James W. Adams

"In what place therefore ye hear the Sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us." (Neh. 4:20.)

A Divine Lamentation

"O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments, always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!" (Duet. 5:29.)

The statement above is Jehovah's response to the children of Israel's promise, made at the foot of smoking, quaking Sinai, to "hear and do all that He would speak unto them."

It is threefold in character. First, it has the character of a lamentation because God knew that Israel would not keep her promise, that she would in fact repudiate the covenant through idolatry and immorality and bring upon her His wrath and punishment. Second, it has the character of a wish or desire upon God's part. If men are lost, they are lost because of their own free choice and not because God willed it so. Paul said, "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:3, 4.) Third, it has the character of parental solicitude, an expression of Divine love. God "spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all" thus indicating that he yearns over lost humanity with the tender care and concern of a loving and heartbroken father over the wayward ways of a recreant and prodigal son.

True Religion Defined

In Jehovah's lamentation, there is contained a definition of true religion as to its seat, its motivation, and its expression. The seat of religion is the human heart, God said, "O that there were such a heart in them ...." True religion, therefore, is religion of the heart. It cannot be inherited, practiced by proxy, nor expressed by mere outward observance of ritualistic forms. It must emanate from the heart, hence must engage the intellect, the emotions, and the will. It is at once intelligent, sincere, and purposeful.

True religion must be motivated by the fear of God. God said, "That they would fear me" The fear of God is not the craven fear of a condemned criminal, but a deep-seated respect and reverence for God as our maker, our ruler, our judge, and our savior. Every act of religion must spring from reverence for him, his laws, and his institutions. Conversely speaking, every human innovation that has plagued the people of God from the beginning has been born of a lack of proper reverence and respect for Him. Its originator may have made loud protestations of sincerity, love and devotion as the basis for his invention, but at its root has been, consciously or unconsciously, a lack of reverence for Jehovah.

True religion must express itself in the keeping of God's commandments. God said, "That they keep all my commandments, always "This suggests that one cannot separate religion and revelation. There is no way man can know the will of God apart from revelation. Man does not and cannot know the will of God intuitively. Well did the weeping prophet say, "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his won steps." (Jer. 10: 23.} Paul corroborates his statement by saying, "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." (1 Cor. 1:21.)

It is likewise evident from God's statement that he permits neither human preference nor situational modification and application of his law. Divine grace provides for human imperfections in man's compliance with the will of God, but not partiality. Imperfections result from man's being "weak through the flesh" {Rom. 8:3.), whereas partiality --choosing to do or not to do -- results from a willful rejection of God's right to rule over us. God expects and has provided for the former through the offering of his own Son, but he will not tolerate the latter. To do so would be subversive of the majesty of his law and the vitality of his government.

The expression, "all my commandments," precludes man's regarding them with partiality. The word, "always," rejects the possibility of situational modification and application. A situation could only modify divine law when the law itself provides for contingencies or choice. In the absence of such provisions, the law is immutable. It is, therefore, neither legalistic nor incompatible with true religion to demand a "thus saith the Lord" for every act of work or worship.

On the other hand, the blessings of religion are also relative. The practitioner of true
religion wields a righteous influence upon others, particularly those of his own house.

God said, "And with their children "Someone has said, "It only takes one generation of young people who have not been taught the truth to bring about complete apostasy among the people of God." If we are careful to practice true religion, it will be well with our children as well as with us. Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16) Verily, we are "our brother's keepers."

Finally, the blessings of true religion are eternal. Being spiritual in character, they are as eternal as God and the human spirit. They are, as our text suggests, "forever!" This being true, whether or not our religion is true religion is a matter of greatest concern to us. Do we "have a heart to fear God and keep all his commandments, always, that it may be well with us and our children forever?" (This article was suggested and its general outline taken from "Morning Exercises," William Jay, Vol. 2, pp. 202, 203. JWA)

TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV: 23, pp. 356-357

April 16, 1970