“Who Has Come to Know the Mind of Jehovah?”
“‘Who has come to know the mind of Jehovah, that he may instruct him?’ But we do have the mind of Christ.”
1, 2. (a) What difficulty do many people experience? (b) What do we need to remember about our thinking and that of Jehovah?
HAVE you ever found it difficult to understand another person’s way of thinking? Perhaps you recently got married, and you feel that you have no way of fully understanding how your spouse thinks. Indeed, men and women think and even speak differently. Why, in some cultures, men and women actually speak different dialects of the same language! Additionally, differences in culture and language can result in different patterns of thinking and behavior. However, the more you get to know others, the more opportunity you have to start to understand their way of thinking.
2 We should not, therefore, be surprised that our thinking is far different from that of Jehovah. Through his prophet Isaiah, Jehovah told the Israelites: “The thoughts of you people are not my thoughts, nor are my ways your ways.” Then, illustrating this fact, Jehovah went on to say: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
3. What are two ways in which we can endeavor to attain “intimacy with Jehovah”?
3 Does this mean, though, that we should not even try to understand Jehovah’s way of thinking? No. Although we can never fully understand all of Jehovah’s thoughts, still the Bible encourages us to gain “intimacy with Jehovah.” (Read Psalm 25:14; Proverbs 3:32.) One way we can draw closer to Jehovah is by showing regard for and paying attention to his activities as recorded in his Word, the Bible. (Ps. 28:5) Another way is by getting to know “the mind of Christ,” who is “the image of the invisible God.” (1 Cor. 2:16; Col. 1:15) By taking time to study Bible accounts and to meditate on them, we can begin to understand Jehovah’s qualities and his way of thinking.
Beware of a Wrong Tendency
4, 5. (a) What wrong tendency do we need to avoid? Explain. (b) The Israelites fell into what wrong way of thinking?
4 As we meditate on Jehovah’s activities, we need to avoid the tendency to judge God by human standards. This tendency is alluded to in Jehovah’s words as recorded at Psalm 50:21: “You imagined that I would positively become like you.” It is as one Bible scholar stated over 175 years ago: “Men are apt to judge of God by themselves, and to suppose him restricted by such laws as they deem proper for their own observance.”
5 We need to be careful not to shape our concept of Jehovah so as to conform it to our own standards and desires. Why is this important? Well, as we study the Scriptures, some of Jehovah’s actions may seem to be not quite right from our limited, imperfect viewpoint. The ancient Israelites fell into that way of thinking and drew a wrong conclusion concerning Jehovah’s dealings with them. Notice what Jehovah said to them: “You people will certainly say: ‘The way of Jehovah is not adjusted right.’ Hear, please, O house of Israel. Is not my own way adjusted right? Are not the ways of you people not adjusted right?”
6. What lesson did Job learn, and how can we benefit from his experience?
6 A key to avoiding the trap of judging Jehovah by our own standards is to recognize that our viewpoint is limited and at times seriously flawed. Job needed to learn this lesson. During his time of suffering, Job struggled with despair and became somewhat self-centered. He lost sight of the bigger issues. But Jehovah lovingly helped him to broaden his viewpoint. By asking Job over 70 different questions, none of which Job could answer, Jehovah emphasized the limitations of Job’s understanding. Job reacted in a humble way, adjusting his viewpoint.
Gaining “the Mind of Christ”
7. Why are we helped to understand Jehovah’s thinking if we examine Jesus’ activities?
7 Jesus perfectly imitated his Father in everything he said and did. (John 14:9) Therefore, examining Jesus’ activities helps us to understand Jehovah’s way of thinking. (Rom. 15:5; Phil. 2:5) Let us, then, examine two Gospel accounts.
8, 9. As recorded at John 6:1-5, what situation led Jesus to ask Philip a question, and why did Jesus do so?
8 Imagine the scene. It was just before the Passover of 32 C.E. Jesus’ apostles had recently returned from a remarkable preaching tour throughout Galilee. Since they were tired from all this activity, Jesus took them to an isolated place on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee. However, thousands followed them there. After Jesus healed this multitude and taught them many things, a logistical problem arose. How could all these people get something to eat in such an isolated location? Realizing the need, Jesus asked Philip, who was from that area: “Where shall we buy loaves for these to eat?”
9 Why did Jesus ask Philip this question? Was Jesus worried about what to do? No. What really was his thinking? The apostle John, who also was there, explains: “[Jesus] was saying this to test him, for he himself knew what he was about to do.” (John 6:6) Jesus here tested the spiritual progress of his disciples. By asking this question, he got their attention and gave them an opportunity to express their faith in what he could do. But they missed this opportunity and showed how limited their viewpoint really was. (Read John 6:7-9.) Jesus then went on to show that he could do something they had not even imagined. He miraculously fed those thousands of hungry people.
10-12. (a) Why may Jesus not have granted the Greek woman’s request immediately? Explain. (b) What will we now consider?
10 This account may help us to understand Jesus’ thinking on another occasion. Shortly after feeding this large group of people, Jesus and his apostles traveled north, beyond the borders of Israel, to the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon. While there, they met a Greek woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter. At first, Jesus ignored the woman. But when she kept on insisting, Jesus said to her: “First let the children be satisfied, for it is not right to take the bread of the children and throw it to the little dogs.”
11 Why did Jesus at first refuse to help this woman? Was Jesus testing her, as he did Philip, to see how she would react, giving her an opportunity to display her faith? His tone of voice, although not revealed in the written text, did not discourage her. His use of the term “little dogs” softened the comparison. So perhaps Jesus was acting like a parent who intends to grant a child’s request but withholds any outward sign of that intent in order to test out the child’s seriousness. Whatever the case, once the woman expressed her faith, Jesus willingly granted her request.
12 These two Gospel accounts give us precious insight into “the mind of Christ.” Let us now see how these accounts can help us to understand better Jehovah’s own mind.
Jehovah’s Dealings With Moses
13. How does gaining insight into Jesus’ way of thinking help us?
13 Gaining insight into Jesus’ way of thinking helps us in understanding passages in the Scriptures that may be difficult to grasp. For example, consider Jehovah’s words to Moses after the Israelites had made a golden calf to worship. God said: “I have looked at this people and here it is a stiff-necked people. So now let me be, that my anger may blaze against them and I may exterminate them, and let me make you into a great nation.”
14. How did Moses react to Jehovah’s words?
14 The account goes on to say: “Moses proceeded to soften the face of Jehovah his God and to say: ‘Why, O Jehovah, should your anger blaze against your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a strong hand? Why should the Egyptians say, “With evil intent he brought them out in order to kill them among the mountains and to exterminate them from the surface of the ground”? Turn from your burning anger and feel regret over the evil against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel your servants, to whom you swore by yourself, in that you said to them, “I shall multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens, and all this land that I have designated I shall give to your seed, that they may indeed take possession of it to time indefinite.”’ And Jehovah began to feel regret over the evil that he had spoken of doing to his people.”
15, 16. (a) What opportunity opened up to Moses because of what Jehovah said? (b) In what sense did Jehovah “feel regret”?
15 Did Moses really need to correct Jehovah’s thinking? By no means! Although Jehovah expressed what he was inclined to do, this was not his final judgment. In effect, Jehovah was here testing Moses, just as Jesus later did Philip and the Greek woman. Moses was given an opportunity to express his view.* Jehovah had appointed Moses as mediator between Israel and Himself, and Jehovah respected His appointment of Moses to that role. Would Moses succumb to frustration? Would he take this opportunity to encourage Jehovah to forget about Israel and to make a mighty nation from Moses’ own descendants?
16 Moses’ response revealed his faith and trust in Jehovah’s justice. His reaction showed, not selfish interest, but concern over Jehovah’s name. He did not want it to be defamed. Moses thereby showed that he understood “the mind of Jehovah” concerning this matter. (1 Cor. 2:16) What was the outcome? Because Jehovah was not firmly committed to a certain course of action, the inspired record says that he “began to feel regret.” In Hebrew, this expression can simply mean that Jehovah did not bring about the calamity he stated that he was inclined to bring upon the whole nation.
Jehovah’s Dealings With Abraham
17. How did Jehovah show great patience in dealing with Abraham’s concerns?
17 Another example of how Jehovah allows his servants an opportunity to express their faith and trust involves Abraham’s request concerning Sodom. In that account, Jehovah showed great patience by letting Abraham make a series of eight inquiries. At one point, Abraham makes this impassioned appeal: “It is unthinkable of you that you are acting in this manner to put to death the righteous man with the wicked one so that it has to occur with the righteous man as it does with the wicked! It is unthinkable of you. Is the Judge of all the earth not going to do what is right?”
18. What do we learn from the way that Jehovah dealt with Abraham?
18 From this account, what do we learn about Jehovah’s thinking? Did Jehovah need Abraham to reason with him in order to make the right decision? No. Of course, Jehovah could have simply stated in the beginning the reasons for his decision. But by means of these questions, Jehovah gave Abraham time to come to grips with the decision and to understand His thinking. It also allowed Abraham to understand the depth of Jehovah’s compassion and justice. Yes, Jehovah dealt with Abraham as a friend.
Lessons for Us
19. How can we imitate Job?
19 What have we learned about “the mind of Jehovah”? We need to allow God’s Word to mold our understanding of Jehovah’s mind. We should never impose our limitations on Jehovah and judge him by our standards and thinking. Job stated: “[God] is not a man like me that I should answer him, that we should come together in judgment.” (Job 9:32) Like Job, when we start to understand the mind of Jehovah, we cannot help but exclaim: “Look! These are the fringes of his ways, and what a whisper of a matter has been heard of him! But of his mighty thunder who can show an understanding?”
20. What should we do if we come across a passage of Scripture that is difficult for us to understand?
20 As we read the Scriptures, what should we do if we come across a passage that is difficult to understand, especially with regard to Jehovah’s thinking? If after researching the matter we still do not have a clear answer, we can view this as a test of our trust in Jehovah. Remember, at times certain statements allow us an opportunity to express our faith in Jehovah’s qualities. Let us humbly acknowledge that we do not understand everything that he does. (Eccl. 11:5) We will thus be prompted to agree with these words of the apostle Paul: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are! For ‘who has come to know Jehovah’s mind, or who has become his counselor?’ Or, ‘Who has first given to him, so that it must be repaid to him?’ Because from him and by him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.”
A similar account appears at Numbers 14:11-20.
According to some scholars, the Hebrew idiom rendered “let me be” at Exodus 32:10 could be taken as an invitation, a suggestion that Moses would be allowed to intercede, or ‘stand in the gap,’ between Jehovah and the nation. (Ps. 106:23; Ezek. 22:30) Be that as it may, Moses obviously felt comfortable expressing his opinion freely to Jehovah.
Do You Remember?
• What will help us to avoid the tendency to judge Jehovah by our own standards?
• How can understanding Jesus’ actions help us to gain “intimacy with Jehovah”?
• What lessons did you learn from Jehovah’s conversations with Moses and with Abraham?
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What do we learn about Jehovah’s thinking from the way he dealt with Moses and with Abraham?