Be Zealous for True Worship

“The harvest is great, but the workers are few.”​—MATT. 9:37.

1. How would you describe urgency?

YOU have a document that needs a certain person’s attention by the end of the day. What do you do? You mark it “URGENT!” You are on your way to an important appointment, but you are late. What do you do? You tell the driver, “Please hurry; it’s URGENT!” Yes, when you have a task that must get done and time is running out, you feel tense and excited. Your adrenaline begins to flow, and you work as fast and as hard as you can. That is urgency!

2. What is the most urgent task for true Christians today?

2 For true Christians today, nothing is more urgent than preaching the good news of the Kingdom and making disciples of people of all the nations. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20) Quoting Jesus, the disciple Mark wrote that this work must be done “first,” that is, before the end comes. (Mark 13:10) That, of course, is the way it should be. Jesus said: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” A harvest cannot wait; it must be brought in before the season is over.​—Matt. 9:37.

3. How have many responded to the urgent need to preach?

3 Because the preaching work is of such importance to us, it deserves our giving it as much of our time, energy, and attention as possible. Commendably, many are doing just that. Some have simplified their personal affairs so as to take up the full-time ministry as pioneers or missionaries or to serve at one of the Bethel homes around the world. Their life is very busy. They may have made many sacrifices, and they have many challenges to meet. Yet, they are richly blessed by Jehovah. We are happy for them. (Read Luke 18:28-30.) Others, while unable to join the ranks of full-time proclaimers, devote as much time as possible to this lifesaving work, which includes helping our children to get saved.​—Deut. 6:6, 7.

4. Why might some tend to lose the sense of urgency?

4 As we have seen, a sense of urgency is usually connected with a time limit, a deadline, an end. We are living in the time of the end, and there is plenty of evidence​—both Scriptural and historical—​to prove that. (Matt. 24:3, 33; 2 Tim. 3:1-5) Still, no man knows the exact time when the end will come. When giving the details of “the sign” marking “the conclusion of the system of things,” Jesus specifically said: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matt. 24:36) That being so, some might find it difficult to maintain a sense of urgency year after year, especially if they have been doing so for a long time. (Prov. 13:12) Do you at times find yourself feeling that way? What can help us to develop or maintain a sense of urgency for the task that Jehovah God and Jesus Christ want us to do today?

Consider Our Exemplar, Jesus

5. In what ways did Jesus reflect a sense of urgency in connection with the ministry?

5 Of all those who demonstrated urgency in their service to God, Jesus Christ is surely the foremost example. One reason for his urgency was that he had much to do  in a span of only three and a half years. Nevertheless, Jesus accomplished more with regard to true worship than anyone else has ever done. He made known his Father’s name and purpose, preached the good news of the Kingdom, exposed the hypocrisy and false teachings of the religious leaders, and upheld Jehovah’s sovereignty even to the point of death. He spared no effort in traversing the land​—teaching, helping, and curing the people. (Matt. 9:35) No one has ever accomplished so much in such a short time. Jesus worked as hard as anyone possibly could.​—John 18:37.

6. What was the focus in Jesus’ life?

6 What moved Jesus to work tirelessly throughout his ministry? From Daniel’s prophecy, Jesus could have known where he was in relation to Jehovah’s timetable. (Dan. 9:27) Thus, as noted, his earthly ministry was to end “at the half of the week,” or after three and a half years. Shortly after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem in the spring of 33 C.E., Jesus said: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” (John 12:23) Although Jesus knew that his death was imminent, he did not let that become the focus in his life, the prime reason for working hard. Rather, he focused on using every opportunity to do his Father’s will and to show love to his fellow humans. That love moved him to gather and train disciples, sending them out in preaching campaigns. That was so that they would carry on the work he had started and would accomplish even greater works than he did.​—Read John 14:12.

7, 8. How did the disciples react to Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, and why did Jesus act that way?

7 One event in Jesus’ life forcefully demonstrated what zeal he had. It was early in his ministry, in the Passover season of 30 C.E. Jesus and his disciples came to Jerusalem and saw in the temple “those selling cattle and sheep and doves and the money brokers in their seats.” What was Jesus’ response, and what impression did it make on his disciples?​—Read John 2:13-17.

8 What Jesus did and said on that occasion fittingly brought to the disciples’ mind the prophetic words of one psalm by David: “Sheer zeal for your house has eaten me up.” (Ps. 69:9) Why? Because what Jesus did involved a great deal of risk and danger. After all, the temple authorities​—the priests, the scribes, and others—​were behind the scandalous profit-making business taking place there. To expose and disrupt their scheme, Jesus was pitting himself against the religious establishment of the day. As the disciples correctly assessed the situation, ‘zeal for God’s house,’ or zeal for true  worship, was clearly in evidence. What, though, is zeal? Is it different from urgency?

Urgency and Zeal Compared

9. How may zeal be described?

9 One dictionary defines “zeal” as “eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something,” and it offers as synonyms such words as passion, fervor, ardor, and enthusiasm. Surely Jesus’ ministry can be characterized by all these expressions. Hence, Today’s English Version renders the verse: “My devotion to your house, O God, burns in me like a fire.” Interestingly, in some Oriental languages, the term for “zeal” is made up of two parts that literally mean “hot heart,” as though the heart were burning. It is no wonder that the disciples recalled David’s words when they saw what Jesus did at the temple. What, though, set Jesus’ heart on fire, as it were, and propelled, or moved, him to act that way?

10. What is the meaning of “zeal” as used in the Bible?

10 The word “zeal” in David’s psalm is derived from a Hebrew word that is often translated “jealous” or “jealousy” in other parts of the Bible. The New World Translation sometimes renders it “exacting exclusive devotion.” (Read Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Joshua 24:19.) One Bible dictionary says of this term: “It is often used in connection with the marriage relation . . . Just as jealousy in husband or wife is the forceful assertion of an exclusive right, so God asserts His claim, and vindicates it, on those who are His sole possession.” Thus, zeal in the Biblical sense is more than fervor or enthusiasm for a certain pursuit, such as many fans show for their favorite sport. David’s zeal was jealousy in the positive sense, that is, an intolerance of rivalry or reproach, a strong urge to protect a good name or to correct an injury.

11. What was it that moved Jesus to exert himself zealously?

11 Jesus’ disciples were not mistaken in associating David’s words with what they saw Jesus do at the temple. Jesus exerted himself not simply because he had a deadline but because he was zealous​—or jealous—​for his Father’s name and for pure worship. When he saw the reproach and blasphemy heaped upon God’s name, he was rightly zealous, or jealous, and acted to correct the situation. When Jesus saw the humble people oppressed and exploited by the religious leaders, his zeal moved him to bring relief to the people as well as to utter forceful denunciations against the oppressive religious leaders.​—Matt. 9:36; 23:2, 4, 27, 28, 33.

Be Zealous for True Worship

12, 13. What have Christendom’s religious leaders today done regarding (a) God’s name? (b) God’s Kingdom?

12 The religious scene around us today is similar​—if not worse—​than it was in Jesus’ day. For example, recall that the first thing Jesus taught his followers to pray for concerned God’s name: “Let your name be sanctified.” (Matt. 6:9) Do we see the religious leaders, especially the clergy of Christendom, teaching people to know God by his name and to sanctify, or honor, that name? On the contrary, they have misrepresented God by such false teachings as the Trinity, immortality of the human soul, and hellfire, making God appear mysterious, unfathomable, cruel, even sadistic. They have also brought reproach on God by their scandals and their hypocrisy. (Read Romans 2:21-24.) Furthermore, they have done everything possible to hide God’s personal name, even removing it from their translations of the Bible. They thus hinder people from drawing close to  God and cultivating a personal relationship with him.​—Jas. 4:7, 8.

13 Jesus also taught his followers to pray for God’s Kingdom: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:10) Though Christendom’s religious leaders often repeat that prayer, they have urged people to support political and other human institutions. Moreover, they belittle those who endeavor to preach and bear witness to this Kingdom. As a result, among many who claim to be Christians, God’s Kingdom is no longer a topic for discussion, let alone a matter of faith.

14. How have the clergy of Christendom watered down God’s Word?

14 In prayer to God, Jesus clearly stated: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) And before leaving the earthly scene, Jesus indicated that he would appoint “the faithful and discreet slave” to provide spiritual food for his people. (Matt. 24:45) Though quick to claim stewardship of God’s Word, have the clergy of Christendom proved to be faithful to the Master’s trust? No. They have been inclined to label what the Bible says as fable or myth. Rather than feeding their flock with spiritual food, thus bringing them comfort and enlightenment, the clergy have tickled the believers’ ears with human philosophy. In addition, they have watered down God’s moral standards to cater to the so-called new morality.​—2 Tim. 4:3, 4.

15. How do you feel about all that the clergy have done in the name of God?

15 Because of all that has been done​—supposedly in the name of the God of the Bible—​many sincere people have become disillusioned or have completely lost their faith in God and in the Bible. They have fallen prey to Satan and his wicked system of things. When you see and hear about such things taking place day after day, how do you feel? As a servant of Jehovah, when you see the reproach and blasphemy heaped upon God’s name, do you not feel impelled to do what you can to right the wrong? When you see sincere and honesthearted people being deceived and exploited, do you not feel moved to bring comfort to the oppressed souls? When Jesus saw people of his day being “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd,” he did not just feel pity. He “started to teach them  many things.” (Matt. 9:36; Mark 6:34) We have every reason to be zealous for true worship, as Jesus was.

16, 17. (a) What should impel us to exert ourselves in the ministry? (b) What will we consider in the following article?

16 When we view our ministry that way, the apostle Paul’s words found at 1 Timothy 2:3, 4 take on special meaning. (Read.) We work hard in the ministry not only because we know we are living in the last days but also because we realize that it is God’s will. He wants people to come to a knowledge of the truth so that they too can learn to worship and serve him and be blessed. We are impelled to exert ourselves in the ministry, not primarily because of a time limit, but because we want to honor God’s name and help people to come to know his will. We are zealous for true worship.​—1 Tim. 4:16.

17 As Jehovah’s people, we have been blessed with the knowledge of the truth about God’s purpose for mankind and the earth. We have the means to help people find happiness and a sure hope for the future. We can point them to the way to stay safe when destruction comes upon Satan’s system of things. (2 Thess. 1:7-9) Rather than feel frustrated or discouraged because Jehovah’s day seems to be delayed, we should be glad that there is still time for us to be zealous for true worship. (Mic. 7:7; Hab. 2:3) How can we develop such zeal? We will consider this in the following article.

Can You Explain?

• What was it that moved Jesus to work tirelessly throughout his ministry?

• What is the meaning of “zeal” in the Biblical sense?

• What do we see today that should move us to be zealous for true worship?

[Study Questions]

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Jesus focused on doing his Father’s will and showing love to fellow humans

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We have every reason to be zealous for true worship