Gaining God’s Approval Leads to Everlasting Life
“You yourself will bless anyone righteous, O Jehovah; as with a large shield, with approval you will surround them.”—PS. 5:12.
1, 2. What request did Elijah make of the widow in Zarephath, and what assurance did he give her?
THE woman and her son were hungry, and so was God’s prophet. As this widow in Zarephath got ready to light a cooking fire, the prophet Elijah asked her for water and bread. She was willing to give him something to drink, but all she had for food was “a handful of flour in the large jar and a little oil in the small jar.” She felt that she was in no position to give the prophet any food, and she told him so.—1 Ki. 17:8-12.
2 “From what is there make me a small round cake first,” persisted Elijah, “and you must bring it out to me, and for yourself and your son you can make something afterward. For this is what Jehovah the God of Israel has said, ‘The large jar of flour itself will not get exhausted, and the small jar of oil itself will not fail.’”—1 Ki. 17:13, 14.
3. What important issue is set before us?
3 The issue before the widow was more critical than deciding what to do with her last bit of food. Would she trust in Jehovah to save her and her son, or would she put her material needs ahead of gaining God’s approval and friendship? A similar question stands before all of us. Will we show greater concern for gaining Jehovah’s approval than for seeking material security? We have every reason to trust and serve God. And there are steps we can take to seek and gain his approval.
‘You Are Worthy to Receive Worship’
4. Why is Jehovah worthy of receiving our worship?
4 Jehovah has the right to expect that humans will serve him acceptably. A group of his heavenly servants confirmed that fact in unison, saying: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” (Rev. 4:11) By reason of his Creatorship, Jehovah is worthy of our worship.
5. Why should God’s love motivate us to serve him?
5 Another reason for us to serve Jehovah is his matchless love for us. “God proceeded to create the man in his image,” states the Bible, “in God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27) Man is a free moral agent with the God-given ability to think and to make decisions. By giving us life, Jehovah became Father to humankind. (Luke 3:38) Like any good father, he has done everything to provide what his sons and daughters need in order to enjoy life. “He makes his sun rise” and “makes it rain,” so that planet Earth produces abundant food for us against a backdrop of beautiful surroundings.—Matt. 5:45.
6, 7. (a) What harm did Adam bring upon all his descendants? (b) What will Christ’s sacrifice do for those who seek God’s approval?
6 Jehovah has also rescued us from the terrible consequences of sin. By sinning, Adam became like a gambler who steals from his family to engage in gambling. By rebelling against Jehovah, Adam robbed his children of their prospect—eternal happiness. His selfishness reduced humankind to slavery under a cruel master, imperfection. All humans are thus bound to get sick, experience sadness, and eventually die. Freeing a slave requires a payment, and Jehovah has made the payment that can save us from those dreadful consequences. (Read Romans 5:21.) Acting in harmony with his Father’s will, Jesus Christ gave “his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) Soon the full benefits of that ransom payment will accrue to those who gain God’s approval.
7 Our Creator, Jehovah, has done more than anyone to give us a happy, purposeful life. Having his approval, we will be able to see how he works to undo all the damage done to the human race. In a personal way, Jehovah will continue to show us how he becomes “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Heb. 11:6.
“Your People Will Offer Themselves Willingly”
8. What does Isaiah’s experience teach us about serving God?
8 Gaining God’s approval involves the proper exercise of our free will. This is because Jehovah does not coerce anyone into serving him. In Isaiah’s time, He asked: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” By recognizing the prophet’s right to decide, Jehovah dignified him. Imagine Isaiah’s satisfaction in responding: “Here I am! Send me.”—Isa. 6:8.
9, 10. (a) With what attitude should we serve God? (b) Why is it appropriate for us to serve Jehovah whole-souled?
9 Humans are free to serve God or not to do so. Jehovah wants us to serve him willingly. (Read Joshua 24:15.) Any who begrudge God their worship cannot be pleasing to him; nor does he accept the devotion of those whose true intent is only to please other humans. (Col. 3:22) If we rendered sacred service “hesitantly” by allowing worldly interests to interfere with our worship, we would not win God’s approval. (Ex. 22:29) Jehovah knows that serving him whole-souled is good for us. Moses urged the Israelites to choose life ‘by loving Jehovah their God, by listening to his voice and by sticking to him.’—Deut. 30:19, 20.
10 King David of ancient Israel sang to Jehovah: “Your people will offer themselves willingly on the day of your military force. In the splendors of holiness, from the womb of the dawn, you have your company of young men just like dewdrops.” (Ps. 110:3) Many people today live for financial security and leisure. For those who love Jehovah, however, their sacred service comes before everything else. The zeal with which they preach the good news proves where their priorities lie. They have full confidence in Jehovah’s ability to supply their daily needs.—Matt. 6:33, 34.
Sacrifices That Meet With God’s Approval
11. What benefit did the Israelites hope to receive by offering sacrifices to Jehovah?
11 Under the Law covenant, God’s people offered acceptable sacrifices to gain his favor. “In case you should sacrifice a communion sacrifice to Jehovah,” says Leviticus 19:5, “you should sacrifice it to gain approval for yourselves.” In the same Bible book, we read: “In case you should sacrifice a thanksgiving sacrifice to Jehovah, you should sacrifice it to gain approval for you.” (Lev. 22:29) When the Israelites offered up proper animal sacrifices on Jehovah’s altar, the smoke that drifted up was like “a restful odor” to the true God. (Lev. 1:9, 13) He felt soothed and refreshed by those expressions of love from his people. (Gen. 8:21, ftn.) In these features of the Law, we find a principle that applies today. Those offering acceptable sacrifices to Jehovah receive his approval. What sacrifices does he accept? Consider two areas of life: our conduct and our speech.
12. What practices would make the ‘presenting of our bodies as a sacrifice’ offensive to God?
12 In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul wrote: “Present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.” (Rom. 12:1) Gaining God’s approval requires that a person keep his body acceptable to God. If he were to defile himself with tobacco, betel nut, illicit drugs, or alcohol abuse, that offering would have no value. (2 Cor. 7:1) Moreover, since he that “practices fornication is sinning against his own body,” immoral conduct of any kind renders his sacrifice offensive to Jehovah. (1 Cor. 6:18) To please God, a person must ‘become holy in all his conduct.’—1 Pet. 1:14-16.
13. Why is it fitting that we praise Jehovah?
13 Another sacrifice that Jehovah delights in has to do with our power of speech. Those loving Jehovah have always spoken well of him in public and in the privacy of their homes. (Read Psalm 34:1-3.) Read Psalms 148-150, and observe how often these three psalms encourage us to praise Jehovah. Truly, “on the part of the upright ones praise is fitting.” (Ps. 33:1) And our Exemplar, Jesus Christ, stressed the importance of praising God by preaching the good news.—Luke 4:18, 43, 44.
14, 15. Hosea urged the Israelites to offer what type of sacrifices, and how did Jehovah respond?
14 By preaching with zeal, we give evidence of our love for Jehovah and our desire for his approval. For example, consider how the prophet Hosea exhorted the Israelites who had taken up false worship and had lost God’s favor. (Hos. 13:1-3) Hosea told them to plead: “May you [Jehovah] pardon error; and accept what is good, and we will offer in return the young bulls of our lips.”—Hos. 14:1, 2.
15 A bull was the costliest animal that an Israelite could offer to Jehovah. Hence, “the young bulls of our lips” referred to sincere, well-thought-out words spoken in praise of the true God. How did Jehovah respond to those making such sacrifices? He said: “I shall love them of my own free will.” (Hos. 14:4) To those offering such sacrifices of praise, Jehovah granted his forgiveness, approval, and friendship.
16, 17. When faith in God moves a person to preach the good news, how does Jehovah receive that one’s praise?
16 Praising Jehovah publicly has always been a prominent part of true worship. Glorifying the true God meant so much to the psalmist that he beseeched God: “Please take pleasure in the voluntary offerings of my mouth, O Jehovah.” (Ps. 119:108) What about today? Speaking of a large crowd of people in our time, Isaiah prophesied: “The praises of Jehovah they will announce. . . . With approval they [their gifts] will come up upon my [God’s] altar.” (Isa. 60:6, 7) In fulfillment, millions are offering God “a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.”—Heb. 13:15.
17 What about you? Are you offering God acceptable sacrifices? If not, will you make needed changes and begin praising Jehovah publicly? When faith moves you to start preaching the good news, your offering will be “more pleasing to Jehovah than a bull.” (Read Psalm 69:30, 31.) Be assured that “the restful odor” of your sacrifice of praise will reach Jehovah and that he will grant you his approval. (Ezek. 20:41) The joy that you will then feel has no equal.
‘Jehovah Himself Will Bless Anyone Righteous’
18, 19. (a) What view of serving God do many people hold today? (b) Losing God’s favor leads to what?
18 Today, many people draw the same conclusion as some did in Malachi’s time: “It is useless to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept his charge?” (Mal. 3:14, An American Translation) Led on by materialistic desires, they view God’s purpose as unattainable and his laws as no longer applicable. To them, the preaching of the good news is a waste of time and a source of irritation.
19 The driving force behind such ideas goes back to the garden of Eden. It was Satan who persuaded Eve to disregard the real value of the wonderful life Jehovah had given her and to disdain His approval. Today, Satan eggs people on to believe that nothing is to be gained by doing God’s will. However, Eve and her husband discovered that losing God’s favor meant losing their lives. Those who now follow their bad example will soon come to realize the same bitter truth.—Gen. 3:1-7, 17-19.
20, 21. (a) What did the widow of Zarephath do, and how did the matter turn out for her? (b) How and why should we imitate the widow of Zarephath?
20 Contrast the sad ending of Adam and Eve with the outcome of the events mentioned earlier regarding Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. After hearing Elijah’s encouraging words, the woman began baking and first served the prophet some bread. Then Jehovah fulfilled the promise he made through Elijah. The account states: “She continued to eat, she together with him and her household, for days. The large jar of flour itself did not get exhausted, and the small jar of oil itself did not fail, according to Jehovah’s word that he had spoken by means of Elijah.”—1 Ki. 17:15, 16.
21 The widow of Zarephath did something that few people of the billions now alive are willing to do. She put her complete trust in the God of salvation, and he did not leave her in the lurch. This and other Bible accounts confirm that Jehovah deserves our trust. (Read Joshua 21:43-45; 23:14.) The lives of modern-day Witnesses of Jehovah provide further proof that he will never abandon those who have his approval.—Ps. 34:6, 7, 17-19.*
22. Why is it urgent that we seek God’s approval without delay?
22 God’s day of judgment “upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth” is imminent. (Luke 21:34, 35) There is no escaping it. No riches or material comforts can ever come near in value to hearing God’s appointed Judge say: “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” (Matt. 25:34) Yes, ‘Jehovah himself will bless anyone righteous; as with a large shield, with approval he will surround them.’ (Ps. 5:12) Should we not seek God’s approval?
Do You Recall?
• Why does Jehovah deserve our heartfelt worship?
• What sacrifices does Jehovah accept today?
• The expression “the young bulls of our lips” refers to what, and why should we offer them to Jehovah?
• Why should we seek God’s approval?
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God’s prophet placed what important issue before a needy mother?
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What benefit do we receive by offering a sacrifice of praise to Jehovah?
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Your genuine trust in Jehovah will never lead to disappointment