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References to the Theocratic Ministry School
Program of the Theocratic Ministry School: Week Starting may 5
ss14 pp. 1-4 Theocratic Ministry School Schedule for 2014
May 5 Bible reading: Exodus 23-26
No. 1: Exodus 25:1-22
No. 2: There Is No Bible Record of Adam’s Keeping a Sabbath Day (rs p. 346 ¶4–p. 347 ¶2)
No. 3: Abraham—Abraham’s Early History Is an Example of Faith (it-1 pp. 28-29 ¶3)
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Highlights From the Book of Exodus 23-26
Scriptural Questions Answered:23:19; 34:26—What was the significance of the command not to boil a kid in its mother’s milk? Boiling a kid (the young of a goat or other animal) in its mother’s milk reportedly was a pagan ritual thought to produce rain. Moreover, since the mother’s milk is for nourishing her young, boiling her offspring in it would be an act of cruelty. This law helped to show God’s people that they should be compassionate.
23:20-23—Who was the angel mentioned here, and how was it that Jehovah’s name was “within him”? Likely, this angel was Jesus in his prehuman form. He was used to guide the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4) Jehovah’s name is “within him” in that Jesus is the principal one who upholds and sanctifies his Father’s name.
Do Not Follow “After the Crowd”
3 In taking a long journey, what would you do if you felt unsure about which way to go? You might feel tempted to follow other travelers—especially if you saw a great many making the same choice. Such a course is risky. After all, those travelers may not be heading toward your destination, or they too may be lost. In this connection, consider a principle that underlies one of the laws given to ancient Israel. Those who served as judges or as witnesses in judicial matters were warned of the danger of ‘following after the crowd.’ (Read Exodus 23:2.) Without doubt, it is all too easy for imperfect humans to bow to peer pressure, perverting justice. However, is the principle about not following the crowd restricted to judicial matters? Not at all.
4 In truth, the pressure to “follow after the crowd” can affect us at almost any time. It may arise suddenly, and it can be very difficult to resist. Think, for example, of the peer pressure that Joshua and Caleb once faced. They were part of a group of 12 men who went into the Promised Land to spy it out. Upon their return, ten of those men gave a very negative and discouraging report. They even claimed that some of the land’s inhabitants were giants descended from the Nephilim, the offspring of rebel angels and women. (Gen. 6:4) Now, that claim was absurd. Those wicked hybrids had been wiped out in the Deluge many centuries earlier, leaving not a single descendant behind. But even the most baseless ideas can exert power over those weak in faith. The negative reports from those ten spies quickly spread fear and panic among the people. Before long, most were sure that it would be a mistake to enter the Promised Land as Jehovah had directed. In that volatile situation, what did Joshua and Caleb do?—Num. 13:25-33.
5 They did not go following after the crowd. Although the crowd hated to hear it, those two men told the truth and stuck to it—even when threatened with death by stoning! Where did they get the courage? No doubt, a good part of it came from their faith. People with faith see clearly the difference between the baseless claims of men and the sacred promises of Jehovah God. Both men later expressed how they felt about Jehovah’s record in fulfilling his every promise. (Read Joshua 14:6, 8; 23:2, 14.) Joshua and Caleb were attached to their faithful God, and they could not imagine hurting him for the sake of following a faithless crowd. So they stood firm, setting a sterling example for us today.—Num. 14:1-10.
6 Do you ever feel pressured to follow after the crowd? People who are alienated from Jehovah and who scoff at his moral standards certainly form a vast crowd today. When it comes to entertainment and recreation, that crowd often promote baseless ideas. They may insist that the immorality, violence, and spiritism so prevalent in television programs, movies, and video games are harmless. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) When you choose entertainment and recreation for yourself or your family, do you allow the lax consciences of others to influence your decisions and to mold your conscience? Would that not, in effect, amount to following after the crowd?
7 Jehovah has given us a precious gift to help us make decisions—our “perceptive powers.” However, these powers need to be trained “through use.” (Heb. 5:14) Following the crowd would not train our perceptive powers; nor, on the other hand, would a host of rigid rules in matters of conscience. That is why, for example, Jehovah’s people are not given a list of films, books, and Internet sites to avoid. Because this world changes so fast, such a list would be outdated soon after it was made. (1 Cor. 7:31) Worse, it would deprive us of the vital work of weighing Bible principles carefully and prayerfully and then making decisions on the basis of those principles.—Eph. 5:10.
8 Of course, our Bible-based decisions may at times make us unpopular. Christian youths in school may face strong pressure from the crowd to see and do what everyone else is seeing and doing. (1 Pet. 4:4) Therefore, it is beautiful to see Christians young and old imitating the faith of Joshua and Caleb, refusing to follow after the crowd.
Questions From Readers
What can we learn from the prohibition found at Exodus 23:19: “You must not boil a kid in its mother’s milk”?
This directive of the Mosaic Law, which appears three times in the Bible, can help us appreciate Jehovah’s sense of propriety, his compassion, and his tenderness. It also highlights his abhorrence of false worship.—Exodus 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21.
To boil a young goat or other animal in its mother’s milk would be contrary to Jehovah’s natural arrangement of things. God provided the mother’s milk to nourish the kid and help it grow. Cooking the kid in the milk of its own mother would, in the words of one scholar, display “a contempt of the relation which God has established and sanctified between parent and young.”
Further, some suggest that boiling a kid in its mother’s milk may have been a pagan ritual performed to produce rain. If that was the case, the prohibition would have served to protect the Israelites from the senseless and heartless religious practices of the nations surrounding them. The Mosaic Law specifically forbade the Israelites to walk in the statutes of those nations.—Leviticus 20:23.
Finally, we see in this particular law Jehovah’s tender compassion. Actually, the Law contained a number of similar injunctions against cruelty to animals and safeguards against working contrary to the natural order of things. For instance, the Law included commands that prohibited sacrificing an animal unless it had been with its mother for at least seven days, slaughtering both an animal and its offspring on the same day, and taking from a nest both a mother and her eggs or offspring.—Leviticus 22:27, 28; Deuteronomy 22:6, 7.
Clearly, the Law was not just a complex set of commands and prohibitions. Among other things, its principles help instill in us an elevated moral sensibility that truly reflects Jehovah’s marvelous qualities.—Psalm 19:7-11.
Ex. 23:20, 21
Spiritual Prince of Israel
2 Centuries before the founding of the Christian congregation, Jehovah had an angelic leader over his people Israel. After bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, Jehovah told them: “Here I am sending an angel ahead of you to keep you on the road and to bring you into the place that I have prepared. Watch yourself because of him and obey his voice. Do not behave rebelliously against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; because my name is within him.” (Ex. 23:20, 21) It is reasonable to believe that this angel, who had ‘Jehovah’s name within him,’ was God’s firstborn Son.
Moses beheld “the appearance of Jehovah” when he, Aaron, and certain other men were on Mount Sinai. At Exodus 24:10, it is written: “They got to see the God of Israel. And under his feet there was what seemed like a work of sapphire flagstones and like the very heavens for purity.” But how did Moses and the other men get to “see the God of Israel,” since God had told him, “No man may see me and yet live”? Verse 11 explains, for it says: “He did not put out his hand against the distinguished men of the sons of Israel, but they got a vision of the true God and ate and drank.” So the appearance of God that Moses and the others saw was by means of a vision.
7 It is Scriptural to give financial support. The Hebrew word translated “contribution” means “sacred portion.” (Ex. 25:2, Reference Bible, footnote) Christians correctly desire to contribute their time, energy, and material possessions for advancing Kingdom interests. We do not enrich Jehovah with our contributions to his work, but in this way we show our love for him, and he blesses those who contribute voluntarily.—1 Chron. 29:14-17; Prov. 3:9.
Representative figures of cherubs were included in the furnishings of the tabernacle set up in the wilderness. Rising above each end of the Ark’s cover were two cherubs of hammered gold. They were facing each other and bowing toward the cover in an attitude of worship. Each had two wings that spread upward and screened over the cover in a guarding and protecting manner. (Ex 25:10-21; 37:7-9) Also, the inner covering of tent cloths for the tabernacle and the curtain dividing the Holy from the Most Holy had embroidered cherub figures.—Ex 26:1, 31; 36:8, 35.
These were not grotesque figures fashioned after the monstrous winged images worshiped by pagan nations round about, as some contend. According to the unanimous testimony of ancient Jewish tradition (the Bible is silent on this matter), these cherubs had human form. They were finest works of art, representing angelic creatures of glorious beauty, and were made in every detail “according to . . . the pattern” Moses received from Jehovah himself. (Ex 25:9) The apostle Paul describes them as “glorious cherubs overshadowing the propitiatory cover.” (Heb 9:5) These cherubs were associated with the presence of Jehovah: “And I will present myself to you there and speak with you from above the cover, from between the two cherubs that are upon the ark of the testimony.” (Ex 25:22; Nu 7:89) Hence, Jehovah was said to be “sitting upon [or, between] the cherubs.” (1Sa 4:4; 2Sa 6:2; 2Ki 19:15; 1Ch 13:6; Ps 80:1; 99:1; Isa 37:16) In symbol, the cherubs served as “the representation of the chariot” of Jehovah upon which he rode (1Ch 28:18), and the wings of the cherubs offered both guarding protection and swiftness in travel. So David, in poetic song, described the speed with which Jehovah came to his aid, like one who “came riding upon a cherub and came flying” even “upon the wings of a spirit.”—2Sa 22:11; Ps 18:10.
Dimensions. The Bible describes the tabernacle (evidently inside measurements) as being 30 cubits (13.4 m; 43.7 ft) long and 10 cubits (4.5 m; 14.6 ft) in height. (Compare Ex 26:16-18.) It was also evidently 10 cubits in width. (Compare Ex 26:22-24.) The width may be figured as follows: The rear or W wall was constructed of six panel frames of one and one half cubits each (totaling 9 cubits) and two panel frames called corner posts, which evidently were positioned so that each added one half cubit to the inside dimension. The Jewish scholar Rashi (1040-1105 C.E.), commenting on Exodus 26:23, noted: “All the eight boards were set in a row, only that the entire width of these two [the corner posts] did not show in the interior of the Tabernacle, but only a half cubit on the one side and a half cubit on the other side could be seen in the interior, thus making up the breadth to ten cubits. The remaining cubit of one board and the remaining cubit of the other board came against the cubit thickness of the boards of the Tabernacle on the north and the south sides, so that the outside should be even.”—Pentateuch With Targum Onkelos, Haphtaroth and Rashi’s Commentary, Exodus, translated by M. Rosenbaum and A. M. Silbermann, p. 144; italics by the translators.
No. 1: Exodus 25:1-22
No. 2: There Is No Bible Record of Adam’s Keeping a Sabbath Day (rs p. 346 ¶4–p. 347 ¶2)rs p. 346 ¶4–p. 347 ¶2 Sabbath
Jehovah God proceeded to rest as to his works of material, earthly creation after preparing the earth for human habitation. This is stated at Genesis 2:1-3. But nothing in the Bible record says that God directed Adam to keep the seventh day of each week as a sabbath.
Deut. 5:15: “You must remember that you [Israel] became a slave in the land of Egypt and Jehovah your God proceeded to bring you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That is why Jehovah your God commanded you to carry on the sabbath day.” (Here Jehovah connects his giving of the sabbath law with Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt, not with events in Eden.)
Ex. 16:1, 23-29: “The entire assembly of the sons of Israel finally came to the wilderness of Sin . . . on the fifteenth day of the second month after their coming out of the land of Egypt. . . . [Moses] said to them: ‘It is what Jehovah has spoken. Tomorrow there will be a sabbath observance of a holy sabbath to Jehovah. . . . Six days you will pick [the manna] up, but on the seventh day is a sabbath. On it none will form.’ . . . Jehovah said to Moses: . . . ‘Mark the fact that Jehovah has given you the sabbath.’” (Prior to this, there had been a marking off of weeks of seven days each, but this is the first reference to a sabbath observance.)
No. 3: Abraham—Abraham’s Early History Is an Example of Faith (it-1 pp. 28-29 ¶3)it-1 pp. 28-29 ¶3 Abraham
(A′bra•ham) [Father of a Crowd (Multitude)].
The name given by Jehovah to Abram (meaning “Father Is High (Exalted)”) when he was 99 years old, and when God was reaffirming His promise that Abraham’s offspring would become many.—Ge 17:5.
Family Origin and Early History. Abraham was the tenth generation from Noah through Shem and was born 352 years after the Deluge, in 2018 B.C.E. Although listed first among the three sons of Terah, at Genesis 11:26, Abraham was not the firstborn. The Scriptures show that Terah was 70 years old when his first son was born, and that Abraham was born 60 years later when his father Terah was 130 years old. (Ge 11:32; 12:4) Evidently Abraham is listed first among his father’s sons because of his outstanding faithfulness and prominence in the Scriptures, a practice that is followed in the case of several other outstanding men of faith such as Shem and Isaac.—Ge 5:32; 11:10; 1Ch 1:28.
Abraham was a native of the Chaldean city of Ur, a thriving metropolis located in the land of Shinar, near the present junction of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. It was about 240 km (150 mi) SE of Nimrod’s onetime royal city of Babel, or Babylon, so notorious for its unfinished Tower of Babel.
In Abraham’s time, the city of Ur was steeped in Babylonish idolatry and the worship of its patron moon-god Sin. (Jos 24:2, 14, 15) Nevertheless, Abraham proved to be a man of faith in Jehovah God, even as his forefathers Shem and Noah; and as a consequence, he earned the reputation “the father of all those having faith while in uncircumcision.” (Ro 4:11) Since true faith is based on accurate knowledge, Abraham may have received his understanding by personal association with Shem (their lives overlapped by 150 years). Abraham knew and used the name of Jehovah; to quote him: “Jehovah the Most High God, Producer of heaven and earth,” “Jehovah, the God of the heavens and the God of the earth.”—Ge 14:22; 24:3.
While Abraham was still living in Ur, “before he took up residence in Haran,” Jehovah commanded him to move out to a strange land, leaving behind friends and relatives. (Ac 7:2-4; Ge 15:7; Ne 9:7) There in that country that He would show Abraham, God said he would make out of him a great nation. At the time, Abraham was married to his half sister Sarah, but they were childless and both were old. So it would take great faith to obey, but obey he did.
Terah, now around 200 years old and still the family’s patriarchal head, agreed to accompany Abraham and Sarah on this long journey, and it is for this reason that Terah as father is credited with making the move toward Canaan. (Ge 11:31) It appears that fatherless Lot, Abraham’s nephew, was adopted by his childless uncle and aunt and so accompanied them. Northwestward the caravan moved, some 960 km (600 mi), until they reached Haran, which was an important junction on the E-W trade routes. Haran is located where two wadis join to form a stream that reaches the Balikh River in the winter, about 110 km (68 mi) above where the Balikh empties into the Euphrates River. Here Abraham remained until the death of his father Terah.—MAP, Vol. 1, p. 330.