“[…] Out of the heart come wicked reasonings […].”
Do I ever try to justify unethical behavior to myself when tempted to do something wrong?
It is human nature to have a sinful inclination, but if I am not careful, I could end up a slave to my own whims, and also end up hurting those who matter most, including God. (Jer. 17:9)
Instead of entertaining sinful notions, it is wiser to not let them nest in my heart to begin with. (Prov. 4:23)
“[He] will send down his roots like the trees of Lebanon.
[…] I will be like a thriving juniper tree.
From me your fruit will be found.”
Sometimes God’s Word likens humans to trees. (Ps. 1:1-3)
Someone who starts studying the Bible can experience rapid spiritual growth.
Over time, the spiritual vitality of the person will depend on how deep his or her roots have dug into accurate Bible knowledge. (2 Pet. 3:18)
The rate at which someone learns may eventually slow down, but the depth of the knowledge becomes greater.
In the aforementioned verse, God also compares himself to a tree.
Juniper berries have been used all over the world for their many healing properties, including antiseptic and anti-inflammatory.
Juniper oil also has a positive effect on one’s mood, alleviating anxiety.
God’s Word draws another comparison between what we choose to say and fruit. (Heb. 13:15)
When he says, “From me your fruit will be found,” one way to interpret it is that he teaches us what to say at the right time.
If we dig deeper into God’s wisdom and imitate his use of words, we can also bring a sort of healing to others.
“I will cause a horn to sprout for the house of Israel,* and I will give you an opportunity to speak among them […].
*(endow the house of Israel with strength)”
The “horn” metaphor in this passage is meant to illustrate God giving strength to his people. (1 Sam. 2:10)
Although speaking God’s message is a privilege, there are times when we may feel tired and discouraged.
When we feel that way, we rely on God’s power which is “beyond what is normal” to fulfill our ministry. (2 Cor. 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:5)
We do so by praying to him for strength, following Christ’s cheerful example, and by leaving our problems in God’s hands. (1 Sam. 1:10, 18; Acts 20:35)
“When he spoke to me, spirit came into me and made me stand up on my feet […]”
Sometimes we may feel like we can no longer go on dealing with life’s problems.
We may want to do good and move forward and onward, but we just cannot find any fight left in us.
If we rely on Jehovah God, he will give us the strength to boldly carry on. (Ps. 138:3)
He will give us the peace of mind needed to continue serving him. (Ps. 29:11; Dan. 10:19)
If we continue to ‘walk in Jehovah’s name,’ he will bless us with his superior spirit, allowing us to successfully stand up to our trials. (Zec. 10:12)
“Let us lift up our hearts along with our hands to God in the heavens […]”
Is God your best friend?
Jehovah God wants us to reach out to him in heartfelt prayer. (Ps. 65:2)
But it might be difficult to open up to someone we cannot see or physically listen to.
Even if we cannot find the right words, if we continuously try to reach out to God in prayer, he understands what we are trying to say. (Rom. 8:26,27)
God is not just looking for routine acts of worship or words.
He wants us to “lift up our hearts along with our hands.”
This indicates sincere motivation coupled with good deeds.
Perhaps in the past we have been guilty of loving God half-heartedly, afraid of giving more than we were already giving to his service. (Re. 3:16)
Or perhaps we have even been guilty of being double-hearted, verbally committing to something while we secretly resolved not to carry it through. (Matt. 15:7,8)
How comforting it is to know that if we repent, reexamine our lives, and seek God again with all our heart, he will forgive us and be our friend. (Jer. 29:12,13)
In the prophet Jeremiah’s day, most became obstinate in their behavior while others just pretended to repent, and this hurt Jehovah. (Jer. 3:10; 8:6)
Let us make sure every day that what we are doing in God’s service is motivated by whole-hearted love for him and we can trust that he will do his part. (Ps. 10:17; Ps. 119:145)
“’In those days and at that time,’ declares Jehovah,
‘Israel’s guilt will be searched for,
But there will be none,
And the sins of Judah will not be found,
For I will forgive those whom I let remain.'”
God allowed his people to be disciplined for not heeding his commandments and straying from true worship. (Jer. 44:10,11)
But God also foretold that his people would return to the Promised Land after a set period and they would then be at peace with him. (Isa. 44:22; Jer. 31:34, 33:7)
Jehovah God is willing to forgive once he has set matters straight, leaving the past in the past.
Shouldn’t we be willing to do the same?
“[…] You should know for a certainty that I have warned you today that your error will cost you your lives.”
After the Chaldeans took most of the Jews captive, the army chiefs along with the remaining people in the vicinity of Jerusalem asked the prophet to pray on their behalf and find out what God’s will for them was. (Jer. 42:1-3)
Ten days later, Jehovah gave his reply, asking them to remain there and not fear the king of Babylon. (Jer. 42:7,10,11)
But the people had allowed their fear to overcome them and were headstrong about fleeing to Egypt (Jer. 43:4-7)
Eventually, the Chaldeans extended their battles into Egypt, and that remnant did not survive (Jer. 43:10,11)
They were not necessarily evil people.
They mostly consisted of the poorest sector of the population. (Jer. 40:7)
The fact that they first sought out God’s guidance indicates that at least at one point they had the right intention. (Jer. 42:5,6)
But their subsequent decision to ignore Jehovah’s commandment and head on into Egypt without his blessing ended up having tragic consequences.
Today, God warns us that a time is coming in which he will judge all of humanity. (Mark 13:32,33; Acts 17:30,31)
If we were in the habit of praying for his guidance and then ignoring Biblical counsel, we, too, would be falling in an error that will cost us our lives.
“Perhaps when those of the house of Judah hear of all the calamity that I intend to bring on them, they may turn back from their evil ways, so that I may forgive their error and their sin.”
Jehovah God looks to forgive those who have offended him. (Isa. 55:7)
He sees everyone’s heart and does not give up hope that these people can change. (2 Pet. 3:9)
Likewise, we should not hold on to a grudge or seize the opportunity to get even with someone who has offended us. (Ro. 12:17-19)
Nor should we rejoice when they suffer due to their own imperfections or to unrelated circumstances. (Prov. 24:17,18)
However, God’s pardon is not unconditional.
He forgives those who “turn back from their evil ways.”
Since we cannot see what lies in the heart of our fellow man, it is best to leave the judging to God, remaining hopeful that wrongdoers will become spiritually conscious before it is too late.
“Correct me, O Jehovah, with judgment,
But not in your anger, that you may not reduce me to nothing.”
We all need to be corrected from time to time, either by someone at work, or if we are younger, by our parents or teachers, or we may be counseled by a mature, caring friend.
It is human nature to initially be embarrassed and even to resist the correction.
Jehovah corrected his People through his prophets.
We do not have modern-day prophets, but we can read God’s recorded thoughts in his written Word, and find God’s counsel under prayer through Bible reading.
To accept God’s correction, we need to humbly recognize that, despite having freedom of choice, it is not in our best interest to act independently of God. (Jer. 10:23)
It is easier to accept correction as soon as we realize we are doing something wrong, without needing to wait for someone to blatantly point out our mistakes to us.
But if it comes to that, and we are privately or publicly reproved, let us remember that Jehovah takes the time to discipline those whom he loves and wants to keep by his side.
Everyone needs to be refined by God’s love and he expects you to keep trying. (Heb. 12:5,6)
As one brother put it, it is better to accept correction now than to ‘be reduced to nothing’ on God’s Judgment Day.
“[…] Those who seek Jehovah can understand everything.”
Some of the problems we face, such as accidents, poor health, crimes, betrayal or unemployment, may lead us to ask, Why me?
Other times, we face problems that adversely affect a general portion of the population, such as natural disasters, war or a corrupt government.
When we are in stressful, unfair situations, it is important to remind ourselves of where we stand in relation to God’s purpose.
Another proverb reads:
“Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice,
So that I can make a reply to him who taunts me.”
Who taunts God?
The Bible explains: “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19)
God’s enemies try to distract us spiritually by blaming our problems on God or suggesting that he does not care about us, or saying that his promise of a paradise earth is just a dream. (2 Pet. 3:3,4; Rev. 21:1-5)
Still, it is God’s will that these people repent, and he is giving them time to do so. (2 Pet. 3:9)
If we do not lose sight of what is at stake every time we are tempted to give up, we are able to see things from Jehovah’s point of view and endure trials with a joyful attitude. (Matt. 24:13; Jas. 1:2,3)