“The Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness who is never unjust; righteous and upright is he.”—DEUT. 32:4.
SONG 3 Our Strength, Our Hope, Our Confidence
1-2. (a) Why do many today find it hard to trust those in authority? (b) What will we consider in this article?
TODAY many find it hard to trust anyone in authority. They have observed that the legal and the political systems tend to favor the wealthy and the powerful and to deny justice to the poor. The Bible accurately observes: “Man has dominated man to his harm.” (Eccl. 8:9) In addition, the conduct of certain religious leaders leaves much to be desired, which has caused some people to lose confidence in God. So when a person agrees to study the Bible with us, we face the challenge of helping him to build trust in Jehovah and trust in His earthly representatives.
2 Of course, Bible students are not the only ones who need to learn to trust in Jehovah and to trust in his organization. Even those of us who have been in the truth for many years must never lose sight of the fact that Jehovah’s way of doing things is always best. At times, situations arise that may test our confidence in that regard. In this article, we will discuss three areas in which our faith could be tested: (1) as we read certain Bible accounts, (2) when we receive direction from Jehovah’s organization, and (3) when we face future challenges.
TRUST IN JEHOVAH AS YOU READ THE BIBLE
3. How could certain Bible accounts test our trust in Jehovah?
3 As we read God’s Word, we may have questions about the way that Jehovah dealt with some people and about some of the decisions he made. For example, in the book of Numbers, we read that Jehovah sentenced an Israelite to death for collecting wood on the Sabbath. In the second book of Samuel, we learn that centuries later, Jehovah pardoned King David for committing adultery and murder. (Num. 15:32, 35; 2 Sam. 12:9, 13) We might wonder, ‘Why did Jehovah forgive David for murder and adultery but sentence the other man to death for a seemingly less serious transgression?’ To answer this question, consider three factors that we do well to keep in mind as we read the Bible.
4 The Bible does not always provide all the details of an account. For example, we know that David was sincerely repentant of his actions. (Ps. 51:2-4) But what kind of person was the man who broke the Sabbath law? Was he sorry for what he had done? Had he disobeyed Jehovah’s laws in the past? Had he ignored or even rejected previous warnings? The Bible does not say. However, we can be certain of this: Jehovah “is never unjust.” (Deut. 32:4) He bases his decisions on all the facts—not on hearsay, prejudice, or anything else that so often distorts human judgment. (Read Genesis 18:20, 21; Deuteronomy 10:17.) The more we learn about Jehovah and his standards, the more we develop trust in his judgments. Even if a Bible account raises questions that we cannot answer at present, we know more than enough about our God to be certain that he “is righteous in all his ways.”—Ps. 145:17.
5. How does imperfection affect our sense of justice? (See also the box “Imperfection Distorts Our View of Justice.”)
5 Our sense of justice is tainted by imperfection. God made us in his image, so we yearn to see people treated fairly. (Gen. 1:26) But because we are imperfect, we can misjudge matters, even when we think we have all the facts. Recall, for example, how displeased Jonah was with Jehovah’s decision to extend mercy to the people of Nineveh. (Jonah 3:10–4:1) Yet, consider the results. The lives of well over 120,000 repentant Ninevites were saved! In the end, it was Jonah—not Jehovah—who needed to be corrected.
6. Why does Jehovah not have to explain his decisions to us?
6 Jehovah does not owe humans an explanation for his decisions. True, Jehovah did allow his servants in the past to express their concerns about decisions he had made or was about to make. (Gen. 18:25; Jonah 4:2, 3) And occasionally, he explained his decision. (Jonah 4:10, 11) Nevertheless, Jehovah is not obliged to explain himself to us. As our Creator, he does not need our approval, either before or after he acts.—Isa. 40:13, 14; 55:9.
TRUST IN JEHOVAH WHEN YOU RECEIVE DIRECTION
7. What challenge might we face, and why?
7 We no doubt wholeheartedly agree that Jehovah always does what is right. The challenge for us, however, might be to trust in his human representatives. We might wonder whether those with a measure of authority in Jehovah’s organization really act according to Jehovah’s direction or their own. That could have been the thinking of some who lived in Bible times. Consider the examples cited in paragraph 3. A relative of the man who broke the Sabbath law might have wondered whether Moses had really consulted Jehovah before the death sentence was pronounced. And a friend of Uriah the Hittite, whose wife committed adultery with David, might have concluded that David used his position as king to escape the punishment that he so well deserved. The plain truth is that we cannot say that we trust in Jehovah if we do not trust in his earthly representatives—those whom Jehovah trusts.
8. What similarity is there between what is reported at Acts 16:4, 5 and how the Christian congregation functions today?
8 Today Jehovah leads the earthly part of his organization by means of “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45) Like the first-century governing body, this slave oversees God’s people worldwide and gives direction to congregation elders. (Read Acts 16:4, 5.) The elders, in turn, implement the direction in the congregations. We show that we trust in Jehovah’s way of doing things by heeding the direction we receive from the organization and the elders.
9. When might we find it difficult to cooperate with a decision made by the elders, and why?
9 At times, we may find it challenging to cooperate with decisions made by the elders. For example, in recent years many congregations and circuits have been reorganized. In some cases, the elders have asked publishers to support a different congregation with a view to making the best use of the seating capacity in our Kingdom Halls. If we are asked to join a new congregation, we may find it difficult to leave friends and family. Do the elders receive divine direction that tells them where to assign each publisher? No. And that fact might make it challenging for us to follow the direction we receive. But Jehovah trusts the elders to make such decisions, and we too need to trust them.b
10. In line with Hebrews 13:17, why should we cooperate with the elders?
10 Why should we cooperate with the elders and support their decisions even when the decisions are not what we would have preferred? Because in doing so, we help preserve the unity among God’s people. (Eph. 4:2, 3) Congregations thrive when all humbly submit to the decisions reached by the body of elders. (Read Hebrews 13:17.) More important, we show Jehovah that we trust in him by cooperating with those whom he trusts to care for us.—Acts 20:28.
11. What can help us strengthen our trust in the direction we receive from the elders?
11 We can strengthen our trust in the direction we receive from the elders by remembering that they pray for holy spirit when considering matters that affect the congregation. They also carefully consider relevant Bible principles and consult guidelines provided by Jehovah’s organization. Their heartfelt desire is to please Jehovah and to provide the best care possible for his people. These faithful men know that they are accountable to God for the way they handle their responsibilities. (1 Pet. 5:2, 3) Consider this fact: In a world that is divided by race, religion, and politics, Jehovah’s people are united in worship of the one true God. This could be accomplished only with Jehovah’s blessing on his organization!
12. What factors must the elders consider when determining if a person is repentant?
12 Jehovah has entrusted the elders with the weighty responsibility of keeping the congregation clean. If a Christian commits a serious sin, Jehovah expects the elders to determine whether that individual can remain in the congregation. Among other things, they need to find out whether the person is truly sorry for what he did. He may claim to be repentant, but does he truly hate what he did? Is he determined not to repeat the sin? If bad associations led up to the wrongdoing, is he willing to cut off those associations? The elders prayerfully consider the facts in the light of the Scriptures, taking into account the wrongdoer’s attitude toward what happened. Then they decide whether the wrongdoer may remain in the congregation. In some cases, he must be disfellowshipped.—1 Cor. 5:11-13.
13. What concern might we have if a friend or a relative is disfellowshipped?
13 How might our trust in the elders be tested? If the person who is disfellowshipped is not a close friend or a relative, we might readily accept the elders’ decision. But suppose the disfellowshipped person is a close companion. We might worry that the elders did not consider all the facts, or we might wonder whether they truly judged the matter the way Jehovah would. What can help us maintain the proper attitude toward the decision?
14. What can help us if the elders’ decision regarding wrongdoing affects us personally?
14 We do well to remember that disfellowshipping is Jehovah’s arrangement and that it benefits the congregation and may benefit the wrongdoer. If an unrepentant wrongdoer were permitted to remain in the congregation, he could be a corrupting influence. (Gal. 5:9) In addition, he may not recognize the seriousness of his sin, and he may have little incentive to adjust his thinking and actions so that he can regain Jehovah’s favor. (Eccl. 8:11) We can be sure that when deciding if a person should be disfellowshipped, the elders take their responsibility seriously. They realize that, like the judges in ancient Israel, they “do not judge for man but for Jehovah.”—2 Chron. 19:6, 7.
HOW TRUSTING IN JEHOVAH NOW IS TRAINING US FOR THE FUTURE
15. Why do we need to trust Jehovah’s direction now more than ever before?
15 As the end of this system of things draws near, we need to trust in Jehovah’s way of doing things as never before. Why? During the great tribulation, we may receive instructions that seem strange, impractical, or illogical. Of course, Jehovah will not speak to us personally. He will likely provide direction through his appointed representatives. That will hardly be the time to second-guess the direction or to view it with skepticism, wondering, ‘Is this really coming from Jehovah, or are the responsible brothers acting on their own?’ How will you fare during that crucial time in human history? The answer might be indicated by how you view theocratic direction now. If you trust the direction we receive today and readily obey, you will likely do the same during the great tribulation.—Luke 16:10.
16. How could our trust in Jehovah’s judgments be tested in the near future?
16 There is another aspect that we would do well to consider—Jehovah’s judgments at the end of this system of things. Right now, we hold out hope for many who are not serving Jehovah, including our unbelieving relatives. But at Armageddon, Jehovah, through Jesus, will make the final decision about their future. (Matt. 25:31-33; 2 Thess. 1:7-9) It will not be up to us to decide who will receive Jehovah’s mercy and who will not. (Matt. 25:34, 41, 46) Will we be able to trust in Jehovah’s judgments, or will they be a stumbling block for us? Clearly, we need to strengthen our trust in Jehovah now so that we will trust him implicitly in the future.
17. How will we benefit from Jehovah’s judgments at the end of this system of things?
17 Imagine how we will feel in God’s new world when we see the results of Jehovah’s judgments. False religion will be gone, and so will the greedy commercial system along with the political system that has oppressed people and caused untold misery throughout history. Poor health, old age, and the death of loved ones will no longer be part of our daily experience. Satan and the demons will be confined for a thousand years. The consequences of their rebellion will be gone. (Rev. 20:2, 3) How grateful we will then be that we trusted in Jehovah’s way of doing things!
18 Might life in God’s new world present some challenges that could test our trust in Jehovah’s way of doing things? Consider, for example, what happened shortly after the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. Some started complaining because they missed the fresh food they had enjoyed there, and they treated Jehovah’s provision of manna with contempt. (Read Numbers 11:4-6; 21:5.) Might we have similar thoughts after the great tribulation comes to its end? We do not know how much work will be involved in removing the effects of the destruction and in gradually making the earth a paradise. Likely, there will be a lot of work to do and some inconveniences at first. Would we dare to complain about what Jehovah provides at that time? One thing is certain: The more we appreciate Jehovah’s provisions now, the more likely we will do so then.
19. How would you summarize the main points of this article?
19 Jehovah’s way of doing things is always right. We need to be convinced of that. We also need to have confidence in those whom Jehovah trusts to carry out his instructions. Never forget the words Jehovah spoke through his prophet Isaiah: “Your strength will be in keeping calm and showing trust.”—Isa. 30:15.
SONG 98 The Scriptures—Inspired of God
a This article will help us see the need to strengthen our trust in Jehovah and our trust in his earthly representatives. We will also see how doing so benefits us now and prepares us to face future challenges.