“If anyone loves God, this one is known by him.”—1 CORINTHIANS 8:3.
1. Give an example that shows how some of God’s people deceived themselves. (See opening picture.)
A GROUP of men were standing in front of the tabernacle, ready to offer incense to Jehovah. On the one side was Aaron, the high priest of Israel, and on the other side were Korah and 250 men. (Numbers 16:16-18) It seemed that all of them were loyal to God. However, Korah and his supporters were proud, rebellious, and selfish, and they were trying to grab the priesthood from Aaron. (Numbers 16:1-11) They had deceived themselves, thinking that Jehovah would accept their worship. But in reality, they had insulted Jehovah, who could read their hearts. He could see that they were hypocrites and that they wanted glory for themselves.—Jeremiah 17:10.
2. What did Moses say would happen, and how did his words come true?
2 Earlier, Moses had said: “Jehovah will make known who belongs to him.” (Numbers 16:5) How did Jehovah show that he knew who his true worshippers were and who the hypocrites were? Jehovah sent fire from heaven and destroyed Korah and the 250 men. (Numbers 16:35; 26:10) Only Aaron was left standing. Jehovah made it clear that Aaron was the real priest and a true worshipper of God.—Read 1 Corinthians 8:3.
3. (a) What happened in the Christian congregation in Paul’s day? (b) What can we learn from what Jehovah did to the rebels in Moses’ day?
3 In Paul’s time, more than 1,500 years later, something similar happened in the Christian congregation. Paul explained that some who claimed to be Christians began to promote false teachings. Yet, they remained part of the congregation. These apostates may have appeared to be true worshippers of Jehovah. But in reality they were like dangerous wolves, and they even began to destroy “the faith of some.” (2 Timothy 2:16-18) Was Jehovah watching? Yes. Paul knew what God had done to the rebels, Korah and his supporters, so he was confident that Jehovah was fully aware of this situation as well. We too can have the same confidence in Jehovah. Let us learn how we can from the interesting words Paul wrote to Timothy.
“I AM JEHOVAH; I DO NOT CHANGE”
4. What was Paul sure that Jehovah would do? What did Paul tell Timothy?
4 Paul was sure that Jehovah would recognize hypocritical worship. Also, he was sure that Jehovah knew who His true worshippers were. Paul’s confidence was shown by the words he was inspired to write to Timothy. After he described the harm that apostates were causing to the faith of some, Paul said: “Despite that, the solid foundation of God remains standing, having this seal, ‘Jehovah knows those who belong to him,’ and, ‘Let everyone calling on the name of Jehovah renounce unrighteousness.’”—2 Timothy 2:19.
5, 6. What is interesting about Paul’s use of the expression “the solid foundation of God”? How would that affect Timothy?
5 The Bible uses the word “foundation” to describe different things. These include Jerusalem, which was the capital of ancient Israel, as well as Jesus’ role in God’s purpose. (Psalm 87:1, 2; 1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Peter 2:6) But the expression “the solid foundation of God” is used only once in the Bible. What event did Paul refer to when he used that expression?
6 When Paul used the expression “the solid foundation of God,” he did so in the same verse in which he quoted Moses’ words about Korah and his supporters. (See Numbers 16:5.) In this way, Paul was reminding Timothy that Jehovah knew what was happening in the congregation. God would prevent apostates from causing any harm. Jehovah’s purpose was not changed by Korah, and God’s purpose would not be changed by apostates in the congregation. Paul did not fully explain what was meant by “the solid foundation of God.” Still, what Paul said helped Timothy to have confidence and trust in Jehovah.
Jehovah’s principles never change
7. Why can we be sure that Jehovah will always be righteous and faithful?
7 Jehovah’s principles never change. “The decisions of Jehovah will stand forever; the thoughts of his heart are from generation to generation,” says Psalm 33:11. Jehovah is King, he shows loyal love, and he is righteous and faithful. The Bible shows that these facts also never change. (Exodus 15:18; Psalm 106:1; 111:3; 117:2) Malachi 3:6 says: “I am Jehovah; I do not change.” Similarly, James 1:17 says that Jehovah “does not vary or change like the shifting shadows.”
AN INSCRIPTION THAT BUILDS FAITH IN JEHOVAH
8, 9. What lesson can we learn from what was inscribed on “the solid foundation of God”?
8 In ancient times, it was common to write or engrave a message on a building’s foundation. This was often done to show who built or owned the building. Paul is the first Bible writer to refer to this custom.* (See footnote.) “The solid foundation of God” that Paul described at 2 Timothy 2:19 has two statements engraved on it: (1) “Jehovah knows those who belong to him” and, (2) “Let everyone calling on the name of Jehovah renounce unrighteousness.” This reminds us of what we read at Numbers 16:5.—Read.
9 What lesson can those who belong to Jehovah learn from what was inscribed on “the solid foundation of God”? That Jehovah’s values and principles are based on two vital truths. These are (1) Jehovah loves those who are loyal to him, and (2) Jehovah hates wrong conduct. How is this lesson related to apostasy in the congregation?
10. How did the conduct of apostates affect faithful ones in Paul’s day?
10 Timothy and other faithful ones were very troubled by the conduct of apostates. Some Christians may have asked why those apostates were allowed to remain in the congregation. Faithful ones may even have wondered whether Jehovah was able to see the difference between their own firm loyalty and the hypocritical worship of apostates.—Acts 20:29, 30.
11, 12. How did Paul’s letter no doubt strengthen Timothy’s faith?
11 Paul’s letter must have strengthened Timothy’s faith. He reminded Timothy that Jehovah had earlier made it clear that Korah and his supporters were hypocrites. Jehovah had rejected and destroyed them but had shown his approval of Aaron. In a similar way, even though there were people who pretended to be Christians in Paul’s day, Jehovah would clearly reveal who belonged to him.
12 Jehovah never changes, so we can always depend on him. He hates wickedness and will punish those who do what is wrong and do not repent. Timothy was reminded that he had to reject the wicked influence of those who pretended to be Christians, because “everyone calling on the name of Jehovah” must reject wickedness.*—See footnote.
GENUINE WORSHIP IS ALWAYS REWARDED
13. Of what can we be confident?
13 Paul’s words to Timothy can encourage us too. How so? Jehovah knows very well that we are loyal to him. But he goes far beyond simply knowing those who are loyal to him. Jehovah shows intense interest in them. The Bible says: “The eyes of Jehovah are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) We can be confident that Jehovah will never forget our sincere efforts to worship him.—1 Corinthians 15:58; 1 Timothy 1:5.
We can be confident that Jehovah will never forget our sincere efforts to worship him
14. What type of worship does Jehovah reject?
14 Jehovah hates and rejects hypocritical worship. He can read the hearts of all people and can see whose hearts are not “complete toward him.” It is disgusting to Jehovah when a person pretends to be obedient but is secretly practicing sin. (Proverbs 3:32) Humans may be fooled by such a person, but Jehovah is not. The Bible says: “The one covering over his transgressions will not succeed.” This is because Jehovah is almighty and because he is a God of righteousness.—Proverbs 28:13; read 1 Timothy 5:24; Hebrews 4:13.
Jehovah hates and rejects hypocritical worship
15. What should we avoid, and why?
15 Most of Jehovah’s people love him with all their heart. It is rare for someone to try to deceive Jehovah with hypocritical worship. But if this happened in the days of Moses and in the time of the early Christians, it can happen today. (2 Timothy 3:1, 5) Does this mean that we should be suspicious of our brothers and doubt their loyalty to Jehovah? No, it would be wrong to have suspicions about our brothers and sisters without proof. (Read Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 13:7.) And doubting our brothers would hurt our own relationship with Jehovah.
16. (a) How can you make sure that there is no hypocrisy in your heart? (b) What can we learn from the box “Keep Testing . . . Keep Proving . . .”?
16 Each Christian should “examine his own actions.” (Galatians 6:4) Because we are imperfect, we might begin to worship Jehovah for the wrong reasons without even realizing it. (Hebrews 3:12, 13) In minor ways our service to him might become hypocritical. So we must ask ourselves: ‘Why do I worship Jehovah? Do I worship him because I love him and because I want him to be my Ruler? Or am I thinking mostly about the good life that I am hoping to enjoy in Paradise?’ (Revelation 4:11) By asking such questions, we can make sure that there is not even a trace of hypocrisy in our heart.
LOYALTY LEADS TO HAPPINESS
17, 18. Why should we be genuine in our worship of Jehovah?
17 We will be rewarded if we make every effort to remove all traces of hypocrisy from our heart. “Happy is the man whom Jehovah does not charge with guilt, in whose spirit there is no deceit,” says the psalmist. (Psalm 32:2) If we are sincere in our worship, we will be happy now and will enjoy perfect happiness in the future.
If we are sincere in our worship, we will be happy now and will enjoy perfect happiness in the future
18 Very soon, Jehovah will expose wicked people who refuse to repent or who secretly practice sin. He will show the difference “between a righteous person and a wicked person, between one serving God and one not serving him.” (Malachi 3:18) Until then, it is comforting to know that “the eyes of Jehovah are on the righteous, and his ears listen to their supplication.”—1 Peter 3:12.
The same custom was referred to later at Revelation 21:14. There it says that the names of the 12 apostles were engraved on “12 foundation stones.”
The following article will discuss how we can imitate Jehovah and reject wickedness.