Bible Principles—Can They Help Us To Cope With Today’s Problems?

Why Use Bible Principles?

Our theme is “Bible Principles – Can They Help Us To Cope With Today’s Problems?” But that can’t be right, surely?

You ever had one of those managers: young, wears loud braces, university graduate, knows all the management lingo but seemingly knows nothing about your job or the real world. You go in to him, tug of the forelock: “Excuse me, sir. I’m having a problem with this project.”

What does he say? “Don’t come to me with problems; come to me with solutions.”

So, why isn’t this talk called “Bible Principles – The Solution to Today’s Problems?”

Well, Jehovah has provided the solution to today’s problems: through his Kingdom under the rulership of Jesus Christ, he will restore mankind to perfection and the earth to a paradise. It will be so complete a solution that it is called a “new earth.” After that, Jehovah will be restored as sole ruler of mankind. But that’s a little way off. However, because he loves us he doesn’t say, ‘Well, I’m setting up this kingdom for you. That should be enough. See you there.’ No, He also helps us to cope with problems that arise in the meantime.

To do this, he gives us principles. Why just principles? This way, He treats us with respect and autonomy. Rather than him miraculously whooshing our problems away one at a time or endlessly nit-picking every element of life into a law, he gives us principles that we can apply ourselves. And He says that regardless of the problem, the ability to cope is within each one of us; He guarantees it (1 Cor 10:13).

He doesn’t butt in to our conflicts, he doesn’t force white toothy smiles onto our faces, he doesn’t magic us up money and he doesn’t remove situations that cause anxiety. We’re not babies needing him to do everything for us nor does he treat us like such. He tells us what is good and helps us cope with the not-so-good. By giving us principles he maintains our dignity and true independence and freedom.

Today, there is a superabundance of advice on virtually every imaginable subject. So why are Bible principles better?

Have you ever watched the weather forecast on BBC and thought, ‘I don’t much like that; I’ll see what the weather is on ITV.’ Human advice is plentiful and frequently contradictory; sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong. Sometimes it’s harmless, sometimes it’s harmful. The motivation of the adviser is usually unknown or is for financial gain or self-publicity; rarely is it to benefit the hearer.

But Bible principles? They’re based on God’s wisdom, they’re available for free, they haven’t needing changing in thousands of years and Isaiah 48:17,18 reveals His motives for sharing them:

“I, Jehovah, am your God, The One teaching you to benefit yourself, The One guiding you in the way you should walk. 18 If only you would pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”

Yes, Jehovah wants us to experience peace and benefit from his timeless wisdom. Clearly Bible principles are better than human advice. Eventually, though, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So, let us consider how Bible principles can help us cope with four common problems: resolving conflicts, finding happiness, dealing with economic problems and allaying anxiety.

How To Resolve Conflicts

First problem: resolving conflicts.

Many today suffer at the hands of thoughtless and self-centred people. Even when not dealing directly with a personal conflict, because of people like this, we still find ourselves in fear of getting into conflict. We may hesitate to speak up or act in the way we would like because we are in fear of antagonising people like this.

And, amazingly, the world’s favourite system of government, democracy, is built upon a constant, never-ending political conflict and getting the populace to choose sides. This world is built on conflict and suffers from the never-ending threat of it.

So what principle can resolve this?

Five hundred years before Christ, Chinese philosopher Confucius described the virtue Ren or humaneness with a phrase along the lines of “What you do not want done to you, do not do to others.” While this is certainly great advice, Jesus Christ would reveal another dimension. For what surprisingly appears to be the first time in recorded history, he stood the Confucian statement on its head and provided his followers with the principle recorded at Matthew 7:12.

All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them.

Jesus so redefined the Confucian principle that the prior way came to be called the Silver Rule, while the Bible principle revealed by Jesus came to be called the Golden Rule.

Applying this principle means treating others respectfully, fairly, and honestly, showing genuine concern for their welfare. That is a great way of avoiding conflict in the first place. So why do we still have conflicts? Why isn’t this the solution to conflicts?

Let’s consider the example of Jesus and his apostles at Matthew 26. Please open your Bibles there and we’ll scan through a few verses starting at verse 47.

We’re in the Garden of Gethsemane on the last night of Jesus human life. Obviously, Jesus could perfectly apply his own principle and must have done so toward Judas. Yet what do we see in verse 47?

While he was still speaking, look! Judas, one of the Twelve, came and with him a large crowd with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Jesus came into conflict with Judas, the religious leaders and a bunch of armed soldiers.

You see, in order for this Bible principle to be a perfect solution, everybody needs to apply it and we cannot control what other people do.

Jesus remaining faithful apostles knew the Golden Rule but look a few verses down to verse 51.

But look! one of those with Jesus reached out his hand and drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, taking off his ear.  This is the Apostle Peter escalating the conflict, not resolving it.

In order for the Bible principle to be a perfect solution, we have to apply it perfectly. And, even though we try, even though we may apply it 99% of the time brilliantly, we simply have to realise that we will sometimes make a right pudding of it. And somebody may lose their ear.

It’s interesting to note Jesus response to Peter’s escalation of the conflict. He states in verse 52:

“Return your sword to its place, for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.”

This is the Silver Rule principle. ‘Now, Peter. Would you like your ear sliced off? No? I didn’t think so. So don’t go around slicing other people’s ears off.’

But what does Jesus himself do? Luke tells us (in Luke 22:51) “he touched the ear and healed him.” Jesus perfectly applied the Golden Rule principle. He did good to others, first. He still got arrested and executed, though, didn’t he?

So, if we do find ourselves in conflict, does the Golden Rule become irrelevant? Should we, perhaps, run away from conflict so that we don’t make things worse? No. In fact, the Bible tells us the reverse: if we have a problem with someone, we go and see them – but always with the principle of the Golden Rule in mind.

See what the purpose of Jesus’ advice at Matthew 5:23-25 is.

“If, then, you are bringing your gift to the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar, and go away. First make your peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift. 25 “Be quick to settle matters with your legal opponent, while you are with him on the way there, so that somehow the opponent may not turn you over to the judge, and the judge to the court attendant, and you get thrown into prison.

The purpose of his advice is to pursue peace; to settle matters before they get out of hand; to do good to the one we are in conflict with because, of course, we would like him to do good to us.

Now, even though they won’t always resolve things, how do these Bible principles help us cope with conflict?

If we strive to apply the Bible principle of the Golden Rule, we will be actively pursuing peace and that gives us inner calm and helps us to enjoy happy relationships. Consider what Philippians 4:9 has to say about those who pursue peace by applying Bible principles.

The things that you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these, and the God of peace will be with you. If we pursue peace by applying Bible principles, the God of peace will be with us. And what does that mean? Verse 7 the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.

Bible principles help us to cope with today’s problem of conflict because we will receive peace from God that surpasses our understanding. The conflict may or may not get resolved, but Jehovah promises us that, even if we can’t see how, we can cope with it.

In God’s coming new world, our imperfect tendency towards conflict will belong to the past. But in the meantime, we can use the Bible principle of the Golden Rule to help us avoid, resolve and cope with conflicts.

How To Find Happiness

Our next problem is how to find happiness.

Now this is one of those subjects where it is easy to agree with the scripture at Luke 12:15. In theory.

“Then he said to them: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of greed, because even when a person has an abundance, his life does not result from the things he possesses.” ”

Many people would agree you can’t buy happiness. But then they continue to look for it through money, possessions, prominence, power, pleasure or other selfish means. So how does the Bible principle at Acts 20:35 help us to cope when we can’t find happiness through these things?

“I have shown you in all things that by working hard in this way, you must assist those who are weak and must keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said: ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’” “

Jesus taught his followers that true happiness comes from being generous. It’s not what we have that brings happiness; it’s what we do with it. This principle helps us cope because it puts things such as money, prominence and power in their proper place. Having them is fine. The Bible features the super-rich such as Solomon, the extremely prominent such as Abraham, the extraordinarily powerful such as Jesus Christ.

Yet they are all notable for giving of themselves and their things. Solomon gave himself and his wealth to the building of the temple; Abraham all but gave the life of his son; Jesus gave his power to heal the sick and, ultimately, gave his life.

Now, what if we’re not a multi-billionaire or a father of nations or capable of raising people from the dead? How do we apply this principle?

Looking back at Acts 20:35, what action did Paul couple with the principle “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving”? It was ‘assisting those who are weak’. Now that’s more wide-ranging than simply giving to the poor, isn’t it? It means that we can give of whatever we have; it could be money or material things but it could also be time, care and energy.

Giving generously builds strong marriages and happy families because we think of their well-being first and put our material and career pursuits in their proper place. Giving of ourselves can bring comfort to the bereaved, the sick, the elderly, and the depressed because they need our time, care and energy to help them cope.

And how does giving bring us happiness?

Often we can directly see the positive results from the giving of our things, time, and energy and this brings us happiness. Our giving is usually much appreciated and gratefully received and this gratitude brings us happiness.

Hebrews 13:16 highlights another way that giving brings us happiness.

“Moreover, do not forget to do good and to share what you have with others, for God is well-pleased with such sacrifices.” Yes, on top of the immediate benefits of giving, our actions can please God. Jehovah is not just pleased, mind you, he is “well-pleased.” And that brings us happiness. It also means that when we give and don’t see a positive result or a grateful response, we can still be happy because we know that God sees our actions and that he is well-pleased with them.

In God’s coming new world, our imperfect tendency towards selfishness will belong to the past. But in the meantime, we can use the Bible principle of there being ‘more happiness in giving than in receiving’ to cope when we don’t find happiness in material pursuits.

How To Deal With Economic Problems

Our third problem is economic. In today’s world, not only do many people struggle with making ends meet, entire countries do.

Now, where do you keep your cash? A wallet? Yeah, you’re doing it wrong. Once, when Jesus needed to pay his tax he said “Of course; get me a fish. Yes, from the sea.” Then he magicked some money out of it and paid his tax with that. Oh, and he paid the Apostle Peter’s tax while he was at it. (Mt 17:24-27) Unfortunately, Jesus isn’t producing infinite money from unsuspecting wildlife today.

So, the bible principle we are going to look at doesn’t directly concern money. The principle is in 1 Timothy 6 and keep your bibles open, please. Look at verse 8 with me and note that money is not mentioned. Can you see why?

“So, having food and clothing, we will be content with these things.”

The Apostle Paul is telling us to be content with the necessities. Why? He continues in verse 9 and 10:

“But those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge men into destruction and ruin. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”

While success in this world is often measured in terms of material possessions, it’s the determination to get them that can be ruinous. It’s all too easy to lose perspective on the important things in our life such as our worship and time with our families. So the principle in verse 8 reminds us to be content with the necessities. Does this mean that once we have the necessities we should give the rest away or stop working or something? Does this mean that we are not allowed to be rich? That we’re not allowed to have nice stuff? Look to verses 17-19:

“Instruct those who are rich in the present system of things not to be arrogant, and to place their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who richly provides us with all the things we enjoy. 18 Tell them to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be generous, ready to share, 19 safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, so that they may get a firm hold on the real life.”

Paul was addressing Christians who were rich and reminding them, not to give everything away and live on the breadline, but to be careful and remember where their trust needs to lie.

So if we don’t need to teeter on the precipice of poverty to apply this principle, just what does being “content with these things” mean?

Contentment involves living within our means. Contentment involves not being distracted by the quest for more or better material possessions. Contentment involves not being resentful or disappointed by our current standard of living.

And how does being content help us to cope with economic problems?

Being content will help us readjust to new financial circumstances as quickly as possible.

Being content will help us focus on the more important things such as cultivating a good relationship with God and enjoying a happy and secure family life.

Being content will help us avoid being enticed by get-rich-quick schemes and risky financial investments which cause distracting anxiety.

Consider this indisputable statement from Proverbs 22:7

“The rich one rules the poor, And the borrower is a slave to the lender.”

Being content will help us to minimize the times we become slave to a lender because we will try not to incur unnecessary heavy debt which causes anxiety and pressure, distracting us from the more important things.

In God’s coming new world, economic problems will belong to the past. But in the meantime, we can use the Bible principle of being content to live within our means to help us avoid and cope with economic problems.

How To Allay Anxiety

Our fourth topic is how to allay anxiety. There are plenty of things to be anxious about these days; it seems almost everyone has something weighing down on them. So what Bible principle might we apply to help us cope with anxiety?

Philippians 4:6, 7 opens with a dogmatic and startling phrase:

“Do not be anxious over anything”

Easy for him to say. How is that possible?

“but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”

Prayer brings us “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding”. Now perhaps we can’t see how prayer can bring us peace from anxiety. We can’t imagine how it works. Indeed, it “surpasses all understanding.” But history and personal experience will tell us that it does work and we will receive the peace of God. Does that mean that prayer is a magic cure-all? No, because it’s not the solution; it’s there to help us cope until the solution is complete.

Now, what if you pray and it doesn’t work and you’re still anxious and you don’t feel like you’re coping at all? Does that mean you’ve done it wrong or that the principle has failed or God’s just had enough of you and your whining?

Consider, please, the example of Jesus recorded at Luke 22 and we’ll look at a few verses here.

Luke 22:41-43 He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw away, and he bent his knees and began to pray, 42 saying: “Father, if you want to, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, let, not my will, but yours take place.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.

Did Jesus have reason to be anxious? Yes, this was the night he was to allow himself and his Father to be humiliated and his life to be sacrificed. He was clearly worried about it, there was tremendous pressure on him and he was feeling it. He prayed and got a wonderful direct answer: an angel came and strengthened him.

However, look at verse 44.

But he was in such agony that he kept praying more earnestly; and his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground.

Yeah, the first prayer didn’t do it. Not only that, after his first prayer he became more stressed; so much so that it describes his sweat becoming like blood. Have you ever been so anxious or stressed over something that it affects you physically? Some of you have, I’m sure. And it happened to Jesus after he prayed about his anxiety.

Did that mean that Jesus would abandon the idea of prayer or presume God was ignoring him? Of course it didn’t. Just a short while later when he returned to his disciples in verse 46, he extols the value of prayer – “keep praying, so that you do not enter into temptation” – and, even though his anxiety nor the circumstance causing it were miraculously wiped away, he was able to cope and continue with the task at hand.

He clearly wasn’t embarrassed to pray repeatedly, even immediately, was he? With Jesus’ experience in mind, let’s consider a couple of points from James 1:5

“So if any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching, and it will be given him.”

You see, Jehovah doesn’t mind us praying again and again, in fact, he urges us to do so: “keep asking”. I like James’ use of the phrase “without reproaching”. God will not think less of us because we ask repeatedly for his help. ‘I can’t believe you need my help again so soon already.’ No, there is no reproaching or criticism or smug sarcastic comments from God just because you need to pray to him over and over. Jesus had to pray immediately after he had been strengthened. Jehovah wants us to feel comfortable enough with him to do the same.

Now, prayer by itself will help but we need to work along with it. Philippians talked about guarding hearts and mental powers, James talked about praying for wisdom. Sometimes we can avoid, guard against or cope with situations that cause anxiety by following wisdom gleaned from God’s Word. Prayer… can give us enough peace so that we can find that wisdom.

In God’s coming new world, all problems that cause anxiety will belong to the past. But in the meantime, we can use the Bible principle of persistently praying for peace and wisdom to help us cope with and allay anxiety.

What is the Key to Coping with Today’s Problems Successfully?

Chatting about these principles is all well and good and easy now. But how do we make sure we still refer to them when we need to? You see, everything’s working against us. When things are going well, we tend to consider it our own achievement and so our opinions take on an exaggerated importance. When things become difficult, we tend to become more susceptible to unrealistic solutions and find it harder to make discerning decisions.

See what Hebrews 5:14 tells us will help us train our powers of discernment.

“Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their powers of discernment trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”

‘Discernment trained through use.’ That means we need to consider and apply Bible principles constantly; not just when we have problems. We have to continually prove to ourselves that God’s wisdom is better than our own. That only happens through personal study and meditation. By doing that, we will be training our conscience to default to God’s wisdom and that will help us make sure we still refer to Bible principles when problems arise.

So, Bible principles – can they help us cope with today’s problems? Well, as we’ve seen, they can help us to avoid some of today’s problems in the first place. But when enduring problems, Bible principles can help us to cope, often by keeping things in proper perspective and by reminding us to keep asking for the “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.”

Eventually, thanks to God’s coming Kingdom, today’s problems will belong to the past. But in the meantime, thanks to God’s love, Bible principles can help us to cope so that we can march gratefully into that eagerly awaited new world.

Does the Bible Teach That Sexual Relations Are Sinful?

The traditional parent-child discussion on sex is often referred to as the birds and the bees. I had a think about this and have no idea what the birds and the bees have to do with human sexuality; if anything, they make the discussion much more complicated. But one thing that did strike me while pondering this most worthwhile conundrum was that an animal’s sexual activities are never sinful. For example, if you’ve got a cat and it comes home pregnant, you don’t condemn it for doing something sinful.

But humans? For humans it’s different. We can sin – that is, we can fall short of God’s standards – and one way we can do this is through improper sexual relations.

So what does the Bible teach about this? Let’s consider three verses that cover this subject: two that show how sexual relations are to be used acceptably and one sinfully.

First let’s consider God’s blessing at Genesis 1:28

“Further, God blessed them, and God said to them: “Be fruitful and become many, fill the earth and subdue it,”

Fulfilling this divine command would require that Adam and Eve have sexual relations, wouldn’t it? Doing so would not be sinful but would be in harmony with God’s purpose for the populating of the earth. Jehovah reiterated this when Noah survived the flood and, once more, it’s nice to see that He referred to populating the earth as a blessing.

So procreation for a husband and his wife is not sinful. What about recreational sex?

1 Corinthians 7:2-5 “because of the prevalence of sexual immorality,* let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband give to his wife her due, and let the wife also do likewise to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but his wife does. 5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent for an appointed time, so that you may devote time to prayer and may come together again, in order that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-control.”

Sexual relations between a husband and wife are completely appropriate and an important part of the relationship. There is no mention of baby-making here, just the generous sharing of one’s body with the other.

What sex is sinful, then? Well, the scripture in Corinthians contrasted proper sexual relations between a husband and his wife with sexual immorality, that is, intercourse involving parties who are not scripturally married to each other. But is sexual immorality really sinful? Or is it just an acceptable alternative? Aren’t our bodies ours to use as we see fit?

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 For this is the will of God, that you should be holy and abstain from sexual immorality. 4 Each one of you should know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not with greedy, uncontrolled sexual passion like the nations have that do not know God. 6 No one should go beyond proper limits and take advantage of his brother in this matter, because Jehovah exacts punishment for all these things, just as we told you previously and also strongly warned you. 7 For God has called us, not for uncleanness, but for holiness. 8 So, then, the man who disregards this is disregarding, not man, but God, who gives you his holy spirit.

While we can do what we want with our bodies, sexual immorality has consequences; it affects our standing with God. Jehovah says that sex involving parties who are not scripturally married to each other does not meet his approval; in other words, sexual immorality is sinful.

So, does the Bible teach that sexual relations are sinful? As we often find, the Bible’s view is clear, candid and refreshingly balanced and straight-forward. God’s arrangement is that a man and a woman married to each other can have sex to produce children and just for fun. Unlike the birds and the bees, though, the Bible teaches that any other sexual relationship is sinful.

rs p. 367 ¶1–p. 368 ¶2

Highlights from Exodus 1-6

The Exodus account is one of the most famous in the Old Testament. There have been lots of books written about it and famous movies made about it. There’s another big Exodus movie coming this winter with Batman as Moses.

You see, to many, the book of Exodus appears to be a book about Moses. But it’s not. It’s deeper than that; and it’s all about God.

Exodus appears to be a book about legal minutia; about God getting into every orifice of your life with commandments and regulations and judicial decisions and stop telling me what to do. But it’s deeper than that. It’s a book that is setting up how completely unnecessary such detailed stipulations should be; something that would only be explained 1500 years later by Jesus Christ when he staggeringly condensed every law ever written into two sentences.

Exodus appears to be a book about Jehovah’s cruelty and violence. And, to be fair, Jehovah sure kills an awful lot of people. But it’s deeper than that. Each of the estimated 810,600 (Drunk With Blood, God’s Killings in the Bible by Steve Wells) deaths in Exodus was avoidable – indeed some Egyptians did – and they were a clear consequence of someone ignoring Jehovah’s warning. Exodus shows how Jehovah gives men free will to make their own choices – even if they choose punishment and death.

Perhaps surprisingly, Exodus also gives us insight into Jehovah’s tender feelings.

For example: what does Exodus 3:7-10 teach us about Jehovah?

“Jehovah added: “I have certainly seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their outcry because of those who force them to work; I well know the pains they suffer. I will go down to rescue them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a land good and spacious, a land flowing with milk and honey, the territory of the Ca′naan·ites, the Hit′tites, the Am′or·ites, the Per′iz·zites, the Hi′vites, and the Jeb′u·sites. Now look! The outcry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen also the harsh way that the Egyptians are oppressing them. Now come, I will send you to Phar′aoh, and you will bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” ”

These verses reveal that Jehovah is a deeply concerned and caring God, not just about himself, not just about his name but also about his people. He says “I well know the pains they suffer.” What does the expression “I well know” imply to you? Barnes’ Notes on the Bible comments that “I well know” implies personal feeling, tenderness, and compassion. But Exodus demonstrates that Jehovah does more than simply look with pity or hear with compassion. He is moved to act.

Obviously, he did this with the rescue and migration of Israel out of Egypt. But Jehovah’s compassion is also demonstrated on a more subtle and personal level.

Look at Exodus 6:9-13:

“Moses later gave this message to the Israelites, but they did not listen to Moses because of their discouragement and because of the harsh slavery. Then Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying: “Go in and tell Phar′aoh, Egypt’s king, that he should send the Israelites away out of his land.” However, Moses replied to Jehovah: “Look! The Israelites have not listened to me; how will Phar′aoh ever listen to me, as I speak with difficulty?” But Jehovah again told Moses and Aaron what commands to give to the Israelites and to Phar′aoh, Egypt’s king, in order to bring the Israelites out of the land of Egypt.”

Jehovah didn’t cruelly abandon or intolerantly criticise or violently destroy the Israelites for their lack of faith but compassionately understood their situation and spoke positively to them about how he was going to make the future better.

Jehovah wasn’t infuriated by Moses negative vibes and patiently reiterated his instructions and, to help him, went on to detail precisely what to say and how Pharaoh would react.

Today, too, we can be sure that Jehovah cares for us deeply; he knows the pains we suffer, he knows the pressures we are under and he is moved to act in our behalf. He speaks positively to us about how He will make the future better and, to help us, gives us the Bible and Christian fellowship.

Exodus appears to be about certain things; many presume that it’s about Moses. But it’s not. It’s about God and it’s deeper and more meaningful than Hollywood and, perhaps, we might imagine.

Other highlights from Exodus 1 to 6?

Exodus 4:20. Now Moses’ sons could have been almost 40 years old at this point. “Then Moses took his wife and his sons and lifted them onto a donkey.” How big was this donkey?

5. What does Exodus 3:7-10 teach us about Jehovah? [Mar. 31, w09 3/1 p. 15 pars. 3-6] These verses reveal that Jehovah is a deeply concerned and caring God. The expression “I well know” implies personal feeling, tenderness, and compassion. Furthermore, Jehovah does not simply look with pity or hear with compassion. He is moved to act. Today, we can be sure that Jehovah cares for us deeply, he knows the pains we suffer, and he is moved to act in our behalf. (1 Pet. 5:7)

6. How did Jehovah live up to one aspect of the meaning of his name in the days of Moses? (Ex. 3:14, 15) [Mar. 31, w13 3/15 pp. 25-26 pars. 5-6] Jehovah lived up to one aspect of the meaning of his name by proving to be Israel’s Deliverer, by punishing Egypt with ten plagues, and by showing that Pharaoh and the Egyptian gods were powerless. (Ex. 12:12) After leading Israel safely through the Red Sea, Jehovah destroyed Pharaoh and his army. (Ps. 136:13-15) In the wilderness, Jehovah kept millions of Israelites alive, and he even caused their clothes and sandals not to wear out. Nothing can stop Jehovah from fulfilling his word. (Deut. 29:5)

Genesis 31: Don’t Mess With Women on Their Periods

After 20 years in his father-in-law Laban’s service, under instruction from God, Jacob wants to return to his father, Isaac, and his homeland. Because God had been looking after Jacob and cheerfully reversing Laban’s attempts to cheat Jacob, Laban’s attitude toward his son-in-law had cooled. Laban didn’t like Jacob; Laban’s sons didn’t like Jacob.

Because Laban has a habit of putting several years’ worth of obstacles and random women in his way, Jacob is going to leave as surreptitiously as possible.

“Moreover, Jacob outwitted La′ban the A·ra·mae′an, for he had not told him that he was running away.” – Genesis 31:20

Well, “outwitted” is probably putting it a bit strong.

“Now La′ban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole the teraphim statues that belonged to her father.” – Genesis 31:19

On their way out, Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel steals her father Laban’s idols. These were extremely important; it’s thought that they represented the estate and whoever owned them could lay claim to it. Quite why she took them isn’t terribly clear.

“On the third day, La′ban was told that Jacob had run away. So he took his brothers with him and pursued him for a journey of seven days and caught up with him in the mountainous region of Gil′e·ad”. – Genesis 31:22,23

The idols were so important that Laban chased after Jacob (who had a 3 day headstart) for 7 days.

“Then God came to La′ban the A·ra·mae′an in a dream by night and said to him: “Be careful about what you say to Jacob, either good or bad.” ”- Genesis 31:24

They were so important that Laban ignored a warning from Almighty God himself to basically leave Jacob well alone.

“It is in my power to do harm to you.” – Genesis 31:29a

They were so important that Laban was ready to kill Jacob to retrieve them.

“Anyone with whom you find your gods will not live. Before our brothers, examine what I have, and take what is yours.” But Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.” – Genesis 31:32

Jacob, who knew nothing of the theft, suggests that Laban search the entire camp so that he can kill the thief. This seems like an entirely reasonable suggestion to Laban; the idols were so important that he would kill whoever stole his belongings.

“So La′ban went into the tent of Jacob and into the tent of Le′ah and into the tent of the two slave girls, but did not find them. Then he came out of Le′ah’s tent and went into Rachel’s tent. Meanwhile, Rachel had taken the teraphim statues and put them in the woman’s saddle basket of the camel, and she was sitting on them.”- Genesis 31:33-34a

He finally storms into Rachel’s tent where she’s put them in a saddle bag which she is sitting on.

He searches Rachel’s tent. He comes to the saddle bags that Rachel is sitting on. She doesn’t get up.

Here is a man who has stormed across country for seven days. Here is a man who has defied the advice of God. Here is a man who is prepared to kill whoever stole his belongings.

“Then she said to her father: “Do not be angry, my lord, because I am not able to get up before you, for the customary thing with women is upon me.” ” – Genesis 31:35a

More colloquially: “Pardon me, but I’m on my period and I’m not moving.”

“So La′ban searched through the whole tent but did not find them. … So he searched on carefully but did not find the teraphim statues.” – Genesis 31:34b, 35b

Here is a man who has stormed across country for seven days. Here is a man who has defied the advice of God. Here is a man who is prepared to kill whoever stole his belongings.

“Then La′ban departed and returned home.” – Genesis 31:55

Here is a man who knows not to argue with a woman on her period.

Highlights from Daniel 10-12

Daniel 10:2, 3 In those days I myself, Daniel, happened to be mourning for three full weeks. 3 Dainty bread I did not eat, and no flesh or wine entered into my mouth, and in no way did I grease myself until the completing of the three full weeks.

Daniel was concerned about fellow Jews who in 537 B.C.E. had returned to Jerusalem. That’s a nice reminder right there; to pray for our brothers and sisters.

Jehovah noted Daniel’s actions and heard his prayer and immediately sent an angel to strengthen and reassure him.

Daniel 10:12 And he went on to say to me: “Do not be afraid, O Daniel, for from the first day that you gave your heart to understanding and humbling yourself before your God your words have been heard, and I myself have come because of your words.

Yes, Jehovah heard and acted on the first day Daniel started praying. But didn’t verse 3 say that the angel arrived three weeks later? Well, it turns out he had a good excuse.

Daniel 10:13 But the prince of the royal realm of Persia was standing in opposition to me for twenty-one days, and, look! Mi′chael, one of the foremost princes, came to help me; and I, for my part, remained there beside the kings of Persia.

I suppose the first thing to note is the account never mentions why one of the other 100 million angels couldn’t have come. More importantly, it tells us why this angel was delayed by revealing that this ‘prince of Persia’ was actively stopping him. Who was this ‘prince of Persia’?

The angel was obviously not referring to Persian King Cyrus, who was favourable toward Daniel and his people. Additionally, how could a human resist an angel?

The only being that could resist an angel must be a fallen angel, a demon, an agent of the Devil, who had been given control over the realm of the Persian Empire.

The angel goes on to reveal more in Daniel 10:20:

…now I shall go back to fight with the prince of Persia. When I am going forth, look! also the prince of Greece is coming.

So there wasn’t just a demon assigned to Persia. There was also one assigned to Greece. What can we conclude from this?

That there are invisible world rulers, demon princes who share control of the world under the authority of Satan the Devil. This chilling state of affairs was something the Apostle Paul wrote about at Ephesians 6:12:

we have a wrestling, not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.

Wicked spirit forces: demon princes.

And Daniel’s experience confirms, that when Paul said ‘we have a wrestling,’ he didn’t just mean generally. Yes, there is the spirit of the world and the endless distractions and temptations of modern life. But in Daniel’s case, demons actively worked against a response to prayer; angels have to battle through them to bring Jehovah’s messages to us.

We always value responses to our prayers but I’m sure that this reminder will help us to appreciate even more the work Jehovah’s invisible organisation puts in, the battles they must wage, to bring us his answers.

Reference: w11 9/1 The World’s Secret Ruler Exposed

Why Greed Is Idolatry

Ephesians 5:5 tells us that being a “greedy person … means being an idolater.” But why is that the case?

Consider the commandment regarding idolatry in Exodus and see why the command was given:

“You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.” – Exodus 20:5

‘Don’t serve them, serve only me.’ If you’re not worshipping Jehovah, as far as he’s concerned, you’re committing idolatry. Whatever takes the place of worshipping Jehovah becomes our idol.

Can greed for something take the place of worshipping Jehovah? Yes, of course it can. If we’re greedy for something, it has become the priority in our life and, therefore, Jehovah is not. Whatever takes the place of worshipping Jehovah becomes our idol.

The question now is: how can we tell if we are greedy? Greed is when a normal desire becomes insatiable and takes over our lives. In the context of idolatry, greed is when a normal desire or part of life takes priority over worshipping Jehovah.

So, is a normal desire or part of life beginning to take priority over worshipping Jehovah? We need to look for warning signs, chinks in our spiritual armour, the thin end of the wedge, as it were.

Let’s consider two areas: meetings and preaching. Perhaps we can ask ourselves how many meetings have we missed this year and why? Did I miss those meetings because I keep allowing a normal desire or part of life to encroach on worshipping Jehovah?

Do I prepare for every meeting? Or do I keep allowing a normal desire or part of life to steal that time away?

In April the average hours for publishers in the congregation was 7.7. Are we one of those who do less than that in the preaching work? I am, so I ask myself, is that because I keep allowing a normal desire or part of life to encroach on worshipping Jehovah?

If we are, is that the thin end of the wedge?

We can also look at things such as personal study, prayer, meditation, and personal conduct. We can analyse these to see if we are pushing Jehovah’s worship out of first place. Whatever takes the place of worshipping Jehovah becomes our idol.

Now, what would you say is the opposite of greed?

“So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” – 1 Timothy 6:8

What would you say is the opposite of greed?

“Let [YOUR] manner of life be free of the love of money, while YOU are content with the present things. For he has said: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.” ” – Hebrews 13:5

What would you say is the opposite of greed? Contentment. If we’re content, it means that our normal desires are under control and so we are able to keep things in their proper place. If we are content, then we will put Jehovah’s worship first and gladly fit everything else around that.

So, greed is idolatry because whatever we are greedy for takes the place of worshipping Jehovah. We want to be content so that Jehovah can fulfil his promise to us that he ‘will by no means leave us or by any means forsake us.’

What Are the Benefits of Knowing the Truth About Death?

This isn’t a talk about the truth about death but about the benefits of knowing the truth. But one benefit we don’t get is highlighted in Genesis.

“So Sarah died in Kir′i‧ath-ar′ba, that is to say, He′bron, in the land of Ca′naan, and Abraham came in to bewail Sarah and to weep over her.” – Genesis 23:2 (also Luke 11:35. “Jesus gave way to tears.”)

Abraham knew the truth about death. He knew about the resurrection and almost certainly knew of the events in the Garden of Eden. Nevertheless, when his wife died, the event still affected him deeply. Knowing the truth about death doesn’t mitigate grief. We will be traumatically, perhaps uncontrollably, upset when someone we love dies.

So, if that is the case how are we to understand this verse?

“Moreover, brothers, we do not want YOU to be ignorant concerning those who are sleeping [in death]; that YOU may not sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13

Well, we still experience sorrow so what do you think is the key word here? Isn’t it ‘hope?’ What difference does it make?

Consider this experience from Nigeria related in a 2007 Watchtower:

Kehinde and Bintu, a Nigerian couple who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, lost two of their children in a car accident. Ever since, they have suffered pain because of this terrible loss. Even so, their trust in Jehovah sustains them, and they continue sharing the Bible’s message of hope with their neighbors.

Others noticed the serenity and strength displayed by Kehinde and Bintu. One day a woman named Mrs. Ukoli said to one of Bintu’s friends: “Bring the woman who lost two children at the same time and is still preaching the Bible’s message. I want to know what gives her the power to endure.” When Bintu arrived at the woman’s house, Mrs. Ukoli told her: “I want to know why you are still preaching about the God who killed your children. God took my only girl. Since then, I have nothing to do with God.” Bintu used the Bible to explain the reason why people die and why we can have the sure hope that dead loved ones will be resurrected.—Acts 24:15; Romans 5:12.

Afterward, Mrs. Ukoli said: “I used to think that God takes people in death. Now I know the truth.” She decided to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses in order to learn more about God’s promises.[1]

Mrs Ukoli did not know the truth about death and what effect did it have? She attributed the tragedy to Jehovah and lost her relationship with God. Learning the truth helped her to see that Jehovah wasn’t responsible for her girl’s death; he did not ‘take her’. She would have been reassured that her daughter was not all alone waiting in heaven. Learning about the hope God gives made it possible for her to appreciate the resurrection hope and the provision he has made to remove death forever.

And that’s the difference, isn’t it? Without the truth, without hope, grief can cause us to lose faith. It can cause us to lose our relationship with God. With the truth, with hope, we can gain genuine comfort from Jehovah’s promises.

“He will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces.” – Isaiah 25:8.

Isn’t that a lovely thought? Not just that Jehovah has a plan to “swallow up death forever” but that he will also “wipe the tears from all faces.” *Mime wiping tears from someone else’s face* ‘Here you go, it’ll be alright.’ And you know, even though you’re sad, it will be.

Because we know the truth about death, because we have the hope of the resurrection and that Jehovah will “swallow up death forever,”[2] we can be genuinely comforted during grief. When we weep, we can allow Jehovah to wipe the tears from our eyes and our relationship with him will become even closer.

We are truly benefited from knowing the truth about death.

[1] The Watchtower 2007 5/1 p.5 box, 6 Help From “the God Who Supplies Endurance and Comfort”

[2] Awake! 1980 3/22 p. 10 What Is Death?