IF THE answer is yes, then another question arises: Does our conduct affect God’s feelings? That is, can we by our actions cause God to feel happy or hurt? Some ancient philosophers said no. They argued that no one can influence God and that God must therefore be incapable of feeling. But the Bible gives a different picture, namely, that Jehovah has tender feelings and deeply cares about what we do. Consider the words found at Psalm 78:40, 41.
Psalm 78 recounts God’s dealings with ancient Israel. After delivering the nation from slavery in Egypt, Jehovah offered to enter into a special relationship with them. He promised that if they would remain obedient to his laws, they would become his “special property” and be used in an extraordinary way to fulfill his purpose. The people agreed and entered into the Law covenant. Did they live up to their end of the agreement?—Exodus 19:3-8.
There is nothing more precious that we could give to Jehovah than to live in a way that brings joy to his heart
The psalmist says: “How often they would rebel against him in the wilderness!” (Verse 40) The next verse adds: “Again and again they would put God to the test.” (Verse 41) Notice that the writer describes a pattern of rebellion. This ugly spirit surfaced early—in the wilderness shortly after their deliverance from Egypt. The people began to murmur against God, questioning whether he was able and willing to care for them. (Numbers 14:1-4) A reference work for Bible translators says that the words “they would rebel against him” might be “rendered idiomatically as ‘they made their hearts hard against God’ or ‘they said “No” to God.’” Yet, in his mercy, Jehovah would forgive his people when they demonstrated repentance. But then they would return to their old ways and rebel again, and the pattern continued.—Psalm 78:10-19, 38.
How did Jehovah feel each time his fickle people rebelled? “They would make him feel hurt,” says verse 40. Another translation says that they would “give him cause for grief.” One Bible reference work explains: “The meaning here is that the conduct of the Hebrews was such as was fitted to cause pain,—as the conduct of a disobedient and rebellious child is.” Just as an unruly child can cause his parents much pain of heart, the rebellious Israelites “pained even the Holy One of Israel.”—Verse 41.
What can we learn from this psalm? It is reassuring to see that Jehovah has a strong attachment to his worshippers and is not quick to give up on them. At the same time, it is sobering to consider that Jehovah has feelings and that our conduct can affect his feelings. How does knowing that affect you? Does it move you to want to do what is right?
Rather than pursue a sinful course and bring pain to Jehovah’s heart, we can choose to follow an upright course and make his heart glad. And that is exactly what he asks of his worshippers: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice.” (Proverbs 27:11) There is nothing more precious that we could give to Jehovah than to live in a way that brings joy to his heart.