“Jehovah your God you should fear, him you should serve, to him you should cling.”—DEUT. 10:20.
1, 2. (a) Why is it wise to be on Jehovah’s side? (b) What will we consider in this article?
IT MAKES sense to cling to Jehovah. No one is more powerful, wise, or loving than our God! Who of us would not want to be on his side? (Ps. 96:4-6) Still, some of God’s worshippers have wavered when a situation called for them to take sides with Jehovah.
2 In this article, we will consider examples of individuals who claimed to be on Jehovah’s side while at the same time following a course that offended him. These accounts contain vital lessons that can help us remain fully loyal to Jehovah.
JEHOVAH SEARCHES THE HEART
3. Why did Jehovah reach out to Cain, and what did He tell him?
3 Consider the case of Cain. He did not profess to worship any other god but Jehovah. Cain’s worship, however, was not acceptable to God. There were seeds of wickedness growing deep within his heart. (1 John 3:12) Jehovah reached out to Cain and told him: “If you turn to doing good, will you not be restored to favor? But if you do not turn to doing good, sin is crouching at the door, and its craving is to dominate you; but will you get the mastery over it?” (Gen. 4:6, 7) Jehovah was, in effect, telling Cain, “If you repent and take a firm stand on my side, I will, in turn, be on your side.”
4. Given the opportunity to be on Jehovah’s side, what did Cain do?
4 If only Cain would correct his thinking, Jehovah would restore him to favor. But Cain did not listen to the counsel. Wrong thinking and selfish desire led him to wrong actions. (Jas. 1:14, 15) In his youth, Cain may never have imagined that he would take a stand against Jehovah. In time, however, he did the unimaginable—he rebelled against God and killed his own brother!
5. What kind of thinking could cause us to lose Jehovah’s favor?
5 Like Cain, a Christian today could be following the wrong path even while professing to worship Jehovah. (Jude 11) For instance, one could nurture immoral fantasies, greedy thoughts, or hateful feelings toward a fellow Christian. (1 John 2:15-17; 3:15) This thinking can lead to sinful actions. All the while, one could be active in the ministry and regular at congregation meetings. Other humans may not be aware of our thoughts and conduct, but Jehovah sees all things and knows if we are not wholeheartedly on his side.—Read Jeremiah 17:9, 10.
6. How does Jehovah help us to “get the mastery over” sinful inclinations when we take a firm stand on his side?
6 Even so, Jehovah is not quick to give up on us. When a person’s steps lead him away from God, Jehovah urges him: “Return to me, and I will return to you.” (Mal. 3:7) Especially when we struggle with weaknesses, Jehovah wants us to take a stand against badness. (Isa. 55:7) If we do, he will in turn prove to be on our side by giving us the spiritual, emotional, and physical strength needed to “get the mastery over” our sinful inclinations.—Gen. 4:7.
“DO NOT BE MISLED”
7. How did Solomon lose his good standing with Jehovah?
7 We can learn much from the example of King Solomon. During his younger years, Solomon looked to Jehovah for guidance. God gave him great wisdom and entrusted him with the building of a magnificent temple in Jerusalem. But Solomon lost his friendship with Jehovah. (1 Ki. 3:12; 11:1, 2) God’s Law specifically prohibited a Hebrew king from taking “many wives for himself, so that his heart [might] not go astray.” (Deut. 17:17) Solomon disobeyed, eventually marrying 700 women. He brought into his household an additional 300 concubines. (1 Ki. 11:3) Many of his wives were non-Israelites, who worshipped false gods. Hence, Solomon also disobeyed God’s law against marrying foreign women.—Deut. 7:3, 4.
8. To what extreme did Solomon offend Jehovah?
8 Solomon’s gradual departure from Jehovah’s requirements led him in time to extreme wrongdoing. Solomon built an altar to the idol goddess Ashtoreth and at least one other altar to the false god Chemosh. There he joined his wives in pagan worship. He built those altars on, of all places, a mountain located directly in front of Jerusalem, where he had built Jehovah’s temple! (1 Ki. 11:5-8; 2 Ki. 23:13) Perhaps Solomon fooled himself into thinking that Jehovah would overlook his disobedience as long as he also continued to offer sacrifices at the temple.
9. What resulted from Solomon’s disregard for God’s warnings?
9 But Jehovah never overlooks wrongdoing. The Bible reports: “Jehovah became furious at Solomon, because his heart had inclined away from Jehovah . . . , who had appeared to him twice and had warned him about this very thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not obey what Jehovah had commanded.” As a result, God withdrew his approval and support. Solomon’s heirs lost the unified kingdom of Israel and suffered many calamities for generations to come.—1 Ki. 11:9-13.
10. What can threaten our good standing with Jehovah?
10 As in Solomon’s case, one of the greatest threats to spirituality is friendship with those who do not understand or respect Jehovah’s standards. Some may be associated with the congregation but may be spiritually weak. Others could be relatives, neighbors, coworkers, or schoolmates who are not worshippers of Jehovah. In any case, if our close associates do not show a high regard for Jehovah’s standards, they can in time destroy our good standing with God.
11. What can help us to determine whether an associate should be avoided?
11 Read 1 Corinthians 15:33. Most people have some good qualities, and many outside the congregation do not engage in blatant misconduct. If that is true of your acquaintances, can you assume that they are good associations? Ask yourself what effect their companionship will have on your relationship with Jehovah. Will they improve it? What is in their heart? For example, are their conversations almost exclusively about fashion, money, gadgets, entertainment, or other material pursuits? Does their speech often include disparaging comments about others or obscene jesting? Jesus aptly warned: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34) If you realize that your associates pose a threat to your good standing with Jehovah, act decisively by limiting and if necessary ending such friendships.—Prov. 13:20.
JEHOVAH REQUIRES EXCLUSIVE DEVOTION
12. (a) What did Jehovah make clear to the Israelites shortly after they left Egypt? (b) How did the Israelites respond to God’s requirement for exclusive devotion?
12 Additional lessons can be learned from what took place shortly after the Israelites were freed from Egypt. The people gathered in front of Mount Sinai. There Jehovah made his presence strikingly real. A miraculous dark cloud formed. Jehovah produced thunder, lightning, smoke, and what seemed to be the loud and constant sound of a horn. (Ex. 19:16-19) In this setting, Jehovah revealed himself to the Israelites as “a God who requires exclusive devotion.” He assured them that he would be loyal to those who love him and keep his commandments. (Read Exodus 20:1-6.) In effect, Jehovah was telling his people, “If you prove to be on my side, I will prove to be on your side.” How would you respond to such a promise of loyalty from Jehovah God? You would surely do as the Israelites did. They “answered with one voice: ‘All the words that Jehovah has spoken, we are willing to do.’” (Ex. 24:3) Soon, however, something unexpected put the Israelites’ loyalty to the test.
13. What circumstances put the loyalty of the Israelites to the test?
13 The Israelites had been frightened by the dark cloud, the lightning, and the other awe-inspiring signs from God. At their request, Moses agreed to be their spokesperson for all communication with Jehovah on Mount Sinai. (Ex. 20:18-21) Moses was on the mountaintop for a long time. Were the Israelites now stranded in the wilderness without their trustworthy leader? Apparently, the people’s faith was too dependent on Moses’ visible presence. They became anxious and told Aaron: “Make for us a god who will go ahead of us, because we do not know what has happened to this Moses, the man who led us up out of the land of Egypt.”—Ex. 32:1, 2.
14. What did the Israelites fool themselves into thinking, and what was Jehovah’s reaction?
14 The people knew that idolatry was a serious offense against Jehovah. (Ex. 20:3-5) But soon they were worshipping a golden calf! Despite this obvious act of disobedience, the Israelites somehow fooled themselves into thinking that they were still on Jehovah’s side. Why, Aaron even called their calf worship “a festival to Jehovah”! How did Jehovah react? He felt betrayed. Jehovah told Moses that the people had “corrupted themselves” and had “deviated from the way [He] commanded them to go.” In his “burning anger,” Jehovah even considered wiping out the newly formed nation of Israel.—Ex. 32:5-10.
15, 16. How did Moses and Aaron show that they were firmly on Jehovah’s side? (See opening picture.)
15 Jehovah decided not to eliminate the Israelites. His mercy gave loyal worshippers an opportunity to take a firm stand on his side. (Ex. 32:14) After witnessing the unrestrained behavior of the people—shouting, singing, and dancing before an idol—Moses crushed the golden calf into powder. He then proclaimed: “Who is on Jehovah’s side? Come to me!” In response, “all the Levites gathered around” Moses.—Ex. 32:17-20, 26.
16 Although initially involved in setting up the idol, Aaron repented and joined the rest of the Levites on Jehovah’s side. These loyal ones were not just taking sides with Jehovah but were at the same time separating themselves from the wrongdoers. That was a wise move; that day thousands lost their lives because of their idolatry. However, those who were on Jehovah’s side were promised a blessing.—Ex. 32:27-29.
17. What do Paul’s words about the golden calf episode teach us?
17 The apostle Paul drew attention to the golden calf episode and warned: “These things became examples for us, in order for us not to . . . become idolaters, as some of them did. [The examples] were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have come. So let the one who thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” (1 Cor. 10:6, 7, 11, 12) As Paul pointed out, even true worshippers could become involved in wrong practices. Those who give in to temptation may think that they still have a good standing with Jehovah. But merely wanting to be Jehovah’s friend or claiming to be loyal to him does not always mean that one is actually approved by Jehovah.—1 Cor. 10:1-5.
18. What could cause us to drift away from Jehovah, and with what consequences?
18 Just as the Israelites became anxious over Moses’ delay in coming down from Sinai, Christians today may feel anxious over the seeming delay of Jehovah’s day of judgment and the coming of the new world. The fulfillment of these promises may seem too far off in the future or too good to be true. Left unchecked, such thinking can lead us to put fleshly pursuits ahead of Jehovah’s will. In time, we could drift away from Jehovah and eventually engage in practices that we would never have considered being involved in when we were in good spiritual health.
19. What fundamental truth should we never forget, and why?
19 Never should we forget that Jehovah requires wholehearted obedience and exclusive devotion. (Ex. 20:5) Any wandering away from Jehovah’s worship really means doing Satan’s will, and that could lead only to disaster. Hence, Paul reminds us: “You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be partaking of ‘the table of Jehovah’ and the table of demons.”—1 Cor. 10:21.
CLING TO JEHOVAH!
20. Even after we take a false step, how can Jehovah help us?
20 The Bible accounts about Cain, Solomon, and the Israelites at Mount Sinai have a noteworthy element in common. These individuals had opportunity to “repent . . . and turn around.” (Acts 3:19) Clearly, Jehovah is not quick to give up on those who take a false step. In Aaron’s case, Jehovah extended forgiveness. Today, warnings from Jehovah may come in the form of a Bible account, Bible-based publications, or kind advice from a fellow Christian. When we heed the warnings, we are assured of Jehovah’s mercy.
21. What should we be determined to do when our loyalty to Jehovah is put to the test?
21 Jehovah’s undeserved kindness has a purpose. (2 Cor. 6:1) It gives us an opportunity “to reject ungodliness and worldly desires.” (Read Titus 2:11-14.) As long as we live “amid this present system of things,” we will face situations that will put our exclusive devotion to Jehovah to the test. May we always be ready to take a firm stand on his side, for it is ‘Jehovah our God we should fear, him we should serve, and to him we should cling’!—Deut. 10:20.