Do You Value What Jehovah Has Done to Deliver You?
“Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel, because he has turned his attention and performed deliverance toward his people.”—LUKE 1:68.
1, 2. How might the seriousness of our present condition be illustrated, and what questions will we discuss?
IMAGINE that you are lying in a hospital bed. You are in a ward where everyone suffers from the same illness, a deadly disease with no known cure. When you learn that a doctor is spearheading an effort to find a cure, you are hopeful. You eagerly await news of any developments. One day, you learn that a cure has been found! The doctor behind the breakthrough made enormous sacrifices to make the cure possible. How would you respond? Surely your heart would swell with respect and appreciation for the man who opened a way for you and many others to be delivered from death.
2 That scenario may seem dramatic, but it corresponds to a reality we all face. Each of us is in a condition far more serious than the one described. We are in dire need of a rescuer. (Read Romans 7:24.) To deliver us, Jehovah has gone to great lengths. His Son too has made significant sacrifices. Let us consider, then, four basic questions. Why do we need deliverance? What has our deliverance cost Jesus? What has it cost Jehovah? And how can we show that we value divine deliverance?
Why We Need Deliverance
3. How is sin comparable to a pandemic?
3 According to a recent estimate, one of the worst pandemics in human history was the Spanish influenza of 1918, which killed tens of millions of people. Other diseases are more lethal in a sense. While they may infect fewer people, they kill a higher percentage of the people they do infect. * However, what if we were to compare sin to such a pandemic? Recall the words of Romans 5:12: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” The infection rate of sin is 100 percent, since all imperfect humans sin. (Read Romans 3:23.) And what is the mortality rate? Paul wrote that sin brings death “to all men.”
4. What is Jehovah’s perspective on our lifespan, and how does his viewpoint differ from that of many today?
4 Many today do not see sin and death in such dire terms. They worry about what they call premature death, but they dismiss as “natural” the death that creeps up on humans through the aging process. It is all too easy for humans to forget the Creator’s perspective. Our lifespan is infinitely shorter than he meant it to be. Actually, no human has lived for even “one day” from Jehovah’s point of view. (2 Pet. 3:8) God’s Word thus says that our lives are as transitory as a season’s growth of grass or as an exhaled breath. (Ps. 39:5; 1 Pet. 1:24) We need to keep that perspective in mind. Why? If we see the severity of the “disease” that afflicts us, we can better appreciate the value of the “cure”—our deliverance.
5. What has been the cost of sin to each of us?
5 In order to grasp the severity of sin and its effects, we must try to fathom what it has cost us. That may be difficult at first because sin cost us something we have never yet experienced. Adam and Eve initially enjoyed perfect human life. Perfect in mind and body, they could choose to control their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Thus they were free to grow as servants of Jehovah God, to fulfill the tremendous potential within them. Instead, they threw away that precious gift. By choosing to sin against Jehovah, they lost for themselves and their offspring the kind of life that Jehovah intended for them. (Gen. 3:16-19) At the same time, they inflicted on themselves and on us the terrible “disease” we have been discussing. Rightly, Jehovah condemned them. But for us, he holds out the hope of deliverance.—Ps. 103:10.
What Our Deliverance Cost Jesus
6, 7. (a) How did Jehovah first show that our deliverance would prove costly? (b) What can we learn from the sacrifices offered up by Abel and by patriarchs who lived prior to the Law?
6 Jehovah knew that it would prove very costly to deliver the offspring of Adam and Eve. In the prophecy recorded at Genesis 3:15, we learn something about the cost of deliverance. Jehovah would provide a “seed,” a rescuer, who would one day destroy Satan, crushing him out of existence. However, that rescuer would suffer along the way, receiving a figurative wound in the heel. That sounds painful and debilitating, but what does it mean? Just what would Jehovah’s Chosen One have to endure?
7 In order to save mankind from sin, the rescuer would have to provide a means of atonement, a way of reconciling humans to God by undoing the effects of sin. What would that involve? There were early indications that a sacrifice would be required. When the first faithful human, Abel, offered animal sacrifices to Jehovah, he met with divine approval. Later, such God-fearing patriarchs as Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and Job offered similar sacrifices, which pleased God. (Gen. 4:4; 8:20, 21; 22:13; 31:54; Job 1:5) Centuries later, the Mosaic Law brought the matter of sacrifice into sharper focus.
8. What did the high priest do on the annual Day of Atonement?
8 Among the most important sacrifices required by the Law were those offered on the annual Day of Atonement. On that day, the high priest carried out a series of symbolic actions. He offered sacrifices to Jehovah to provide for the atonement of sins—first those of the priestly class, then those of the nonpriestly tribes. The high priest entered the Most Holy compartment of the tabernacle or temple, where only he could go and only on this one day of the year. There he sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices before the ark of the covenant. Above that sacred chest, a bright, shining cloud sometimes appeared, representing the presence of Jehovah God.—Ex. 25:22; Lev. 16:1-30.
9. (a) On Atonement Day, whom did the high priest picture, and what did the sacrifices he offered signify? (b) What was represented by the high priest’s entry into the Most Holy?
9 The apostle Paul was inspired to reveal the meaning behind those symbolic actions. He showed that the high priest pictured the Messiah, Jesus Christ, while the offering of the sacrifices signified Christ’s sacrificial death. (Heb. 9:11-14) That perfect sacrifice would provide real atonement for two groups of people—the priestly class of Christ’s 144,000 spirit-anointed brothers and the “other sheep.” (John 10:16) When the high priest entered the Most Holy, he foreshadowed Jesus’ entry into heaven itself to present before Jehovah God the value of the ransom sacrifice.—Heb. 9:24, 25.
10. Bible prophecy showed that the Messiah would experience what?
10 Clearly, the deliverance of the offspring of Adam and Eve would be costly. The Messiah would have to sacrifice his life! The prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures presented this truth in vivid terms. For example, the prophet Daniel stated directly that “Messiah the Leader” would be “cut off,” or executed, in order “to make atonement for error.” (Dan. 9:24-26) Isaiah foretold that the Messiah would be rejected, persecuted, and executed, or pierced, to bear the sins of imperfect humans.—Isa. 53:4, 5, 7.
11. In what ways did Jehovah’s Son show willingness to sacrifice himself for our deliverance?
11 Before he came to the earth, God’s only-begotten Son was aware of what our deliverance would cost him. He would have to suffer terribly and then be put to death. When his Father taught him those truths, did he shrink back or rebel? On the contrary, he submitted willingly to his Father’s instruction. (Isa. 50:4-6) Likewise, while on earth, Jesus obediently carried out his Father’s will. Why? He provided one answer in these words: “I love the Father.” He provided another in these: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 14:31; 15:13) So our deliverance is due, in large part, to the love of Jehovah’s Son. Though it cost him his perfect human life, he was glad to do it for the sake of our deliverance.
What Our Deliverance Cost Jehovah
12. The ransom is an expression of whose will, and why did he provide it?
12 Jesus was not the Originator or Purposer behind the ransom sacrifice. Rather, this means of deliverance was a key feature of Jehovah’s will. The apostle Paul indicated that the altar at the temple, upon which the sacrifices were offered, represented Jehovah’s will. (Heb. 10:10) So the deliverance we receive by means of Christ’s sacrifice is something we owe first and foremost to Jehovah. (Luke 1:68) It is an expression of his perfect will and of his great love for humans.—Read John 3:16.
13, 14. How can Abraham’s example help us appreciate what Jehovah has done in our behalf?
13 What did it cost Jehovah to express his love for us in this way? It is difficult for us to fathom. However, there is a Bible account that can help us see the matter more clearly. Jehovah asked the faithful man Abraham to do something supremely difficult—to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Now, Abraham was a loving father. Jehovah spoke to him of Isaac as “your only son whom you so love.” (Gen. 22:2) Still, Abraham saw that doing Jehovah’s will was even more important than his love for Isaac. Abraham went ahead and obeyed. However, Jehovah did not allow Abraham to do what He himself would do one day. God sent an angel to stop Abraham just before sacrificing his son. Abraham had been so determined to obey his God in this difficult test that he felt sure that his only hope of seeing the young man alive again would be by means of a resurrection. But he had complete faith that God would perform such a resurrection. Indeed, Paul said that Abraham did receive Isaac back by resurrection “in an illustrative way.”—Heb. 11:19.
14 Can you begin to imagine Abraham’s pain as he prepared to offer up his son? In a sense, Abraham’s experience helps to illustrate that of Jehovah in sacrificing the one he called “my Son, the beloved.” (Matt. 3:17) Remember, though, that Jehovah’s pain was likely more intense. He and his Son had enjoyed associating together for countless millions, perhaps even billions, of years. The Son worked joyously with the Father as his beloved “master worker” and as his Spokesman, “the Word.” (Prov. 8:22, 30, 31; John 1:1) What Jehovah endured as his Son was tormented, ridiculed, and then executed as a criminal is far more than we can know. Our deliverance cost Jehovah dearly! How, then, can we show that we value that deliverance?
How Can You Show That You Value Deliverance?
15. How did Jesus complete the great act of atonement, and what did this make possible?
15 Jesus completed the great act of atonement after being resurrected to heaven. Reunited with his beloved Father, he presented to Him the value of his sacrifice. Great blessings followed. Complete forgiveness became available, first for the sins of Christ’s anointed brothers, then for “the whole world’s.” Because of that sacrifice, today all who sincerely repent of their sins and become genuine followers of Christ can enjoy a clean standing before Jehovah God. (1 John 2:2) How do you fit in?
16. How might we illustrate why we should appreciate the deliverance that Jehovah has made possible for us?
16 Let us return to the illustration given at the outset. Suppose the doctor who finds the cure to the disease were to approach the patients in your ward with this offer: Any patient who accepts treatment and follows the prescribed regimen will without fail be cured. What if most of your fellow patients refused to follow the doctor’s direction, arguing that it would be too much trouble to take the medicine or adhere to the prescribed regimen? Would you go along with them, even though you had convincing evidence that the cure really worked? Of course not! No doubt you would express thanks for the cure and then follow the doctor’s instructions carefully, perhaps even telling others of your choice. In a far greater sense, each of us should be eager to show Jehovah just how much we appreciate the deliverance that he has made possible through the ransom sacrifice of his Son.—Read Romans 6:17, 18.
17. In what ways can you show your appreciation for what Jehovah has done to deliver you?
17 If we appreciate what Jehovah and his Son have done in order to deliver us from sin and death, we will show it. (1 John 5:3) We will fight against our tendency to sin. Never will we give in to the willful practice of sin and lead the hypocritical double life that often goes with it. Such a course would amount to saying that we do not value or appreciate the ransom at all. Rather, we will show our appreciation by working hard to stay clean in God’s sight. (2 Pet. 3:14) We will show it by sharing with others our wonderful hope of deliverance, so that they too may have a clean standing with Jehovah and the hope for an eternal future. (1 Tim. 4:16) Surely Jehovah and his Son are worth every bit of the time and energy we can devote to praising them! (Mark 12:28-30) Think of it! We can look forward to the time when we will be fully cured of sin. We can live life as God meant it to be, in perfection, forever—all because of what Jehovah has done to deliver us!—Rom. 8:21.
^ par. 3 The Spanish influenza is said to have infected anywhere from a fifth to over one half of the world’s population at the time. The virus may have killed somewhere between 1 to 10 percent of the people it infected. By contrast, Ebola virus is much rarer, but in some outbreaks it has killed nearly 90 percent of those it infected.
How Would You Answer?
• Why are you in urgent need of deliverance?
• How does Jesus’ act of self-sacrifice affect you?
• How do you feel about Jehovah’s gift of the ransom?
• What are you motivated to do in response to Jehovah’s provisions for your deliverance?
[Picture on page 27]
On Atonement Day, Israel’s high priest became a living illustration of the Messiah
[Picture on page 28]
Abraham’s willingness to offer up his son teaches us much about Jehovah’s far greater sacrifice