“Your Leader is one, the Christ.”—MATT. 23:10.
SONGS: 14, 30
1, 2. What challenges did Joshua face after the death of Moses?
JEHOVAH’S words were still ringing in Joshua’s ears: “Moses my servant is dead. Now get up, cross the Jordan, you and all this people, and go into the land that I am giving to them.” (Josh. 1:2) What a sudden change for Joshua, who had been Moses’ attendant for almost 40 years!
2 Because Moses had been Israel’s leader for so long, Joshua may have wondered how God’s people would respond to his leadership. (Deut. 34:8, 10-12) One Bible reference work, referring to Joshua 1:1, 2, notes: “In both ancient and modern times a transition of leadership is one of the most precarious times in the security of a state.”
3, 4. How do we know that Joshua’s trust in God was not misplaced, and what question might we ask ourselves?
3 Joshua must have had legitimate fears, but within a few days, he took decisive action. (Josh. 1:9-11) His trust in God was not misplaced. As the Bible record shows, Jehovah actually guided Joshua and His people, Israel, by means of an angelic representative. It is reasonable to think that this angel was the Word, God’s firstborn Son.—Ex. 23:20-23; John 1:1.
4 With Jehovah’s help, Israel successfully navigated the transition from Moses’ leadership to that of Joshua. We too are living in times of historic change, and we may wonder, ‘As God’s organization is rapidly moving forward, do we have good reasons to trust in Jesus as our appointed Leader?’ (Read Matthew 23:10.) Well, consider how Jehovah provided trustworthy leadership in the past during times of change.
LEADING GOD’S PEOPLE INTO CANAAN
5. What encounter did Joshua have as he was nearing Jericho? (See opening picture.)
5 Soon after Israel crossed the Jordan, Joshua had an unexpected encounter. As he was nearing Jericho, he met a man carrying a drawn sword. Not knowing who the stranger was, Joshua asked: “Are you on our side or on the side of our adversaries?” To Joshua’s surprise, the warrior revealed his identity. He was none other than the “chief of Jehovah’s army,” who was ready to defend God’s people. (Read Joshua 5:13-15 and footnote.) Although the account in other places refers to Jehovah as speaking directly to Joshua, no doubt God was speaking through his angelic representative, as he often did in the past.—Ex. 3:2-4; Josh. 4:1, 15; 5:2, 9; Acts 7:38; Gal. 3:19.
6-8. (a) Why might some of Jehovah’s instructions have appeared unusual from a human standpoint? (b) How did the instructions prove to be both wise and timely? (See also footnote.)
6 Joshua received clear instructions from the angelic Leader on how to take the city of Jericho. At first, some of the instructions may not have appeared to be a good strategy. For instance, Jehovah commanded that all the men be circumcised, which would leave them indisposed for several days. Was it really the right time to circumcise those able-bodied men?—Gen. 34:24, 25; Josh. 5:2, 8.
7 Likely, those defenseless Israelite soldiers wondered how they would protect their family if enemy warriors raided their camp. But suddenly, the news broke that Jericho was “tightly shut up because of the Israelites.” (Josh. 6:1) Would their trust in God’s direction not have been strengthened by such an unexpected turn of events?
8 In addition, the Israelites were commanded not to attack Jericho but to march around the city once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. Some soldiers may have thought, ‘What a waste of time and energy!’ But Israel’s invisible Leader knew exactly what he was doing. Not only did his strategy strengthen the faith of the Israelites but it also spared them direct confrontation with Jericho’s mighty warriors.—Josh. 6:2-5; Heb. 11:30. *
9. Why should we follow the instructions we receive from God’s organization? Give an example.
9 What can we learn from this account? We may not at times fully comprehend the reasons for new initiatives put forth by the organization. For example, we may at first have questioned the use of electronic devices for personal study, in the ministry, and at the meetings. Now we likely realize the benefits of using them if possible. When we see the positive results of such advancements despite any doubts we might have had, we grow in faith and unity.
CHRIST’S LEADERSHIP IN THE FIRST CENTURY
10. Who was behind the important meeting of the governing body held in Jerusalem?
10 About 13 years after Cornelius’ conversion, some Jewish believers were still promoting circumcision. (Acts 15:1, 2) When dissension broke out in Antioch, it was arranged for Paul to take the matter to the governing body in Jerusalem. But who was behind that direction? Paul stated: “I went up as a result of a revelation.” Obviously, Christ directed matters so that the governing body would settle the dispute.—Gal. 2:1-3.
11. (a) What situation regarding circumcision persisted among Jewish believers? (b) How was Paul’s willingness to support the elders in Jerusalem tested? (See also footnote.)
11 Under Christ’s direction, the governing body made it clear that non-Jewish Christians did not need to be circumcised. (Acts 15:19, 20) But years after this decision, many Jewish believers continued to circumcise their children. When the elders in Jerusalem heard that a rumor was circulating about Paul, that he was not observing the Mosaic Law, they gave him some unexpected instructions. * (Acts 21:20-26) They told him to take four men to the temple so that people would conclude that Paul was “keeping the Law.” Paul could have questioned the wisdom of what they told him to do, objecting that the real problem lay with Jewish Christians who lacked clear understanding of the circumcision issue. However, showing his support for the elders’ desire to promote unity among believers, Paul humbly complied with the orders that he was given. We may wonder, though, ‘Why did Jesus allow this issue to remain unsettled for such a long time when his death had abolished the Mosaic Law?’—Col. 2:13, 14.
12. What might explain why Christ allowed time to pass before resolving the issue of circumcision?
12 For some, it takes time to adjust to a clarification in understanding. Jewish Christians needed sufficient time to adjust their viewpoint. (John 16:12) Some found it hard to accept that circumcision was no longer a sign of a special relationship with God. (Gen. 17:9-12) Others, out of fear of persecution, were reluctant to stand out in Jewish communities. (Gal. 6:12) In time, though, Christ provided further guidance through inspired letters written by Paul.—Rom. 2:28, 29; Gal. 3:23-25.
CHRIST IS STILL LEADING HIS CONGREGATION
13. What can help us to appreciate Christ’s leadership today?
13 When we do not fully understand the reasons for some organizational changes, we do well to reflect on how Christ exercised his leadership in the past. Whether in Joshua’s day or in the first century, Christ has always provided wise direction to protect God’s people as a whole, to strengthen their faith, and to maintain unity among God’s servants.—Heb. 13:8.
14-16. How is Christ’s concern for our spiritual welfare clearly reflected in the direction given by “the faithful and discreet slave”?
14 Jesus’ loving concern for our spiritual welfare is clearly reflected in the timely direction given by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45) Marc, a father of four, says: “Satan is trying to weaken congregations by attacking families. Now with the encouragement to conduct family worship each week, the message is clear for family heads—safeguard your family!”
15 When we discern Christ’s direction, we sense his keen interest in our spiritual advancement. Patrick, who serves as an elder, notes: “At first, some found it discouraging to meet in small groups for field service on weekends. But one of Jesus’ main qualities—his interest in the lowly ones—is clearly seen in this arrangement. Modest or less active brothers and sisters have come to feel more appreciated and useful and, as a result, have grown spiritually.”
16 In addition to caring for our spiritual needs, Christ helps us to keep our focus on the most important work being done on earth today. (Mark 13:10) André, a newly appointed elder, has always been attentive to changes in direction within God’s organization. He says: “The reductions in branch office personnel remind us of the urgency of the times and the need to focus our energy on the preaching activity.”
LOYALLY UPHOLDING CHRIST’S DIRECTION
17, 18. Why is it profitable to reflect on the benefits we have reaped from adjusting to recent changes?
17 As shown by his active direction, our enthroned King, Jesus Christ, is definitely looking to the future. Therefore, let us rejoice over the benefits we derive from adjusting to recent changes. You might find it encouraging during your family worship to discuss how you have benefited from changes in the weekly meetings or in the ministry.
18 If we perceive the spirit behind the instructions we receive from Jehovah’s organization and their beneficial effect on us, we will likely follow that guidance with joy. We certainly appreciate that reducing the amount of literature being printed saves money; using new technologies allows us to further the Kingdom work throughout the earth. Having this in mind, we may be able to use electronic publications and media more extensively if possible. In this way, we will reflect Christ’s concern to use the organization’s resources wisely.
19. Why should we uphold Christ’s direction?
19 When we earnestly uphold Christ’s direction, we strengthen the faith of others and contribute to unity. Reflecting on the reduction of the size of the global Bethel family, André remarks: “The fine spirit shown by former Bethelites who adapted to such changes inspires me with trust and respect. They keep pace with Jehovah’s chariot by finding joy in any assignment they are given.”
WITH EYES OF FAITH, PUT TRUST IN OUR LEADER
20, 21. (a) Why can we trust in Christ, our Leader? (b) What question will we consider in the next article?
20 Our appointed Leader, Jesus Christ, will soon “complete his conquest” and “accomplish awe-inspiring things.” (Rev. 6:2; Ps. 45:4) In the meantime, he is preparing God’s people for the time beyond this system of things when each one of us will share in the vast teaching and building work that will take place during the resurrection.
21 Our anointed King will succeed in leading us into the new world, provided we maintain implicit trust in him despite changing circumstances. (Read Psalm 46:1.) We may, at times, struggle with change, especially when our life takes an unexpected turn. (Ps. 46:1-3) How, then, can we maintain inner peace and full faith in Jehovah? That question will be the subject of the next article.
^ par. 8 Archaeologists found great reserves of grain in Jericho’s rubble, which indicates that the city had not undergone a long siege; nor were its food supplies exhausted. Since the Israelites were not allowed to plunder Jericho, the time was right for them to invade the land, for it was harvest season and abundant food was available in the fields.—Josh. 5:10-12.
^ par. 11 See the box “Paul Humbly Meets a Test” in The Watchtower, March 15, 2003, p. 24.