DO YOU have anything in common with the prophets of old? The 2013 edition of the New World Translation in its “Glossary of Bible Terms” gives this definition of a prophet: “One through whom divine purposes are made known. Prophets acted as spokesmen for God, conveying not only predictions but also Jehovah’s teachings, commands, and judgments.” Though you are not uttering predictions, you speak for God, proclaiming what is found in the Word of God.
What a wonderful privilege it is for us to tell others about our God, Jehovah, and to teach them what his will is for mankind! We are participating in this work together with the “angel flying in midheaven.” (Rev. 14:6) Yet, we may face challenges that could cause us to lose sight of such a wonderful privilege. What are some of the challenges? We may face fatigue, discouragement, or feelings of worthlessness. The faithful prophets of old were no different, but they did not give up. And Jehovah helped them to fulfill their assignments. Consider some examples, and see how we can imitate them.
THEY EXERTED THEMSELVES VIGOROUSLY
We may at times be tired because of our day-to-day activities and may not feel up to sharing in the ministry. Granted, we do need to get rest; even Jesus and the apostles did. (Mark 6:31) But think of Ezekiel in Babylon and his mission among Israelites taken captive from Jerusalem. God once told Ezekiel to take a brick and engrave the city of Jerusalem on it. Then Ezekiel was to lay a figurative siege against the miniature city by lying on his left side for 390 days and then on his right for 40 days. Jehovah told Ezekiel: “Look! I will tie you with ropes so that you cannot turn from your one side to your other side until you have completed the days of your siege.” (Ezek. 4:1-8) That must have attracted the attention of the exiled Israelites. For over a year, Ezekiel was to go through this physically taxing routine. How could the prophet fulfill his assignment?
Ezekiel understood why he was sent as a prophet. When sending Ezekiel, God had told him: “Whether [the Israelites] listen or refuse to listen . . . , they will certainly know that a prophet was among them.” (Ezek. 2:5) He kept in mind the purpose of his commission. So he willingly acted out the figurative siege of Jerusalem. He proved to be a true prophet. A report reached him and his fellow exiles: “The city has been struck down!” Yes, the Israelites came to realize that a prophet had been among them.
Today, we warn people about the coming destruction of Satan’s entire system of things. Although we may be tired physically, we use our energy to preach God’s Word, make return visits, and conduct Bible studies. As the prophecies about the conclusion of this system come true, we have the satisfaction of being “one through whom divine purposes are made known.”
THEY COPED WITH DISCOURAGEMENT
We exert ourselves vigorously with the help of Jehovah’s spirit; still, we may at times be discouraged because of the way people react to our message. We do well to recall the example of the prophet Jeremiah. He experienced ridicule, insults, and jeering because he proclaimed God’s message to the Israelites. At one point, Jeremiah even said: “I am not going to make mention of him, and I will speak no more in his name.” Jeremiah was a man with feelings like ours. Nonetheless, he kept delivering God’s message. Why? The prophet added: “But in my heart it became like a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was tired of holding it in; I could no longer endure it.”
Similarly, if we are discouraged because of people’s response to our message, we can fight off that feeling by meditating on the message we proclaim. It can be like ‘a burning fire shut up in our bones.’ Making Bible reading a daily habit can keep that fire burning within us.
THEY OVERCAME NEGATIVE FEELINGS
Some Christians have felt lost when they were given an assignment that they did not readily understand. The prophet Hosea may have felt that way. Jehovah commanded him: “Go, marry a woman of prostitution and have children of prostitution.”(Hos. 1:2) Imagine how you would feel if you were going to get married but God told you that your bride would be a prostitute! Hosea accepted the assignment. He took Gomer as his wife, and she bore a son. Later, she bore a daughter and then another son. Apparently, these latter two children resulted from her adultery. Jehovah had told Hosea that his wife-to-be would “chase after her passionate lovers.” Note the plural
Hosea might have wondered what good would be accomplished by his fulfilling this assignment. Yet, in faithfully acting out the drama in real life, Hosea helps us to realize the pain that the Almighty must have felt when Israel betrayed him. And the fact is that some honesthearted Israelites did return to God.
God tells no one today to “marry a woman of prostitution.” Still, can we learn a lesson from Hosea’s willingness to take on such an assignment? One lesson is for us to be willing, even if we personally find it challenging, to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom “publicly and from house to house.” (Acts 20:20) Possibly, some features of the Kingdom-preaching work are not easy for you. Not a few who study with Jehovah’s Witnesses have commented that they enjoy studying the Bible but would never go from door to door to spread the message. Many of them later began to do what they once thought would be impossible for them to do. Do you see a lesson there?
We can learn another lesson from Hosea’s accepting a difficult assignment. He could have begged off from playing a role in the symbolic drama involving his wife. What other human would have been aware of this commission unless Hosea had written this account? We too may face a situation where we have a chance to tell someone about Jehovah and no one else would know of that opportunity. This happened to Anna, a high school student in the United States. Her teacher asked the class to write an essay on some topic or issue about which they felt strongly and then to try to persuade the class. Anna could have passed up this opportunity to give a witness. However, she felt that it was an opportunity from God. Realizing the possible reaction, she prayed to Jehovah, and a desire welled up in her to seize this opportunity. She wrote an essay entitled “Evolution: Consider the Evidence.”
When Anna presented the essay to the class, a girl known to believe in evolution fired questions at her. Anna successfully defended her position. Her teacher was impressed and gave Anna the award for the most persuasive essay. Anna has since had more discussions about creation with the girl who challenged her. As a result of accepting this “assignment” from Jehovah, Anna says, “I now confidently preach the good news without fear.”
Although we are not prophets in the absolute sense, by imitating the self-sacrificing spirit of such prophets as Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Hosea, we too can successfully accomplish Jehovah’s will for us today! During family worship or as a personal study project, why not read about other prophets of old and meditate on how you can imitate their examples?