Faithful Ones of Old—Guided by God’s Spirit
“The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has sent me, even his spirit.”—ISA. 48:16.
1, 2. What is needed in order to demonstrate faith, and what encouragement will we find by considering faithful ones of old?
THOUGH it has been in evidence since the days of Abel, “faith is not a possession of all people.” (2 Thess. 3:2) So why does a person have this quality, and what enables him to be faithful? To a large extent, faith follows the things heard from God’s Word. (Rom. 10:17) It is an aspect of the fruitage of God’s holy spirit. (Gal. 5:22, 23) Therefore, to demonstrate and exercise faith, we need holy spirit.
2 It would be a mistake to conclude that men and women of faith are born that way, that faith comes naturally. The exemplary servants we read about in the Bible were people “with feelings like ours.” (Jas. 5:17) They had doubts, insecurities, and weaknesses but “were made powerful” by God’s spirit to face challenges. (Heb. 11:34) By considering how Jehovah’s spirit operated on them, we today will be encouraged to continue in our course of faithfulness, living as we do at this time when our faith is under attack.
God’s Spirit Empowered Moses
3-5. (a) How do we know that Moses acted with the help of holy spirit? (b) What does Moses’ example teach us about Jehovah’s giving his spirit?
3 Of all humans alive in 1513 B.C.E., Moses was “by far the meekest.” (Num. 12:3) This mild-tempered servant was entrusted with enormous responsibility in the nation of Israel. God’s spirit empowered Moses to prophesy, judge, write, lead, and perform miracles. (Read Isaiah 63:11-14.) Yet, at one point, Moses lamented that the load was simply too heavy. (Num. 11:14, 15) So Jehovah took “away some of the spirit” that was upon Moses and put it on 70 others to help carry the workload. (Num. 11:16, 17) Although Moses’ load seemed too heavy, he had, in fact, not been carrying it alone—neither would the 70 who were appointed to assist him carry it alone.
4 Moses had been given holy spirit sufficient for the task. After the change, Moses still had all the spirit that he needed. Moses did not have too little, and the 70 older men did not have too much. Jehovah supplies as much of his spirit as we need, according to our circumstances. “He does not give the spirit by measure” but gives “from out of his fullness.”—John 1:16; 3:34.
5 Are you enduring trials? Are legitimate demands on your time increasing? Are you striving to provide for the spiritual and physical needs of your family while coping with rising expenses or anxieties over health? Are you carrying weighty responsibilities in the congregation? Be assured that by means of his spirit, God can give you the strength you need to cope with any situation.—Rom. 15:13.
Holy Spirit Made Bezalel Qualified
6-8. (a) What did God’s spirit enable Bezalel and Oholiab to do? (b) What shows that Bezalel and Oholiab were guided by God’s spirit? (c) Why is Bezalel’s experience particularly encouraging?
6 The experience of Moses’ contemporary Bezalel reveals much about the way God’s spirit can operate. (Read Exodus 35:30-35.) Bezalel was appointed to take the lead in making the necessary furnishings for the tabernacle. Did he have knowledge of crafts prior to this vast project? Possibly, but in all likelihood his most recent job was that of making bricks for the Egyptians. (Ex. 1:13, 14) So how would Bezalel fulfill his complicated task? Jehovah “proceeded to fill him with the spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in every sort of craftsmanship and for designing devices . . . to make ingenious products of every sort.” Whatever natural aptitude Bezalel may have had was enhanced by holy spirit. The same is true of Oholiab. Bezalel and Oholiab must have learned well, for they not only performed their duties but also taught others what to do. Yes, God put it into their hearts to teach.
7 Another testimony that Bezalel and Oholiab were guided by God’s spirit is the amazing durability of their work. Their productions were still in use some 500 years later. (2 Chron. 1:2-6) Unlike modern-day manufacturers, Bezalel and Oholiab had no interest in leaving their signature or trademark on their work. All credit went to Jehovah for their accomplishments.—Ex. 36:1, 2.
8 Today, we may be faced with daunting tasks requiring special skills, such as building, printing, organizing conventions, administering disaster relief, and communicating with doctors and hospital personnel about our Scriptural position on the use of blood. At times, these deeds are performed by skilled workers, but more often they are carried out by volunteers without much background in a specific field. God’s spirit makes their efforts succeed. Have you held back from accepting an assignment in Jehovah’s service, feeling that others were more qualified than you? Remember, Jehovah’s spirit can enhance your knowledge and abilities and help you to fulfill any assignment he gives you.
Joshua Succeeded With the Help of God’s Spirit
9. In what circumstance did the Israelites find themselves after the Exodus, and what question arose?
9 God’s spirit also guided a contemporary of Moses and Bezalel. Shortly after the Exodus, the Amalekites launched an unprovoked attack on God’s people. The time had come for the Israelites to repel the threat. Although totally unaccustomed to war, the Israelites had to engage in their first military action as a freed people. (Ex. 13:17; 17:8) Someone was needed to lead the fighting force. Who would it be?
10. Why did the Israelites under Joshua prove victorious in combat?
10 Joshua was chosen. But if he had to state his previous work experience to qualify for that mission, what could he have listed? Slave laborer? Straw mixer? Manna gatherer? True, Joshua’s grandfather Elishama was chieftain of the tribe of Ephraim and apparently led 108,100 men of one of the three-tribe divisions of Israel. (Num. 2:18, 24; 1 Chron. 7:26, 27) Yet, Jehovah directed through Moses that, neither Elishama nor his son Nun, but Joshua was to lead the force that would vanquish the enemy. The battle lasted the greater part of a day. With Joshua’s implicit obedience and his keen appreciation for the guidance of God’s holy spirit, Israel proved victorious.—Ex. 17:9-13.
11. How can we succeed in sacred service as Joshua did?
11 Later Joshua, “full of the spirit of wisdom,” succeeded Moses. (Deut. 34:9) Holy spirit did not produce in him the ability to prophesy or to perform miracles as it had in Moses, but it did enable Joshua to lead Israel in the military campaign that brought about the conquest of Canaan. Today, we may feel inexperienced or underqualified to carry out certain aspects of our sacred service. Yet, like Joshua, we are assured of success if we adhere closely to divine instruction.—Josh. 1:7-9.
“Jehovah’s Spirit Enveloped Gideon”
12-14. (a) That 300 men could rout the overwhelming Midianite horde reveals what? (b) How did Jehovah reassure Gideon? (c) We receive what divine reassurance today?
12 After Joshua’s death, Jehovah continued to demonstrate how his power can strengthen faithful ones. The book of Judges is replete with accounts of humans who “from a weak state were made powerful.” (Heb. 11:34) By means of holy spirit, God impelled Gideon to fight in behalf of His people. (Judg. 6:34) The army Gideon assembled, however, was outnumbered by the Midianite menace 4 to 1. In Jehovah’s eyes even that small Israelite regiment was far too numerous. He twice decreed that Gideon scale back the army until the enemy outnumbered Israelite fighters 450 to 1. (Judg. 7:2-8; 8:10) These were odds that Jehovah favored. If a stunning victory was to take place, who could brag that it was wrought by human effort or wisdom?
13 Gideon and his troops were almost ready. Had you been part of that little band, would you have felt secure in the knowledge that your company had now been pruned of its fearful and less-than-vigilant ones? Or would you have had a twinge of trepidation as you contemplated how matters might work out? We do not have to guess how Gideon felt. He did what he was told to do! (Read Judges 7:9-14.) Jehovah did not reproach Gideon for having asked for a sign as evidence that God would be with him. (Judg. 6:36-40) Rather, he strengthened Gideon’s faith.
14 Jehovah’s power to save is infinite. He can deliver his people from any predicament, even doing so by using those who appear weak or helpless. Sometimes we may feel outnumbered or in desperate straits. We do not expect miraculous affirmation such as Gideon received, but we can draw abundant guidance and reassurance from God’s Word and through his spirit-directed congregation. (Rom. 8:31, 32) Jehovah’s loving promises fortify our faith and convince us that he really is our Helper!
“Jehovah’s Spirit Now Came Upon Jephthah”
15, 16. Why did Jephthah’s daughter have a fine attitude, and how is this encouraging to parents?
15 Consider another example. When the Israelites had to confront the Ammonites in battle, Jehovah’s spirit “came upon Jephthah.” Eager for victory to Jehovah’s praise, Jephthah made a vow that proved costly. He vowed that if God gave Ammon into Jephthah’s hand, the first one to come out of the door when he returned home would be Jehovah’s. As Jephthah returned from subduing Ammon, his daughter came running to meet him. (Judg. 11:29-31, 34) Did this come as a surprise to Jephthah? Not likely, for he had but one child. He fulfilled his vow by devoting his daughter to exclusive service at Jehovah’s sanctuary at Shiloh. Being a loyal worshipper of Jehovah, Jephthah’s daughter was convinced that her father’s vow should be carried out. (Read Judges 11:36.) Jehovah’s spirit gave both of them the strength they needed.
16 How had Jephthah’s daughter developed such a spirit of self-sacrifice? No doubt her faith was built up as she observed her father’s zeal and godly devotion. Parents, your example does not go unnoticed by your children. Your decisions communicate that you believe what you say. Your children observe how your fervent prayers and effective teaching combine with your example of what it means to serve Jehovah with a complete heart. As your children do so, they will likely develop a strong desire to make themselves available to Jehovah for his service. This is a cause for rejoicing.
“Jehovah’s Spirit Became Operative Upon” Samson
17. What did Samson do by means of God’s spirit?
17 Consider another example. When Israel fell captive to the Philistines, “in time Jehovah’s spirit started to impel” Samson to deliver Israel. (Judg. 13:24, 25) Samson was empowered to perform deeds of astonishing, incomparable strength. When the Philistines persuaded Samson’s fellow Israelites to capture him, “Jehovah’s spirit became operative upon him, and the ropes that were upon his arms came to be like linen threads that have been scorched with fire, so that his fetters melted off his hands.” (Judg. 15:14) Even from the physically weakened state brought on by his own poor judgment, Samson was made powerful “through faith.” (Heb. 11:32-34; Judg. 16:18-21, 28-30) Jehovah’s spirit operated on Samson in a unique way because of unusual circumstances. Still, these historical events are of great encouragement to us. How so?
18, 19. (a) Samson’s experience provides what assurance for us? (b) How have you benefited from considering the examples of faithful ones in this article?
18 We rely on the same holy spirit that Samson did. We do so as we carry out the work Jesus gave his followers, namely, “to preach to the people and to give a thorough witness.” (Acts 10:42) This assignment calls for skills that may not come naturally. How grateful we are that Jehovah uses his spirit to enable us to accomplish the wide variety of tasks that we are entrusted with! Thus, as we carry out our commission, we can say as did the prophet Isaiah: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has sent me, even his spirit.” (Isa. 48:16) Yes, it is God’s spirit that has sent us! We set our hearts to the work with the assurance that Jehovah will enhance our qualifications as he did for Moses, Bezalel, and Joshua. We take up “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word,” confident that he will empower us as he empowered Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson. (Eph. 6:17, 18) By leaning on Jehovah for his help in overcoming obstacles, we can be as mighty spiritually as Samson was physically.
19 Clearly, Jehovah blesses those who take a bold stand for true worship. As we respond to the operation of God’s holy spirit, our faith abounds. It will be a pleasure, therefore, to review also some of the exciting events recorded in the Christian Greek Scriptures. That will reveal how Jehovah’s spirit operated upon his faithful servants in the first century, both before and after Pentecost 33 C.E. These accounts will be considered in the following article.
Why are you encouraged to know how God’s spirit operated upon . . .
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God’s spirit can make us as mighty spiritually as Samson was physically
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Parents, your zealous example resonates with your children