“This is the way. Walk in it.”—ISA. 30:21.
1, 2. (a) Many lives have been saved by what warning? (See opening picture.) (b) God’s people have what guidance that can save their lives?
“STOP, LOOK, LISTEN.” Those words have saved countless lives. More than 100 years ago, large signs bearing those words were posted at railroad crossings in North America. For what reason? So that vehicles on the road would not be crossing railroad tracks at the wrong moment and be struck by a speeding train. Yes, paying attention to that warning has saved lives.
2 Jehovah does something better than posting safety signs. He stands before his people, as it were, pointing them toward everlasting life, away from dangers. More than that, he acts like a loving shepherd to his flock, calling out to the sheep proper direction and warnings so that they can avoid dangerous paths.—Read Isaiah 30:20, 21.
JEHOVAH HAS LONG GUIDED HIS PEOPLE
3. How did the human family get on a path leading to death?
3 Down through history, Jehovah has provided specific instructions or directions. For example, in the garden of Eden, Jehovah gave clear instructions that could guide the human family to everlasting life and happiness. (Gen. 2:15-17) Had Adam and Eve obeyed his direction, they would have been spared tragic consequences—a life filled with pain and ending in their death with no hope. But rather than obey, Eve listened to advice that seemed to come from a lowly animal. Adam, in turn, listened to her voice, the voice of a mortal human. Both of them turned their backs on their loving Father’s guidance. Consequently, the human family in general was on a fatal path.
4. (a) Why were additional guidelines needed after the Flood? (b) How did new circumstances reveal God’s thinking?
4 During Noah’s lifetime, God gave guidance that led to preservation. After the Flood, Jehovah issued a specific prohibition about blood. Why the need for that? There were new circumstances. Jehovah was going to permit animal flesh to be a source of food for humans. Hence, new guidelines were required: “Only flesh with its life—its blood—you must not eat.” (Gen. 9:1-4) The changed circumstances clearly revealed God’s thinking about what belongs to him, namely, life. As Creator and Life-Giver, he has the right to make rules about life. For example, he decreed that humans were not to take the life of their fellow man. God considers life and blood to be sacred, and he will hold accountable anyone who misuses either.—Gen. 9:5, 6.
5. What will we now examine, and why?
5 Let us look at a few examples of how God continued to provide guidance through the centuries. This review will bolster our resolve to follow Jehovah’s lead into the new world.
NEW NATION, NEW GUIDELINES
6. Why was it necessary for God’s people to obey the laws given through Moses, and what attitude did the Israelites need to have?
6 In Moses’ day, clear guidelines on proper conduct and manner of worship were needed. Why? Again, changed circumstances were involved. For more than two centuries, Jacob’s descendants lived under Egyptian rule in a land saturated with worship of the dead, use of idols, and other God-dishonoring beliefs and practices. When God’s people escaped the tyranny of Egypt, new directions were needed. God’s people would be living, not as a captive group of people, but as a freed nation solely under Jehovah’s Law. Some reference works say that the Hebrew word for “law” is related to a root word having the sense of “direct, guide, instruct.” The Mosaic Law acted as a protective wall against the degraded moral and religious acts of other nations. When Israel listened to God, the nation received his blessing. When they ignored him, they suffered dire consequences.—Read Deuteronomy 28:1, 2, 15.
7. (a) Explain why Jehovah gave directions to his people. (b) How was the Law a guardian for Israel?
7 Directions were needed for another reason. The Law pointed to an important development as to Jehovah’s will. That was the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Law made it clear as never before that the Israelites were imperfect. It also impressed on them the need for a ransom, a perfect sacrifice that would fully cover sin. (Gal. 3:19; Heb. 10:1-10) Furthermore, the Law helped to preserve the genealogical line leading to the Messiah and to identify him when he appeared. Yes, the Law acted as a temporary tutor, or “guardian,” leading to Christ.—Gal. 3:23, 24.
8. Why should we be guided by the principles of the Mosaic Law?
8 As Christians, we too can benefit from the guidelines that were given in the Law to the nation of Israel. How so? We can stop and look at the underlying principles of the Law. Even though we are not under those laws, we can view many of them as trustworthy guides in our daily lives and our worship of our holy God, Jehovah. He had those laws recorded in the Bible so that we could learn from them, be guided by the principles, and appreciate the higher moral standards for Christians. Listen to what Jesus said: “You heard that it was said: ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Thus, we need to avoid not only the act of adultery but also the sexual craving to share in immorality.—Matt. 5:27, 28.
9. What new circumstances made new direction from God necessary?
9 The arrival of Jesus as the Messiah made it necessary to have new divine direction and a further revealing of Jehovah’s purpose. This was because, once again, new circumstances arose. In 33 C.E., Jehovah switched his favor from the congregation of natural Israel to the Christian congregation.
GUIDANCE FOR A NEW SPIRITUAL NATION
10. Why were new laws given to the Christian congregation, and how were these different from those given to the Israelites?
10 During the first century, God’s people who came into the Christian arrangement received new or expanded instructions on worship and conduct. These devoted servants of God were under a new covenant. The Mosaic Law was given to one nation—fleshly Israel. In contrast, spiritual Israel would be made up of people from many nations and backgrounds. Truly, “God is not partial, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35) The Mosaic Law governed fleshly Israel in the Promised Land with laws carved on stone. For spiritual Israel, “the law of the Christ” was mainly based on principles inscribed on hearts. “The law of the Christ” would apply to and benefit Christians wherever they lived.—Gal. 6:2.
11. What are two aspects of Christian life that would be affected by “the law of the Christ”?
11 Spiritual Israel would benefit greatly from guidance from God through his Son. Just prior to the establishment of the new covenant, Jesus gave two significant commands. One dealt with the preaching work. The other focused on the conduct of Jesus’ followers and how they were to treat fellow believers. These directives were for all Christians; thus they apply to all true worshippers today, whether their hope is heavenly or earthly.
12. What was new about the preaching work?
12 Consider the preaching of the good news that Jesus would have his followers do. The method and the scope of the preaching work were new. In earlier centuries, people of the nations were welcomed when they came to Israel to serve Jehovah. (1 Ki. 8:41-43) That was before Jesus gave the command that we find at Matthew 28:19, 20. (Read.) Jesus’ disciples were told to “go” to all people. On the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., there was an early evidence of Jehovah’s changed strategy—that of a global evangelizing work. His holy spirit empowered about 120 members of the new congregation to speak miraculously in different tongues to Jews and proselytes. (Acts 2:4-11) Next, the territory expanded to the Samaritans. Then, in the year 36 C.E., it was further expanded to include the world of uncircumcised Gentiles. You might say that the field of preaching enlarged from a “pond” of Jews to an “ocean” of mankind.
13, 14. (a) What is involved in Jesus’ “new commandment”? (b) What do we learn from the example that Jesus set?
13 Now let us look at the way we treat fellow believers. Jesus introduced “a new commandment.” (Read John 13:34, 35.) That commandment involves a call not just to love one another in normal aspects of everyday life but to be willing even to surrender our life in behalf of our brother. That was something that the Mosaic Law did not stipulate.—Matt. 22:39; 1 John 3:16.
14 Jesus set the foremost example. He loved his disciples in a self-sacrificing way. Such love meant that he had to die in behalf of his disciples, and Jesus was prepared to do so. And he expected his disciples, including us, to be willing to do as much. In behalf of our fellow Christians, we may have to travel down a road involving pain and perhaps even death.—1 Thess. 2:8.
DIRECTIONS FOR MODERN TIMES AND BEYOND
15, 16. What new circumstances do we now have, and how does God guide us?
15 Especially since the appointment of “the faithful and discreet slave,” Jesus has provided his people with spiritual food at the proper time. (Matt. 24:45-47) This food has included vital directions in response to new circumstances.
16 We are living in what the Bible calls “the last days,” and straight ahead is a tribulation like nothing that has occurred before. (2 Tim. 3:1; Mark 13:19) Furthermore, Satan and his demons have been cast out of heaven and are confined to the vicinity of the earth, resulting in intense woe for earth’s inhabitants. (Rev. 12:9, 12) We have also been commissioned to carry out a historic and unprecedented preaching campaign that is reaching peoples and language groups as never before!
17, 18. How should we respond to the guidance being given?
17 We need to employ the preaching tools provided by God’s organization. Do you desire to do that? Are you alert to the guidance given at our meetings on how we can use these tools and how to do so most effectively? Do you view these directions as guidance from God?
18 Indeed, to keep receiving God’s blessing, we need to pay attention to all the directions provided through the Christian congregation. Having an obedient spirit now will help us to follow directions during the “great tribulation,” which will eliminate Satan’s entire evil system. (Matt. 24:21) Thereafter, we will need new directions for new world living on an earth totally free of any satanic influence.
19, 20. What scrolls will be opened, and with what result?
19 New directions were needed by the nation of Israel under Moses and later by the Christian congregation under “the law of the Christ.” Likewise, the Bible informs us that scrolls will be opened to give us directions in new world living. (Read Revelation 20:12.) These scrolls will most likely set forth Jehovah’s requirements for mankind at that time. By studying these, all people, including resurrected ones, will be able to know God’s will for them. These scrolls will surely give us further insight into Jehovah’s mind. Guided by an ever-increasing understanding of God’s inspired Word along with what will be revealed in the new scrolls, inhabitants of the earthly Paradise will certainly treat their fellow man with love, respect, and dignity. (Isa. 26:9) Imagine the educational program that will be carried out under the direction of the King, Jesus Christ!
20 Everlasting life awaits those who respond favorably to the “things written in the scrolls.” Those who maintain integrity to God through the final test will have their name written permanently by Jehovah in “the scroll of life.” That can be our lot! So if we STOP to consider God’s Word, LOOK to understand its meaning for us, and LISTEN by obeying God’s guidance now, we can look forward to surviving the great tribulation and enjoying an eternity of learning about our all-wise and loving God, Jehovah.—Eccl. 3:11; Rom. 11:33.