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)

1 Chronicles, chapters 21-25

[…] Ornan said to David: “Take [the site of the threshing floor] as your own, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. Here, I am providing the cattle for burnt offerings and the threshing sledge for the wood and the wheat as a grain offering. I give all of it.”
~1 Chronicles 21:23

When Jehovah’s angel told King David to build an altar at the site of Ornan’s threshing floor, which Ornan was in the middle of using, Ornan did not ask, “Why me?” (1 Chron. 21:20).
On the contrary, he selflessly and with the utmost generosity offered his belongings up as a contribution toward true worship.
King David proceeded to formalize the acquisition by monetarily reimbursing Ornan, for he did not want to half-heartedly fulfill God’s commandment (1 Chron. 21:24,25).
This site became the place around which the entire temple was eventually built by David’s son (2 Chron. 3:1).
Today, the floor may very well still exist under the Muslim Dome of the Rock (“Araunah.” Watchtower Online Library, Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, June 2015. Web 16 Nov. 2015).

We have many opportunities to demonstrate a sincere, generous attitude toward those in the congregation who dedicate all their time and effort to God’s service.
For example, when we enjoy our overseers biannual visits, we are encouraged to invite them to eat or sometimes even share our home with them.
Other times we are invited to donate resources toward expanding construction projects.
If we take advantage of these opportunities, no doubt we will be pleasing Jehovah.

1 Samuel, chapters 23-25

[…] David’s servants came to Abigail at Carmel and said to her: “David has sent us to you to take you as his wife.” She immediately rose up and bowed with her face to the ground and said: “Here is your slave as a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” Then Abigail quickly rose up and rode on her donkey with five of her female servants walking behind her; she accompanied the messengers of David and became his wife.
~1 Samuel 25:40-42

Abigail was a “discerning and beautiful” woman (1 Sam. 25:3).

On top of that, she was humble and hard-working.
Despite being the recent widow of a very wealthy man, she did not think she was above her servants in the sense that she would leave them all the dirty work (1 Sam. 25:2, 36-39).

At the time David proposed, he was not yet ruling as king.
He was dwelling in caves (1 Sam. 25:4).
Also, after being deprived of his first wife by his father-in-law, David had already taken on a second wife- making Abigail his third wife (1 Sam. 25:43,44).

This makes Abigail’s answer to his marriage proposal seem all the more selfless.

Abigail considered it a great honor to become David’s wife because she put faith in Jehovah’s words that David would one day be king (1 Sam. 25:30,31).

When I put myself in Abigail’s shoes- how she had just gotten out of a terrible marriage, how she was willing to leave her ranch estate for David- a man who lived like a fugitive, a man who a few days earlier had gone to take vengeance against her own household, a man who was not going to focus on her primarily, a man that had not even gone to propose in person!
I would not have reacted the way she did.
That is why I marvel at her faith and her self-sacrificing personality.

1 Samuel, chapters 14 and 15

“[…] Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer was behind him; and the Philistines began to fall before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer was putting them to death behind him.”
~1 Samuel 14:13

By standing up to their people’s oppressors, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were demonstrating great faith in Jehovah, crediting him with the victory before it begun (1 Sam. 14:6).

There is another lesson in their actions: teamwork goes a long way.

They were obviously very coordinated, being able to carry out this extraordinary deed of striking and putting 20 men to death, despite being outnumbered 10 to 1 (1 Sam. 14:14).

Although as Christians we do not participate in deadly combat, we do need to collaborate extensively with other members in the Congregation on a weekly or sometimes daily basis.

The success we experience spiritually is directly related to our ability to subject to theocratic arrangements, which in turn is directly related to being humble (1 Cor. 14:40).

Like Jonathan’s armor-bearer, we need to be willing to sacrifice personal interests in order to demonstrate our unyielding loyalty toward God and our spiritual family (1 Sam. 14:7).

Then we will clearly see Jehovah’s blessings and his loyalty toward us (1 Chron. 16:34).

1 Samuel, chapters 1-4

“Then Elkanah went to his house in Ramah, but the boy became a minister of Jehovah before Eli the priest.”
~1 Samuel 2:11

A few years prior, when Elkanah’s sterile wife Hannah came before Jehovah to pray for a son, the high priest Eli had mistakenly made offensive comments to her, misjudging her for a drunkard (1 Sam. 1:10-14).

Her reply to him reflected a quiet and mild spirit (1 Sam. 1:15-18; 1 Pet. 3:4).

When Hannah’s prayer was answered and her child was ready to be weaned, neither her nor her husband held resentment against the house of Jehovah nor toward his appointed servants.

They understood that the center for pure worship was the tabernacle at Shiloh and did not restrain from taking their son to serve there (1 Sam. 1:21-25).

They had faith in Jehovah that he would look after their son and that it was the best place for him despite the imperfections of those serving there.

Likewise, we should not let the imperfections of others in the congregation deter us from offering ourselves up for greater service.

We may witness personality defects that could work as stumbling blocks, but we should continue to recognize Jehovah’s congregation for what it really is: the center for pure worship (Isa. 2:2,3).

If we do our part and leave the rest in God’s hands, we will surely be blessed, like in the case of Hannah and Elkanah (1 Sam. 2:20, 21; Mal. 3:10).

 

Joshua, chapters 16-20

Thus they finished dividing the land for inheritance by its territories. Then the Israelites gave Joshua the son of Nun an inheritance in their midst.
~Joshua 19:49

Joshua had to put the nation’s interests before his own.

He selflessly waited until the tribes had received their land assignments before proceeding to accept his family’s inheritance.

This reminds me of the self-sacrifice Christian elders demonstrate in the congregation and the patience that is expected of them and their families.

Today’s elders may never see physical blessings until God’s paradise fills the earth, yet they continue to selflessly put the congregation’s interests first, tirelessly concentrating on serving those commended to their care (Isa. 65:21,22; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).

Numbers, chapters 7-9

You must separate the Levites from among the Israelites, and the Levites will become mine.
~Nu. 8:14

All the families in Israel received a type of inheritance.
In most cases, the inheritance constituted of land, but in the Levites’ case, it was a spiritual inheritance.
The Levites had the privilege of carrying out Jehovah’s service in matters of worship.

God said to them, “In their land you will not have an inheritance, and no portion of land among them will become yours. I am your portion and your inheritance in the midst of the Israelites,” (Nu. 18:20).

Today, Christian ministers are not born into their service.
It is a conscientious choice each one of us makes.

However, being a dedicated servant of God still calls for a modest lifestyle which involves economical sacrifices.
It is a vow we take that requires a lifelong commitment.
A dedicated Christian no longer belongs to him or herself, as in the case of the Levites.
We belong to God and his higher purpose (Matt. 16:24; 1 Pet. 2:21).

Although we are not born into our ministry, each one of us has innate gifts that we can use to serve Jehovah.
Within the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, ministers may use their talents in various fields.

For example the Kingdom Hall or Bethel construction work calls for a wide range of abilities, including demolition, cooking, interior design, landscaping, carpentry, electrical work, and technical support, as well as more administrative roles.

Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses

Our website JW.org is the most translated website on earth and is maintained by volunteers who have a technical inclination.
At a branch level, there are translators, musicians, fashion designers, housekeepers and logistic experts, among others.

Christian Congregation of Jehovah's WitnessesChristian Congregation of Jehovah's WitnessesChristian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses

Then there are also the disaster relief groups which are composed of brothers and sisters with their own unique set of talents.

Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses

At a more localized level, we have our Christian elders and ministerial servants who sacrifice their after-work hours to prepare public talks and individual counsel, carry out administrative duties and organize our conventions.

Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses

All of us come from different walks of life but we strive to collaborate as the Levites would, as one family.

Personally, I have always enjoyed the field ministry aspect of our service since I started participating in it at the age of 12.

In the field ministry, one has to be able to hold a meaningful conversation with any type of person, from professors and church leaders to felons, foreign language speakers and the mentally ill.

Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses

I turn 32 today. I began serving as a full-time Pioneer exactly 16 years ago (volunteering an average of 70 hrs./month).
When compared to others, I am not particularly knowledgeable in any one field.
I do not have good physical nor emotional health.
I am not an energetic people-person, nor am I detail-oriented and goal-driven.

But what I am today, God has made me.
To the extent to which I have allowed him, he has made me his.
He has made ‘his joy my stronghold,’ (Ne. 8:10).
Serving Jehovah in the field ministry is my spiritual inheritance.

What is yours?

 

 

Leviticus, chapters 14-16

[…] The goat designated by lot for A·za′zel should be brought alive to stand before Jehovah in order to perform the atonement upon it, so that it may be sent away for A·za′zel into the wilderness.
~Leviticus 16:10

The word “Azazel” seems to come from two Hebrew words.

Na·saʼ′ can mean pardon, take away, carry and in this instance, disappear;ʽez means goat (Insight, vol. ii, “Pardon”).

In effect, Azazel means disappearing goat, scapegoat, or as the Greek Septuagint translates it, “the one averting evil,” (Insight, vol. i, “Azazel”).

The High Priest of Israel was to enter the Most Holy, that is, the compartment of the Tabernacle where the Ark of the Covenant was placed, only once a year.

There, he was to make atonement first for himself and his family, then for all of Israel (Lev. 16:12-16).

This occurred on the holiday known as Atonement Day.

This was the only day in which all of Israel was obligated to fast and ‘afflict their souls.’ They were prohibited from working on this day (Lev. 16:31).

There were two goats: one goat was sacrificed to Jehovah as a sin offering on behalf of the nation, and the other stood before Jehovah while the life of the sacrificed goat was symbolically transferred to the live goat through the blood it shed (Lev. 17:11).

Then the live goat was led away and set free in the wilderness, carrying off the nation’s sins, so to speak (Lev. 16:20-22).

The prophet Isaiah correctly applied this ceremony to what Christ was to do for mankind:

“Truly he himself carried our sicknesses,
And he bore our pains.
But we considered him as plagued, stricken by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgression;
He was crushed for our errors.
He bore the punishment for our peace,
And because of his wounds we were healed,”
(Isa. 53:4,5).

Therefor both goats represent one symbol: that of Christ shedding his blood for us, presenting it in Heaven before his Father, and through his atonement, carrying away the sins of repentant humanity (Heb. 9:11, 12).

The High Priest entering the Most Holy to make atonement for Israel represented Christ entering Heaven and making atonement for all of humanity.

The High Priest entering the Most Holy to make atonement for Israel represented Christ’s entering Heaven to make atonement for all of repentant humanity.

 

 

Genesis, chapters 32-35

Genesis 33:4~

E′sau ran to meet him, and he embraced him and kissed him, and they burst into tears.

When Esau last saw Jacob, he had plans to kill him (Gen. 27:41).

20 Years later, as described in the above passage, his heart has been softened.

He has taken on a more spiritual approach to life.

This teaches me that people can change for the better.

It is wrong to give up hope on someone without giving them time to reflect on their own actions and see the negative consequences of their bad decisions.

Usually it’s those closest to us that let us down. A family member or a best friend who was like a sister or brother.

God doesn’t give up on people from one moment to the next. He patiently waits for them to repent (2 Pet. 3:9).

And if we want to truly change, then it is imperative to ‘clothe ourselves in humility,’ as in the case of Esau (Col. 3:12).

Genesis 35:8~

Later Deb′o·rah, Re·bek′ah’s nurse, died and was buried at the foot of Beth′el under an oak. So he named it Al′lon-bac′uth [meaning: tree of weeping].

I had never taken this passage into account.

According to a Bible encyclopedia, Deborah lived for about another 125 years after Rebekah and Isaac married (it-1 p. 600).

She had left everything behind to accompany Rebekah south into a new family and new lifestyle, for Isaac’s household dwelt in tents.

In all this time she became a part of their family and they were moved to heartfelt grief upon her death.

I am touched by the inclusion of this small but telling detail in the Holy Scriptures.

In a book that selectively lists ancestries and important dates to provide historical proof and context, the fact that God included this about Deborah, a humble servant, tells us how much he values the lives of those who render sacred service toward Him (Matt. 10:29-31).

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