“Jehovah your God you should fear, him you should serve, to him you should cling.”—DEUTERONOMY 10:20.
1, 2. (a) Why is it wise to be on Jehovah’s side? (b) What will we discuss in this article?
IT IS wise for us to stay close to Jehovah. No one is more powerful, wise, and loving than he is! Of course, we always want to be loyal to him and be on his side. (Psalm 96:4-6) But some who worshipped God failed to do that.
2 In this article, we will discuss examples of some who claimed to be on Jehovah’s side but at the same time were doing things that Jehovah hates. The important lessons we learn from their examples can help us to stay loyal to Jehovah.
JEHOVAH EXAMINES OUR HEART
3. Why did Jehovah try to help Cain, and what did He tell him?
3 For example, think of Cain. He did not worship false gods, but still Jehovah did not accept his worship. Why not? Jehovah saw that there were wicked tendencies in Cain’s heart. (1 John 3:12) Jehovah warned Cain: “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?” (Genesis 4:6, 7) Jehovah was making it clear that if Cain repented and chose to be on God’s side, He would be on Cain’s side.
4. What did Cain do when he had the opportunity to be on Jehovah’s side?
4 If Cain changed his thinking, Jehovah would accept his worship again. But Cain did not listen to God, and his wrong thinking and selfish desire led him to wrong actions. (James 1:14, 15) When Cain was younger, he may never have imagined that he would oppose Jehovah. But now he ignored God’s warning, 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 might claim to worship Jehovah but actually be doing things that Jehovah hates. (Jude 11) He may be active in the ministry and regular at meetings. But at the same time, he might be allowing immoral fantasies, greedy thoughts, or feelings of hatred to control his thinking. (1 John 2:15-17; 3:15) Such thinking can lead to sinful actions. Other people may not know what we think or do, but Jehovah does. He knows if we are not completely on his side.—Read Jeremiah 17:9, 10.
6. How does Jehovah help us to conquer wrong desires?
6 Even when we make mistakes, Jehovah is not quick to give up on us. If we are heading in a dangerous direction, Jehovah invites us: “Return to me, and I will return to you.” (Malachi 3:7) Jehovah understands that we have weaknesses that we fight against. But he wants us to be firm and oppose what is bad. (Isaiah 55:7) If we do, he promises that he will help us and give us the strength we need to conquer our wrong desires.—Genesis 4:7.
DO NOT BE FOOLED
7. How did Solomon lose his friendship with Jehovah?
7 When Solomon was young, he had a good relationship with Jehovah. God made Solomon very wise and gave him the important task of building a beautiful temple in Jerusalem. But Solomon lost his friendship with Jehovah. (1 Kings 3:12; 11:1, 2) God’s Law stated that the king should not take “many wives for himself, so that his heart may not go astray.” (Deuteronomy 17:17) Solomon disobeyed this law. Eventually, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines! (1 Kings 11:3) Many of these women were foreigners who worshipped false gods. So Solomon also disobeyed God’s law against marrying foreign women.—Deuteronomy 7:3, 4.
8. How did Solomon offend Jehovah?
8 Little by little, Solomon lost his love for Jehovah’s laws. Eventually, he did really bad things. He built altars to the false goddess Ashtoreth and the false god Chemosh, and then he worshipped these false gods with his wives. Solomon even built these altars on a mountain just in front of Jerusalem, where he had built Jehovah’s temple! (1 Kings 11:5-8; 2 Kings 23:13) Perhaps Solomon fooled himself into thinking that Jehovah would ignore all the bad things he did as long as he offered sacrifices at the temple.
9. What happened when Solomon did not listen to God’s warnings?
9 But Jehovah never ignores sin. The Bible says: “Jehovah became furious at Solomon, because his heart had inclined away from Jehovah.” God had tried to help Solomon. Jehovah “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, he lost God’s approval and support. Jehovah did not allow Solomon’s descendants to rule over the entire nation of Israel, and they had terrible problems for hundreds of years.—1 Kings 11:9-13.
10. What can harm our good relationship with Jehovah?
10 If we choose friends who do not understand or respect God’s standards, they could influence our thinking and harm our friendship with Jehovah. They may be part of the congregation, but they do not have a strong relationship with Jehovah. Or they could be relatives, neighbors, workmates, or schoolmates who do not worship Jehovah. If the people we spend time with do not live by Jehovah’s standards, they can influence us so much that we could lose our good relationship with God.
11. What can help us to choose our friends?
11 Read 1 Corinthians 15:33. Most people have some good qualities. And those who do not worship Jehovah may not always do bad things. Maybe you know some people like that. Does this mean that they are good associations? Well, how do they affect your relationship with Jehovah? Do they help you draw closer to God? What is truly important to those people? What do they talk about? Do they mainly talk about fashion, money, gadgets, entertainment, and such things? Are they often critical of others? Do they like to tell dirty jokes? Jesus warned: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) If you realize that the people you spend time with are harming your relationship with Jehovah, take action! Limit the amount of time you are with them, and if necessary, end the friendship.—Proverbs 13:20.
JEHOVAH REQUIRES US TO BE LOYAL TO HIM
12. (a) What did Jehovah tell the Israelites soon after they left Egypt? (b) What did the Israelites say when God asked them to be loyal?
12 We can also learn from what happened after Jehovah freed the Israelites from Egypt. As the people gathered in front of Mount Sinai, Jehovah showed himself to them in a dramatic way! They saw a dark cloud, lightning, and smoke, and they heard thunder and a loud noise like a horn. (Exodus 19:16-19) Then they heard Jehovah announce that he is “a God who requires exclusive devotion.” He promised that he would be loyal to those who love him and obey his commandments. (Read Exodus 20:1-6.) Jehovah was letting the Israelites know that if they stayed on his side, he would be on their side. If you had been in that crowd, how would you have felt when you heard Jehovah’s words? You would probably have answered like those Israelites, who said: “All the words that Jehovah has spoken, we are willing to do.” (Exodus 24:3) But it was not long before something happened that tested the Israelites’ loyalty to God. What was it?
13. What tested the Israelites’ loyalty?
13 The Israelites were frightened by the dramatic display of God’s power, so Moses went up Mount Sinai and spoke to Jehovah for them. (Exodus 20:18-21) But time went by, and Moses did not come back down to the camp. It seemed that the people were stuck in the wilderness without their leader. What would they do? It may be that the Israelites relied too much on a human leader, Moses. 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.”—Exodus 32:1, 2.
14. What did the Israelites fool themselves into thinking, and how did Jehovah react?
14 The Israelites knew that it was wrong to worship idols. (Exodus 20:3-5) But how quickly they began to worship the golden calf! Even though they disobeyed Jehovah’s commandment, they fooled themselves into thinking that they were still on Jehovah’s side. Aaron even called this calf worship “a festival to Jehovah”! What did Jehovah do? He told Moses that the people had “corrupted themselves” and left the way He “commanded them to go.” Jehovah was so angry that he even thought about destroying the entire nation.—Exodus 32:5-10.
Jehovah gave the Israelites the chance to show that they wanted to be on his side
15, 16. How did Moses and Aaron show that they were completely on Jehovah’s side? (See opening picture.)
15 But Jehovah is a merciful God. He decided not to destroy the nation. Instead, he gave the Israelites the chance to show that they wanted to be on his side. (Exodus 32:14) When Moses saw the people shouting, singing, and dancing in front of the idol, he crushed the golden calf and ground it to powder. Then he shouted: “Who is on Jehovah’s side? Come to me!” And “all the Levites gathered around” Moses.—Exodus 32:17-20, 26.
16 Even though Aaron had made the golden calf, he repented and, along with the rest of the Levites, chose to be on Jehovah’s side. These loyal ones made it clear that they were not on the side of the sinners. That was a wise choice, because later that day, thousands who worshipped the golden calf died. But those who were on Jehovah’s side survived, and God promised to bless them.—Exodus 32:27-29.
17. What do we learn from what Paul wrote about the golden calf?
17 What is the lesson for us? The apostle Paul said: “These things became examples for us,” so that we never “become idolaters.” Paul explained that such accounts “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 Corinthians 10:6, 7, 11, 12) As Paul pointed out, even those who worship Jehovah can become involved in doing what is bad. They may even think that Jehovah still approves of them. But just because a person wants to be Jehovah’s friend or claims to be loyal does not always mean that Jehovah actually approves of him.—1 Corinthians 10:1-5.
18. What could cause us to drift away from Jehovah, and what would be the consequences?
18 When Moses did not come down from Sinai as soon as the Israelites expected, they became anxious. If the end of this system has not come as soon as we expected, we too may feel anxious. We may begin to think that the wonderful future Jehovah promises is too far off or is too good to be true, and we may start to focus on what we want instead of what Jehovah wants. If we are not careful, we could drift away from Jehovah and do things that we would never have imagined we would do.
19. What should we always remember, and why?
19 Jehovah requires that we obey him completely and worship only him. (Exodus 20:5) Why does he ask this of us? Because he loves us. If we do not do what Jehovah wants, we will be doing what Satan wants, and that will harm us. Paul stated: “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 Corinthians 10:21.
STAY CLOSE TO JEHOVAH!
20. How can Jehovah help us even when we have made a mistake?
20 Cain, Solomon, and the Israelites all had the opportunity to repent and change their behavior. (Acts 3:19) Clearly, Jehovah is not quick to give up on people just because they make a mistake. Think about how he forgave Aaron. Today, Jehovah gives us loving warnings to protect us from doing what is wrong. He uses the Bible, our publications, and even other Christians. When we pay attention to Jehovah’s warnings, we can be sure that he will show us mercy.
21. What should we do when our loyalty to Jehovah is tested?
21 Jehovah’s undeserved kindness has a purpose. (2 Corinthians 6:1) It gives us an opportunity “to reject ungodliness and worldly desires.” (Read Titus 2:11-14.) In this system, there will always be situations that test our loyalty to Jehovah. Be determined to stay completely on Jehovah’s side, and remember that it is “Jehovah your God you should fear, him you should serve,” and “to him you should cling”!—Deuteronomy 10:20.