“[Abraham] came to be called Jehovah’s friend.”—JAS. 2:23.
1. Having been created in God’s image, we possess what ability?
“LIKE father, like son” is an oft-repeated phrase. Indeed, many children closely resemble their parents. After all, both the father and the mother contribute to their child’s genetic heritage. Jehovah, our heavenly Father, is the Giver of life. (Ps. 36:9) And we, his human children, resemble him to some extent. Being created in his image, we have the ability to reason and draw conclusions and develop and maintain friendships.—Gen. 1:26.
2. On what basis can Jehovah become our Friend?
2 Jehovah can be our best Friend. Such friendship is based on God’s love for us and our faith in him and his Son. Jesus stated: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) There are many examples of those who have had a close relationship with Jehovah. Let us consider two of them.
“ABRAHAM MY FRIEND”
3, 4. As regards friendship with Jehovah, contrast Abraham with his descendants.
3 Jehovah referred to the patriarch and ancestor of the Israelites as “Abraham my friend.” (Isa. 41:8) Second Chronicles 20:7 also calls Abraham a friend of God. What was the basis for that faithful man’s enduring friendship with his Creator? It was Abraham’s faith.—Gen. 15:6; read James 2:21-23.
4 Abraham’s descendants who became the nation of ancient Israel originally had Jehovah as their Father and Friend. Sadly, however, they lost their friendship with God. Why? Because they failed to keep exercising faith in Jehovah’s promises.
5, 6. (a) How has Jehovah become your Friend? (b) What questions deserve our attention?
5 The more you learn about Jehovah, the stronger your faith in him becomes, and your love for him deepens. Think back to the time when you discovered that God is a real Person, someone with whom you could develop a close relationship. You also learned that all of us have been born in sin because of Adam’s disobedience. You came to understand that mankind as a whole is alienated from God. (Col. 1:21) Then you came to realize that our loving heavenly Father is not a remote person who is not interested in us. When we learned about his provision of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice and exercised faith in that provision, we began to build a friendship with God.
6 As we look back now, we might well ask ourselves: ‘Am I making progress in my friendship with God? Is my trust in him strong, and is my love for my beloved Friend, Jehovah, growing each day?’ Another person of ancient times who had a close relationship with Jehovah was Gideon. Let us now consider his fine example and take it to heart.
“JEHOVAH IS PEACE”
7-9. (a) What remarkable experience did Gideon have, and what was the result of it? (See opening image.) (b) How can we experience friendship with Jehovah?
7 Judge Gideon served Jehovah during a turbulent period of Israel’s history after the nation entered the Promised Land. Judges chapter 6 relates that Jehovah’s angel visited Gideon at Ophrah. At that time, the neighboring Midianites were a real threat to Israel. For that reason, Gideon was threshing wheat, not in the open field, but in a winepress, where he could quickly hide the valuable grain. Surprised that the angel appeared and addressed him as a “mighty warrior,” Gideon questioned whether Jehovah, who had delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, was really going to help them now. Speaking on behalf of the Creator, the angel reassured Gideon that Jehovah truly was backing him.
8 Gideon wondered how it would be possible for him to “save Israel out of Midian’s hand.” The answer he received was direct: “Because I will be with you,” said Jehovah, “you will strike down Midian as if they were one man.” (Judg. 6:11-16) No doubt still wondering just how this would work out, Gideon sought a sign. Notice that in this conversation there is no question but that Gideon viewed Jehovah as a real Person.
9 What happened next strengthened Gideon’s faith and brought him closer to God. Gideon prepared a meal and served it to the angel. When the food was miraculously consumed by fire at the touch of the angel’s staff, Gideon realized that the angel was indeed Jehovah’s representative. Alarmed, Gideon exclaimed: “Alas, Sovereign Lord Jehovah, for I have seen Jehovah’s angel face-to-face!” (Judg. 6:17-22) But did that encounter erect a barrier between Gideon and his God? Certainly not! The opposite occurred. Gideon came to know Jehovah in such a way that he felt at peace with God. We know this from the name given to the altar that Gideon erected at that place—“Jehovah-shalom.” That name means “Jehovah Is Peace.” (Read Judges 6:23, 24; ftn.) When we meditate on what Jehovah does for us each day, we come to realize that he is a true Friend. Regular prayer to God increases our feeling of peace and strengthens our friendship with him.
WHO WILL BE ‘A GUEST IN JEHOVAH’S TENT’?
10 For Jehovah to be our Friend, however, we must meet certain conditions. As recorded in Psalm 15, David sang about what is required for us to be ‘a guest in Jehovah’s tent,’ that is, to be a friend of God. (Ps. 15:1) Let us focus on two of these requirements—avoiding slander and acting honestly in all our dealings. With regard to these matters, David said of a guest in Jehovah’s tent: “He does not slander with his tongue . . . He does not accept a bribe against the innocent.”—Ps. 15:3, 5.
11. Why must we avoid slandering anyone?
11 In another psalm, David warned: “Guard your tongue from what is bad.” (Ps. 34:13) Failure to heed this inspired counsel would create a gap between us and our righteous heavenly Father. In fact, slander is a characteristic of Jehovah’s great enemy, Satan. The term “Devil” is derived from a Greek word meaning “slanderer.” Controlling what we say about others helps preserve closeness with Jehovah. Especially is this true of our attitude regarding appointed men in the congregation.—Read Hebrews 13:17; Jude 8.
12, 13. (a) Why should we be honest in all things? (b) How may our honesty affect others?
12 Honesty, not exploitation, likewise characterizes Jehovah’s servants. The apostle Paul wrote: “Keep praying for us, for we trust we have an honest conscience, as we wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” (Heb. 13:18) Because we are determined to “conduct ourselves honestly in all things,” we avoid taking advantage of our Christian brothers. For example, if they work for us secularly, we make sure that they are fairly treated and paid in line with the agreement we have made with them. As Christians, we deal honestly with our employees and with all others. And if we are employed by a fellow Christian, we are careful not to take advantage of him by demanding special privileges.
13 How often we hear expressions of appreciation from those in the world who have dealings with Jehovah’s Witnesses! For example, the director of a large construction services organization noticed that Jehovah’s Witnesses keep their word. “You always stick to what you have agreed to do,” he said. (Ps. 15:4) Such conduct helps us to maintain our friendship with Jehovah. Moreover, it brings praise to our loving heavenly Father.
HELP OTHERS TO BECOME JEHOVAH’S FRIENDS
14, 15. In our ministry, how can we help others to become Jehovah’s friends?
14 Though they may believe that God exists, many people we meet in our ministry do not view him as their best Friend. How can we help them? Consider the instructions Jesus gave 70 of his disciples when he sent them out by twos in order to preach: “Wherever you enter into a house, say first: ‘May this house have peace.’ And if a friend of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if there is not, it will return to you.” (Luke 10:5, 6) We can attract people to the truth by our friendly approach. In the case of opposers, this may help to dispel hostility and pave the way for a better reception on another occasion.
15 When we meet individuals who are steeped in false religion or who follow unscriptural customs, we continue to manifest a friendly, peaceful attitude. We warmly welcome to our meetings those whose dissatisfaction with modern-day society awakens in them a desire to learn more about the God we worship. Articles in the series “The Bible Changes Lives” provide us with many fine examples.
WORKING WITH OUR BEST FRIEND
16. In what sense can we be considered both Jehovah’s friends and his “fellow workers”?
16 People who work together often develop close friendships. All who are dedicated to Jehovah have the privilege of being considered both his friends and his “fellow workers.” (Read 1 Corinthians 3:9.) Indeed, as we engage in the preaching and disciple-making work, we gain greater insight into the marvelous qualities of our heavenly Father. We see how his holy spirit helps to equip us to carry out our commission to preach the good news.
17. How does the spiritual food provided at our assemblies and conventions demonstrate that Jehovah is our Friend?
17 The greater our share in the disciple-making work, the closer we feel to Jehovah. For instance, we observe the way Jehovah thwarts opposers. Look back over the past few years. Have we not seen clearly the way God is guiding us? We marvel at the ongoing supply of rich spiritual food. Our convention and assembly programs reveal our Father’s loving insight into our problems and needs. In a letter of appreciation for a convention, one family wrote: “The program really reached our hearts. We felt how much Jehovah loves each and every one of us and wants us to succeed.” After attending a special convention in Ireland, a couple from Germany expressed gratitude for the way they had been warmly welcomed and cared for, adding: “But our greatest thanks go to Jehovah and his King Jesus Christ. They have invited us to be part of this truly united nation. We are not just talking about unity but are enjoying it every day. Our experiences in connection with the special convention in Dublin will always remind us of the precious privilege we have to serve our great God together with all of you.”
18. What might we ask ourselves regarding our communication with Jehovah?
18 Friendship deepens when good communication exists. Social networking and text messaging are very popular in this age of Internet and telecommunications technology. By comparison, though, how do we individually rate our personal communication with our best Friend, Jehovah? True, he is the “Hearer of prayer.” (Ps. 65:2) But how often do we take the initiative to speak to him?
19. We have access to what help if we find it difficult to open our hearts to our heavenly Father?
19 Some servants of God do not find it easy to open their hearts and express their deep emotions. Yet, that is what Jehovah wants us to do when we pray. (Ps. 119:145; Lam. 3:41) Even if we find such heartfelt expressions difficult to put into words, we are not without help. Paul wrote to Christians in Rome: “The problem is that we do not know what we should pray for as we need to, but the spirit itself pleads for us with unuttered groanings. But the one who searches the hearts knows what the meaning of the spirit is, because it is pleading in harmony with God for the holy ones.” (Rom. 8:26, 27) Our meditating on the words recorded in such Bible books as Job, Psalms, and Proverbs will help us to express our inmost feelings to Jehovah.
20, 21. What comfort do Paul’s words at Philippians 4:6, 7 provide?
20 When distressing situations confront us, let us heed Paul’s inspired advice to the Philippians: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God.” Such open communication with our best Friend will surely bring us comfort and consolation, for Paul adds: “The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6, 7) May we always cherish the incomparable “peace of God” that really does guard our hearts and mental powers.
21 Prayer helps us to cultivate a friendship with Jehovah. Therefore, let us “pray constantly.” (1 Thess. 5:17) May this study strengthen our precious relationship with God and our determination to comply with his righteous requirements. And let us take time to meditate on the blessings we enjoy because Jehovah truly is our Father, our God, and our Friend.