Jehovah Knows How to Deliver His People
“Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial.”—2 PET. 2:9.
WHY CAN WE BE CONFIDENT THAT JEHOVAH:
Knows the timing of events in the outworking of his purpose?
Will use his power to intervene in behalf of his people?
Knows how climactic events will unfold?
1. What conditions will accompany the “great tribulation”?
THE execution of God’s judgment upon Satan’s world will break out with striking suddenness. (1 Thess. 5:2, 3) As “the great day of Jehovah” unfolds, earthly society will descend into chaos. (Zeph. 1:14-17) Hardships and deprivations will be the order of the day. It will be a time of distress “such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now.”—Read Matthew 24:21, 22.
2, 3. (a) What will God’s people face during the “great tribulation”? (b) What can fortify us for what lies ahead?
2 As the “great tribulation” moves toward its climax, God’s people will be the target of an all-out attack by “Gog of the land of Magog.” During this attack, “a numerous military force” will come against God’s people “like clouds to cover the land.” (Ezek. 38:2, 14-16) No human agency will come to the defense of Jehovah’s people. Their survival will depend on God alone. How will they react when staring extermination in the face?
3 If you are a servant of Jehovah, do you have faith that Jehovah can and will preserve his people alive through the great tribulation? The apostle Peter wrote: “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off.” (2 Pet. 2:9) Meditating on Jehovah’s past acts of deliverance can fortify us for what lies ahead. Let us consider three examples that will instill in us confidence in Jehovah’s ability to deliver his people.
SURVIVING A GLOBAL DELUGE
4. Why was timing important in connection with the Flood?
4 First, consider the account of the Flood of Noah’s day. For Jehovah’s will to be accomplished, timing was important. The colossal task of building the ark had to be completed and the animals had to be safely loaded on board before the floodwaters fell. The Genesis account reveals that Jehovah did not have the ark built and then decide when to bring the floodwaters, as if he needed to keep the timing of the start of the Flood flexible in case the construction project ran behind schedule. Rather, long before he said anything to Noah about building an ark, God fixed the time for the Flood to begin. How do we know that?
5. What did Jehovah declare in the pronouncement recorded at Genesis 6:3, and when was this decree issued?
5 The Bible tells us that Jehovah issued a decree in heaven. According to Genesis 6:3, he said: “My spirit shall not act toward man indefinitely in that he is also flesh. Accordingly his days shall amount to a hundred and twenty years.” This was not a statement regarding the average human lifespan. It was a judicial decree in which Jehovah declared when he would act to cleanse the earth of ungodliness.* Since the Flood began in 2370 B.C.E., we infer that God made this pronouncement in 2490 B.C.E. At that time, Noah was 480 years old. (Gen. 7:6) Some 20 years later, in the year 2470 B.C.E., Noah’s sons began to be born. (Gen. 5:32) About one hundred years remained before the Flood was to begin, but Jehovah had still not revealed to Noah the special role he would play in preserving the human family. How long would God wait before he told Noah?
6. When did Jehovah command Noah to build the ark?
6 Jehovah apparently waited decades before revealing to Noah what He was going to do. On what basis do we draw this conclusion? The inspired record indicates that Noah’s sons were already grown and married when God commanded Noah to build the ark. Jehovah told him: “I do establish my covenant with you; and you must go into the ark, you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.” (Gen. 6:9-18) It is possible, therefore, that when Noah received the commission to build the ark, only 40 or 50 years remained before the Flood.
7. (a) How did Noah and his family demonstrate faith? (b) When did God finally tell Noah exactly when the Flood would begin?
7 As the work of constructing the ark progressed, Noah and his family must have wondered how God would accomplish his purpose and when the Flood would begin. Yet, their lack of knowledge of these details did not stop them from getting the ark built. The Scriptural record states: “Noah proceeded to do according to all that God had commanded him. He did just so.” (Gen. 6:22) Seven days before the floodwaters fell—just enough time for Noah and his family to load the animals into the ark—Jehovah finally told Noah exactly when the Flood would begin. Hence, when the floodgates of the heavens were opened “in the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month,” everything was ready.—Gen. 7:1-5, 11.
8. How does the account of the Flood instill confidence that Jehovah knows when to deliver his people?
8 The account of the Flood testifies to Jehovah’s skill not only as a Timekeeper but also as a Deliverer. As he counts down to the end of the present system of things, we can be sure that everything Jehovah has purposed will take place at his appointed time, to the very “day and hour.”—Matt. 24:36; read Habakkuk 2:3.
DELIVERED AT THE RED SEA
9, 10. How did Jehovah use his people to lure the military forces of Egypt into a trap?
9 Thus far, we have seen that Jehovah is in full control of the timing of events in the outworking of his purpose. The second example that we will consider highlights yet another reason we can trust in Jehovah to deliver his people: He will use the unlimited power at his disposal to make sure that his will takes place. So certain is Jehovah’s ability to deliver his servants that he at times has used them to lure his enemies into a trap. That was the case when he liberated the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.
10 The Israelites who departed from Egypt may have numbered some three million people. Jehovah had Moses lead them in a way that caused Pharaoh to think that they were wandering in confusion. (Read Exodus 14:1-4.) Unable to resist the bait, Pharaoh led his military forces in pursuit of the former slaves, trapping them at the Red Sea. There seemed to be no way out. (Ex. 14:5-10) Actually, though, the Israelites were not in any danger. Why not? Because Jehovah was about to intervene in their behalf.
11, 12. (a) How did Jehovah intervene in behalf of his people? (b) What was the outcome of God’s intervention, and what does this account teach us about Jehovah?
11 “The pillar of cloud” that was leading the Israelites moved to their rear, blocking the approach of Pharaoh’s army and throwing them into darkness. For the Israelites, however, the pillar miraculously lit up the night. (Read Exodus 14:19, 20.) Jehovah then split the sea apart by means of a strong east wind, “converting the sea basin into dry ground.” This no doubt took considerable time, for the account says: “At length the sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on dry land.” Compared with Pharaoh’s military forces in their war chariots, the Israelites moved at a ponderous pace. Yet, there was no possibility that the Egyptians would overtake them, for Jehovah was fighting for Israel. “He went throwing the camp of the Egyptians into confusion. And he kept taking wheels off their chariots so that they were driving them with difficulty.”—Ex. 14:21-25.
12 Once all Israel was safely ashore on the other side, Jehovah directed Moses: “Stretch your hand out over the sea, that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, their war chariots and their cavalrymen.” As the soldiers tried to flee the onrushing waters, “Jehovah shook the Egyptians off into the midst of the sea.” There was no escape. “Not so much as one among them was let remain.” (Ex. 14:26-28) Jehovah thus showed that he has the power to deliver his people from any situation.
ESCAPING JERUSALEM’S DESTRUCTION
13. What instructions did Jesus give, and what might his followers have wondered?
13 Jehovah knows exactly how events will unfold to fulfill his purpose. The importance of this is highlighted in the third example we will consider: the first-century siege of Jerusalem. By means of his Son, Jehovah provided instructions for survival to Christians who were living in Jerusalem and Judea prior to the city’s destruction in 70 C.E. Jesus said: “When you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place, . . . then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains.” (Matt. 24:15, 16) But how would Jesus’ followers recognize when this prophecy was being fulfilled?
14. How did the unfolding of events make the meaning of Jesus’ instructions clear?
14 As events unfolded, the meaning of Jesus’ words became clear. In 66 C.E., Roman armies under Cestius Gallus arrived in Jerusalem to quell a Jewish rebellion. When the Jewish rebels, known as the Zealots, sought refuge inside the temple fortress, Roman soldiers began to undermine the temple wall. For alert Christians, the meaning was plain to see: A pagan army with its idolatrous standards (“the disgusting thing”) got as far as the temple wall (“a holy place”). It was time for Jesus’ followers to “begin fleeing to the mountains.” But how would they get out of a city that was under siege? Events were about to take an unexpected turn.
15, 16. (a) What specific instruction did Jesus give, and why was it vital that his followers obey it? (b) On what will our deliverance depend?
15 For no apparent reason, Cestius Gallus and his troops withdrew from Jerusalem and began retreating. The Zealots gave chase. With the warring parties away, Jesus’ followers suddenly had an opportunity to flee. Jesus had specifically instructed them to leave their material possessions behind and depart without delay. (Read Matthew 24:17, 18.) Was prompt action really necessary? The answer soon became clear. Within days, the Zealots returned and began forcing the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea to join the rebellion. Conditions within the city rapidly deteriorated as rival Jewish factions struggled for control. Flight became increasingly difficult. When the Romans returned in 70 C.E., flight became impossible. (Luke 19:43) Any who had lingered were trapped! For the Christians who had fled to the mountains, heeding Jesus’ instructions meant saving their lives. They saw firsthand that Jehovah knows how to deliver his people. What lesson can we learn from this account?
16 As events unfold during the great tribulation, Christians will need to heed instructions from God’s Word and organization. For example, Jesus’ command to “begin fleeing to the mountains” has a modern-day application. Just what form our flight will take remains to be seen.* However, we can be sure that Jehovah will make clear the meaning of those instructions when the time comes for us to follow them. Since our deliverance will depend on obedience, we do well to ask ourselves: ‘How do I respond to instructions that Jehovah provides for his people now? Am I quick to respond, or do I hesitate to obey?’—Jas. 3:17.
FORTIFIED FOR WHAT LIES AHEAD
17. What does Habakkuk’s prophecy reveal about the coming attack on God’s people?
17 Let us now return to the all-out attack by Gog mentioned at the outset. In a related prophecy, Habakkuk said: “I heard, and my belly began to be agitated; at the sound my lips quivered; rottenness began to enter into my bones; and in my situation I was agitated, that I should quietly wait for the day of distress, for his [God’s] coming up to the people [the menacing armies], that he may raid them.” (Hab. 3:16) Just hearing the report of the coming attack against God’s people caused the prophet’s stomach to churn, his lips to tremble, and his strength to fail. Habakkuk’s reaction indicates how dire our predicament will seem to be when Gog’s hordes come storming against us. Yet, the prophet was willing to wait quietly for Jehovah’s great day, trusting that Jehovah would deliver his people. We can have the same confidence.—Hab. 3:18, 19.
18. (a) Why do we have reason not to fear the coming attack? (b) What will we consider next?
18 The three examples that we have considered demonstrate without question that Jehovah knows how to deliver his people. His purpose cannot fail; victory is certain. To share in that glorious triumph, however, we must remain faithful to the end. How does Jehovah help us to maintain our integrity now? That is the subject of the next article.
See The Watchtower, May 1, 1999, page 19.
[Picture on page 24]
Were the Israelites ever in any danger from Pharaoh’s army?