they had just to move toward it as a ship moves toward a light marking its destination. Yet, they believed that Jehovah was incapable of overthrowing the petty, divided city-kingdoms of Canaan. How this faithless reaction must have disappointed God and the two courageous spies, Joshua and Caleb, who felt that Canaan was like “bread to [Israel]”! Those two had firsthand information, having walked throughout Canaan. When the people did not enter into the Promised Land, Joshua and Caleb also had to continue in the wilderness for decades, but they did not die there along with the faithless ones. Indeed, Joshua and Caleb helped lead the next generation out of the wilderness and toward the Promised Land. (Numbers 14:9, 30) On this second approach, Israel would face a different test. How would they fare?
Moabite King Balak tried to curse Israel by means of the false prophet Balaam. However, Jehovah foiled this plot by making Balaam utter blessings instead of curses. (Numbers 22:1-7; 24:10) Undeterred, Balaam embarked on another sinister scheme, one designed to disqualify God’s people from receiving the land. How? By luring them into immorality and Baal worship. While overall this strategy also failed, it did result in the seducing of 24,000 Israelites. They had immoral relations with Moabite women and attached themselves to Baal of Peor.—Numbers 25:1-9.
Think of that! Many of those same Israelites had seen Jehovah lead them safely through “that great and fear-inspiring wilderness.” (Deuteronomy 1:19) Yet, on the threshold of their inheritance, 24,000 of God’s people caved in to fleshly desires and died at Jehovah’s hand. What a warning this is to God’s servants today as they approach a vastly superior inheritance!
In his last-ditch attempt to prevent Jehovah’s modern-day servants from attaining their reward, Satan does not need new strategies. In a strategy that reminds us of what happened on Israel’s first approach to the Promised Land, Satan often tries to inspire fear and doubt, whether by means of threats, persecution, or ridicule. Some Christians have given in to such intimidation. (Matthew 13:20, 21) Another time-tested machination is that of corrupting individuals morally. On occasion, some who have crept into the Christian congregation have tried to corrupt those who are spiritually weak and who are not walking confidently in divine light.—Jude 8, 12-16.
To spiritually mature and alert individuals, the world’s rapid descent into moral decadence is powerful evidence of Satan’s desperation. Yes, Satan knows that soon God’s loyal servants will be beyond his reach. So this certainly is a time for us to remain spiritually alert to Satan’s efforts.
Aids to Staying Spiritually Alert
The apostle Peter described God’s prophetic word as “a lamp shining in a dark place,” for it helps Christians to see with understanding the outworking of the divine purpose. (2 Peter 1:19-21) Those who develop a love for God’s Word and continue to be guided by it find that Jehovah will make their paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5, 6) Filled with hope, such appreciative ones “cry out joyfully because of the good condition of the heart,” whereas those who do not know Jehovah or who leave his way ultimately feel “pain of heart” and “breakdown of spirit.” (Isaiah 65:13, 14) Hence, through diligent Bible study and the application of what we learn, we can keep our eyes focused on our sure hope rather than on the fleeting pleasures of the present system of things.
Prayer is also vital to our remaining spiritually awake. When speaking about the end of the present system, Jesus said: “Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:34-36) Note Jesus’ use of the word “supplication,” which is a very earnest form of prayer. Jesus knew that eternal life would be at stake at this critical time. Do your prayers reflect your burning desire to remain wide awake spiritually?
Let us not forget that the most dangerous part of the voyage to our inheritance may be the final leg of the trip. Thus, how important it is that we do not lose sight of the light that can lead to our survival.
Be Alert to False Lights
Back in the days of sailing ships, a particular danger was posed by wicked men who preferred moonless nights when sailors found it difficult to see the shore. These men might place lights along dangerous stretches of coast so as to trick ship captains into changing course. Those deceived might find their ships wrecked, their cargo plundered, and lives lost.
In a similar fashion, Satan, the deceptive “angel of light,” wants to rob God’s people of their relationship with Him. The Devil may use “false apostles” and apostate “ministers of righteousness” to deceive the unwary. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) But just as an alert, experienced captain and crew were less likely to be fooled by deceptive lights, Christians “who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong” are not misled by those who promote false teachings and hurtful philosophies.—Hebrews 5:14; Revelation 2:2.
Mariners carried a list of the lighthouses they would encounter en route. The list set out the characteristics of each lighthouse, including its unique signal. The World Book Encyclopedia notes: “Mariners determine which lighthouse they are seeing—and therefore their location—by observing the characteristic of a lighthouse and consulting a light list.” Similarly, God’s Word helps honesthearted people to discern true worship and those pursuing it, especially during these last days when Jehovah has elevated it high above false religion. (Isaiah 2:2, 3; Malachi 3:18) Drawing a sharp contrast between true and false worship, Isaiah 60:2, 3 says: “Darkness itself will cover the earth, and thick gloom the national groups; but upon you Jehovah will shine forth, and upon you his own glory will be seen. And nations will certainly go to your light, and kings to the brightness of your shining forth.”
As millions out of all the nations continue to be guided by Jehovah’s light, they will not see their faith come to grief during this final leg of their journey. Rather, they will navigate safely through the remaining days of the present system of things and on into the peaceful haven of the new world.
The Scriptures use “light” in a number of symbolic or figurative ways. For example, the Bible associates God with light. (Psalm 104:1, 2; 1 John 1:5) Spiritual enlightenment from God’s Word is likened to light. (Isaiah 2:3-5; 2 Corinthians 4:6) During his ministry on earth, Jesus was a light. (John 8:12; 9:5; 12:35) And Jesus’ followers were commanded to let their light shine.—Matthew 5:14, 16.
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Like mariners, Christians are careful not to be deceived by false lights