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References to the Theocratic Ministry School
Program of the Theocratic Ministry School: Week Starting April 21Apr. 21 Bible reading: Exodus 15-18
No. 1: Exodus 15:20–16:5
No. 2: Why Christians Are Not Required to Keep the Sabbath (rs pp. 345-346 ¶3)
No. 3: Abortion—Life Is a Precious Gift From God (it-1 p. 28)
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Highlights of Exodus 15-18
Apr. 21 Bible reading: Exodus 15-1815:8—Were the “congealed” waters of the Red Sea actually frozen waters? The Hebrew verb translated “congealed” means to shrink or thicken. At Job 10:10, the expression is used with regard to curdling milk. Hence, the congealed waters do not necessarily suggest frozen waters, ice. If the “strong east wind” mentioned at Exodus 14:21 had been cold enough to freeze the waters, doubtless some reference would have been made to the extreme cold. Since nothing visible was holding back the waters, they had the appearance of being congealed, stiffened, or thickened.
Lessons for Us:15:25; 16:12. Jehovah provides for his people.
18:21. The men chosen for responsible positions in the Christian congregation must also be capable, God-fearing, trustworthy, and unselfish.
Exodus 15:1, 20
2 After crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites “began to fear Jehovah and to put faith in Jehovah.” (Exodus 14:31) The men of Israel joined Moses in a victory song to Jehovah, and Miriam and other women responded by playing tambourines and dancing. (Exodus 15:1, 20) Yes, God’s people were impressed with Jehovah’s mighty acts. But their appreciation for the One who performed those acts was short-lived. Soon afterward many of them behaved as though they had suffered a major memory loss. They became murmurers and complainers against Jehovah. Some engaged in idolatry and sexual immorality.—Numbers 14:27; 25:1-9.
2 In the Scriptures, “loving-kindness” is a translation of a Hebrew term so rich in meaning that most languages have no single word exactly expressing its full sense. Thus, such renderings as “love,” “mercy,” and “faithfulness” do not capture its complete breadth of meaning. However, the more comprehensive rendering “loving-kindness” is “not far from the fulness of meaning of the word,” notes the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References appropriately gives “loyal love” as an alternate rendering of the Hebrew term translated “loving-kindness.”—Exodus 15:13; Psalm 5:7; footnote.
“Your Holy Abiding Place”
9 In ancient times, the Promised Land was referred to as God’s holy abiding place. Recall the victory song that the Israelites sang after being delivered from Egypt: “You in your loving-kindness have led the people whom you have recovered; you in your strength will certainly conduct them to your holy abiding place.” (Ex. 15:13) Later, that “abiding place” contained a temple with its priesthood and a capital city, Jerusalem, with a line of kings who descended from David and sat on Jehovah’s throne. (1 Chron. 29:23) Not without reason, Jesus called Jerusalem “the city of the great King.”—Matt. 5:35.
10 What about in our day? In 33 C.E., a new nation, “the Israel of God,” was born. (Gal. 6:16) That nation, made up of anointed brothers of Jesus Christ, fulfilled the task that fleshly Israel ultimately failed in, that of being witnesses to God’s name. (Isa. 43:10; 1 Pet. 2:9) To them, Jehovah made the same promise that he made to ancient Israel: “I shall be their God, and they will be my people.” (2 Cor. 6:16; Lev. 26:12) In 1919, Jehovah brought the remaining ones of “the Israel of God” into a favored position, and at that time, they took possession of a “land,” a spiritual realm of activity wherein they have enjoyed a spiritual paradise. (Isa. 66:8) Since the 1930’s, millions of “other sheep” have flocked to their side. (John 10:16) The happiness and spiritual prosperity of these modern-day Christians furnishes powerful evidence of the rightness of Jehovah’s sovereignty. (Read Psalm 91:1, 2.) How that infuriates Satan!
Ex. 16:1, 2
11 Within just several weeks of their existence as a new nation, the Israelites developed a spirit of discontent and murmuring. This led to rebellion against Jehovah and his representatives. (Ex. 16:1, 2) Only a small number of the Israelites who left Egypt lived to see the Promised Land. Why, even Moses was denied entry to that land because of his reaction to the bad spirit of the congregation of Israel! (Deut. 32:48-52) What can we do today to keep from falling prey to a negative spirit?
An Evil Assembly Murmurs Against Jehovah
4 The Hebrew word meaning ‘to murmur, grumble, complain, or growl’ is used in the Bible in connection with events during Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness. On occasion, the Israelites were discontented with their lot in life and expressed this by murmuring. For example, just a few weeks after their deliverance from slavery in Egypt, “the entire assembly of the sons of Israel began to murmur against Moses and Aaron.” The Israelites complained about food, saying: “If only we had died by Jehovah’s hand in the land of Egypt while we were sitting by the pots of meat, while we were eating bread to satisfaction, because you have brought us out into this wilderness to put this whole congregation to death by famine.”—Exodus 16:1-3.
Exodus 16:2, 8
12 The Scriptures candidly acknowledge the failings of those whom Jehovah used to lead his people in the past. For example, David was anointed as king and leader of Israel. Yet, he succumbed to temptation and became guilty of adultery and murder. (2 Sam. 12:7-9) Also consider the apostle Peter. Although entrusted with great responsibility in the first-century Christian congregation, he made serious mistakes. (Matt. 16:18, 19; John 13:38; 18:27; Gal. 2:11-14) With the exception of Jesus, no humans since Adam and Eve have been perfect.
13 Why did Jehovah have Bible writers record accounts of the shortcomings of men whom he had commissioned? Among other reasons, God did this to show that he can use imperfect men to lead his people. In fact, he has always done so. Hence, we should not use the imperfections of those who take the lead among us today as an excuse to murmur against them or to ignore their authority. Jehovah expects us to respect such brothers and to obey them.—Read Exodus 16:2, 8.
14 “Give us today our bread for this day.” (Matt. 6:11; Luke 11:3) By making this prayerful request, we are asking God to provide necessary food “for this day.” This indicates that we have faith in Jehovah’s ability to care for our needs on a daily basis. It is not a prayer for surplus provisions. This request for our daily needs may remind us that God commanded the Israelites to gather manna “each his amount day for day.”—Ex. 16:4.
5 Actually, Jehovah sustained the Israelites with what they needed in the wilderness, lovingly providing them with food and water. There was never a threat that the people of Israel would die of famine in the wilderness. In a spirit of discontent, though, they exaggerated their plight and began to murmur. Although their complaints were directed against Moses and Aaron, in Jehovah’s eyes the real target of their discontent was God himself. Moses told the Israelites: “Jehovah has heard your murmurings that you are murmuring against him. And what are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against Jehovah.”—Exodus 16:4-8.
Exodus 16:4, 13-15
Jehovah Sustains His People
9 Consider now the third assurance—Jehovah would sustain his people. Shortly after their deliverance from Egypt, God promised the Israelites: “Here I am raining down bread for you from the heavens; and the people must go out and pick up each his amount day for day.” Sure enough, God provided that ‘bread from heaven.’ “When the sons of Israel got to see it, they began to say to one another: ‘What is it?’” It was manna, the bread that Jehovah had promised them.—Exodus 16:4, 13-15.
10 For 40 years in the wilderness, Jehovah cared for the Israelites, providing them with food and water. He even saw to it that their mantles did not wear out and that their feet did not become swollen. (Deuteronomy 8:3, 4) Joshua witnessed it all. Jehovah delivered, protected, and sustained his people, just as he had promised them.
Exodus 16:4, 20
Spiritual Food Day by Day
4 Our prayer for daily bread should also remind us of our need for daily spiritual food. Although very hungry after a long fast, Jesus resisted Satan’s temptation to turn stones into bread, saying: “It is written, ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.’” (Matthew 4:4) Jesus here quoted the prophet Moses, who told the Israelites: “[Jehovah] humbled you and let you go hungry and fed you with the manna, which neither you had known nor your fathers had known; in order to make you know that not by bread alone does man live but by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth does man live.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) The way in which Jehovah supplied the manna provided the Israelites not only with physical food but also with spiritual lessons. For one thing, they were to “pick up each his amount day for day.” If they gathered more than enough for the day, the remainder began to smell and breed worms. (Exodus 16:4, 20) Yet, this did not occur on the sixth day when they had to gather double the daily amount to cover their needs for the Sabbath. (Exodus 16:5, 23, 24) So the manna impressed upon their minds that they had to be obedient and that their lives depended not just on bread but on “every expression of Jehovah’s mouth.”
14 Whatever the reason for our displeasure, if we were to allow a tendency to complain to go unchecked, it could promote in us a spirit of discontent and make us habitual murmurers. Yes, the spiritually corrosive effect of murmuring could corrupt us completely. When the Israelites murmured about life in the wilderness, they went so far as to blame Jehovah. (Exodus 16:8) May that never happen to us!
15 The tendency of metal to rust can be reduced by coating it with rustproof paint and quickly treating isolated spots of corrosion. In a similar fashion, if we detect in ourselves a tendency to complain, this can be kept under control if we give the matter prompt, prayerful attention. How?
Why did God choose quail to feed the Israelites in the wilderness?
▪ Following the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, God twice provided them with an abundance of meat in the form of quail.—Exodus 16:13; Numbers 11:31.
Quail are small birds, about 7 inches (18 cm) in length and weighing about 3.5 ounces (100 g). They breed in many parts of western Asia and Europe. Being migratory birds, they winter in North Africa and Arabia. During their seasonal passage, vast flocks traverse the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea and fly over the Sinai Peninsula.
According to The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, quail “fly rapidly and well, and take advantage of the wind; but if the wind changes its course, or the birds become exhausted from long flight, the whole immense flock is apt to fall to the ground, where the birds lie stunned.” Before continuing their migration, they have to rest on the ground for a day or two, thus becoming easy catch for hunters. In the early 20th century, Egypt was exporting some three million quail annually for food.
Both times that the Israelites fed on quail were in the spring. Although quail regularly flew over the Sinai area during that time, it was Jehovah who caused ‘a wind to burst forth’ to drive these birds into the Israelite encampment.—Numbers 11:31.
Exodus 16:14, 15, 23, 26, 33; 26:34
21 Faithful anointed Christians and their loyal companions need not fear the coming judgment. Blessings await all who heed Jesus’ counsel given by direction of God’s holy spirit. For instance, world-conquering anointed ones will be invited to eat some of “the hidden manna” and will be given “a white pebble” bearing “a new name.”
22 God provided manna to sustain the Israelites during their 40-year trek through the wilderness. Some of that “bread” was kept in a golden jar inside the ark of the covenant and thus was hidden in the tabernacle’s Most Holy, where a miraculous light symbolized Jehovah’s presence. (Exodus 16:14, 15, 23, 26, 33; 26:34; Hebrews 9:3, 4) No one was permitted to eat that hidden manna. At their resurrection, though, Jesus’ anointed followers put on immortality, symbolized by eating “the hidden manna.”—1 Corinthians 15:53-57.
Joshua Succeeded With the Help of God’s Spirit
9 God’s spirit also guided a contemporary of Moses and Bezalel. Shortly after the Exodus, the Amalekites launched an unprovoked attack on God’s people. The time had come for the Israelites to repel the threat. Although totally unaccustomed to war, the Israelites had to engage in their first military action as a freed people. (Ex. 13:17; 17:8) Someone was needed to lead the fighting force. Who would it be?
10 Joshua was chosen. But if he had to state his previous work experience to qualify for that mission, what could he have listed? Slave laborer? Straw mixer? Manna gatherer? True, Joshua’s grandfather Elishama was chieftain of the tribe of Ephraim and apparently led 108,100 men of one of the three-tribe divisions of Israel. (Num. 2:18, 24; 1 Chron. 7:26, 27) Yet, Jehovah directed through Moses that, neither Elishama nor his son Nun, but Joshua was to lead the force that would vanquish the enemy. The battle lasted the greater part of a day. With Joshua’s implicit obedience and his keen appreciation for the guidance of God’s holy spirit, Israel proved victorious.—Ex. 17:9-13.
Ex 18:5-7, 13-27
Although he was Jehovah’s appointed leader of the great nation of Israel, Moses was willing to accept counsel from others, particularly when it would be of value to the nation. Shortly after the Israelites left Egypt, Jethro visited Moses, bringing with him Moses’ wife and sons. Jethro observed how hard Moses was working, wearing himself out handling the problems of everyone who came to him. He wisely suggested an orderly arrangement wherein Moses would delegate degrees of responsibility to others, to lighten his load. Moses listened to Jethro’s advice, accepted it, and organized the people into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, with a chief over each group as a judge. Only the difficult cases were then brought to Moses. It is noteworthy also that Moses, explaining to Jethro what he was doing, said: “In the event that [the people] have a case arise, it must come to me and I must judge between the one party and the other, and I must make known the decisions of the true God and his laws.” In this, Moses indicated that he recognized his duty to judge, not according to his own ideas, but according to Jehovah’s decisions and that, moreover, he had the responsibility to help the people to know and recognize God’s laws.—Ex 18:5-7, 13-27.
Moses—A Man of Love
WHAT IS LOVE? Love involves deep affection for others. A loving person shows by his words and actions how he feels about those dear to him, even when doing so requires personal sacrifice.
HOW DID MOSES DISPLAY LOVE? Moses showed love for God. In what way? Well, recall the words recorded at 1 John 5:3: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.” Moses lived by that principle. In all that God asked him to do—from an assignment as daunting as confronting mighty Pharaoh to a task as seemingly simple as stretching out his rod over the Red Sea—Moses obeyed. Whether the command was easy to fulfill or difficult, Moses complied. “He did just so.”—Exodus 40:16.
Moses showed love for his fellow Israelites. They recognized that Jehovah was using Moses to guide his people, so they approached Moses with their various problems. We read: “The people kept standing before Moses from the morning till the evening.” (Exodus 18:13-16) Imagine how draining it must have been for Moses to listen—hour after hour—as the Israelites unburdened themselves of their concerns! Yet, Moses was happy to help the people he loved.
Besides listening to them, Moses also prayed for his loved ones. He even prayed for those who had wronged him! For example, when Moses’ sister, Miriam, murmured against Moses, Jehovah struck her with leprosy. Rather than rejoicing over her punishment, Moses immediately interceded for her, praying: “O God, please! Heal her, please!” (Numbers 12:13) What else but love would have caused Moses to offer such a selfless prayer?
WHAT ARE THE LESSONS FOR US? We can imitate Moses by cultivating deep love for God. Such love moves us to obey his commands “from the heart.” (Romans 6:17) When we obey Jehovah from our heart, we bring joy to his heart. (Proverbs 27:11) We also benefit ourselves. After all, when we serve God out of genuine love, not only will we do the right things but we will enjoy doing them!—Psalm 100:2.
Another way we can imitate Moses is to cultivate self-sacrificing love for others. When friends or family members approach us with their concerns, love moves us to (1) give them our heartfelt attention; (2) empathize with them, or feel what they feel; and (3) let them know that we care.
Like Moses, we can pray for our loved ones. Sometimes we may feel helpless when they share their problems with us. We might even lament, “I’m sorry that all I can do is pray for you.” But remember: “When a righteous person prays, that prayer carries great power.” (James 5:16, The Kingdom New Testament) Our prayers may actually move Jehovah to do something for the person that He might not otherwise have done. Really, then, what better thing could we do for our loved ones than to pray for them?
Would you not agree that we can learn much from Moses? Although an ordinary person, he set an extraordinary example of faith, humility, and love. The more closely we imitate his example, the more we benefit both ourselves and others.—Romans 15:4.
9 In some situations, we may be able to take practical measures. If a medical problem is at the root of our anxious state, it would be prudent to give attention to it, although such matters are for personal decision. (Matthew 9:12) If we are weighed down by many responsibilities, it might be possible to delegate some of these to others. (Exodus 18:13-23) What, though, of those—like parents—who have heavy responsibilities that cannot be delegated? What of a Christian living with an opposed mate? What of a family in dire economic straits or living in a war zone? Clearly, we cannot eliminate all sources of anxiety in this system of things. Still, we can preserve the peace of the Christ in our hearts. How?
Rely on Holy Spirit
16 If we keep Jehovah before us constantly, he will lead us by his holy spirit. (Gal. 5:16-18) God’s spirit was upon the 70 older men chosen to help Moses in “carrying the load of the people” of Israel. Only Eldad and Medad are named, but the spirit enabled all of them to carry out their duties. (Num. 11:13-29) Undoubtedly, they were capable, God-fearing, trustworthy, and honest like those chosen earlier. (Ex. 18:21) Such qualities are displayed by Christian elders today.
Exodus 18:25, 26
How Ancient Israel Was Governed
3 Although Jehovah was Israel’s invisible King, he appointed faithful men as his visible representatives. There were chieftains, heads of paternal houses, and older men to serve the people as counselors and judges. (Exodus 18:25, 26; Deuteronomy 1:15) However, we must not conclude that without divine guidance those responsible men could somehow judge matters with flawless discernment and understanding. They were not perfect, and they could not read the hearts of their fellow worshipers. Still, God-fearing judges could give their fellow believers helpful counsel because it was based on Jehovah’s Law.—Deuteronomy 19:15; Psalm 119:97-100.
No. 1: Exodus 15:20–16:5
No. 2: Why Christians Are Not Required to Keep the Sabbath (rs pp. 345-346 ¶3)Sabbath
Definition: Sabbath is taken from the Hebrew sha•vath′, meaning “rest, cease, desist.” The sabbatical system prescribed in the Mosaic Law included a weekly Sabbath day, a number of additional specified days throughout each year, the seventh year, and the fiftieth year. The weekly Sabbath of the Jews, the seventh day of their calendar week, is from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday. Many professed Christians have traditionally kept Sunday as their day of rest and of worship; others have adhered to the day set aside on the Jewish calendar.
Are Christians under obligation to keep a weekly sabbath day?
Ex. 31:16, 17: “The sons of Israel must keep the sabbath, so as to carry out the sabbath during their generations. It is a covenant to time indefinite [“a perpetual covenant,” RS]. Between me and the sons of Israel it is a sign to time indefinite.” (Notice that sabbath observance was a sign between Jehovah and Israel; this would not be the case if everyone else were also obligated to keep the Sabbath. The Hebrew word rendered “perpetual” in RS is ‛oh•lam′, which basically means a period of time that, from the standpoint of the present, is indefinite or hidden from sight but of long duration. That can mean forever, but not necessarily so. At Numbers 25:13 the same Hebrew word is applied to the priesthood, which later ended, according to Hebrews 7:12.)
Rom. 10:4: “Christ is the end of the Law, so that everyone exercising faith may have righteousness.” (Sabbath keeping was a part of that Law. God used Christ to bring that Law to its end. Our having a righteous standing with God depends on faith in Christ, not on keeping a weekly sabbath.) (Also Galatians 4:9-11; Ephesians 2:13-16)
Col. 2:13-16: “[God] kindly forgave us all our trespasses and blotted out the handwritten document against us, which consisted of decrees and which was in opposition to us . . . Therefore let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath.” (If a person was under the Mosaic Law and was judged guilty of profaning the Sabbath, he was to be stoned to death by the whole congregation, according to Exodus 31:14 and Numbers 15:32-35. Many who argue for sabbath keeping have reason to be glad that we are not under that Law. As shown in the scripture here quoted, an approved standing with God no longer requires observance of the sabbath requirement given to Israel.)
How did Sunday come to be the principal day of worship for much of Christendom?
Although Christ was resurrected on the first day of the week (now called Sunday), the Bible contains no instruction to set aside that day of the week as sacred.
“The retention of the old Pagan name of ‘Dies Solis,’ or ‘Sunday,’ for the weekly Christian festival, is, in great measure, owing to the union of Pagan and [so-called] Christian sentiment with which the first day of the week was recommended by Constantine [in an edict in 321 C.E.] to his subjects, Pagan and Christian alike, as the ‘venerable day of the Sun.’ . . . It was his mode of harmonizing the discordant religions of the Empire under one common institution.”—Lectures on the History of the Eastern Church (New York, 1871), A. P. Stanley, p. 291.
No. 3: Abortion—Life Is a Precious Gift From God (it-1 p. 28)it-1 p. 28 Abortion
The expulsion of an embryo or fetus before it can live on its own. Common use often distinguishes between abortion and miscarriage, the former being defined as the deliberate and induced emptying of a pregnant uterus, the latter being considered as the accidental and unavoidable interruption of pregnancy. The distinction between abortion and miscarriage is not made in the Bible; there the terms are used in a broader and interchangeable sense. The Hebrew sha•khal′, meaning “suffer an abortion” (Ex 23:26), is also rendered “bereave” (De 32:25), ‘bereave of children’ (Le 26:22), ‘miscarry’ (Ho 9:14), and “prove fruitless” (Mal 3:11). The Hebrew word yoh•tseʼth′, rendered “abortion” in Psalm 144:14, is from a root meaning “come out.” (Compare Ge 27:30.) The expressions “miscarriage” and “one prematurely born” (Ps 58:8; Ec 6:3) render the Hebrew word ne′phel, which comes from the root na•phal′, meaning “fall.”—Compare Isa 26:18.
Unavoidable abortion or miscarriage may be caused by accident, infectious disease, mental or physical stress and strain, or because of a general organic weakness on the part of the mother. The waters near Jericho were death dealing, causing miscarriages, until Jehovah’s prophet Elisha healed them.—2Ki 2:19-22.
Deliberately to induce abortion or miscarriage by artificial means, by the use of drugs, or by medical operation, the sole purpose of which is to avoid the birth of an unwanted child, is an act of high crime in the sight of God. Life as a precious gift from God is sacred. Hence God’s law to Moses protected the life of an unborn baby against more than criminal abortion, for if in a fracas between men a pregnant woman suffered an accident fatal to her or the child, “then you must give soul for soul.” (Ex 21:22-25) Of course, before applying that penalty, the circumstances and degree of deliberateness were taken into consideration by the judges. (Compare Nu 35:22-24, 31.) But emphasizing the seriousness of any deliberate attempt to cause injury, Dr. J. Glenn comments: “The viable embryo in the uterus IS a human individual, and therefore destroying it, is a violation of the sixth commandment.”—The Bible and Modern Medicine, 1963, p. 176.
Properly viewed, the fruitage of the womb is a blessing of Jehovah. (Le 26:9; Ps 127:3) Hence, in promising to prosper Israel, God gave assurance of successful culmination of pregnancy and the bringing forth of children, saying: “Neither a woman suffering an abortion nor a barren woman will exist in your land.” (Ex 23:26) As indicated in the prayer of the righteous, on the other hand, evidence of God’s disfavor to his enemies would be their having miscarrying wombs and their becoming like miscarriages that never see the sun.—Ps 58:8; Ho 9:14.
Job in his misery contemplated that it would have been better had he been “a hidden miscarriage.” “Why from the womb did I not proceed to die?” this tormented man cried out. (Job 3:11-16) Solomon, too, reasoned that a prematurely expelled fetus is better off than the person who lives a long time but who never comes to enjoy life.—Ec 6:3.
Contagious abortion, a disease characterized by premature birth, may occur among animals such as cattle, horses, sheep, and goats. Accidental abortion due to neglect or disease of domestic animals has also been known since the days of the patriarchs Jacob and Job.—Ge 31:38; Job 21:10.