Sunday, February 28, 2010
"Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth." (Matthew 6:10)
When Jesus Christ gave his Sermon on the Mount, he included a model prayer that summarized his main teaching. He taught his followers to pray to God: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:9-13) Jesus “went journeying from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom of God.” (Luke 8:1) Christ foretold: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) The good news about God’s Kingdom is of utmost importance. Why, it is the most important message in the world! In over 100,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses earth wide, about seven million servants of God are engaged in telling others that the Kingdom has been established.
(Watchtower issue: 5/15/08, 3:1, 2)
Saturday, February 27, 2010
FYI-The globe illustration below represents the illiteracy stats from 1994, (I'm not sure what the latest stats are now) but the following info gives at least a general idea of just how big an issue illiteracy still is for many people around the world.
Illiteracy globe (pg 3 -2/22/94 Awake!)
(the following excerpt is from pg 28 of the 6/8/99 Awake!)
World Illiteracy Rate Rising
“Nearly one-sixth of the 5.9 billion people in the world cannot read or write,” reports The New York Times. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the illiteracy rate is expected to climb. Why? Because 3 out of 4 children in the world’s poorest nations presently do not go to school. In addition to causing worldwide economic problems, ethnic conflicts have denied millions of children an education. Wars not only destroy schools but also turn many children into soldiers instead of students. Illiteracy, of course, contributes to social problems as well. The UNICEF report entitled The State of the World’s Children 1999 says that there is a direct relationship between illiteracy and birthrates. For example, in one South American country, “illiterate women have an average of 6.5 children, and mothers with secondary-school educations have an average of 2.5 children,” the Times said.
this article: illiteracy among Afghan's soldiers really shows the truth in the statement above, about how war turns children into soldiers instead of students.
Literacy class in Sekandji, Benin -1996 (photo on pg 80 of the 1997 Yearbook)
(following info from pg 479 JW Proclaimers)
Coping With the Problem of Illiteracy
In 1957 the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization estimated that approximately 44 percent of the world’s population 15 years of age or older could not read or write. It was reported that in 42 countries in Africa, 2 in the Americas, 28 in Asia, and 4 in Oceania, 75 percent of the adults were illiterate. Yet, they too needed opportunity to learn the law of God so that they could prepare to be subjects of his Kingdom. Many who could not read had keen minds and could remember much of what they heard, but they still could not read the precious Word of God themselves and make use of printed Bible study aids.
For years individual Witnesses had been giving personal help to people who wanted to learn to read. However, in 1949 and 1950, literacy classes were inaugurated by Jehovah’s Witnesses in each of their congregations in many African lands. The classes were usually held in Kingdom Halls, and in some places the entire village was invited to benefit from the program.
Where the government was sponsoring a literacy program, Jehovah’s Witnesses gladly cooperated with it. In many areas, however, the Witnesses had to develop and use their own instruction manuals. Tens of thousands of persons, including thousands of women and elderly folks, have been helped to become literate by means of these classes conducted by Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a result of the way the course was designed, not only have they learned to read and write but at the same time they have become acquainted with basic truths from God’s Holy Word. This has helped to qualify them to share in the disciple-making work that Jesus commanded. The desire to do this effectively has motivated many to put forth earnest effort to learn to read.
(following info on pg 11 of Jehovah's Witnesses and Education brochure)
In Nigeria, for instance, literacy classes have been operated by Jehovah’s Witnesses since 1949. By 1961, thousands of Nigerians had thereby learned to read, and available records show that between 1962 and 1994, a total of 25,599 additional adults were taught to read and write in these classes. A recent survey showed that over 90 percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nigeria were literate, compared with less than 50 percent of the rest of the population. In Mexico, the Watch Tower Society has operated literacy classes since 1946. During 1994, more than 6,500 persons were taught to read and write. Between 1946 and 1994, more than 127,000 were helped to become literate. Literacy classes have also been organized in many other countries, such as Bolivia, Cameroon, Honduras, and Zambia.
adult literacy class in Mexico - (pg 467, JW Proclaimers)
Such literacy programs have often been given recognition by the educational authorities in the lands where they have been undertaken. In Mexico, for example, a civil servant wrote: “I am grateful for your co-operation, and in behalf of the state government I convey to you their most sincere congratulations for your noble progressive work for the benefit of the people in bringing the light of knowledge to the illiterate. . . . I wish you success in your educational work.”
(photo and following info on pgs 5-7 of the 2/22/94 Awake!)
Profile of the Adult Learner
Those who teach adults should recognize the differences between adult learners and child learners. Personality, habits, attitudes, and interests are more set in adults than in children, making the adult more rigid and less receptive to change. On the other hand, adults have rich experiences on which to build and are better able to make sense of facts and concepts that can confuse youngsters. Usually they do not have as much free time as children do. Another very important difference is that adult learners, unlike children, have the freedom to discontinue their education at any time.
Many adult illiterates possess unique talents and have succeeded in some areas of life; they simply have not developed the skills of reading and writing. The literacy teacher needs to encourage them to use the adaptability, creativity, and endurance they have demonstrated in other areas of life. It takes courage for an illiterate to admit his or her needs and to ask for assistance. Although circumstances and individuals vary, many adults approach literacy training with apprehension and a lack of confidence. Some may have a long history of academic failure. Others may feel that they are too old to learn new things. “It is difficult to learn left-handedness in old age,” states a Nigerian proverb.
Teachers can build confidence and sustain interest by being quick to acknowledge and commend progress. Lessons should be structured to minimize learning failure and to ensure repeated successful achievement of learning goals. The publication Educating the Adult states: “Above all, success is probably the single greatest factor in continued motivation.”
Adults generally know what they want from educational experiences and wish to see immediate progress toward their goals. One professor of adult education in Africa stated: “They want to get into class, learn what they need to know as quickly as possible, then get out.”
Sometimes the goals a student sets are overly ambitious. From the outset the teacher should help the learner establish intermediate, short-term goals and then help the student to achieve them. For example, let us say a Christian enrolls in a literacy class because he or she wants to learn to read the Bible and Bible publications. These are long-term goals. In working toward them, the teacher can encourage the student to set intermediate goals, such as mastering the alphabet, finding and reading selected scriptures, and reading from simplified Bible publications. Regularly achieving goals sustains motivation and stimulates the student to keep on learning.
Effective teachers can do much to stimulate motivation by encouraging and commending their students and by helping them work toward practical, achievable goals. Yet, in order to progress, adults should not expect to be spoon-fed. They need to be willing to take responsibility for their own education and to work hard at learning. In doing so, they will learn to read and write, and these skills will transform their lives.
*Today's text about dignity, made me think of the sharp contrast between wordly secular & religious rulers who've failed to obey God's laws in regards to education of his people, (especially in the past) and leaders who've abided by it. Jehovah has always afforded his people with dignity no matter what their social position or economic class is in life. The law made provisions for the ongoing education of ALL members of society (including women and children) and it was *required* that the 'Book of the Law' be read and explained on a regular basis to the people. (Which would include slaves and alien residents living in the land). One example of that was during Jehoshaphat's reign (one of the *good* kings of Judah).
(pg 1271, of Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 1) says:
"Jehoshaphat commissioned certain princes, Levites, and priests to teach Jehovah’s law in the cities of Judah. (2Chronicles 17:7-9) ...and personally traveled throughout his realm, directing his subjects to return to Jehovah in faithfulness. (2Chronicles 19:4) ... Jehoshaphat's reign also witnessed the institution of a better judicial system. The king himself impressed upon the judges the importance of being impartial and free from bribery, since they were judging, not for man, but for Jehovah.—2Chronicles 19:5-11."
Just think of how having such a provision set out in the law really dignified members of society...especially those who were more vunerable to abuse, or being taken advantage of. Such as: the poor, the elderly, the sick or disabled, and the orphans & widows in society. When Jehovah's law was upheld in this regard, (as it is today), everyone is aware of their legal and Scriptural rights, and are afforded the dignity of learning God's standards and requirements directly from the source (rather than being misinformed by the opinions of others, or manipulated by men in high station who might have otherwise tried to deceive them, or twist the law to their own ends).
Isn't that such a contrast with how so many leaders among the ruling classes have treated their subjects? Throughout the centuries, religious and political leaders have intentionally kept their people in submissive ignorance of the law, by making sure they received little-to-no education. And on top of *telling them* what they could or could not do, they were given no access to God's Word (even if they were literate), in order to verify that information. -Which enabled corrupt rulers to abuse their position of power by defrauding and mistreating members of society...with God's "supposed" blessing.
"[Jehovah’s] activity is dignity and splendor themselves." (Psalm 111:3)
When asked to define the word “dignified,” ten-year-old Madison replied, “Well-dressed.” Interestingly, the Bible speaks of God as being ‘clothed with dignity.’ (Psalm 104:1) For humans, displaying dignity may sometimes involve being well-dressed. For instance, the apostle Paul desired that Christian women “adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind.” (1 Timothy 2:9) But dignified conduct that honors Jehovah’s “dignity and splendor” goes further than that. In the Bible, the Hebrew word for “dignity” can also be translated “splendor,” “majesty,” “glory,” and “honor.” According to one dictionary definition, “dignity” is “the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed.” And no one is worthy of greater honor and esteem than Jehovah. As his dedicated servants, therefore, we should be dignified in speech and action.
(Watchtower issue: 8/15/08, 3:1, 2)
Friday, February 26, 2010
Helgi, a 17-year-old student who was living separately from her divorced parents, showed interest in the truth and began to study the Bible. Initially, she did not attend many meetings because she spent much time singing with a local band. As her appreciation for the truth increased, she began to make changes in her lifestyle. She explained to her band members why she could not entertain on meeting nights. She joined the Theocratic Ministry School and progressed to the point of becoming an unbaptized publisher.
She entered a nationwide singing competition in which the winner would be awarded a contract with a well-known recording company. Though many were turned away at the trials, Helgi won the immediate support of the judges and advanced to the next round. However, the next event was to be held at the same time as her first talk on the Theocratic Ministry School. What would she do? Her mother, who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, suggested that she either cancel the talk or reschedule it. Helgi said that this was not just a matter of giving her talk but a question of what came first in her life, spiritual things or physical. She thought about it seriously and decided to give her talk rather than go to the singing competition. Helgi gave the talk, and her mother respected her decision.
Later, a television reporter attended the “Follow the Christ!” District Convention to film a news item on the convention and the baptism. Seeing Helgi entering the baptism pool, he filmed her baptism and then interviewed her. That evening, this was on the news, which included a clip of her performing at an early level of the competition and concluded with her baptism and her saying with a beaming smile, “This is the best decision of my life.”
"Little children, guard yourselves from idols." (1 John 5:21)
In many lands today, people bow down to man-made images, and such gods are just as useless now as they were in the past. However, the Bible describes things other than images as gods. Consider, for example, these words of Jesus: “You cannot slave for God and for Riches.” (Matthew 6:24) How can “Riches” become like a god? Well, as an example, think of a stone lying in a field in ancient Israel. Such a stone could be useful for the construction of a house or a wall. On the other hand, if it was set up as “a sacred pillar” or as “a showpiece,” it became a stumbling block to Jehovah’s people. (Leviticus 26:1) Similarly, money has its place. We need it just to survive, and we can use it well in Jehovah’s service. (Ecclesiastes 7:12; Luke 16:9) But if we place the pursuit of money ahead of our Christian service, money becomes, in effect, a god to us.—1 Timothy 6:9, 10.
(Watchtower issue: 4/15/08, 1:7, 8)
Thursday, February 25, 2010
"O God, . . . you are my help and the Provider of escape for me." (Psalm 70:5)
A 20-year-old Witness is diagnosed with a disease that will eventually leave him completely paralyzed. Immediately he turns to Jehovah in prayer. A single mother struggling to find a job does not have enough money to buy food for herself and her 12-year-old daughter. She pours out her heart to Jehovah. Yes, when faced with severe trials or hardships, God’s worshippers naturally turn to him for help. Have you ever called out to Jehovah in a time of desperate need? An important question arises: Can we really expect Jehovah to respond to our prayers for help? The faith-strengthening answer is found in Psalm 70. This stirring psalm was written by David, a loyal worshipper of Jehovah who faced many difficult trials and challenges during his life. This inspired psalmist was moved to say that Jehovah is truly “the Provider of escape.”
(Watchtower issue: 9/15/08, 1:1, 2)
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
(the following info and illustration is from chapter 25 of Isaiah's Prophecy Vol. 1)
Our Bible reading the past few weeks about the Judges, and the theme of our daily text for the past two days, made me think of this prophecy in Isaiah (chapter 32) about the prophecy which has a modern-day and future application, showing that Jehovah would raise up a King and Princes who would lovingly shepherd and protect his people in a spirit of mildness, justice, and righteousness.
Ruling for Righteousness and Justice
Isaiah chapter 32 opens with a thrilling prophecy that is finding remarkable fulfillment in our day: “Look! A king will reign for righteousness itself; and as respects princes, they will rule as princes for justice itself.” (Isaiah 32:1) Yes, “Look!” This exclamation calls to mind a similar exclamation found in the last prophetic book of the Bible: “The One seated on the throne said: ‘Look! I am making all things new.’” (Revelation 21:5) The Bible books of Isaiah and Revelation, written some 900 years apart, both present a glowing description of a new administration—“a new heaven,” composed of the King, Christ Jesus, enthroned in the heavens in 1914, and 144,000 corulers “bought from among mankind”—together with “a new earth,” a global, united human society. (Revelation 14:1-4; 21:1-4; Isaiah 65:17-25) This entire arrangement is made possible by Christ’s ransom sacrifice.
After seeing in vision the final sealing of these 144,000 corulers, the apostle John reports: “I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Here is the nucleus of the new earth—a great crowd now numbering into the millions, who have been gathered to the side of the few, mostly elderly remaining ones of the 144,000. This great crowd will survive the fast-approaching great tribulation and in the Paradise earth will be joined by resurrected faithful ones and billions of others who will be given the opportunity to exercise faith. All who do so will be blessed with everlasting life.—Revelation 7:4, 9-17.
However, as long as the present hate-filled world exists, members of the great crowd need protection. In large measure this is provided by the “princes” who “rule . . . for justice itself.” What a grand arrangement! These “princes” are described further in the glowing words of Isaiah’s prophecy: “Each one must prove to be like a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country, like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land.”—Isaiah 32:2.
Right now in this time of worldwide distress, there is a need for “princes,” yes, elders who will “pay attention to . . . all the flock,” caring for Jehovah’s sheep and administering justice in harmony with Jehovah’s righteous principles. (Acts 20:28) Such “princes” must meet the qualifications set out in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9.
*If you listen to the talk I uploaded the other day: Sowing With a View to the Spirit, it mentions that the number of congregations (in the 2007 service year) increased by 1,606, so that there were over 101,000 worldwide. But if you download the audio version of the latest Watchtower study article based on the same theme, entitled: "Brothers-Sow to the Spirit and Reach Out!" it mentions that during the 2009 service year the number of congregations increased by 2,031, reaching 105,298 congregations worldwide.In his great prophecy describing the distressful “conclusion of the system of things,” Jesus said: “See that you are not terrified.” (Matthew 24:3-8) Why are Jesus’ followers not terrified by today’s dangerous world conditions? One reason is that the “princes”—whether they be anointed or “other sheep”—are loyally protecting the flock. (John 10:16) They fearlessly care for their brothers and sisters, even in the face of such horrors as ethnic wars and genocide. In a spiritually exhausted world, they see to it that depressed souls are refreshed by the upbuilding truths of God’s Word, the Bible.
During the past 50 years, the “princes” have come clearly into view. “Princes” who are of the other sheep are being trained as a developing “chieftain” class so that after the great tribulation, qualified ones from among them will be ready for appointment to serve in an administrative capacity in the “new earth.” (Ezekiel 44:2, 3; 2 Peter 3:13) By providing spiritual guidance and refreshment as they take the lead in Kingdom service, they are proving themselves to be “like the shadow of a heavy crag,” bringing relief to the flock in its realm of worship.
In these perilous last days of Satan’s wicked world, dedicated Christians sorely need such protection. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13) Strong winds of false doctrine and twisted propaganda are blowing. Storms are raging in the form of wars between and within nations as well as direct assaults against faithful worshipers of Jehovah God. In a world parched by spiritual drought, Christians badly need the streams of water of pure, unadulterated truth in order to quench their spiritual thirst. Happily, Jehovah has promised that his reigning King, through his anointed brothers and supportive “princes” of the other sheep, will provide encouragement and guidance to despondent and discouraged ones in this time of need. Jehovah will thus see to it that what is righteous and just will prevail.
The brother who gave our talk on Sunday brought out a good point (in regards to literal sheep and shepherds) showing how members of the congregation can cooperate and work in harmony with those who are assigned to take the lead in shepherding the congregation by cultivating a *sheep-like* disposition. The difference between sheep and other animals, is that sheep are mild and docile, and are quick to pay attention and respond to the guidance and direction given by their shepherd. They don't have to be whipped or bridled into submission. Whereas bulls, cows, goats, and donkeys, etc have to be pulled or dragged along because they have an unwilling and stubborn disposition.
"Jehovah is a lover of justice, and he will not leave his loyal ones. To time indefinite they will certainly be guarded . . . The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it." (Psalm 37:28, 29)
In a number of ways, Jehovah offers guidance, and we do well to take full advantage of it. Speaking of a time when Israel proved faithful, King David said: “In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you kept providing them with escape. To you they cried out, and they got away safe; in you they trusted, and they did not come to shame.” (Psalm 22:3-5) If we trustingly follow Jehovah’s guidance, we too will “not come to shame.” We will not be disappointed in our hope. If we ‘roll upon Jehovah our way,’ instead of relying on our own wisdom, the results will be rich blessings even now. (Psalm 37:5) And if we loyally persevere in that course, those blessings will be eternal.
(Watchtower issue: 4/15/08, 2:19)
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
"Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5)
Mildness, or gentleness, is reflected in our conduct with regard to fellow humans. For instance, we “return evil for evil to no one.” (Romans 12:17-19) Having Christlike mildness makes us pleasant and spiritually upbuilding members of the congregation. Mildness is part of the fruitage that God’s active force produces within us if we ‘live and walk by spirit.’ (Galatians 5:22-25) Surely we want to be counted among the mild-tempered individuals led by Jehovah’s holy spirit! Jesus, who was “mild-tempered and lowly in heart,” is the principal Inheritor of the earth. (Matthew 11:29; Hebrews 1:2; Psalm 2:8) As “joint heirs with Christ,” 144,000 mild-tempered anointed ones will share in Jesus’ inheritance of the earth. (Romans 8:16, 17; Revelation 14:1) Other mild-tempered ones will be blessed with everlasting life in the earthly realm of the Kingdom.—Psalm 37:11.
(Watchtower issue: 5/15/08, 1:3-5)
Monday, February 22, 2010
(Here's Part 1 if you want to refer back to it.)
(map and info on pgs 25 & 27 of the 1/15/05 WA)
Highlights From the Book of Judges (pt 2)
OTHER OFFENSES IN ISRAEL
The last part of the book of Judges contains two outstanding accounts. The first concerns a man named Micah, who sets up an idol in his house and employs a Levite to act as a priest for him. After destroying the city of Laish, or Leshem, the Danites build their own city and name it Dan. Using Micah’s idol and his priest, they set up another form of worship in Dan. Evidently, Laish is captured before Joshua’s death.—Joshua 19:47.
The second event takes place not long after the death of Joshua. A mass sex crime committed by some men of the Benjamite city of Gibeah leads to the near annihilation of the entire tribe of Benjamin—only 600 men survive. However, an expedient arrangement allows them to get wives, and their number increases to nearly 60,000 warriors by the time of David’s rulership.—1 Chronicles 7:6-11.
*FYI -the account at Judges 19-21 (which is our Bible reading for this week), is one of those Biblical passages that contains a rather gruesome experience, (which is almost like the 'Jack the Ripper' story of the Bible), and many people have a very difficult time understanding why, (including myself at first). In fact, even Richard Dawkins mentions this particular passage while having a discussion with a priest, in his attempt to discredit the value of the Bible because of the violence in this account. However, if you do some backround research, you'll find that the reason the Levite dismembered his dead concubine's body and sent the pieces throughout the land to all 12 Tribes of Israel, was in order to rouse all the people to action by making them aware of a brutal crime which had taken place which was so serious an offence, that it required the immediate attention of the entire nation. If this kind of violence and sexually deviant behavior was being tolerated and going on in their land, they needed to come together and root it out ASAP.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
17:6; 21:25—If ‘each one was accustomed to do what was right in his own eyes,’ did this foster anarchy? Not necessarily, for Jehovah made ample provisions to guide his people. He gave them the Law and the priesthood to educate them in his way. By means of the Urim and the Thummim, the high priest could consult God on important matters. (Exodus 28:30) Every city also had older men capable of providing sound counsel. When an Israelite availed himself of these provisions, he had a sound guide for his conscience. His doing “what was right in his own eyes” in this way resulted in good. On the other hand, if a person ignored the Law and made his own decisions about conduct and worship, the result was bad.
20:17-48—Why did Jehovah let the Benjamites defeat the other tribes twice, even though the former needed to be punished? By allowing the faithful tribes to suffer great losses at first, Jehovah tested their determination to root out evil from Israel.
(there's some more indepth info at the bottom of this post to get a clearer picture on this part)
Lessons for Us:
19:14, 15. The unwillingness on the part of the people of Gibeah to extend hospitality was an indication of a moral shortcoming. Christians are admonished to “follow the course of hospitality.”—Romans 12:13.
The Deliverance Ahead
Very soon now, God’s Kingdom in the hands of Christ Jesus will destroy the wicked world and provide a great deliverance for the upright and the blameless. (Proverbs 2:21, 22; Daniel 2:44) ‘All of Jehovah’s enemies will then perish, and his lovers will be as when the sun goes forth in its mightiness.’ (Judges 5:31) Let us prove to be among the lovers of Jehovah by applying what we have learned from the book of Judges.
The fundamental truth demonstrated over and over in the accounts of the Judges is this: Obedience to Jehovah leads to rich blessings, disobedience to dire consequences. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28) How vital that we become “obedient from the heart” to the revealed will of God!—Romans 6:17; 1 John 2:17.
The Levites were not given an inheritance in the Promised Land except for 48 cities scattered throughout Israel.
(the following excerpts from the 2/1/78 Watchtower)
Success Only by Reliance on Jehovah
Perfect holiness, firmness for what is right, coupled with mercy and long-suffering—these are the outstanding qualities of God demonstrated in the Bible book of Judges. And the fact that no success can come without wholehearted recognition of and reliance on him is the chief lesson taught. The account bridges the somewhat unsettled period of Israelite history between the death of Joshua and the events leading to the establishment of the kingdom under Saul.
The history of the period of the judges is one of Israel’s alternately falling into idolatry and oppression by their enemies and their returning to Jehovah, with resulting deliverance.
Victory Only Through Pure Worship
The last five chapters of Judges are not chronologically placed. These chapters are, in effect, appendices to the book of Judges. Chapters 17 and 18 record the beginning of idolatrous worship shortly after the death of Joshua and the sin and unrighteousness connected with it from its very start. The last three chapters depict how deep-rooted the corruption produced by the influence of the Canaanites had become at that early period. And this helps us to see why God commanded the extermination of the Canaanite peoples.
However, this latter account, which describes the war waged against Benjamin by the other tribes because of Benjamin’s extreme moral degradation, also illustrates how Israel as a whole had kept itself from such corruption. The tribes showed great zeal for what was right. But they had evidently relied on themselves and their action was not primarily motivated by interest in clearing reproach from Jehovah’s name. Here, as throughout the accounts of the judges, the absolute need to rely wholly on Jehovah is emphasized in this way: Even with their zeal for clean worship, the 11 tribes seemed to rely on their own power in the first two attempts to punish Benjamin. They were defeated in these battles, sustaining a loss of 40,000 men. High Priest Phinehas was with the sacred Ark that had been brought from Shiloh to Bethel, where the army was encamped. But after the two defeats they fasted and offered burnt offerings and communion offerings, thereby recognizing the need for Jehovah to fight the battle for them. Only then did Jehovah deliver the Benjaminites into their hands.—Judges 20:20-29.
A reading of the book of Judges is faith-strengthening. It is a powerful testimony to Jehovah God’s holiness and insistence on pure worship and to his great mercy toward those who call on him in sincerity and truth. The book inspires confidence in its readers that they can come off victorious by ‘rolling their works upon him.’ Through his appointed Leader and Great Judge Jesus Christ, deliverance will come to those putting their trust in Jehovah, no matter how great the obstacles.—Proverbs 16:3; Romans 8:35-39.
Just to recap...
What *specific* actions made the third request different than the first two times? Initially, the men didn't actually request God's direction as to what action they should take,...they merely made up their mind that they were going to engage in battle, formed a strategy themselves, and then inquired of Jehovah *after the fact* as to which tribe should take the lead. Which also indicates a lack of reliance on God's law, since they should have known full well, (according to their army tribe divisions), that Judah takes the lead. (Numbers 10:14)
The 3rd occasion was different because the Israelites were finally handling the matter the right way. They showed full reliance on Jehovah by following the *proper protocol* for inquiring about a matter of great importance which affected the entire nation.
Also, at Judges 20:26, notice that on this last occasion, it says that ALL the people gathered together, (including women and children, not just the men). And more importantly, they went up to Bethel -where the Ark of the Covenant and the high priest Phinehas was, to have him inquire of Jehovah. The reason that was important is mentioned in the Insight book:
*When it was necessary to inquire of Jehovah about a matter of importance to the nation, the high priest wore the ephod and the breastpiece containing the Urim and the Thummim. (Numbers 27:21; 1Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63) David had Abiathar bring the ephod near (prior to engaging in battle) so that he could inquire of Jehovah as to what course of action to take.—1Samuel 23:9-12; 30:7, 8.
So I thought that was a really important point to remember from this account. Since it shows that Jehovah not only expects us to be vigilant for pure worship, but he also expects us to fully rely on him by obeying and following his directions...rather than just doing things our own way (even if it seems right to us at the time).
Monday, February 22nd, 2010
"Here is your God, O Israel." (1 Kings 12:28)
As king of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam began to seek ways to strengthen his position. “If this people continues going up to render sacrifices in the house of Jehovah in Jerusalem,” he reasoned, “the heart of this people will also be bound to return to their lord, Rehoboam the king of Judah; and they will certainly kill me and return to Rehoboam the king of Judah.” So Jeroboam established a new religion centered on two golden calves. “Then he placed the one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. And this thing came to be a cause for sin, and the people began to go before the one as far as Dan. And he began to make a house of high places and to make priests from the people in general, who did not happen to be of the sons of Levi.” Jeroboam even invented his own day of “festival for the sons of Israel,” and he proceeded “to make offerings upon the altar to make sacrificial smoke.”—1 Kings 12:26-33.
(Watchtower issue: 8/15/08, 1:11)
on a side note...if you watch the beginning of the movie:
The Story of Ruth, -in particular part 1, part 2, and part 4
it gives an idea, or visual portrayal, of the kind of child sacrifice which the Moabites and Canaanites practiced, which eventually influenced the Israelites. Also the romantic relationship that developed between Ruth and Mahlon (in the movie), shows how the relationships that developed between the Israelites and the surrounding nations (both political and social) was such a big factor in causing the Israelites to adopt false religious practices and wrong behavior, (which applies just as much to us in modern times) as 1 Corinthians 15:33, 34 points out:
"Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits. Wake up to soberness in a righteous way and do not practice sin, for some are without knowledge of God..."
Sunday, February 21, 2010
"With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation." (Romans 10:10)
Some who are learning a new language may hesitate to speak it because they are shy or afraid to make mistakes. That will hold them back from making progress. When it comes to learning a language, the old adage is true, Practice makes perfect. The more the student speaks the new language, the more comfortable he becomes with using it. We likewise need to speak the “pure language” at every opportunity. (Zephaniah 3:9) Not only do we make a “public declaration” at the time of our baptism but we also make it when we speak about Jehovah at every opportunity, including when we engage in the ministry. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Hebrews 13:15) Our Christian meetings allow us to make clear, concise expressions in the pure language.—Hebrews 10:23-25.
(Watchtower issue: 8/15/08, 5:18)
Saturday, February 20, 2010
One day, out of curiosity, I picked up a copy of The Watchtower. Oddly enough, it sounded reasonable. Yet, even though Artan and Anila kept encouraging me, I would not study the Bible. I reasoned that you can't study the Bible if you don't believe in God. In 1995 the book Life - How Did it Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? came out in Albanian. Artan and Anila gave me a copy. That's all it took to convince me. God does exist! I no longer had an excuse; I had to study. Soon my wife, Lirie, joined me, and we were convinced of the truth.
I still laugh at myself sometimes as Jehovah continues to help me become less strict, more reasonable, and less of a commanding officer. I'm slowly getting there.
"As for your greatness, I will declare it." (Psalm 145:6)
To appreciate the splendor of our Creator, we need to take time to reflect on the works of his hands. David sang: “The glorious splendor of your dignity and the matters of your wonderful works I will make my concern.” (Psalm 145:5) We show concern for these works by studying the Bible and taking time to meditate on what we read in it. What is the effect of this reflection? Our appreciation for God’s dignity and splendor is increased. Surely, then, we are moved to join David in honoring Jehovah and saying the words of today’s text. Meditating on God’s wonderful works should strengthen our relationship with Jehovah and motivate us to tell others about him with enthusiasm and determination. Are you zealously declaring the good news and helping people to appreciate the dignity, splendor, and majesty of Jehovah God?
(Watchtower issue: 8/15/08, 3:11, 12)
Friday, February 19, 2010
(chart & following info on pg 8 of the 12/15/09 Watchtower)
You may need to adjust how you apportion your time if you are to remain joyful
Busy and Joyful in God's Service
Jehovah wants you to be joyful. (Psalm 100:2) As one of his servants, you are probably also busy...We live in critical times and are subject to many pressures, so you need to be well organized. In this regard, some of the apostle Paul's inspired counsel is particularly relevant: "Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked." (Ephesians 5:15, 16)
In view of that wise counsel, how can you set realistic goals for yourself and balance personal study, family care, field service, secular work, and other necessary activities? ... Most of God's servants can buy out some time for vital activities from time spent on less important things. Ask yourself, 'How much time do I spend reading secular magazines or newspapers, watching TV, listening to music, or pursuing a hobby?' Such activities can be pleasurable but only when kept in balance. (1 Timothy 4:8) If you realize that poor time-management is a problem for you, take steps to get a grip on your schedule.
Time: You Can Not Save It, so Use it Well - a good article on time management, cutting down on clutter and getting organized.
(illustration on pg 97, of Isaiah's Prophecy Vol. 2)
The text not only mentioned keeping spiritual pursuits in first place, ahead of pleasure and recreation, but it also mentioned "false gods" ... which many people don't really tend to think about. Idolatry is easy to spot when you see someone literally bowing down at a temple or praying to a statue or carved image, but in the Western world, idolatry takes a more subtle form.
This scripture pretty much sums it up:
"Woe to those who are getting up early in the morning that they may seek just intoxicating liquor, who are lingering till late in the evening darkness so that wine itself inflames them! And there must prove to be harp and stringed instrument, tambourine and flute, and wine at their feasts; but the activity of Jehovah they do not look at, and the work of his hands they have not seen." (Isaiah 5:11, 12)
-Which basically boils down to putting entertainment, recreation, and personal pursuits in first place, leaving no time for spiritual things (which is also a form of idolatry) since God should always get first dibbs in our life...not the leftovers. That's the reason Jehovah rejected Cain's sacrifice but accepted Abel's ... because Abel gave the "firstlings of his flock" or his best (Genesis 4:4, 5)
The 3 areas that stand out to me the most in our society when it comes to idolatry are:
Materialism - worship/love of money & material possessions, etc.
Celebrity Worship - idolizing: Actors, Singers, Bands, Athletes, Politicians, Comedians, (any famous or prominent celebrity figure).
Entertainment/Substances - virtual media -(TV, internet, gaming, etc) alcohol, drugs, excessive consumption or time spent pursuing the "god of the belly" (Philippians 3:19)
"The one pursuing valueless things is in want of heart." (Proverbs 12:11)
A Christian who is distracted by valueless things puts his relationship with Jehovah and his prospects for everlasting life in danger. (Titus 2:11, 12) What are valueless things? In a general sense, they can be anything that distracts us from serving Jehovah whole-souled. They could, for example, include various forms of relaxation. Of course, relaxation has its place. But when we spend too much time on “fun” things at the expense of activities connected with our worship, relaxation becomes a valueless thing, adversely affecting our spiritual well-being. (Ecclesiastes 2:24; 4:6) To avoid that, a Christian cultivates balance, carefully watching how he spends his valuable time. (Colossians 4:5) There are, though, valueless things that are much more dangerous than relaxation. Among these are false gods.
(Watchtower issue: 04/15/08, 1:3, 4)
Thursday, February 18, 2010
(illustration of Ittai the Gittite and King David)
The following article on (pgs 26-28 of the 5/15/09 Watchtower), gives another example of how Jehovah cared for David during the time of Absalom's revolt (mentioned in today's text)...showing that even when his own son turned against him, David was not abandoned by true followers of Jehovah, who proved themselves to be more loyal and supportive than members of his own family.
Imitate the Loyalty of Ittai
"Great and wonderful are your works, Jehovah God, the Almighty. Righteous and true are your ways, King of eternity. Who will not really fear you, Jehovah, and glorify your name, because you alone are loyal?" This song...draws attention to God's loyalty. (Revelation 15:2-4) Jehovah wants his worshippers to imitate him in displaying this desirable quality. (Ephesians 4:24).
Satan the Devil, on the other hand, does everything in his power to separate God's earthly servants from the love of the God whom they worship. Still, many have maintained loyalty to God even under very harsh conditions. How grateful we can be that Jehovah highly esteems such devotion! Indeed, we are assured: "Jehovah is a lover of justice, and he will not leave his loyal ones." (Psalm 37:28) To help us remain loyal, he has included in his Word a record of the acts of many loyal ones. One such account is that of Ittai the Gittite.
'A Foreigner and an Exile'
Ittai was presumably a native of the renowned Philistine city of Gath, the home of the giant Goliath and other formidable foes of Israel. Without introduction, the seasoned warrior Ittai steps into the Bible record at the time of Absalom's rebellion against King David. Ittai and 600 Philistine men who had followed him were then living in exile in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
The situation of Ittai and his followers may have caused David to recall his own days as an exiled fugitive when he and 600 Israelite warriors relocated to Philistine territory and entered the domain of Achish, the king of Gath. (1 Samuel 27:2, 3) What would Ittai and his men do as David faced his son Absalom's revolt? Would they side with Absalom, remain neutral, or throw in their lot with David and his men?
Picture the scene as David, fleeing Jerusalem, comes to a halt at a place called Bethmerhak, meaning "The Far House." It is perhaps the last house in Jerusalem in the direction of the Mount of Olives before crossing the Kidron Valley. (2 Samuel 15:17; ftn.) Here David reviews his forces as they pass by. Look! With him are not only loyal Israelites but also all the Cherethites and all the Pelethites. Moreover, there are all the Gittites - Ittai and his 600 warriors. (2 Samuel 15:18).
With hearfelt empathy, David says to Ittai: "Why should you yourself also go with us? Go back and dwell with the king [evidently meaning Absalom]; for you are a foreigner and, besides, you are an exile from your place. Yesterday was when you came and today shall I make you wander with us, to go when I am going wherever I am going? Go back and take your brothers back with you, and may Jehovah exercise toward you loving-kindness and trustworthiness!" (2 Samuel 15:19, 20)
Ittai's declaration of unflinching loyalty rings out. He answers: "As Jehovah is living and as my lord the king is living, in the place where my lord the king may come to be, whether for death or for life, there is where your servant will come to be!" (2 Samuel 15:21) This may have reminded David of similar words spoken by his great-grandmother Ruth. (Ruth 1:16, 17) His heart touched by Ittai's statement, David tells him: "Go and cross over" the Kidron Valley. At that, "Ittai the Gittite crossed over, and also all his men and all the little ones that were with him." (2 Samuel 15:22)
"For Our Instruction"
"All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction," states Romans 15:4. So we do well to ask, What lessons can we learn from Ittai's example? Consider what may have prompted him to be loyal to David. Even though he was a foreigner and an exile from Philistia, Ittai recognized Jehovah as the living God and David as Jehovah's anointed one. Ittai was able to look beyond the animosity that existed between the Israelites and the Philistines. He viewed David as more than someone who had killed the Philistine champion Goliath and many more of Ittai's countrymen. (1 Samuel 18:6, 7) Ittai saw David as a man who loved Jehovah and no doubt took note of David's remarkable qualities. In turn, David came to have high regard for Ittai. Why, David even placed one third of his forces "under the hand of Ittai" in the climactic battle against Absalom's forces! (2 Samuel 18:2).
We too should strive to look beyond cultural, racial, or ethnic differences - any lingering prejudices and animosities - and recognize the good qualities in others. The bond that formed between David and Ittai illustrates that our coming to know and love Jehovah can help us to overcome such barriers.
As we reflect on Ittai's example, we can ask ourselves: 'Do I display a similar loyal attachment to the Greater David, Christ Jesus? Do I show my loyalty by having a zealous share in the work of Kingdom preaching and disciple making?' (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) 'How far am I willing to prove my loyalty?'
Family heads also benefit by meditating on Ittai's example of loyalty. His allegiance to David and his decision to go with God's anointed king affected Ittai's men. Likewise, the decisions that family heads make in support of true worship affect their families and may even bring temporary hardships. Yet, we are assured: "With someone loyal [Jehovah] will act in loyalty." (Psalm 18:25)
Following David's battle with Absalom, the Scriptures say nothing more about Ittai. The glimpse of him in God's Word nevertheless provides remarkable insight into his character during that difficult time in David's life. Ittai's inclusion in the inspired record is proof that Jehovah recognizes and rewards such loyalty. (Hebrews 6:10)
If you read the whole account of Absalom's rebellion, you can see a lot of similarities between his personality and Satan's, by the manner in which he rebelled against his father. I've also noticed that it's the same characteristics displayed by some ex-JW's (who've either left the congregation or have been disfellowshipped) and now they've got 'an axe to grind' against their former brothers and sisters.
Absalom allowed a bad attitude to develop against his father, after being angered that David didn't handle the situation in regards to his sister Tamar, correctly, when she was raped by their half-brother Amnon. (2 Samuel chapter 13) But even after Absalom took matters into his own hands and murdered Amnon in revenge, that still wasn't good enough for him. He remained vindictive and resentful against his father for years afterward, and used trickery and deception in order to turn the people against David so he could try and usurp the throne. He put on a false front to his father (pretending he no longer harbored any animosity) while at the very same time, he was literally camping himself down the road everyday, just a short distance from the palace, in order to stop people who were on their way to see King David to resolve a legal dispute. He would *campaign* himself to the people by sweet talking them and making political promises, using the: "Oh! if only I were king, instead of my father..." line. (2 Samuel 15:1-6)
That's exactly how Satan operates. It's also how apostate ex-JW's operate...instead of trying to resolve matters the *right way* and in the meantime, remaining loyal to Jehovah while 'waiting on him' to correct the situation (like David did when King Saul transgressed against him), they abandon their spiritual family and then resort to manipulation and deception,...by trying to smear the reputation of their former brothers and sisters, and creating doubts in the minds of other Witnesses or new Bible students. It's the same *modus operandi* that Satan has always used to turn people away from Jehovah and his organization. The way a person handles injustice and disappointment, speaks volumes about the kind of person they are.
"A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, and yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread." (Psalm 37:25)
When David’s son Absalom organized a rebellion and tried to usurp the throne, David along with some loyal supporters fled to the land of Gilead. (2 Samuel 17:22, 24) Forced to live as fugitives, David and his men soon found themselves in dire need of food and drink as well as rest. Recognizing the plight of David and his men, three courageous men—Shobi, Machir, and Barzillai—brought much needed supplies, including beds, wheat, barley, roasted grain, broad beans, lentils, honey, butter, and sheep. (2 Samuel 17:27-29) When reflecting on what happened in the land of Gilead, David no doubt saw the kindness of those three men as an expression of Jehovah’s loving care. Is it not comforting to know that Jehovah’s hand is never short?—Proverbs. 10:3.
(Watchtower issue: 9/15/08, 1:14-16)
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I also uploaded a good *pep talk* (based on Galatians 6:8) on the topic - Sow With A View to the Spirit -for getting motivated to have a fuller share in the congregation, and especially for men when it comes to reaching out for greater privileges and responsibility.
(photos and article on pgs 12-15 of the 6/08 Awake!)
Where I First Heard the Name Jehovah
As told by Pavol Kovár...
During the heavy bombing, we barely made our way to a makeshift shelter. As the bombing intensified and our shelter shook, a fellow prisoner prayed aloud: “O Jehovah, save us! For the sake of your holy name, please save us!”
It was January 8, 1945, and I was a prisoner of war in the Austrian city of Linz. Some 250 of us were in that shelter, and we all survived the bombing. After we exited, we saw devastation all around. The heartfelt prayer I had heard was deeply engraved on my mind, even though I never knew who uttered it. Before I relate how I eventually learned who Jehovah is, let me tell a little about my background.
I was born on September 28, 1921, in a house near the village of Krajné, in western Slovakia, then part of Czechoslovakia. My parents were Protestants who took their religion seriously. Father read the family Bible on Sunday mornings, and Mother and we four children listened attentively. Yet, I don’t remember my father ever using the name Jehovah. Life in our region was simple, but we were content with the little we had.
When World War II began in 1939, people were scared. Many well remembered the suffering that World War I had caused some 20 years earlier. In 1942, I was called up for service in the Slovak army. Although officially Slovakia sided with Germany, in August 1944 an attempt was made to restore democracy. When it failed, I was among thousands of captured Slovak soldiers transferred to territories controlled by the Germans. I ended up in Gusen, a subcamp adjoining the infamous Mauthausen concentration camp, near Linz.
Prisoner of War
We were assigned to work at the airplane plant not far from the village of Sankt Georgen an der Gusen. There I worked in a sawmill. We had little to eat, and in January 1945 our rations were reduced further, as the Nazi armies were losing on all fronts. The only warm meal we received was a little soup. Every morning workers from the main camp in Mauthausen arrived. The guards often beat to death the prisoners too weak to work. Later, fellow prisoners would throw the corpses in a wagon and transport them to the crematorium.
Despite the misery, we had hopes that the war would soon be over. On May 5, 1945, four months after the bombing described at the outset, I woke up to great turmoil and ran to the yard. The guards were gone, the guns were piled up, and the gates were wide open. We could see the other camp across a meadow. Freed inmates were running from it like bees from a burning hive. Along with the liberation, there came cruel retribution. The slaughter that took place is still etched in my mind.
Prisoners were taking revenge by beating to death the kapos, inmates who had collaborated with the prison guards. Often the kapos had been even more cruel than the Nazi guards themselves. I watched as a prisoner clubbed a kapo to death, yelling: “He killed my father. We had survived together here, and just two days ago he killed him!” By evening the meadow was filled with the dead bodies of kapos and other inmates—hundreds of them. Later, before leaving, we toured the camp, examining the execution devices—particularly the gas chambers—and the furnaces.
Learning About the True God
I was home by the end of May 1945. In the meantime, not only had my parents learned God’s name, the name I had heard in the bunker, but they had also become Jehovah’s Witnesses. Shortly after returning, I met Oľga, a spiritually-minded girl, and a year later we were married. Her zeal for Bible truth prompted me to continue learning about Jehovah. During one of our last assemblies before the new Communist regime banned our preaching work in 1949, Oľga and I, along with some 50 others, were baptized in the Váh River in Piešťany. In time, we had two daughters, Oľga and Vlasta.
Ján Sebín, a Witness who had helped reorganize the preaching work following World War II, was our frequent guest and my close companion in the ministry. Despite growing persecution from the Communists, we continued our preaching. We would discreetly talk to people about Bible truths, and soon we had many Bible studies. When Ján left our area, my wife and I continued these studies. Later, at our assemblies, we often met such dear ones, along with their children and grandchildren. What joy that brought us!
By 1953 many Witnesses who had taken a lead in the preaching work were imprisoned. So I was asked to help with the ministry in an area about 100 miles [150 km] from our home. Every second week, after finishing my secular work on Saturday afternoon, I took a train from the town of Nové Mesto nad Váhom and traveled to Martin, in north-central Slovakia. There I engaged in Bible teaching till late evening and for the whole day Sunday. On Sunday evening I took a train back to Nové Mesto. I usually arrived about midnight and enjoyed the hospitality of an elderly couple who let me stay with them till morning. Then I went directly to my secular job and returned to my family, in the village of Krajné, on Monday night. During weekends when I was away from home, Oľga cared for our daughters.
Then, in 1956, I was invited to serve as a circuit overseer, a work that involved visiting congregations in our area to strengthen them spiritually. Since many who had served in that capacity had been imprisoned, I saw the need to accept this responsibility. My wife and I were confident that Jehovah would assist our family.
According to Communist law, all citizens had to be employed. The government viewed those without jobs as parasites and sent them to prison. So I continued my secular work. I spent two weekends of each month at home with my family, sharing in spiritual and other activities; but the other two weekends, I visited one of the six nearby congregations in the circuit.
Literature Production While Under Ban
Circuit overseers had the responsibility to arrange for each congregation in the circuit to have Bible literature. At first, magazines were mainly copied by hand or were typewritten. Later we were able to obtain film negatives of The Watchtower and send them to congregations. Magazines were then duplicated on photographic paper. Since buying large quantities of such paper could give rise to suspicion, those who did the purchasing had to exercise boldness and discretion.
Štefan Hučko developed a passion for this work, and he was very good at it. To illustrate: On one occasion, Štefan returned to a photo shop in a city far from his hometown to buy photographic paper but was about to leave because none was available. However, then he saw the friendly shop assistant who had earlier promised to order paper for him. As Štefan was about to approach her, he caught sight of a policeman entering the shop. At the same moment, the shop assistant saw Štefan and happily exclaimed: “Sir! You are fortunate. We have the shipment of photographic paper you needed.”
Thinking quickly, Štefan replied: “I am sorry, Madam, but you must have mistaken me for someone else. I want a single negative film.”
After returning to his car, Štefan could not bring himself to leave without that valuable shipment of photographic paper that he had come for. So later, after removing his coat and cap and endeavoring to change his appearance, he reentered the shop and went directly to the shop assistant. “I was here a week ago,” he explained, “and you promised to order some photographic paper for me. Do you have it?”
“Oh yes, we do,” she replied. “But you know, Sir, only a few minutes ago a man who looked just like you was here. It’s unbelievable—he was like your twin brother!” Štefan quickly obtained the large supply of paper and left, thanking Jehovah for providing it.
During the 1980’s we started using mimeograph machines and small offset presses to produce Bible literature in basements and other hard-to-find places. In time, the number of copies of each issue of our magazines—as well as the number of books and booklets—approached and even exceeded the number of Witnesses.
One day during the 1960’s, I was instructed to report to the military department of the company I worked for. Three men in civilian clothes questioned me, asking: “How long have you been meeting with Jehovah’s Witnesses? And with whom do you meet?” When I did not give specifics, I was told that I would be contacted later. That was my first encounter with State Security, the secret police.
Soon thereafter, I was taken from my workplace to the police station. A blank sheet of paper was placed in front of me, with the request that I write down the names of other Witnesses. When the man returned after an hour or so, the paper was blank, and I explained that I could not provide any names. The following week, the same thing happened. But then I was beaten, and as I departed, I was kicked all the way down the corridor.
After that, I was left alone for a year. Then the police sent a man to visit me. He had been a fellow prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp. He told me: “We have to change our approach to you people. When we put one Witness into prison, five come out.” What the government wanted to do was to achieve at least a measure of control over our work. However, I was determined not to provide any information that might enable them to do so.
For many years, I was among those periodically involved in such encounters with the secret police. Sometimes they would treat us as friends, but at other times they would send one of us to prison. Thankfully, I was never imprisoned, but those unwanted meetings with the police lasted right up until 1989, the year that Communism collapsed in Czechoslovakia.
A few weeks after the collapse, a high-ranking member of State Security from Bratislava paid me a visit. He apologized: “If it had been up to me, we would never have bothered you.” Then he pulled two bags of canned fruit out of his car as a gift.
Jehovah, a Strong Tower
Although my first 40 years as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses were spent serving under ban, I have enjoyed a happy, rewarding life. The things we experienced during those years drew our faithful fellow believers ever closer together. We grew to treasure our friendships and to depend upon each other’s trustworthiness.
In March 2003, I suffered the grievous loss of my dear wife, Oľga. She was a loyal companion throughout our marriage. We were busy together in the Christian ministry all those years. Now I continue to serve as a Christian elder in our congregation and to look for deserving ones with whom I can share Bible truths. The name Jehovah, which I first heard in a bunker during World War II, has remained a strong tower for me.—Proverbs 18:10.
Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
"I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3:8)
To help us along the path to life, God’s Word provides us with many fine role models. Jesus, for example, was the most gifted human who ever lived, yet he focused on that which would help people forever—“the good news of the kingdom.” (Luke 4:43) In order to give Jehovah his best, the apostle Paul abandoned a promising career and used his time and energy to preach the good news. Timothy, “a genuine child in the faith,” imitated Paul’s fine example. (1 Timothy 1:2) Did Jesus, Paul, and Timothy regret their course in life? By no means! In fact, Paul said that he regarded what the world has to offer as “a lot of refuse” compared with the privilege of serving God. Do not become envious of those who are making the most of this world. Storing up “treasures in heaven” is the most secure investment you can make and the only one with everlasting benefits.—Matthew 6:19, 20; 1 John 2:15-17.
(Watchtower issue: 04/15/08, 3:17, 19)
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
(illustration on pg 34 of Isaiah's Prophecy Vol. 2)
(The following info below, are excerpts taken from chapter 3 of Isaiah's Prophecy Vol. 2, and from chapter 22 of Draw Close To Jehovah)
Godly Justice: Compassionate and Merciful
The Jewish religious leaders taught a distorted view of justice and righteousness. They sought to attain righteousness by following a rigid code of laws—many of their own making. Their legalistic justice was void of mercy and compassion. Jesus revealed God’s view of justice. By what he taught and how he lived, Jesus showed that true justice is compassionate and merciful.
Apart from emphasizing the compassionate nature of godly justice, Jesus taught that it should embrace all people. On one occasion Jesus reminded a man versed in the Law that he should love God and his neighbor. The man asked Jesus: “Who really is my neighbor?” Perhaps he expected Jesus to answer: “Your fellow Jew.” But Jesus told the parable of the neighborly Samaritan...
“A certain man versed in the Law rose up, to test him out, and said: “Teacher, by doing what shall I inherit everlasting life?” He said to him: “What is written in the Law? How do you read?” In answer he said: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole strength and with your whole mind,’ and, ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” He said to him: “You answered correctly; ‘keep on doing this and you will get life.’”But, wanting to prove himself righteous, the man said to Jesus: “Who really is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jer′i·cho and fell among robbers, who both stripped him and inflicted blows, and went off, leaving him half-dead. Now, by coincidence, a certain priest was going down over that road, but, when he saw him, he went by on the opposite side. Likewise, a Levite also, when he got down to the place and saw him, went by on the opposite side. But a certain Sa·mar′i·tan traveling the road came upon him and, at seeing him, he was moved with pity. So he approached him and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine upon them. Then he mounted him upon his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two de·nar′i·i, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend besides this, I will repay you when I come back here.’ Who of these three seems to you to have made himself neighbor to the man that fell among the robbers?” He said: “The one that acted mercifully toward him.” Jesus then said to him: “Go your way and be doing the same yourself.”
Is “the Wisdom From Above” at Work in Your Life?
Jehovah’s wisdom is practical. Hence, if we have truly acquired godly wisdom, it will be evident in the way we conduct ourselves. The disciple James described the fruits of divine wisdom when he wrote: “The wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.” (James 3:17) ... (the aspects that particularly apply in the parable of the good Samaritan, are the last 4 mentioned on that list)...
“Full of Mercy and Good Fruits”
“Full of mercy and good fruits.” Mercy is an important part of the wisdom from above, for such wisdom is said to be “full of mercy.” Notice that “mercy” and “good fruits” are mentioned together. This is fitting, for in the Bible, mercy most often refers to an active concern for others, a compassion that produces a rich crop of kindly deeds. One reference work defines mercy as “a feeling of sorrow over someone’s bad situation and trying to do something about it.” Hence, godly wisdom is not dry, heartless, or merely intellectual. Instead, it is warm, heartfelt, and sensitive. How can we show that we are full of mercy?
Surely an important way is by sharing the good news of God’s Kingdom with others. What motivates us to do this work? Primarily, it is love for God. But we are also motivated by mercy, or compassion for others. (Matthew 22:37-39) Many today are “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) They have been neglected and blinded spiritually by false religious shepherds. As a result, they do not know of the wise guidance found in God’s Word or of the blessings that the Kingdom will soon bring to this earth. When we thus ponder the spiritual needs of those around us, our heartfelt compassion moves us to do all we can to tell them of Jehovah’s loving purpose.
In what other ways can we show that we are full of mercy? Recall Jesus’ illustration of the Samaritan who found a traveler lying by the roadside, robbed and beaten. Moved with compassion, the Samaritan “acted mercifully,” binding the victim’s wounds and caring for him. (Luke 10:29-37) Does this not illustrate that mercy involves offering practical help to those in need? The Bible tells us to “work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Consider some possibilities. An older fellow believer may need transportation to and from Christian meetings. A widow in the congregation may need help with repairs on her home. (James 1:27) A discouraged one may need a “good word” to cheer him up. (Proverbs 12:25) When we show mercy in such ways, we give proof that the wisdom from above is at work in us.
“Not Making Partial Distinctions, Not Hypocritical”
“Not making partial distinctions.” Godly wisdom rises above racial prejudice and national pride. If we are guided by such wisdom, we endeavor to root out of our hearts any tendency to show favoritism. (James 2:9) We do not give preferential treatment to others on the basis of their educational background, financial standing, or congregational responsibility; nor do we look down on any of our fellow worshipers, regardless of how lowly they may seem to be. If Jehovah has made such ones recipients of his love, we should certainly deem them worthy of our love.
“Not hypocritical.” The Greek word for “hypocrite” can refer to “an actor who played a role.” In ancient times, Greek and Roman actors wore large masks when performing. Hence, the Greek word for “hypocrite” came to apply to one putting on a pretense, or one playing false. This aspect of godly wisdom should influence not just how we treat fellow worshipers but also how we feel about them. The apostle Peter noted that our “obedience to the truth” should result in “unhypocritical brotherly affection.” (1 Peter 1:22) Yes, our affection for our brothers must not be put on for show. We do not wear masks or play roles in order to deceive others. Our affection must be genuine, heartfelt. If it is, we will earn the trust of our fellow believers, for they will know that we are what we appear to be. Such sincerity paves the way for open and honest relationships between Christians and helps to create a trusting atmosphere in the congregation.
"All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them." (Matthew 7:12)
Only if we treat fellow humans in this way can we prove that we are true followers of Jesus Christ. After saying that we should treat others as we want them to treat us, Jesus added: “This, in fact, is what the Law and the Prophets mean.” When we treat others in the way that Jesus specified, we are acting in harmony with the spirit behind “the Law”—the writings that make up the Bible books of Genesis through Deuteronomy. Besides revealing Jehovah’s purpose to produce a seed that would do away with evil, these books set out the Law given by God to the nation of Israel through Moses in 1513 B.C.E. (Genesis 3:15) Among other things, the Law made it clear that the Israelites were to be just, were not to show partiality, and were to do good to the afflicted and to alien residents in the land.—Leviticus 19:9, 10, 15, 34.
(Watchtower issue: 5/15/08, 2:17, 18)
Monday, February 15, 2010
"Keep your eye on those who cause divisions . . . and avoid them." (Romans 16:17)
God’s loyal ones today are not deceived by apostate ideas. Anointed ones and their Christian associates are quick to avoid and reject apostate ideas. While we gladly submit to governmental authorities in secular matters and remain neutral in worldly conflicts, our loyalty goes to God’s Kingdom. (John 18:36; Romans 13:1-8) With hearts full of gratitude, we stay close to “the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time.” Christ has appointed this slave “over all his belongings.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Therefore, even if we as individuals do not fully understand a certain position taken by the slave class, that is no reason for us to reject it or return to Satan’s world. Instead, loyalty will move us to act humbly and wait on Jehovah to clarify matters.
(Watchtower issue: 8/15/08, 1:14, 15)
It's important to keep in mind *the reason* why we need to avoid those who try to cause divisions. Whenever congregation members begin listening to apostate ideas or allow themselves to become overly-critical in their thinking about others,...it only serves the purpose of causing distractions within the congregation and slowing down the progress of the preaching work and other building projects. It's a waste of time. It benefits no one.
So the following links are 2 previous posts which demonstrate how other servants of God in the past were able to stay focused and on track, by avoiding people who caused divisions or obstacles.
With Speed His Word Runs
the good example set by the 1st century Christians (whose united, unswerving, and determined efforts, produced rapid and expansive results)
Keep Conquering the Evil With the Good
the good example set by Nehemiah and the Jewish exiles who returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (in record time) despite ongoing opposition and constant harassment with attempts to slow down the building work and halt progress.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Which is clearly incorrect and misleading, (although on a side note, it's sort of refreshing to hear people actually get enthusiastic about God for once! lol) So anyway, I did some extra research on that prophecy in Isaiah, and the following info elaborates on the details of the *initial fulfillment* as well as the *modern-day/future fulfillment*...
Jewish exiles making the journey back to their homeland (illustration and info on pgs 26 & 27 of the 5/15/08 WA)
‘There Will Come to Be the Way of Holiness’
Jehovah foretold that his people who were in Babylonian exile would be restored to their homeland. The prophecy of restoration contained this guarantee: “There will certainly come to be a highway there, even a way; and the Way of Holiness it will be called.” (Isaiah 35:8a) These words show that Jehovah not only opened the way for the Jews to get home but assured them of his protection along the way.
“The Unclean One Will Not Pass Over It”
In 537 B.C.E., the returning Jews had to meet an important requirement. Regarding those qualified to walk on “the Way of Holiness,” Isaiah 35:8b states: “The unclean one will not pass over it. And it will be for the one walking on the way, and no foolish ones will wander about on it.” Since the purpose of the Jews’ return to Jerusalem was to reestablish pure worship, there would be no place for those who had selfish motives, lacked respect for sacred things, or were spiritually unclean. The returnees needed to maintain Jehovah’s high moral standards. Those desiring God’s favor today need to meet the same requirement. They must pursue “holiness in God’s fear.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
Photo of the Cyrus Cylinder and following info on (pg 332 of Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2)
Exiles Return From Babylon
In 607 B.C.E. the once-prosperous land of Judah was made “a desolate waste, without an inhabitant,” as Jewish captives were led away to exile in Babylon and a remnant fled to Egypt. (Jeremiah 9:11) The God of loving-kindness, though, would not leave his people in exile forever. He foretold that they would “have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years,” after which he would deliver a faithful remnant. (Jeremiah 25:11, 12; 29:10-14) And not even the seemingly impregnable world power of Babylon could thwart God’s stated purpose. The return of the Jewish exiles demonstrates the unerring accuracy with which Jehovah’s prophecies are fulfilled.
Even before the end of the 70 years of exile, Babylon fell, in 539 B.C.E., to the invading armies of Persian King Cyrus. Then, during his first year as ruler of Babylon, Cyrus issued a decree opening the way for the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:1-4) A remnant that may have numbered 200,000 (including men, women, and children) made the journey, arriving in Judah in 537 B.C.E. (Ezra 1:5–3:1; 4:1) Thus the 70 years’ desolation ended exactly on time!
Not all the exiles returned at that time, however. In 468 B.C.E., another group of returnees accompanied the priest Ezra, who brought to Jerusalem gifts for the temple. (Ezra 7:1–8:32) Then in 455 B.C.E., Nehemiah traveled from Shushan to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. (Nehemiah 2:5, 6, 11) As to the exact route followed by the returnees, the Scriptures are silent. Some reasonable possibilities are shown on the map.
Map of possible return routes of the returning exiles back to Jerusalem - (pg 332 of Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2)
(the following illustrations and info are taken from chapter 28, Paradise Restored, of Isaiah's Prophecy Vol. 1)
Aglow With the Spirit
The words of Isaiah chapter 35 have a ring of joy. The prophet is proclaiming a bright future for the repentant nation. (Who were punished with 70 years of exile for their earlier apostasy). Indeed, he speaks with conviction and optimism. Two centuries later, at the threshold of their restoration, exiled Jews need the same conviction and optimism. Through Isaiah, Jehovah prophetically exhorts them: “Strengthen the weak hands, you people, and make the knees that are wobbling firm. Say to those who are anxious at heart: ‘Be strong. Do not be afraid. Look! Your own God will come with vengeance itself, God even with a repayment. He himself will come and save you people.’”—Isaiah 35:3, 4.
The end of the long exile is a time for action. King Cyrus of Persia, the instrument of Jehovah’s vengeance against Babylon, has proclaimed that Jehovah’s worship is to be restored in Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 36:22, 23) Thousands of Hebrew families need to get organized in order to make the hazardous trip from Babylon to Jerusalem. When they arrive there, they will have to erect adequate living facilities and prepare for the monumental task of rebuilding the temple and the city. For some Jews in Babylon, all of this may seem daunting. However, it is no time to be weak or apprehensive. The Jews are to strengthen one another and have confidence in Jehovah. He assures them that they will be saved.
(Illustration of Jewish exiles cultivating and restoring the land)
A Desolate Land Rejoices
Isaiah’s inspired prophecy of Paradise restored begins with these words: “The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron. Without fail it will blossom, and it will really be joyful with joyousness and with glad crying out. The glory of Lebanon itself must be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and of Sharon. There will be those who will see the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God.”—Isaiah 35:1, 2.
Isaiah writes these words about the year 732 B.C.E. Some 125 years later, the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and the people of Judah are sent into exile. Their homeland is left uninhabited, desolated. (2 Kings 25:8-11, 21-26) In this way Jehovah’s warning that the people of Israel would go into exile if they proved unfaithful is fulfilled. (Deuteronomy 28:15, 36, 37; 1 Kings 9:6-8) When the Hebrew nation becomes captive in a foreign land, their well-irrigated fields and orchards are left unattended for 70 years and become like a wilderness.—Isaiah 64:10; Jeremiah 4:23-27; 9:10-12.
However, Isaiah’s prophecy foretells that the land will not lie desolate forever. It will be restored to a veritable paradise. “The glory of Lebanon” and “the splendor of Carmel and of Sharon” will be given to it. How? Upon their return from exile, the Jews are again able to cultivate and irrigate their fields, and their land returns to the rich fruitfulness that it had before. For this, credit can go only to Jehovah. It is by his will and with his support and blessing that the Jews get to enjoy such paradiselike conditions. People are able to see “the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of [their] God” when they acknowledge Jehovah’s hand in the amazing transformation of their land.
Nevertheless, in the restored land of Israel, there is a more important fulfillment of Isaiah’s words. In a spiritual sense, Israel has been in a dry, desertlike state for many years. While the exiles were in Babylon, pure worship was severely restricted. There was no temple, no altar, and no organized priesthood. Daily sacrifices were suspended. Now, Isaiah prophesies a reversal. Under the leadership of such men as Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, representatives from all 12 tribes of Israel return to Jerusalem, rebuild the temple, and worship Jehovah freely. (Ezra 2:1, 2) This is indeed a spiritual paradise!
The Scriptures describe ancient Lebanon as a fruitful land with luxuriant forests and majestic cedars, comparable to the Garden of Eden. (Psalm 29:5; 72:16; Ezekiel 28:11-13) Sharon was known for its streams and oak forests; Carmel was famous for its vineyards, orchards, and flower-carpeted slopes.
Jehovah’s People Rejoice
Chapter 35 of Isaiah’s prophecy ends on a joyful note: “The very ones redeemed by Jehovah will return and certainly come to Zion with a joyful cry; and rejoicing to time indefinite will be upon their head. To exultation and rejoicing they will attain, and grief and sighing must flee away.” (Isaiah 35:10) The captive Jews who have looked to this prophecy for comfort and hope during their exile may have wondered how its various details would be fulfilled. Likely they have not understood many aspects of the prophecy. Still, it has been crystal clear that they would “return and certainly come to Zion.”
Hence, in the year 537 B.C.E., some 50,000 men (including more than 7,000 slaves and temple singers) along with women and children make the four-month journey back to Jerusalem, with full confidence in Jehovah. (Ezra 2:64, 65) Just a few months later, Jehovah’s altar is rebuilt, setting the stage for a full reconstruction of the temple. The 200-year-old prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled. The nation’s grief and sighing while in Babylon is replaced by exultation and rejoicing in the restored land. Jehovah has fulfilled his promise. Paradise—both literal and spiritual—has been restored!
“The Way of Holiness”
Before the exiled Jews can enjoy such physical and spiritual paradisaic conditions, however, they will have to make the long and hazardous journey from Babylon to Jerusalem. Taking a direct route would mean crossing some 500 miles [800 km] of arid, inhospitable terrain.
A less-challenging route would involve traveling 1,000 miles [1,600 km]. Either journey would mean spending months exposed to the elements and in danger of meeting both wild beasts and beastlike men. Still, those who believe Isaiah’s prophecy are not overly concerned. Why?
Through Isaiah, Jehovah promises: “There will certainly come to be a highway there, even a way; and the Way of Holiness it will be called. The unclean one will not pass over it. And it will be for the one walking on the way, and no foolish ones will wander about on it. No lion will prove to be there, and the rapacious sort of wild beasts will not come up on it. None will be found there; and the repurchased ones must walk there.” (Isaiah 35:8, 9) Jehovah has reclaimed his people! They are his “repurchased ones,” and he guarantees them safe conduct on their way home. Is there a literal paved, elevated, and fenced-in road from Babylon to Jerusalem? No, but Jehovah’s protection of his people on their journey is so sure that it is as if they were on such a highway.—Compare Psalm 91:1-16.
The Jews are also protected from spiritual dangers. The figurative highway is “the Way of Holiness.” Those who disrespect sacred things or are spiritually unclean are not qualified to travel on it. They are not wanted in the restored land. Approved ones are rightly motivated. They are not returning to Judah and Jerusalem in a spirit of national pride or in pursuit of personal interests. Spiritually-minded Jews realize that the principal reason for their return is to reestablish the pure worship of Jehovah in that land.—Ezra 1:1-3.
Jehovah Refreshes His People
It is difficult to imagine a paradise without water. The original Paradise in Eden had an abundance of water. (Genesis 2:10-14) The land given to Israel was also “a land of torrent valleys of water, springs and watery deeps issuing forth.” (Deuteronomy 8:7) Appropriately, then, Isaiah makes this refreshing promise: “In the wilderness waters will have burst out, and torrents in the desert plain. And the heat-parched ground will have become as a reedy pool, and the thirsty ground as springs of water. In the abiding place of jackals, a resting-place for them, there will be green grass with reeds and papyrus plants.” (Isaiah 35:6b, 7) When the Israelites again care for the land, the desolate areas where jackals once roamed will be covered with verdant, luxuriant vegetation. Dry and dusty ground will be transformed into “a swampy place” where papyrus and other aquatic reeds can grow.—Job 8:11.
More important, though, is the spiritual water of truth, which the repatriated Jews will enjoy in abundance. Jehovah will provide knowledge, encouragement, and comfort through his Word. Moreover, faithful older men and princes will be “like streams of water in a waterless country.” (Isaiah 32:1, 2) Those who promote pure worship, such as Ezra, Haggai, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Zechariah, Zerubbabel, will indeed be living testimony to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.—Ezra 5:1, 2; 7:6, 10; Nehemiah 12:47.
The Birth of a New Nation
Of course, in the sixth century B.C.E., the fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 35 is limited. The paradisaic conditions enjoyed by the repatriated Jews do not last. In time, false religious teachings and nationalism contaminate pure worship. Spiritually, the Jews again experience grief and sighing. Jehovah eventually rejects them as his people. (Matthew 21:43) Because of renewed disobedience, their rejoicing is not permanent. All of this points to a further, greater fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 35.
In Jehovah’s due time, another Israel, a spiritual one, came into existence. (Galatians 6:16) Jesus set the stage for the birth of this new Israel during his earthly ministry. He restored pure worship, and with his teachings, waters of truth began to flow once again. He healed the sick, both physically and spiritually. A joyful cry went forth as the good news of God’s Kingdom was proclaimed. Seven weeks after his death and resurrection, the glorified Jesus established the Christian congregation, a spiritual Israel made up of Jews and others redeemed by Jesus’ shed blood, begotten as God’s spiritual sons and brothers of Jesus, and anointed by holy spirit.—Acts 2:1-4; Romans 8:16, 17; 1 Peter 1:18, 19.
What of our day?
Does the prophecy of Isaiah have another fulfillment, a more complete one involving the Christian congregation today? Yes.
After the death of the apostles, the number of true anointed Christians greatly diminished, and false Christians, “weeds,” flourished on the world scene. (Matthew 13:36-43; Acts 20:30; 2 Peter 2:1-3) Even when during the 19th century, sincere individuals began to separate themselves from Christendom and seek pure worship, their understanding remained tainted with unscriptural teachings ... In 1919, however, things changed. Jehovah brought his people out of captivity. They began to reject the false teachings that had earlier corrupted their worship. As a result, they enjoyed a healing. They came to be in a spiritual paradise, which even today continues to spread throughout the earth. These restored Christians walk on “the Way of Holiness.” This “Way,” which leads out of Babylon the Great into a spiritual paradise, is open to all spiritually clean worshipers. (1 Peter 1:13-16) ... Disobedient ones and any who behave like rapacious wild beasts are not allowed to corrupt those on God’s highway of holiness. (1 Corinthians 5:11)
What of the future?
Will Isaiah’s prophecy ever be fulfilled in a physical way? Yes.
The miraculous healings by Jesus and his apostles in the first century demonstrated Jehovah’s desire and ability to perform such healings on a large scale in the future. The inspired Psalms speak of everlasting life in peaceful conditions on earth. (Psalm 37:9, 11, 29) Jesus promised life in Paradise. (Luke 23:43) Down to its very last book, the Bible provides hope for a literal paradise. At that time, the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the speechless will be healed physically and permanently. Grief and sighing will flee away. Rejoicing will indeed be to time indefinite, even forever.—Revelation 7:9, 16, 17; 21:3, 4.
While true Christians await the restoration of the physical earthly Paradise, even now they enjoy the blessings of the spiritual paradise. They face trials and tribulations with optimism. With unwavering confidence in Jehovah, they encourage one another, heeding the admonition: “Strengthen the weak hands, you people, and make the knees that are wobbling firm. Say to those who are anxious at heart: ‘Be strong. Do not be afraid.’” They have complete trust in the prophetic assurance: “Look! Your own God will come with vengeance itself, God even with a repayment. He himself will come and save you people.”—Isaiah 35:3, 4.