|CHRISTIAN LIFE AND DOCTRINE||October 1998|
Examples of Faithfulness
Some Old Testament Examples
“Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me: for Thou art the God of my salvation; on Thee do I wait all the day.” —Psalm 25:5
ONE OF THE symbolisms used in the Scriptures to illustrate the condition of the world of mankind in its alienation from God through sin is that of darkness. The whole period of the reign of sin and death is pictured as a nighttime, when “darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people.” (Isa. 60:2) The Scriptures also reveal that this nighttime of sorrow is to terminate in a morning of joy, as the psalmist declares: “Weeping may endure for a night,” “joy cometh in the morning.”—Ps. 30:5
The new day of righteousness and joy will come as a result of the rising of the “Sun of Righteousness” (Mal. 4:2), and in that daytime of peace and joy, all mankind will be enlightened concerning God and his laws; for the knowledge of his glory will then fill the whole earth as the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:9) No one then will need to say to his neighbor, “Know the Lord” for all shall know him “from the least of them unto the greatest.”—Jer. 31:31-34
NIGHTTIME OF SIN
But we have not yet reached that time of universal knowledge. For the world in general, the darkness of the long night of sin and alienation from God is more pronounced than ever before, causing countless millions to lose all faith in God and in his promises.
Throughout the nighttime experience of the human race, however, there have always been a few to whom the Lord has revealed the light of truth concerning his will for them and his plan for the blessing of all mankind. This has been a highly favored class. Of those who were thus blessed in Jesus’ day he said, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” (Matt. 13:16) Also, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.”—Matt. 13:11
While many important features of the Divine plan were not brought to light until the coming of Jesus at his First Advent, prior to that time, beginning with Abel, the Lord revealed the truth to his special servants to the extent that it was necessary in order that they might be able to intelligently cooperate with him in the outworking of his plans and purposes. To each in his turn God showed the light, and those who appreciated this great favor recognized the responsibility thus imposed, and met those responsibilities even at the cost of sacrifice. They all bound their sacrifices with cords “even unto the horns of the altar.”—Ps. 118:27
In our relationship with God it is fundamentally important to always remember that he has not favored us with the light of truth simply to satisfy our curiosity, or that we might have a feeling of well-being because of enjoying a better understanding of the Bible than some of our neighbors. Being in the truth must mean more to us—much more—than the fact that we have the best religion in the world, or that our doubts have all been cleared up and our fears set aside. If the eyes of our understanding have been enlightened with present truth, it is because God has called us into his service and has something important for us to do.
EXAMPLE OF ABEL
Abel was the first of God’s servants to lose his life because of faithfulness to truth as it was revealed to him. Paul explains that it was Abel’s faith that enabled him to offer a sacrifice that was more acceptable to God than was Cain’s. (Heb. 11:4) Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, so it is evident that God made known to Abel the nature of the sacrifice which would be acceptable.
And the reason for this is apparent, for in the outworking of his plan, even at that early date, God was beginning to point forward by symbol to the fact that without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin. Abel might not have understood this point, but the important consideration was that the Lord had indicated what kind of sacrifice he wanted, and Abel was faithful to the truth as it was revealed to him.
EXAMPLE OF NOAH
It was important information to Noah that a flood was coming, and that there would be an opportunity for some to be saved from the destruction to be wrought by the Deluge. Truly he was honored! But there was a purpose in it. God gave Noah this light because there was something to be done. There was an ark to be built, and a witness that needed to be given to the people of that day, and Noah was the one selected by the Lord to be his coworker in doing these things. Neither of these tasks was an easy one. Together they imposed a load of responsibility upon Noah that could be carried out faithfully only by the Lord’s daily help. But Noah accepted the responsibility. (Gen. 6:8) God showed him the light, and he bound his sacrifice even to the horns of the altar.
THE EXAMPLES OF MOSES AND ISAIAH
The Lord revealed the light to Moses at the burning bush, not merely to reassure him concerning his love for the Hebrew children, but because the time had come when they were to be delivered from Egyptian bondage. (Exod. 3:2-10) Moses was chosen by the Lord for the great task of leading them forth to liberty. After making sure of the Lord’s will in the matter, and that Divine grace would supply all his needs, Moses accepted the responsibility and for forty long years carried its weight. It was a glorious vision of truth which the Lord gave to Moses at the burning bush, but a very costly one. The truth is costly to all who are faithful to it.
God’s dealings with all his holy prophets were along the same general line as we have noted in connection with Abel, Noah, and Moses. He took them into his confidence with respect to the special features of truth which were pertinent to their times, not merely as a favor, but because there was something he wanted them to do. Isaiah, for example, was given a vision of the Lord, “High and lifted up.” (Isa. 6:1) The sight of such glory and perfection caused the prophet to exclaim, “I am a man of unclean lips” (vs. 5); that is, he was made to feel his own unworthiness, and his inability properly to speak for the Lord.
But in the vision, the prophet’s lips were made clean by a coal from off the altar. Then he heard the Lord inquire, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (vs. 8) To Isaiah this was the real import of the vision. To him this was the means the Lord was employing to call him into service. He had been shown the light, not merely that he might rejoice in the Lord’s glory, but because the Lord had a mission for him to perform. Isaiah was quick to catch the meaning of the vision, and responded, “Here am I; send me.”—vs. 8
Of Jeremiah, the Lord asked, “What seest thou?” In response, the prophet described a vision which had to do with the destruction of Israel and the Babylonian captivity. (Jer. 1:11,13) This was a vision of present truth to Jeremiah, and the purpose of it was that he should bear testimony to Israel concerning it. “I have put my words in thy mouth,” said the Lord to the prophet. (Jer. 1:9) What an honor was thus bestowed upon him, but how costly; for it imposed upon the prophet the responsibility of testifying to the people a message that was unpopular and for which he was caused to suffer and eventually to die. But he was faithful. He bound his sacrifice to the altar.
In the experience of the Prophet Ezekiel we have a similar lesson emphasized. To him also the Lord gave a vision of his glory. Writing about it the prophet explained that “the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.” (Ezek. 1:1) In the next chapter of his prophecy Ezekiel wrote, “He said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me.”—Ezek. 2:1-3
Thus again we have the same sequence in God’s dealings with his servants: first, the vision of his glory, and then the directive to go and tell the message. God uses various methods by which to reveal his glory to his servants, but the general results are always the same, for thereby he enlightens his coworkers with a knowledge of himself and of his plans and purposes as they relate to the time and people involved.
The tasks assigned to Noah, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel differed only in detail, for they all were given a message to declare. Noah was to preach righteousness to “the world that then was” (II Pet. 3:6); Moses was to appear before Pharaoh and demand the release of the Israelites, and was also to acquaint the Hebrew children themselves with God’s plan to deliver them from bondage; all the prophets were given a message to Israel—a message costly to deliver. Of all these it was true that God showed them the light, and in response they ‘bound their sacrifice to the altar’ (Ps. 118:27) by faithfully performing the mission assigned to them.
The foregoing were only a few references to loyal men of old who were true examples of faithfulness to the truth, and to our God, Jehovah. May we who are living today emulate their patterns.