“With your counsel you will lead me, and afterward you will take me even to glory.”
1, 2. (a) What must we do to have a good relationship with Jehovah? (b) How will we benefit by discussing Bible examples of how people responded to God’s discipline?
“AS FOR me, the drawing near to God is good for me. In the Sovereign Lord Jehovah I have placed my refuge.” (Psalm 73:28) What made the psalmist say this about his trust in God? Earlier, when the psalmist saw that wicked people seemed to have peace, at first he felt bitter. He said: “It is in vain that I have cleansed my heart and that I wash my hands in innocence itself.” (Psalm 73:2, 3, 13, 21) But when he came into “the grand sanctuary of God,” he was able to correct his thinking and stay close to God. (Psalm 73:16-18) The psalmist learned a vital lesson: If a person wants to have a close relationship with Jehovah, he must be one of God’s people and accept and apply counsel.
2 We want to have a close relationship with the true and living God. So it is vital that we accept his counsel and discipline. In this way, Jehovah molds us, that is, he helps us to become the kind of people that he wants us to be. In the past, God showed mercy to people and sometimes to whole nations by giving them opportunities to accept his discipline. These examples are written in the Bible “for our instruction” and “for a warning to us” in the last days. (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11) This article will discuss some of these examples. We will learn how Jehovah thinks and how we can benefit when he molds us.
JEHOVAH USES HIS AUTHORITY AS A POTTER
3. At Isaiah 64:8 and Jeremiah 18:1-6, how does the Bible describe Jehovah’s authority over people? (See opening picture.)
3 The Bible says that Jehovah is like a potter because he has authority over people and nations. Isaiah 64:8 says: “O Jehovah, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are our Potter; and all of us are the work of your hand.” A potter can make whatever he wants to make from his clay. The clay cannot tell the potter what to make. It is the same with man and God. We have no right to tell God how to mold us, just as the clay cannot tell the potter what kind of pot, or vessel, to make.
The clay cannot tell the potter what to make
4. Does Jehovah force people or nations to accept his molding? Why?
4 Jehovah molded Israel as a potter molds clay. But how is Jehovah different from a human potter? Jehovah has given people the special gift of free will, that is, he allows them to make their own choices. He does not make some people good and others bad. Nor does he use his authority to force people to obey him. Instead, humans must choose whether they will let their Creator, Jehovah, mold them.
5. When humans refuse to let Jehovah mold them, what does he do?
5 What if someone is stubborn and refuses to let the Potter, Jehovah, mold him? How will Jehovah use his authority as a potter? Well, when it is difficult to mold clay into the kind of pot that a potter wants to make, he can decide to make something different, or he can throw the clay away. This usually happens because the potter did not mold the clay in the right way. But Jehovah always molds people in the right way. (Deuteronomy 32:4) When a person does not allow Jehovah to mold him, it is always the person’s fault. Jehovah adjusts the way he molds people depending on the way they respond. When people obey Jehovah, they become useful to him. For example, anointed Christians are “vessels of mercy” who have been molded into ‘vessels for an honorable use.’ But people who refuse to obey God’s counsel will become “vessels of wrath” that cannot be used for anything.
Jehovah never makes mistakes when molding people
6, 7. How did King David and King Saul react when Jehovah gave them counsel?
6 One way that Jehovah molds people is by giving them counsel or discipline. For example, think about the way Jehovah molded Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David. There were bad consequences for King David and others when he committed adultery with Bath-sheba. Even though David was king, Jehovah gave him firm discipline. God sent his prophet Nathan to David with strong counsel. (2 Samuel 12:1-12) How did David react? He was truly sorry for what he had done. Because David repented, God showed mercy to him.
7 King Saul was different. He did not listen to counsel. Jehovah had sent Samuel to tell King Saul to kill all of the Amalekites and their animals. But Saul disobeyed Jehovah’s command. He let King Agag live, and he kept the best animals. Why? He may have done this to bring honor to himself. (1 Samuel 15:1-3, 7-9, 12) So Jehovah sent Samuel to give Saul counsel. Saul should have listened to the counsel and accepted Jehovah’s molding. Instead, Saul refused to change. He thought that he had a good reason for ignoring Jehovah’s instructions. He claimed he was going to sacrifice the animals as a gift for Jehovah. God rejected Saul as king, and Saul never again had a good relationship with him.
GOD IS NOT PARTIAL
8. What can we learn from the way the nation of Israel responded to Jehovah’s molding?
8 Jehovah has also given whole nations an opportunity to obey him. After Jehovah freed the Israelites from Egypt in the year 1513 before Christ, they became Jehovah’s special people. God had promised to mold them. But the people did not respond well to his molding and kept doing what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes. They even worshipped the false gods of the nations around them. Many times, Jehovah sent prophets to the Israelites to help them to change their conduct, but Israel rejected the prophets’ counsel. (Jeremiah 35:12-15) Because they did not obey Jehovah, he disciplined them strongly. The Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. Later, the Babylonians conquered the southern kingdom of Judah. We learn something very important from this. The only way we benefit from Jehovah’s molding is if we respond well to it.
9, 10. How did the Ninevites respond when Jehovah gave them a warning?
9 Jehovah also gave the people of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh an opportunity to respond to his warning. Jehovah told Jonah: “Get up, go to Nineveh the great city, and proclaim against her that their badness has come up before me.” Jehovah had decided that Nineveh should be destroyed because the people were so bad.
Jehovah judges people according to the way they act
10 When Jonah told the people what Jehovah had said, they “began to put faith in God.” They all wanted to show that they repented, so they did not eat, and they put on clothes made of sackcloth. Even the king “rose up from his throne and put off his official garment from himself and covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the ashes.” The Ninevites allowed themselves to be molded by Jehovah, and they repented. As a result, Jehovah did not destroy the city.
11. What do we learn from the way Jehovah treated Israel and Nineveh?
11 Even though the Israelites were Jehovah’s special people, he had to discipline them. The Ninevites were not God’s special people, yet they responded well to his molding. So Jehovah showed mercy to them and chose not to destroy them. Jehovah is not partial. He judges people according to the way they act.
JEHOVAH KNOWS WHEN TO CHANGE HIS DECISIONS
12, 13. (a) Why does God change his decisions depending on how people respond to his molding? (b) What does it mean that Jehovah felt regret about Saul and Nineveh?
12 Jehovah is willing to change his decisions about people when they change the way they act. For example, the Bible tells us that Jehovah felt regret that he had made Saul the king of Israel. (1 Samuel 15:11) And when the people of Nineveh repented and stopped their bad conduct, the Bible says: “The true God felt regret over the calamity that he had spoken of causing to them; and he did not cause it.”
13 When the Bible says that Jehovah “felt regret,” it means that he changed how he felt about a person or that he changed what he decided to do. Jehovah had at one time approved of Saul. But when Saul was disobedient, he rejected Saul as king. This was not because Jehovah had made a mistake when he chose Saul as king. Instead, it was because Saul disobeyed him. And when the Ninevites repented, Jehovah was willing to change his decision and let them live. It comforts us to know that Jehovah is kind and merciful and that he is willing to change his decision when people change the way they act!
DO NOT REJECT DISCIPLINE FROM JEHOVAH
14. (a) What does Jehovah use to mold us today? (b) What should we do when God molds us?
14 Today, Jehovah uses the Bible and his organization to mold us. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) We should be happy to accept whatever counsel or discipline we receive in this way. No matter how long we have been baptized or how many privileges we have in the congregation, we should continue to obey Jehovah’s counsel. When we respond to Jehovah’s molding in this way, we can become the kind of person he wants us to be.
Jehovah uses the Bible and his organization to mold us
15, 16. (a) What feelings might a person have when he loses privileges in the congregation? Give an example. (b) What can help us to cope with feelings such as shame and embarrassment when we have received discipline?
15 How does Jehovah discipline us? He teaches us what he requires of us, and he corrects our thinking. Sometimes we may need strong discipline because we have done something very wrong. As a result, we might lose some of our privileges in the congregation. Consider the example of an elder named Dennis. * (See footnote.) He was reproved because of poor judgment in business matters. How did Dennis feel the night it was announced to the congregation that he was no longer serving as an elder? He says that he felt like a failure. “Over the past 30 years, I had had many privileges. I had been a regular pioneer, had served at Bethel, had been appointed as a ministerial servant and then as an elder. I had also just given my first talk at a district convention. Suddenly, it was all gone.” He felt ashamed and embarrassed, and he wondered if he could ever be useful to the organization again.
Always let Jehovah’s discipline mold you
16 Dennis had to change his conduct. But what helped him to cope with the shame and embarrassment he felt? He made sure that he studied the Bible, went in the ministry regularly, and attended all the meetings. He was grateful for the encouragement he got from the brothers and sisters and from our publications. He says: “The article ‘Did You Once Serve? Can You Serve Again?’ in the August 15, 2009, issue of The Watchtower was like a personal letter in answer to my prayers.” Dennis learned from the article that he could use his time to strengthen his relationship with Jehovah. He benefited from the discipline he received, and after some years he became a ministerial servant again.
17. How can disfellowshipping help a sinner? Give an example.
17 Disfellowshipping is another type of discipline from Jehovah. It protects the congregation from the bad influence of the sinner, and it can help the sinner to repent. (1 Corinthians 5:6, 7, 11) Robert was disfellowshipped for almost 16 years. During this time, his parents and siblings followed the Bible’s counsel and did not associate with him, not even greeting him. Robert has been reinstated for some years now and is doing well in the truth. He explained that part of the reason he came back to the truth after such a long time was that his family had refused to associate with him. He said that if his family had spent even a little time with him or just asked how he was doing, he would not have missed them as much as he did. This helped him to want to return to Jehovah and His people.
18. How should we respond when God molds us?
18 We may not need that same discipline. But we need to think about what we will do when God molds and disciplines us. How will we respond? Will we accept counsel, as David did? Or will we reject it, as Saul did? Jehovah, the Great Potter, is our Father. Never forget that “the one whom Jehovah loves he reproves, even as a father does a son in whom he finds pleasure.” Always let Jehovah discipline you.
^ par. 15 The names in this article have been changed.