“Jehovah will always lead you.”—ISA. 58:11.
SONGS: 3, 4
1, 2. (a) How do those taking the lead among Jehovah’s Witnesses differ from those doing so in other religions? (b) What will we consider in this article and the next?
“WHO is your leader?” That is a question often put to Jehovah’s Witnesses. And no wonder! In many religions, one man or one woman acts as leader, or chief. In contrast, we are proud to tell those who inquire that our Leader is not an imperfect human. Rather, we follow the lead of the resurrected Christ, who in turn follows the lead of his Father, Jehovah.—Matt. 23:10.
2 Nevertheless, there is a visible group of men, “the faithful and discreet slave,” who take the lead among God’s people today. (Matt. 24:45) So how do we know that it really is Jehovah who is leading us by means of his invisible Son? In this article and the next, we will examine how for millenniums Jehovah has directed certain humans to take the lead. Both articles will consider three lines of evidence that Jehovah has indeed been behind those men, proving that he was—and still is—the true Leader of his people.—Isa. 58:11.
EMPOWERED BY HOLY SPIRIT
3. What empowered Moses to lead Israel?
3 Holy spirit empowered God’s representatives. Consider Moses, who was commissioned to be the leader of the Israelites. What equipped him to care for that weighty assignment? Jehovah “put within him His holy spirit.” (Read Isaiah 63:11-14.) By empowering Moses with holy spirit, Jehovah continued to lead His people.
4. How could the Israelites discern that Moses had God’s spirit? (See opening image.)
4 Since holy spirit is an invisible force, how could the Israelites discern that it was operating on Moses? Holy spirit enabled Moses to perform miracles and to declare God’s name to Pharaoh. (Ex. 7:1-3) Holy spirit also produced in Moses beautiful qualities, such as love, meekness, and patience, that qualified him to lead the Israelites. What a contrast to the harsh and self-centered leaders of other lands! (Ex. 5:2, 6-9) The evidence was clear: Jehovah had selected Moses to be the leader of His people.
5. Explain how Jehovah empowered other Israelite men to lead his people.
5 Later, Jehovah’s holy spirit empowered other men whom he appointed to lead his people. “Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom.” (Deut. 34:9) “Jehovah’s spirit came upon Gideon.” (Judg. 6:34) And “the spirit of Jehovah began to empower David.” (1 Sam. 16:13) All those men relied on God’s spirit to help them, and that spirit empowered them to perform feats that they could not have done in their own strength. (Josh. 11:16, 17; Judg. 7:7, 22; 1 Sam. 17:37, 50) As a result, Jehovah rightly received praise for those mighty acts.
6. Why did God want his people to respect the leaders in Israel?
6 How should the Israelites have responded to clear evidence that those men were empowered by holy spirit? When the people complained about Moses’ leadership, Jehovah asked: “How much longer will this people treat me without respect?” (Num. 14:2, 11) Indeed, Jehovah chose Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and David to represent him as Leader. When the people obeyed these men, they were actually following Jehovah as Leader.
ASSISTED BY ANGELS
7. How did angels assist Moses?
7 Angels assisted God’s representatives. (Read Hebrews 1:7, 14.) Jehovah employed angels to commission, equip, and guide Moses. God sent Moses “as both ruler and deliverer by means of the angel who appeared to him in the thornbush.” (Acts 7:35) Jehovah “transmitted through angels” the Law, which Moses used to instruct the Israelites. (Gal. 3:19) And Jehovah told him: “Lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you. Look! My angel will go ahead of you.” (Ex. 32:34) The Bible does not report that the Israelites saw a materialized angel perform those duties. However, the way Moses instructed and guided the people made it clear that he had superhuman help.
8. What help did angels give to Joshua and Hezekiah?
8 After Moses’ time, his successor, Joshua, was strengthened by “the prince of Jehovah’s army” to lead God’s people into battle against the Canaanites; and the Israelites won the victory. (Josh. 5:13-15; 6:2, 21) Later, King Hezekiah faced an overwhelming force of Assyrian soldiers who threatened to invade Jerusalem. In one night, “the angel of Jehovah went out and struck down 185,000 men.”—2 Ki. 19:35.
9. Did the imperfections of God’s representatives excuse the Israelites from following their lead? Explain.
9 Of course, while the angels are perfect, the men whom they assisted were not. Moses once failed to sanctify Jehovah. (Num. 20:12) Joshua neglected to seek God’s guidance before concluding a covenant with the Gibeonites. (Josh. 9:14, 15) For a brief period, Hezekiah’s “heart became haughty.” (2 Chron. 32:25, 26) Nevertheless, despite the imperfections of these men, the Israelites were expected to follow their lead. Jehovah was supporting those men with his superhuman agents. Yes, Jehovah was leading his people.
GUIDED BY GOD’S WORD
10. How was Moses guided by God’s Law?
10 God’s Word guided his representatives. The Bible refers to the Law given to Israel as “the Law of Moses.” (1 Ki. 2:3) Nevertheless, the Scriptures identify Jehovah as the actual Lawgiver, and Moses himself was subject to that Law. (2 Chron. 34:14) After Jehovah had given instructions on how to set up the tabernacle, “Moses did according to all that Jehovah had commanded him. He did just so.”—Ex. 40:1-16.
11. What were Joshua and the kings who ruled God’s people required to do?
11 From the beginning of his leadership, Joshua had a written record of God’s Word. “You must read it in an undertone day and night,” he was told, “in order to observe carefully all that is written in it.” (Josh. 1:8) Later, the kings who ruled God’s people followed a similar routine. They were obligated to read the Law daily, write a copy of it, and “observe all the words of this Law and these regulations by carrying them out.”—Read Deuteronomy 17:18-20.
12. How did God’s Word affect the leaders of God’s people?
12 What effect did God’s Word have on the men who took the lead? Consider the example of King Josiah. After a document containing the Mosaic Law was found, Josiah’s secretary began to read it to him. * How did the king react? “As soon as the king heard the words of the book of the Law, he ripped his garments apart.” But he did more. Guided by God’s Word, Josiah began a vigorous campaign against idolatry and arranged an unprecedented celebration of the Passover. (2 Ki. 22:11; 23:1-23) Because Josiah and other faithful leaders were guided by God’s Word, they were willing to adjust and clarify the direction they gave to God’s people. Those changes brought God’s ancient people into harmony with his will.
13. What contrast existed between the leaders of God’s people and those of pagan nations?
13 How different those faithful kings were from the leaders of other nations, men who were guided by human wisdom and shortsighted strategy! Under Canaanite leadership, people did detestable things, which included incest, homosexuality, bestiality, child sacrifice, and gross idolatry. (Lev. 18:6, 21-25) Moreover, Babylonian and Egyptian leaders did not follow the scientifically sound practices on hygiene that God gave to Israel. (Num. 19:13) In contrast, God’s ancient people saw how their faithful leaders promoted spiritual, moral, and physical cleanness. Clearly, Jehovah was leading them.
14. Why did Jehovah discipline some of the leaders of his people?
14 Not all the kings who ruled God’s ancient people followed God’s instructions. Those who did not obey Jehovah refused to accept the guidance of God’s holy spirit, his angels, and his Word. In some cases, Jehovah disciplined or replaced those leaders. (1 Sam. 13:13, 14) In his own due time, he appointed someone who would be superior to any of the men he had used thus far.
JEHOVAH APPOINTS A PERFECT LEADER
15. (a) How did the prophets indicate that a unique leader was coming? (b) Who was the prophesied leader?
15 For centuries, Jehovah prophesied that he would appoint a uniquely qualified leader for his people. “Jehovah your God will raise up for you from among your brothers a prophet like me,” Moses told the Israelites. “You must listen to him.” (Deut. 18:15) Isaiah foretold that this One would become “a leader and commander.” (Isa. 55:4) And Daniel was inspired to write about the coming of “Messiah the Leader.” (Dan. 9:25) Finally, Jesus Christ identified himself as “the Leader” of God’s people. (Read Matthew 23:10.) Jesus’ disciples followed him willingly, and they affirmed that he was Jehovah’s choice. (John 6:68, 69) What convinced them that Jesus Christ was the one through whom Jehovah was leading his people?
16. What proved that Jesus was empowered by holy spirit?
16 Holy spirit empowered Jesus. At Jesus’ baptism, John the Baptizer saw “the heavens being parted and, like a dove, the spirit coming down upon him.” Thereafter, “the spirit impelled him to go into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:10-12) For the rest of Jesus’ earthly ministry, God’s holy spirit empowered Jesus to perform miracles and to speak with divine authority. (Acts 10:38) In addition, holy spirit produced in Jesus perfect fruitage, including love, joy, and stalwart faith. (John 15:9; Heb. 12:2) No other leader provided such convincing evidence. Jesus was Jehovah’s choice.
17. What did angels do to assist Jesus?
17 Angels assisted Jesus. Shortly after Jesus was baptized, “angels came and began to minister to him.” (Matt. 4:11) Hours before his death, “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:43) Jesus was confident that Jehovah would send angelic help whenever he needed it to accomplish God’s will.—Matt. 26:53.
18. How did God’s Word guide Jesus’ life and teaching?
18 God’s Word guided Jesus. From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus allowed the Scriptures to direct him. (Matt. 4:4) In fact, his obedience to God’s Word went as far as submitting to death on a torture stake. Even his final words before he died included quotations of Messianic prophecies. (Matt. 27:46; Luke 23:46) In contrast, the religious leaders of that time disregarded God’s Word whenever it contradicted their own traditions. Quoting Jehovah’s words through the prophet Isaiah, Jesus said about them: “This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshipping me, for they teach commands of men as doctrines.” (Matt. 15:7-9) Could Jehovah really choose any of those men to lead his people?
19. How did God’s Word guide Jesus’ life and teaching?
19 Jesus allowed God’s Word to guide not only his actions but also his teaching. When confronted with religious controversies, he appealed neither to his vast wisdom nor to his unparalleled experience. Instead, he held up the Scriptures as the final authority. (Matt. 22:33-40) And rather than regale his listeners with personal stories about life in heaven or the creation of the universe, “he opened up their minds fully to grasp the meaning of the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:32, 45) Jesus loved God’s Word, and he was eager to share it with others.
20. (a) How did Jesus acknowledge his submission to God? (b) What does the contrast between Jesus and Herod Agrippa I teach us about Jehovah’s choice of a leader?
20 Although Jesus amazed his listeners with “gracious words,” he gave credit to his Teacher, Jehovah. (Luke 4:22) When a rich man tried to glorify Jesus with the title “Good Teacher,” Jesus modestly replied: “Why do you call me good? Nobody is good except one, God.” (Mark 10:17, 18) What a contrast to Herod Agrippa I, who became king, or leader, of Judea about eight years later! At a diplomatic function, Herod clothed himself “with royal raiment.” His adoring crowd shouted: “A god’s voice, and not a man’s!” Herod evidently basked in the praise. What happened next? “Instantly the angel of Jehovah struck him, because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten up with worms and died.” (Acts 12:21-23) Surely, no objective observer could conclude that Herod was chosen by Jehovah to be leader. Jesus, on the other hand, gave convincing evidence of being appointed by God, and he constantly glorified Jehovah as the Supreme Leader of his people.
21. What will we discuss in the next article?
21 Jesus’ leadership was not meant to last only a few years. “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth,” he declared after his resurrection. “And look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:18-20) But as an invisible spirit in heaven, how would Jesus lead God’s people on earth? Whom would Jehovah use to work under Christ’s leadership and take the lead among His people? And how would Christians be able to recognize his representatives? The next article will consider the answers to those questions.
^ par. 12 This may have been the original document written by Moses.