Be Zealous for Jehovah’s House!
“The zeal for your house will eat me up.”—JOHN 2:17.
1, 2. At the temple in 30 C.E., what did Jesus do, and why?
PICTURE the scene. It is Passover time, 30 C.E. Six months earlier, Jesus began his earthly ministry. Now he makes his way up to Jerusalem. There at the temple in the Court of the Gentiles, Jesus discovers “those selling cattle and sheep and doves and the money brokers in their seats.” Brandishing a whip made of ropes, he drives out all the animals, and the merchants certainly follow them. Jesus also pours out the coins of the money changers and overturns their tables. He orders those selling doves to take what they have and leave.—John 2:13-16.
2 Jesus’ actions relate directly to his concern for the temple. “Stop making the house of my Father a house of merchandise!” he commands. As Jesus’ disciples observe these events, they recall the words penned centuries earlier by the psalmist David: “The zeal for your house will eat me up.”—John 2:16, 17; Ps. 69:9.
3. (a) What is zeal? (b) What question can we ask ourselves?
3 It was Jesus’ concern, his zeal, for God’s house that moved him to act. Zeal is “eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something.” In this 21st century, over seven million Christians manifest concern for God’s house. Individually, we may ask, ‘How can I increase my personal zeal for Jehovah’s house?’ To help us answer that, let us first examine what God’s house is today. Then we will consider Bible examples of faithful men who manifested zeal for it. Their examples were written “for our instruction” and can spur us on to even greater zeal.—Rom. 15:4.
God’s House—Then and Now
4. The temple that Solomon built served what purpose?
4 In ancient Israel, the house of God was the temple in Jerusalem. Of course, Jehovah did not literally live there. He declared: “The heavens are my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where, then, is the house that you people can build for me, and where, then, is the place as a resting-place for me?” (Isa. 66:1) Nevertheless, the temple built during Solomon’s reign served as the focal point for the worship of Jehovah, where prayers were offered.—1 Ki. 8:27-30.
5. What is the modern-day arrangement foreshadowed by worship at Solomon’s temple?
5 Today, Jehovah’s house is no stone edifice in Jerusalem or anywhere else. Rather, it is the arrangement for us to approach him in worship on the basis of Christ’s ransom sacrifice. All of God’s faithful servants on earth unite to worship Jehovah in this spiritual temple.—Isa. 60:4, 8, 13; Acts 17:24; Heb. 8:5; 9:24.
6. Which Judean kings demonstrated outstanding zeal for true worship?
6 After the division of Israel back in 997 B.C.E., 4 out of the 19 kings who ruled Judah, the southern part, demonstrated outstanding zeal for true worship. They were Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah. What important lessons can we learn from their examples?
Wholehearted Service Brings Blessings
7, 8. (a) What kind of service does Jehovah bless? (b) What warning lesson can we learn from the example of King Asa?
7 During the reign of King Asa, Jehovah raised up prophets to guide His nation on a faithful course. For example, the Bible tells us that Asa listened to the prophet Azariah, the son of Oded. (Read 2 Chronicles 15:1-8.) Asa’s reforms united the people of Judah as well as a great number of people from the kingdom of Israel who came down to join in a grand assembly at Jerusalem. Together they declared their determination to worship Jehovah loyally. We read: “They swore to Jehovah with a loud voice and with joyful shouting and with the trumpets and with horns. And all Judah gave way to rejoicing over the thing sworn; for it was with all their heart that they had sworn and with full pleasure on their part that they had looked for him, so that he let himself be found by them; and Jehovah continued to give them rest all around.” (2 Chron. 15:9-15) Jehovah will likewise surely bless us when we serve him wholeheartedly.—Mark 12:30.
8 Sadly, Asa later resented correction from Hanani the seer. (2 Chron. 16:7-10) How do we react when Jehovah offers us advice or direction through Christian elders? Do we promptly take to heart their Scripturally based counsel and avoid falling into the trap of resentment?
9. What threat did Jehoshaphat and Judah face, and how did they react?
9 Jehoshaphat ruled as king in Judah during the tenth century B.C.E. He and all Judah faced the threat of the combined forces of Ammon, Moab, and the people of the mountainous region of Seir. Although he was afraid, what did the king do? He and his men, together with their wives and children, gathered at Jehovah’s house to pray. (Read 2 Chronicles 20:3-6.) In line with Solomon’s words uttered earlier at the dedication of the temple, Jehoshaphat movingly beseeched Jehovah: “O our God, will you not execute judgment upon them? For in us there is no power before this large crowd that is coming against us; and we ourselves do not know what we ought to do, but our eyes are toward you.” (2 Chron. 20:12, 13) After Jehoshaphat prayed, there “in the middle of the congregation,” Jehovah’s spirit moved Jahaziel, a Levite, to utter words of comfort that instilled confidence in the people.—Read 2 Chronicles 20:14-17.
10. (a) How did Jehoshaphat and Judah receive direction? (b) How can we demonstrate appreciation for the direction Jehovah gives us today?
10 Yes, back then, Jehoshaphat and the kingdom of Judah received direction from Jehovah through Jahaziel. Today, we receive comfort and direction through the faithful and discreet slave class. Certainly, we always want to cooperate with and show respect for the appointed elders, who work hard in shepherding us and implementing the directions of “the faithful and discreet slave.”—Matt. 24:45; 1 Thess. 5:12, 13.
11, 12. What lesson can we learn from what happened to Jehoshaphat and Judah?
11 Just as Jehoshaphat and his people gathered together to seek Jehovah’s guidance, let us not neglect regular attendance at congregation meetings along with our brothers and sisters. If we sometimes find ourselves in sore straits, not knowing what to do, let us follow the fine example set by Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah and turn to Jehovah in prayer with full trust in Him. (Prov. 3:5, 6; Phil. 4:6, 7) Even if we are isolated, our petitions to Jehovah unite us with “the entire association of [our] brothers in the world.”—1 Pet. 5:9.
12 Jehoshaphat and his people followed Jahaziel’s God-given direction. With what result? They came off victorious in the ensuing battle and returned to Jerusalem “with rejoicing” and “with stringed instruments and with harps and with trumpets to the house of Jehovah.” (2 Chron. 20:27, 28) We likewise respect Jehovah’s direction given through his channel and join in praising him.
Take Good Care of Our Meeting Places
13. What work did Hezekiah initiate at the beginning of his reign?
13 In the first month of his reign, Hezekiah expressed his zeal for the worship of Jehovah by reopening and repairing the temple. He organized the priests and the Levites to cleanse God’s house. They did so in 16 days. (Read 2 Chronicles 29:16-18.) That effort reminds us of the maintenance and repair work that keeps our meeting places in a condition that reflects our zealous worship of Jehovah. Have you not heard experiences showing that people are impressed by the zeal of the brothers and sisters who share in such work? Yes, their efforts bring much praise to Jehovah.
14, 15. What work today has brought much praise to Jehovah? Give examples.
14 In a city in the north of England, a man was opposed to the refurbishing work proposed for the Kingdom Hall adjacent to his property. The local brothers responded kindly. Observing that the boundary wall between the Kingdom Hall and the neighbor’s property needed repair, they offered to do the work at no cost. They worked hard and, in fact, rebuilt most of the wall. They handled the situation so well that the neighbor had a change of heart. He now helpfully keeps an eye on the Kingdom Hall property.
15 Jehovah’s people share in a worldwide building work. Willing local volunteers join with full-time international servants to construct not only Kingdom Halls but also Assembly Halls and Bethel homes. Sam is an engineer skilled in heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning. He and his wife, Ruth, have traveled to several countries in Europe and Africa to help on construction projects. Wherever they go, they also enjoy preaching along with the local congregations. Sam explains what prompted him to participate in such international projects: “It was the encouragement of others who have served in Bethel homes here and abroad. Just seeing their zeal and joy really moved me to want to serve this way.”
Obey Divine Instructions
16, 17. In what special activity have God’s people eagerly shared, and with what result?
16 In addition to temple repair, Hezekiah restored the yearly Passover celebration that Jehovah had commanded. (Read 2 Chronicles 30:1, 4, 5.) Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem invited the whole nation—even those of the northern kingdom—to attend. Runners sped through the land carrying letters of invitation.—2 Chron. 30:6-9.
17 In recent years, we have shared in a somewhat similar effort. We have used appealing printed invitations to invite people in our territories to gather with us in commemorating the Lord’s Evening Meal, in obedience to Jesus’ command. (Luke 22:19, 20) Receiving instructions at our Service Meetings, we have zealously shared in this work. And how Jehovah has blessed this effort! Why, last year, some seven million of us distributed invitations, and a total of 17,790,631 people attended!
18. Why is zeal for true worship so important for you?
18 It was said of Hezekiah: “In Jehovah the God of Israel he trusted; and after him there proved to be no one like him among all the kings of Judah, even those who had happened to be prior to him. And he kept sticking to Jehovah. He did not turn aside from following him, but he continued keeping his commandments that Jehovah had commanded Moses.” (2 Ki. 18:5, 6) May it be similar in our case. Our zeal for God’s house will help us ‘keep sticking to Jehovah’ with the prospect of everlasting life in view.—Deut. 30:16.
Respond Promptly to Direction
19. What zealous effort is put forth at Memorial time?
19 When Josiah ruled as king, he too arranged for the Passover to be celebrated, making extensive preparations for it. (2 Ki. 23:21-23; 2 Chron. 35:1-19) We also exercise special care to prepare well for district conventions, circuit assemblies, special assembly days, as well as for the Memorial. Brothers in some countries even risk their lives to gather together in order to commemorate Christ’s death. Zealous elders make sure that none in the congregation are overlooked. The elderly and the infirm receive help to be present for the occasion.
20. (a) What happened during King Josiah’s reign, and how did he react? (b) What lesson do we want to take to heart?
20 During the restoration work that King Josiah organized, High Priest Hilkiah “found the book of Jehovah’s law by the hand of Moses.” He handed it to the royal secretary Shaphan who, in turn, began to read its contents to Josiah. (Read 2 Chronicles 34:14-18.) What was the effect? The king immediately ripped his garments apart in grief and instructed the men to consult Jehovah. Through the prophetess Huldah, God provided a message condemning some of the religious practices that had been carried on in Judah. Yet, Josiah’s good efforts to remove idolatrous practices were noted, and he remained in Jehovah’s favor despite the calamities predicted for the nation as a whole. (2 Chron. 34:19-28) What can we learn from this? Surely our desire is the same as Josiah’s was. We want to respond to Jehovah’s direction promptly, taking to heart the warning example of what can happen if we allow apostasy and unfaithfulness to encroach on our worship. And we can be confident that Jehovah will note with approval our zeal for true worship, just as he did in Josiah’s case.
21, 22. (a) Why should we demonstrate zeal for Jehovah’s house? (b) What will we consider in the next article?
21 Those four kings of Judah—Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah—set fine examples for us in being zealous for God’s house and worship. Our zeal should similarly move us to trust in Jehovah and to exert ourselves in behalf of his worship. It is certainly the course of wisdom and the way to happiness to obey divine instructions and respond to the loving care and correction we receive through the congregation and its elders.
22 The next article will focus our attention on zeal for the field ministry and will provide encouragement for youths to serve our loving Father zealously. We will also consider how we can avoid one of Satan’s most corrupting influences. As we zealously heed all such reminders from Jehovah, we will be following the example of Jehovah’s own Son, Jesus, of whom it was said: “Sheer zeal for your house has eaten me up.”—Ps. 69:9; 119:111, 129; 1 Pet. 2:21.
Do You Recall?
• What kind of service does Jehovah bless, and why?
• How can we demonstrate trust in Jehovah?
• How can zeal move us to obey divine instructions?
[Pictures on page 9]
How did Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah show zeal for Jehovah’s house?