“Close friendship with Jehovah belongs to those who fear him.”
SONGS: 106, 118
1-3. (a) Why can we be sure that we can become God’s friends? (b) What individuals will we consider in this article?
IN THE Bible, Abraham is called God’s friend three times. (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23) He is the only person directly called God’s friend in the Bible. Does that mean that Abraham is the only human ever to become Jehovah’s friend? No. The Bible shows that all of us can have that privilege.
2 God’s Word is full of accounts of many faithful men and women who feared Jehovah, put faith in him, and became his close friends. (Read Psalm 25:14.) They are part of the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned by Paul. All these different individuals were God’s friends.
3 Let us take a close look at three of Jehovah’s friends described in the Bible: (1) Ruth, the loyal young widow from Moab, (2) Hezekiah, a faithful king of Judah, and (3) Mary, the humble mother of Jesus. What can we learn from the way each of them became God’s friend?
SHE SHOWED LOYAL LOVE
4, 5. What difficult decision did Ruth have to make, and why was making it so hard? (See opening picture.)
4 Naomi and her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, were walking the long distance from Moab to Israel. Along the way, Orpah decided to go home to Moab. But Naomi was determined to return to Israel, her homeland. What did Ruth decide to do? She had to make a very difficult decision. Would she go back home to Moab to be with her family, or would she stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law, and travel to Bethlehem?
5 Ruth’s family lived in Moab. She could return to them, and they would probably take care of her. She knew the people, the language, and the culture of Moab. Naomi could not promise Ruth any of those things in Bethlehem. And Naomi was afraid that she would not find a husband or a home for her. So Naomi told her to go back to Moab. As we saw, Orpah “returned to her people and her gods.” (Ruth 1:9-15) But Ruth decided not to return to her people and their false gods.
6. (a) What wise choice did Ruth make? (b) Why did Boaz speak of Ruth as seeking refuge under Jehovah’s wings?
6 It seems that Ruth learned about Jehovah from her husband or from Naomi. She learned that Jehovah was not like the gods of Moab. She loved Jehovah and knew that he deserved her love and her worship. So Ruth made a wise choice. She told Naomi: “Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16) Our hearts are moved when we think about Ruth’s love for Naomi. But what is more impressive is Ruth’s love for Jehovah. This also impressed Boaz, who later praised her for ‘seeking refuge under Jehovah’s wings.’ (Read Ruth 2:12.) The words Boaz used may remind us of how a baby bird looks for protection under its parent’s wings. (Psalm 36:7; 91:1-4) In a similar way, Jehovah gave Ruth loving protection and rewarded her for her faith. Ruth never had any reason to regret her decision.
7. What might help those who hesitate to dedicate their lives to Jehovah?
7 Many people learn about Jehovah but choose not to take refuge in him. They hesitate to dedicate their lives to him and get baptized. If you feel the same way, think about why you hesitate. Everyone serves one god or another. (Joshua 24:15) The wise choice would be to serve the true God. When you dedicate yourself to Jehovah, you show that you have faith that he will be a refuge for you. And he will help you to keep serving him despite any problems you may have. That is what God did for Ruth.
“HE HELD FAST TO JEHOVAH”
8. Describe Hezekiah’s background.
8 Hezekiah’s background was very different from Ruth’s. He was part of a nation that was dedicated to God. But not all Israelites remained faithful. Hezekiah’s father, King Ahaz, was wicked. He showed disrespect for God’s temple and convinced the people to worship other gods. Ahaz even had some of Hezekiah’s brothers burned alive as sacrifices to a false god. Hezekiah had a terrible childhood!
9, 10. (a) Why might Hezekiah easily have become bitter? (b) Why should we not become bitter against God? (c) Why should we not think that our background determines the type of person we will become?
9 The bad example of Ahaz could have caused his son Hezekiah to become bitter or angry with Jehovah. Today, some who have had to endure far less than Hezekiah feel that they have good reason to become “enraged against Jehovah” or bitter toward his organization. (Proverbs 19:3) Others feel that their bad family background may cause them to have a bad life or to repeat their parents’ mistakes. (Ezekiel 18:2, 3) But are these ideas true?
10 Hezekiah’s life proves that the answer to that question is no! There is never a good reason to become angry with Jehovah. He does not cause bad things to happen to people. (Job 34:10) It is true that parents can teach their children to do good or bad. (Proverbs 22:6; Colossians 3:21) But this does not mean that our family background will determine the type of person we will become. Why? Because Jehovah has given us the gift of free will, which means that we can choose to do what is good or what is bad. (Deuteronomy 30:19) How did Hezekiah use that precious gift?
11. What made Hezekiah one of Judah’s best kings?
11 Even though his father was one of the worst kings in Judah, Hezekiah became one of the very best. (Read 2 Kings 18:5, 6.) He chose not to follow his father’s bad example. Instead, he chose to listen carefully to Jehovah’s prophets, such as Isaiah, Micah, and Hosea. He paid close attention to their counsel and correction. This motivated him to fix many of the problems his father had caused. He cleansed the temple, asked God to forgive the people’s sins, and destroyed the idols throughout the land. (2 Chronicles 29:1-11, 18-24; 31:1) Later, when the Assyrian king Sennacherib threatened to attack Jerusalem, Hezekiah showed great courage and faith. He trusted in Jehovah’s protection and strengthened his people. (2 Chronicles 32:7, 8) At one point Hezekiah became proud, but when Jehovah corrected him, he humbled himself. (2 Chronicles 32:24-26) Clearly, Hezekiah is a wonderful example for us to imitate. He did not let his family background ruin his life. Instead, he showed that he was Jehovah’s friend.
12. Like Hezekiah, how have many today proved to be Jehovah’s friends?
12 The world today is cruel and unloving, and many children grow up without loving and caring parents. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Even though many Christians today come from difficult family backgrounds, they have chosen to build a friendship with Jehovah. Like Hezekiah, they show that their family background does not need to determine what kind of person they will become in the future. God has given us the gift of free will, and we can choose to serve and honor him, as Hezekiah did.
“LOOK! JEHOVAH’S SLAVE GIRL!”
13, 14. Why might Mary’s assignment have seemed too difficult, yet how did she respond to Gabriel’s words?
13 Many years after Hezekiah’s time, a humble young woman named Mary had a special friendship with Jehovah and a unique assignment. She would become pregnant and give birth to and raise God’s Son! Jehovah must have loved and trusted Mary in order to give her such an amazing honor. But how did she react when she first heard about that assignment?
14 We often talk about the great honor Mary was given. But what may have been some of her fears? For example, the angel Gabriel said that she would become pregnant without having sexual relations with a man. But Gabriel did not offer to explain to her family and neighbors how she would become pregnant. What would they think? How would she convince Joseph that she had not been unfaithful to him? In addition, she had the great responsibility of raising God’s Son as a human! We do not know all of Mary’s concerns, but we do know what she did after Gabriel spoke to her. She said: “Look! Jehovah’s slave girl! May it happen to me according to your declaration.”
15. Why is Mary’s faith remarkable?
15 Mary’s faith is truly outstanding! She was ready to do whatever was asked of her, just like a slave girl. She trusted that Jehovah would take care of her and protect her. How could Mary have such strong faith? We are not born with faith. But we can have faith if we cultivate it and ask God to bless our efforts. (Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 2:8) Mary worked hard to strengthen her faith. How do we know? Let us consider how she listened and what she spoke about.
16. What shows that Mary was a good listener?
16 How Mary listened. The Bible says that we “must be quick to listen, slow to speak.” (James 1:19) Mary was a good listener. The Bible shows that she carefully listened to the things she heard, especially the things she learned about Jehovah. She took time to meditate on such important things. One example of this was at Jesus’ birth when shepherds told Mary about a message from an angel. Later, when Jesus was 12 years old, he said something that amazed Mary. In both cases, Mary listened, remembered, and thought carefully about what she had heard.
17. What can we learn about Mary from the way she spoke?
17 What Mary spoke about. The Bible does not tell us much about what Mary said. Her longest speech is found at Luke 1:46-55. These words show that Mary knew the Hebrew Scriptures very well. How so? Mary’s words were similar to the words of the prayer of Hannah, the mother of Samuel. (1 Samuel 2:1-10) It seems that Mary quoted the Scriptures about 20 times in her speech. It is clear that she liked to speak about the truths she had learned from her greatest Friend, Jehovah.
18. In what ways can we imitate Mary’s faith?
18 Like Mary, we may at times receive assignments from Jehovah that we think are too difficult for us. Let us imitate her example, humbly accept the assignment, and trust that Jehovah will help us. We can also imitate Mary’s faith when we carefully listen to Jehovah and meditate on what we have learned about him and his purposes. We then can joyfully tell others what we have learned.
19. As we imitate the Bible’s outstanding examples of faith, of what may we be assured?
19 It is clear that Ruth, Hezekiah, and Mary were Jehovah’s friends, just as Abraham was. They were part of the “great cloud of witnesses” who also had the privilege of becoming God’s friends. May we continue to imitate such outstanding examples of faith. (Hebrews 6:11, 12) If we do so, we can look forward to the reward of being Jehovah’s friends forever!