Now Is the Time for Decisive Action
“How long will you be limping upon two different opinions?”—1 KINGS 18:21.
1. What makes our time so different from the past?
DO YOU believe that Jehovah is the only true God? Do you also believe that Bible prophecies point to our time as “the last days” of Satan’s wicked system? (2 Timothy 3:1) If so, you will surely agree that now, of all times, there is a need for decisive action. Never before in human history have so many lives been at stake.
2. What happened in the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel during the reign of King Ahab?
2 In the tenth century B.C.E., the nation of Israel needed to make a very serious decision. Whom would they serve? King Ahab, under the influence of his pagan wife, Jezebel, promoted Baal worship in the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. Baal was a fertility god who was supposed to provide rain and fruitful crops. Many Baal worshippers may have blown a kiss or bowed down to an idol of their god. To induce Baal to bless their crops and livestock, his worshippers took part in sex orgies with temple prostitutes. They also had the custom of cutting themselves to make blood flow.—1 Kings 18:28.
3. What effect did Baal worship have on God’s people?
3 A remnant of some 7,000 Israelites refused to take part in this idolatrous, immoral, violent form of worship. (1 Kings 19:18) They loyally stuck to their covenant relationship with Jehovah God, and for this they were persecuted. For example, Queen Jezebel murdered many prophets of Jehovah. (1 Kings 18:4, 13) Because of these trying conditions, the majority of the Israelites practiced interfaith, trying to please both Jehovah and Baal. But it was apostasy for an Israelite to turn away from Jehovah and worship a false god. Jehovah promised to bless the Israelites if they loved him and obeyed his commandments. However, he warned them that if they failed to give him “exclusive devotion,” they would be annihilated.—Deuteronomy 5:6-10; 28:15, 63.
4. What did Jesus and his apostles foretell would happen among Christians, and how has it been fulfilled?
4 A similar situation exists in Christendom today. Church members claim to be Christians, but their holidays, behavior, and beliefs conflict with Bible teachings. Like Jezebel, Christendom’s clergy spearhead the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Christendom’s clergy also have a long record of supporting wars and are thus responsible for the deaths of countless millions of church members. Such religious support of worldly governments is identified in the Bible as spiritual fornication. (Revelation 18:2, 3) In addition, Christendom has become increasingly tolerant of literal fornication, even among its clergy. Jesus Christ and his apostles foretold this great apostasy. (Matthew 13:36-43; Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Peter 2:1, 2) What will be the final outcome for the more than one billion adherents of Christendom? And what responsibility do true worshippers of Jehovah have toward these and all others who have been misled by false religion? We get a clear answer to such questions by examining the dramatic events that led to the ‘annihilation of Baal out of Israel.’—2 Kings 10:28.
God’s Love for His Wayward People
5. How did Jehovah show loving concern for his wayward people?
5 Jehovah God takes no delight in punishing those who become unfaithful to him. As a loving Father, he desires that wicked ones repent and turn back to him. (Ezekiel 18:32; 2 Peter 3:9) As evidence of this, Jehovah used many prophets in the days of Ahab and Jezebel to warn His people of the consequences of Baal worship. Elijah was one such prophet. After a devastating drought, which was announced in advance, Elijah told King Ahab to gather the Israelites and Baal prophets together on Mount Carmel.—1 Kings 18:1, 19.
6, 7. (a) How did Elijah expose the root cause of Israel’s apostasy? (b) What did the Baal prophets do? (c) What did Elijah do?
6 The meeting took place at the site of an altar of Jehovah that had been “torn down,” probably to please Jezebel. (1 Kings 18:30) Sadly, the Israelites in attendance were not sure who—Jehovah or Baal—was in the best position to produce the much-needed rain. Baal was represented by 450 prophets, whereas Elijah was the only prophet representing Jehovah. Getting to the root of their problem, Elijah asked the people: “How long will you be limping upon two different opinions?” Then, in even plainer words, he placed the issue before them: “If Jehovah is the true God, go following him; but if Baal is, go following him.” To move the indecisive Israelites to render exclusive devotion to Jehovah, Elijah proposed a test of Godship. Two bulls were to be slaughtered as a sacrifice, one for Jehovah and the other for Baal. The true God would consume his sacrifice with fire. The Baal prophets got their sacrifice ready, and then for hours they kept calling: “O Baal, answer us!” When Elijah began to mock them, they cut themselves until blood flowed, and they shouted at the top of their voice. But there was no answer.—1 Kings 18:21, 26-29.
7 Now came Elijah’s turn. First, he repaired the altar of Jehovah and placed the pieces of the young bull on it. Next, he ordered that four large jars of water be poured on the sacrifice. This was done three times until the trench around the altar was filled with water. Then Elijah prayed: “O Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that you are God in Israel and I am your servant and it is by your word that I have done all these things. Answer me, O Jehovah, answer me, that this people may know that you, Jehovah, are the true God and you yourself have turned their heart back.”—1 Kings 18:30-37.
8. How did God respond to Elijah’s prayer, and what action did the prophet take?
8 The true God responded by consuming both sacrifice and altar with fire from heaven. That fire consumed even the water in the trench around the altar! Imagine the effect on the Israelites. “They immediately fell upon their faces and said: ‘Jehovah is the true God! Jehovah is the true God!’” Elijah now took further decisive action, ordering the Israelites: “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let a single one of them escape!” All 450 Baal prophets were then executed at the foot of Mount Carmel.—1 Kings 18:38-40.
9. How were true worshippers still tested?
9 On that same unforgettable day, Jehovah caused rain to fall upon the land for the first time in three and a half years! (James 5:17, 18) You can imagine all the talk among the Israelites as they returned home; Jehovah had vindicated his Godship. The Baal worshippers, however, did not give up. Jezebel continued her campaign of persecuting Jehovah’s servants. (1 Kings 19:1, 2; 21:11-16) Thus the integrity of God’s people was again tested. Would they be giving exclusive devotion to Jehovah when his day of judgment against Baal worshippers came?
Act Decisively Now
10. (a) In modern times, what have anointed Christians been doing? (b) What does it mean to obey the command found at Revelation 18:4?
10 In modern times, anointed Christians have done a work like that of Elijah. By word of mouth and by the printed page, they have warned people of all nations inside and outside of Christendom about the danger of false religion. As a result, millions have taken decisive action to end their membership in false religion. They have dedicated their lives to Jehovah and have become baptized disciples of Jesus Christ. Yes, they have heeded God’s urgent appeal respecting false religion: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.”—Revelation 18:4.
11. What is needed to have Jehovah’s approval?
11 Other millions, while attracted to the Bible-based message spread by Jehovah’s Witnesses, are still unsure about what they should do. Some of these occasionally come to Christian meetings, such as the observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal or sessions of a district convention. We urge all such ones to consider carefully Elijah’s words: “How long will you sit on the fence?” (1 Kings 18:21, New English Bible) Instead of delaying, they need to take decisive action now and zealously work toward the goal of becoming dedicated, baptized worshippers of Jehovah. Their prospects for everlasting life are at stake!—2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.
12. Into what dangerous condition have some baptized Christians slipped, and what should they do?
12 Sadly, some baptized Christians have become irregular or inactive in their worship. (Hebrews 10:23-25; 13:15, 16) Some have lost their zeal because of fear of persecution, the anxieties of making a living, efforts to get rich, or the pursuit of selfish pleasures. Jesus warned that these very things would stumble, choke, and ensnare some of his followers. (Matthew 10:28-33; 13:20-22; Luke 12:22-31; 21:34-36) Instead of ‘limping on two opinions,’ as it were, such ones should “be zealous and repent” by taking decisive action to carry out their dedication to God.—Revelation 3:15-19.
False Religion’s Sudden End
13. Describe the situation in Israel when Jehu was anointed as king.
13 The reason why it is urgent for humans to take decisive action now is seen in what happened in Israel about 18 years after the issue of Godship was settled on Mount Carmel. Jehovah’s day of judgment against Baal worship came suddenly and unexpectedly during the ministry of Elijah’s successor, Elisha. King Ahab’s son Jehoram was ruling Israel, and Jezebel was still alive as queen mother. Quietly, Elisha sent his attendant to anoint Israel’s army chief, Jehu, as the new king. At the time, Jehu was on the east side of the Jordan at Ramoth-gilead, directing a war against Israel’s enemies. King Jehoram was at Jezreel in the valley plain near Megiddo, recovering from a battle wound.—2 Kings 8:29–9:4.
14, 15. What commission did Jehu receive, and how did he respond?
14 This is what Jehovah commanded Jehu to do: “You must strike down the house of Ahab your lord, and I must avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the servants of Jehovah at the hand of Jezebel. And the whole house of Ahab must perish; . . . Jezebel the dogs will eat up in the tract of land at Jezreel, and there will be no one burying her.”—2 Kings 9:7-10.
15 Jehu was a decisive man. Without delay, he got into his chariot and sped toward Jezreel. A watchman at Jezreel recognized the driving of Jehu and reported to King Jehoram, whereupon Jehoram got into his chariot and went out to meet his army chief. When they met, Jehoram asked: “Is there peace, Jehu?” Jehu replied: “What peace could there be as long as there are the fornications of Jezebel your mother and her many sorceries?” Then, before King Jehoram could flee, Jehu drew his bow and killed Jehoram with an arrow that pierced his heart.—2 Kings 9:20-24.
16. (a) What situation did Jezebel’s court officials suddenly face? (b) How was Jehovah’s word about Jezebel fulfilled?
16 Wasting no time, Jehu raced to the city in his chariot. Looking down from a window, the heavily made-up Jezebel greeted Jehu with a challenging threat. Ignoring her, Jehu called for support: “Who is with me? Who?” Jezebel’s attendants now had to act decisively. Two or three court officials stuck their heads out of the window. Immediately, their loyalty was put to the test. “Let her drop!” ordered Jehu. The officials let Jezebel drop to the street below, where she was trampled by Jehu’s horses and chariot. Thus the instigator of Baal worship in Israel came to her deserved end. Before there was time to bury her, dogs had eaten up her fleshy parts, just as foretold.—2 Kings 9:30-37.
17. God’s judgment upon Jezebel should strengthen our faith in what future event?
17 A similar shocking end will come to the symbolic harlot who has the name “Babylon the Great.” The harlot represents the false religions of Satan’s world, which have their origin in the ancient city of Babylon. After false religion’s end, Jehovah God will turn his attention to all humans who make up the secular parts of Satan’s world. These will also be destroyed, preparing the way for a righteous new world.—Revelation 17:3-6; 19:19-21; 21:1-4.
18. After Jezebel’s death, what happened to Baal worshippers in Israel?
18 After Jezebel’s death, King Jehu wasted no time in executing all Ahab’s descendants and key supporters. (2 Kings 10:11) But many Baal-worshipping Israelites remained in the land. Concerning these, Jehu took decisive action to show his “toleration of no rivalry toward Jehovah.” (2 Kings 10:16) Pretending to be a Baal worshipper himself, Jehu organized a great festival at the temple of Baal that Ahab had built in Samaria. All Baal worshippers in Israel came to the festival. Trapped inside the temple, they were all slaughtered by Jehu’s men. The Bible concludes the account with the words: “Thus Jehu annihilated Baal out of Israel.”—2 Kings 10:18-28.
19. What grand prospect awaits the “great crowd” of Jehovah’s loyal worshippers?
19 Baal worship was eradicated from Israel. Just as surely, this world’s false religions will come to a sudden, shocking end. On whose side will you be during that great day of judgment? Act decisively now, and you may be privileged to be included among the “great crowd” of human survivors of “the great tribulation.” Then you will be able to look back with joy, and you will praise God for executing judgment on “the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication.” United with other true worshippers, you will be in agreement with the thrilling words that heavenly voices sing: “Praise Jah, you people, because Jehovah our God, the Almighty, has begun to rule as king.”—Revelation 7:9, 10, 14; 19:1, 2, 6.
Questions for Meditation
• How did ancient Israel become guilty of Baal worship?
• What great apostasy did the Bible foretell, and how has that prophecy been fulfilled?
• How did Jehu eradicate Baal worship?
• What must we do to survive God’s day of judgment?
[Map on page 25]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
House of Arbel
[Bodies of water]
Sea of Galilee
[Spring and well]
Well of Harod
Based on maps copyrighted by Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est. and Survey of Israel
[Pictures on page 26]
Regularly sharing in Kingdom preaching and attending Christian meetings are vital aspects of true worship
[Picture on page 28, 29]
Like Jehu, all who want to survive Jehovah’s day must take decisive action