“He must pass through the sea with distress;
And in the sea he will strike down the waves;
All the depths of the Nile will dry up.
The pride of Assyria will be brought down,
And the scepter of Egypt will depart.”
When this prophecy was written, many centuries had passed since Jehovah had liberated the Israelites from Egypt or since Assyria as an empire posed a threat to his people.
In the past, God’s people had sometimes relied on alliances with those nations and placed their faith on their false gods instead of relying 100% on Jehovah.
Jehovah is telling his people that he will bring them back to true worship and free them from the false practices of neighboring nations.
Today, God’s people have also been freed from the practices of false religion and have found a safe way out of Satan’s world. (Is. 11:16)
“[…] That is how all the work of their hands is; whatever they present there is unclean.”
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)
“And I said, ‘I have been driven away from your sight!
How will I gaze again upon your holy temple?’”
As Jonah sank to the depths of the ocean within the belly of the fish, his main concern was not the loss of his own life, his reputation nor material things.
He was not overcome by anxiety to the point of losing his mind or his priorities.
Jonah was deeply grieved because he would no longer be able to gaze upon Jehovah’s temple, the center for true worship.
When we are under great emotional stress, do we value our spiritual privileges above all else? (Ps. 84:10)
We may wonder if our presence before God makes any difference in the vast sea of humanity, but Jonah’s story demonstrates God cares about every one of us at the individual level. (Jon. 4:11)
No one can take any other person’s place before God to render another’s worship. (Matt. 22:37)
In that sense, we are each valuable and irreplaceable. (Jon. 2:9)
“Even if you offer me whole burnt offerings and gift offerings,
I will find no pleasure in them; […]
Let justice flow down like waters,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
~Amos 5:22, 24
We should not let our sacred service to God fall into a mechanical routine, as if we are doing him a favor through the sacrifices we offer him.
What God really looks for in us is heartfelt obedience. (Ps. 50:14)
False religion allows believers to continue on paths of cruelty and corruption, “absolving” sins through rites and rituals without ever addressing the root of problems. (Amos 2:6,7; 5:12)
Acceptable service to God is motivated by love of what is good.
We should try to reflect his sense of justice. (Amos 5:14,15)
“[…] Set your heart and see with your eyes, and with your ears hear all that I am speaking with you regarding all the statutes of the house of Jehovah and regarding all its laws […].”
~Ezekiel 44:5, fn.
When Jehovah God asks us to ‘set our heart’ on his instructions, he is asking us to pay wholehearted attention.
We must listen to and obey God with the proper motivation- one born of our love toward him and a sincere desire to please him. (Matt. 22:37)
In Ezekiel’s day, the chieftains had been extorting the people of Israel through a feigned form of worship. (Eze. 45:9,10)
Through the prophetic vision God granted Ezekiel, we are given hope that it is plausible for a group of people to sincerely love God and carry out a united form of religious worship that is not hypocritical. (Eze. 43:9,27)
We must individually examine our own hearts to see if we meet God’s standards of pure worship. (Ps. 139:23,24)
“Like the flock of holy ones, like the flock of Jerusalem during her festivals, the cities that were in ruins will become full of flocks of people; and they will have to know that I am Jehovah.”
God prophesied that in the last days, the knowledge of his truth would become abundant. (Dan. 12:4)
Although the observation of holidays as mandated by Mosaic Law was ended with the institution of the Christian congregation, Christians still gather together in large cities to praise and learn about God, following a similar pattern to that in ancient Israel. (Gal. 3:24,25)
If you have not done so already, I invite you to attend one of the remaining free regional conventions programmed for this year nearest to where you live. The talks, videos and interviews given encourage us to never give up.
“‘As surely as I am alive,’ declares the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘I will not respond to your inquiry.’”
Some people pray to God: “God, if you exist, please do [such and such]…”
But in the past, Jehovah has refused to answer the prayers of his own people because their form of worship has been offensive to him.
The Jews were prostrating themselves before stone and wooden idols and offering sacrifices to other gods. (Ez. 20:28-30)
By their actions, they were rejecting the laws that Jehovah had given them for their own benefit. (Ez. 20:13)
Jehovah refused to go along with their charade form of worship and his silence was the only answer their prayers received.
Today, God continues to try to teach us right from wrong for our own benefit. (Is. 48:17,18)
If we listen to his Word and act accordingly, praying in accordance with his will, we will be able to perceive how and when he answers our prayers. (Jas. 2:26; 1 John 5:14)