Acts, chapters 6-8

“Jehovah’s spirit quickly led Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him anymore, but he went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, found himself in Ashdod, and he went through the territory and kept on declaring the good news to all the cities until he got to Caesarea.”
~Acts 8:39,40

After Philip taught and baptized the Ethiopian traveler, he appears to have been suddenly swept away to the town of Ashdod.
He then proceeded to travel north 80 km (50 mi), presumably by foot, to Caesarea.
He “kept on declaring the good news” zealously, despite having had no say in his choice of territory.
Perhaps he had left unfinished business or personal belongings in Jerusalem, but he listened to the Holy Spirit’s direction and preached along the Mediterranean coastline.
Sometimes we have the privilege of studying the Bible with someone who values what they learn to the point of becoming a baptized Jehovah’s Witness.
While they rejoice with their new hope, we have to keep moving forward, bringing the kingdom message to as many people as possible.
I vividly recall meeting a student under similar circumstances as Philip and the eunuch’s, in the sense that she was reading a Watchtower magazine when we arrived at her business.
I asked her if she understood what she was reading.
She said, in sign language, “How? If no one explains it to me?”
She took the steps to get baptized six months later, despite having two serious disabilities.
We seldom meet people so eager to learn in our ministry, but when we do, their memory continues to motivate us for the rest of our lives, regardless of which territory we end up in.

Luke, chapter 1

“Your supplication has been favorably heard […].”
~Luke 1:13

Who knows how many years into his old age Zechariah had continued to pray to Jehovah for a child.
Despite having strong faith, even he was surprised when his prayers were finally answered (Luke 1:6, 18)
He could have left his wife Elizabeth for a healthier woman, but they opted to remain loyal to each other and to their God.
That loyalty did not go unnoticed by Jehovah, who blessed them with “joy and great gladness.” (Luke 1:14)

Matthew, chapter 25

“Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.”
~Matthew 25:20-23

In Jesus’ illustration of the slaves and the talents, one slave was responsible for the equivalent of 102 kg of silver (~225 lbs.), or what was back then about 100 years’ wages for a common laborer.
The second slave was responsible for 40.8 kg of silver (~90 lbs.), or about 40 years’ wages.
They both doubled their master’s initial capital by immediately investing it. (Matt. 25:16,17)
Jesus focused on the effort each made and in the story, each received the exact same compensation.
This shows me that God does not value my service to him depending on how many privileges I may hold within the congregation, but on how much effort I individually put forth in serving him wholeheartedly.
He focuses on quality, and as long as I am doing everything I can to be a true Christian, I will receive as many blessings as someone who perhaps bears more responsibility. (Matt. 25:29)

Haggai, chapters 1 & 2

“[…] That is how all the work of their hands is; whatever they present there is unclean.”
~Haggai 2:14

God doesn’t care so much about the sacrifice we are giving him as he does about what motivates us to give it. (Hag. 1:5)
We should not undermine our privilege of knowing and serving the true God by letting our worship become mechanical and superficial in nature.
Those who try to serve God hypocritically lose his blessing and his friendship.
On the other hand, if we ‘set our heart in our ways’ by trying to find joy in his service, we can experience more blessings than we could have imagined. (Hag. 2:7; Mal. 3:10)

Isaiah, chapters 63-66

“But you are among those forsaking Jehovah, {…}
Those setting a table for the god of Good Luck,
And those filling up cups of mixed wine for the god of Destiny.”
~Isaiah 65:11

What is luck?
Some dictionaries define it as a force that operates for good or ill, or chance considered as a force that causes good or bad to happen.
Is the belief in a supernatural force that affects our circumstances in line with God’s way of thinking, as outlined in the Bible?
In ancient times, Luck and Destiny were pagan gods.
Their worshippers traditionally celebrated a party for them on the last day of the last month of the year, where they feasted and drank wine in their honor. (Insight on the Scriptures, vol. I, “God of Luck”)
For a dedicated servant of Jehovah to request a favor, or blessing, from a force other than Jehovah himself, is a form of betrayal. (De. 10:20; Luke 4:8)
The reliance on luck through customs or charms is a superstitious form of Spiritism, a belief that encompasses the practices used to invoke forces or spirits other than Jehovah (demons).
This belief is in direct conflict with true worship. (De. 18:10,11; Is. 8:19,20; Gal. 5:19-21)
Although it seems inoffensive and even polite to wish someone “good luck,” those pleasing Jehovah adjust their thinking to his point of view and take into account his feelings on the matter, knowing all blessings come from him alone in due time. (Is. 65:16,17,24)

Isaiah, chapters 29-33

“Jehovah is waiting patiently to show you favor,
And he will rise up to show you mercy. […]”
~Isaiah 30:18

God’s people had sinned against him time after time, yet he trusted some of them would see the error of their way and return to him. (Is. 31:6,7)
To those who listened, God promised rich blessings.
“The cattle and the donkeys that work the ground will eat fodder seasoned with sorrel, which was winnowed with the shovel and the pitchfork.” (Is. 30:23,24)
Sorrel is a tangy luxury herb used in salads for human consumption.
Grains which are winnowed have been refined and are also for human consumption.
These verses are therefore making reference to the richness of God’s blessings that await anyone who wholeheartedly repents and changes for the better.
Currently we can enjoy a strong relationship with our heavenly father, and in the future, perfect health in a peaceful, just world. (Is. 32:15-18; 33:24)

Nehemiah, chapters 5-8

“Do not feel sad, for the joy of Jehovah is your stronghold.”
~Nehemiah 8:10

This verse has personally been one of the cornerstones of my faith.
But why did the audience feel sad to begin with?
“All the people were weeping as they heard the words of the Law,” (Neh. 8:9).
It was the month of Ethanim (mid-September to mid-October), the start of the Jewish agricultural year, a month that marks many biblical historically relevant events.
It was a month of festivals.
This day started out with special trumpet blasts announcing a holy convention (Lev. 23:24).
The Jews in Jerusalem had but a few days earlier, against all odds, completed rebuilding the city walls (Neh. 6:15).
True worship was finally and officially ready to go fully back into effect.
When the scribe Ezra read the book of the law, and the Levites explained it, the people took it to heart (Neh. 8:2,3,7,8).
They understood what Jehovah was trying to tell them.
They were compelled to tears of sadness because of the errors of their ways.
But understanding God’s word was reason to rejoice, not cry.
The Levites helped them to correct their attitude, “so all the people went away to eat and to drink and to send out portions of food and to carry on a great rejoicing, for they understood the words that had been made known to them,” (Neh. 8:12).
When I personally experience sadness, do I make Jehovah’s joy my stronghold?
Understanding his word and serving him are not small reasons to rejoice in.
It is a beautiful privilege to form part of God’s people.
There is no better place to seek refuge than in the stronghold of the “happy God,” (1 Tim. 1:11; Ps. 16:11).