“Because of the people’s volunteering, praise Jehovah!”
1, 2. (a) What did Eliphaz and Bildad say about how God views our service? (b) What did Jehovah say on the subject?
MANY years ago, three men went to speak to a faithful servant of God named Job. One of the men, Eliphaz the Temanite, asked Job some interesting questions: “Can a man be of use to God? Can anyone with insight be of benefit to him? Does the Almighty care that you are righteous, or does he gain anything because you follow the course of integrity?” (Job 22:1-3) Eliphaz clearly thought that the answer was no. Another one of the men, Bildad the Shuhite, then added that it is impossible for humans to be considered righteous by God.
Any good quality or ability we have comes from Jehovah, and he notices how we use it
2 Eliphaz and Bildad tried to make Job feel that his efforts to serve Jehovah were worthless. Those men wanted Job to believe that we are no more valuable to God than a moth, a maggot, or a worm. (Job 4:19; 25:6) Were they saying that because they were humble? (Job 22:29) It is true that Jehovah is supremely great and that we are very small in comparison to him. If we are on top of a mountain or looking out from an airplane window, we get a sense of how tiny and unimportant we are. But is that how Jehovah feels about our efforts to serve him and to work hard for the Kingdom? No! Jehovah told Eliphaz, Bildad, and the third man, Zophar, that they were telling lies. Then God said that he was happy with Job and called him “my servant.” (Job 42:7, 8) So we can be sure that imperfect humans can “be of use to God.”
“WHAT DO YOU GIVE HIM?”
3. What did Elihu say about our efforts to serve Jehovah? What did he mean?
3 A young man named Elihu was listening to the conversation between Job and the three men. When it was over, Elihu asked Job about Jehovah: “If you are righteous, what do you give him; what does he receive from you?” (Job 35:7) Was Elihu also trying to say that our efforts to serve God are worthless? No. Jehovah did not correct Elihu, as he had the other men. Elihu was making a different point. He was saying that Jehovah does not need us to worship him. Jehovah is complete. There is nothing we could do that would make him richer or stronger. In fact, any good quality or ability we have comes from God, and he notices how we use it.
4. How does Jehovah feel when we are kind to others?
4 When we show loyal love to those who worship Jehovah, he views those actions as if they were done to him personally. We read at Proverbs 19:17: “The one showing favor to the lowly is lending to Jehovah, and He will repay him for what he does.” Jehovah actually notices each time we show mercy to others. And although he is the Creator of the universe, Jehovah even chooses to view these actions as a personal loan to him, which he repays with many wonderful gifts. God’s Son, Jesus, confirmed this.
5. What questions will we now discuss?
5 In ancient times, Jehovah invited the prophet Isaiah to represent him and serve him in a special way. (Isaiah 6:8-10) Isaiah willingly accepted the invitation and said: “Here I am! Send me!” Today, too, Jehovah gives faithful humans the opportunity to share in his work. Thousands of Jehovah’s servants are showing that they have the same attitude as Isaiah. They are willing to accept assignments to serve Jehovah in many different ways and places and to deal with difficult circumstances and challenges. But someone might say to himself: ‘I appreciate the opportunity to volunteer in Jehovah’s service, but does it really matter what I personally do? With or without me, will Jehovah not make sure his work gets done?’ Have you ever felt this way? Let us discuss how some events in the lives of two of Jehovah’s servants in the past, Deborah and Barak, can help us to answer these questions.
GOD CHANGES FEAR TO COURAGE
6. Why did it seem as if Jabin’s army could easily conquer the Israelites?
6 Barak was an Israelite warrior, and Deborah was a prophetess. For 20 years, the Israelites had been “harshly oppressed” by a Canaanite king named Jabin. Jabin’s army was so fierce and cruel that the Israelites living in villages were afraid even to leave their homes. Jabin’s army had 900 war chariots with iron scythes, but the Israelites did not have proper weapons to fight with or armor to protect themselves.
7, 8. (a) What were Jehovah’s first instructions to Barak? (b) How did Israel defeat Jabin’s army? (See opening picture.)
7 Compared with Jabin’s army, the Israelites seemed weak and easy to conquer. But Jehovah commanded Barak through Deborah the prophetess: “Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take 10,000 men of Naphtali and Zebulun with you. I will bring to you Sisera, the chief of Jabin’s army, along with his war chariots and his troops to the stream of Kishon, and I will give him into your hand.”
8 The request for volunteers went out, and 10,000 men gathered at Mount Tabor. Then Barak and his men went into battle against the enemy army at a place called Taanach. (Read Judges 4:14-16.) Did Jehovah help the Israelites? Yes. There was a sudden rainstorm, and the dry battlefield turned into mud. This gave the Israelites an advantage. Barak chased Sisera’s army for 15 miles (24 kilometers), all the way to a place called Harosheth. Somewhere along the way, Sisera’s war chariot got stuck in the mud. He got out and ran to Zaanannim, possibly near Kedesh. There Sisera went to hide in the tent of a woman named Jael. Sisera was exhausted and fell fast asleep. While he was sleeping, Jael courageously put him to death. (Judges 4:17-21) Jehovah had given the Israelites victory over their enemies! * (See footnote.)
VERY DIFFERENT ATTITUDES ABOUT VOLUNTEER SERVICE
9. What do we learn at Judges 5:20, 21 about the battle against Sisera?
9 We learn more about the events described in Judges chapter 4 by reading the next chapter. Judges 5:20, 21 tells us: “From heaven the stars fought; from their orbits they fought against Sisera. The torrent of Kishon washed them away.” Does this mean that angels helped the Israelites during the battle, or does it mean that there was a meteorite shower? The Bible does not explain. But it seems reasonable to think that Jehovah saved his people by making heavy rain fall at that exact place and time so that the 900 war chariots could not move easily. At Judges 4:14, 15, we read three times that Jehovah was given the credit for Israel’s victory. None of the 10,000 Israelite volunteers could take credit for it.
10, 11. What was Meroz? Why was it cursed?
10 Now let us examine something very interesting. After Israel’s victory, Deborah and Barak sang praises to Jehovah. They sang: “‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of Jehovah, ‘yes, curse its inhabitants, for they did not come to the assistance of Jehovah, to the assistance of Jehovah with the mighty ones.’”
11 What exactly was Meroz? We do not know for sure. But the curse on Meroz worked so well that all traces of it have disappeared. It could be that Meroz was a city whose people did not volunteer to join Barak in battle. Since 10,000 had volunteered for the battle against the Canaanites, the people of Meroz must have heard the request for volunteers. Or Meroz could have been a city that Sisera ran through as he tried to escape from Barak. Maybe the people of Meroz had a chance to capture Sisera but did not do so. Imagine them seeing the fierce warrior running for his life through their streets! They could have done something meaningful to support Jehovah’s purpose. If they had, he would have rewarded them. But when they had the chance to do something for Jehovah, they did nothing. It seems that the people of Meroz were very different from Jael, who acted courageously.
We need to examine our attitude toward serving God
12. What contrast in people’s attitudes is seen at Judges 5:9, 10? How should this affect us?
12 At Judges 5:9, 10, we see that the attitude of the 10,000 volunteers was very different from the attitude of those who did not volunteer. Deborah and Barak praised “the commanders of Israel, who went as volunteers with the people.” They were very different from the “riders on tawny donkeys,” who felt they were too important for volunteer service. Those people are described as ones “who sit on fine carpets” and “who walk on the road,” enjoying a comfortable life. In contrast, the volunteers willingly went with Barak to fight in the rocky hills of Tabor and the swampy valley of Kishon. Those who wanted an easy life were told: “Consider!” They needed to pay attention and think about the opportunities they had missed by not volunteering for Jehovah’s work. Today, we also need to examine our own attitude toward serving God.
13. How was the attitude of the tribes of Reuben, Dan, and Asher different from that of Zebulun and Naphtali?
13 The 10,000 volunteers had the opportunity to see for themselves how Jehovah acts as Sovereign Ruler. They could tell others about it when they spoke of “the righteous acts of Jehovah.” (Judges 5:11) In contrast, the tribes of Reuben, Dan, and Asher cared more about their own riches, such as their flocks, ships, and harbors, than they did about Jehovah’s work. (Judges 5:15-17) Not all the tribes were like that, though. The tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali “risked their lives to the point of death” to support Deborah and Barak. (Judges 5:18) We can learn an important lesson from these different attitudes toward volunteer service.
14. How do we show that we support Jehovah’s sovereignty today?
14 Today, we do not support Jehovah’s rulership by fighting. Instead, we show our support by preaching courageously and zealously. More than ever before, volunteers are needed for Jehovah’s work. Millions of brothers, sisters, and young people are volunteering for different types of full-time service. For example, many are pioneering, working at Bethel, building Kingdom Halls, and volunteering at assemblies and conventions. Some elders are working hard on Hospital Liaison Committees and organizing conventions. We can be sure that Jehovah appreciates our willingness to serve him in any way needed and that he will not forget our efforts.
15. How can we make sure that we are not losing our enthusiasm for Jehovah’s work?
15 We need to examine our own attitude about volunteer service. We can ask ourselves: ‘Am I letting others do most of the work? Am I more concerned with getting material things than with serving Jehovah? Or am I imitating the faith and courage of Barak, Deborah, Jael, and the 10,000 volunteers by using whatever resources I have to serve Jehovah? Am I thinking about moving to another city or country so as to make more money and have a better life? If so, am I praying to Jehovah about how this move would affect my family and congregation?’ * (See footnote.)
16. Even though Jehovah has everything, what can we give to him?
16 Jehovah gives us an incredible honor by letting us support his rulership. Since the time of Adam and Eve, the Devil has wanted humans to take his side against Jehovah. But when we support Jehovah’s rulership, we clearly show Satan whose side we are on. Our faith and loyalty motivate us to volunteer in Jehovah’s service, and this makes him very happy. (Proverbs 23:15, 16) Our God can use our loyal support and obedience to answer Satan’s taunts. (Proverbs 27:11) Our obedience is something we can give to Jehovah that is precious to him and brings him great joy.
17. What does Judges 5:31 teach us about what will happen in the future?
17 Soon everyone on earth will prefer Jehovah’s rulership to any other. How we look forward to that time! We feel like Deborah and Barak, who sang: “Let all your enemies perish, O Jehovah, but let those who love you be like the sun rising in its glory.” (Judges 5:31) That will happen when Jehovah ends Satan’s wicked world. When the battle of Armageddon begins, Jehovah will not need human volunteers to destroy the enemy. Instead, we will “stand still” and “see the salvation of Jehovah.” (2 Chronicles 20:17) In the meantime, we have marvelous opportunities to support Jehovah’s rulership with courage and zeal.
18. How can your volunteer service benefit others?
18 Deborah and Barak began their victory song with praise to Jehovah, not to humans. They sang: “Because of the people’s volunteering, praise Jehovah!” (Judges 5:1, 2) In a similar way, when we serve Jehovah in any way needed, others may also be encouraged to “praise Jehovah!”
^ par. 6 A scythe is a sharp, long, and sometimes curved blade. Scythes were attached to war chariots, possibly sticking out from the axles. Those chariots became moving machines of destruction.