[Watchtower study for the week of April 21, 2014 – w14 2/15 p. 16]
Yet another beautiful Psalm is called upon to furnish us with the theme for this week’s Watchtower study article. The entire 91st Psalm sings Jehovah’s praise as the grand protector and provider for those faithful to him. (You would do well to read it before studying the Watchtower article or this post.)
Par. 3 – “… as true worshipers, we can rightly address Jehovah as ‘our Father.’” To underscore this truth we quote both Isaiah 64:8 and Matthew 6:9. The word “father” appears 18 times in this article alone. However, the word “son” appears only four times; once in an illustrative way, and the rest referring to Jesus. “Children” appears twice; once metaphorically and the other time to reference the tiny group we refer to as the “anointed” as distinct from the “other sheep”. So while the article makes the correct Biblical point that Jehovah is our Father, it never makes the analogous point that all Christians are his children.
This is so deftly done that the 7.5 million Witnesses around the world will not only complete this article firm in the belief that we are God’s children and will simultaneously hold the contradictory idea that we are only his friends. In fact, this article is largely a prep for next week’s theme on friendship with God.
Par. 4 – Does the 91st Psalm strike you as an expression of Jehovah’s divine protection upon the individual or the collective? Jehovah, the maker of the stars, galaxies and all we can see expresses loving concern for the individual. How remarkable! He is aware of your personal needs, and even the hairs of your head are counted. Yet that is not the message of the article.
“Our heavenly Father provides the care and protection we need as a people calling on his name in faith”? The psalmist quotes him as saying: “Because he [a true worshipper] has affection for me, I will rescue him. I will protect him because he knows my name.” (Ps. 91:14) Yes, Jehovah lovingly provides escape from our enemies and protects us as his people, so that we are not wiped out.
We have the audacity to actually quote the psalmist, who speaks in the singular, to make our point that Jehovah’s protection is upon the collective, the Organization. An organization cannot have affection for God, nor can it know His name. That is something reserved for humans. Even as a people, a collective, there will be some who have “affection for God” and some who will not. Jehovah makes no promise to preserve our organization, only his faithful servants. Yet we are trying to make the point that even if some die, Jehovah will never let the Organization fail. This is not the point made in the 91st Psalm.
Par. 5 – “(1) Our Father is our Provider. (2) Jehovah is our Protector. (3) And God is our best Friend.” We will be getting into this in more detail next week, but for now consider this one point: Ask anyone who their best friend is. Will they name their father? This in no way diminishes the role of a father, but a friend is someone you chum around with. The relationship between a son and a father is a very special one. I can have many friends, but only one human father. I will call my friends by name, but my father will always be “Dad”. I never called him by his name. Even now, I think of him only as “Dad”. So why call Jehovah “our Father” in point 1, but not refer to us as his children in point 3? Why bring up this friendship thing as if it is something to be more coveted than the unique relationship of father to child?
Par. 6 – “By using our lives to do the divine will, we…have the prospect of eternal life in the new world. (Prov. 10:22; 2 Pet. 3:13)” If we stated that we’d have the prospect of eternal life in the new heavens or new earth, that at least would be consistent with what is implied by 2 Pet. 3:13, but to exclude one of these two without a basis is misleading.
Par. 11, 12 – Again we have the unsubstantiated division between anointed Christians and unanointed Christians. This is so ubiquitous through our publications that it becomes tiresome to have to keep refuting it.
It has been said that if you repeat a lie often enough, people begin to believe it as truth. We all came to believe that this division exists simply because it has been repeated so often that we never even questioned it and certainly never asked for proof. Does anyone ask you to prove that the sky is blue? Of course not. The difference is that everyone has already looked for themselves and seen that the sky is blue. With this, however, we haven’t looked for ourselves. We’ve just taken the word of others as truth.
Par. 18 – “Jehovah has often protected us as a group, and he keeps us out of the Devil’s clutches.” One way to keep us out of the Devil’s clutches is to keep us from false doctrine. Is that the case with the Organization? It is true that Jehovah protected many sincere Christians suffering under Nazi persecution. However, we are led to believe that it was the Organization he was protecting and not the individual. Psalm 91 indicates that he protects individuals. There were other Christians from that era who were not Jehovah’s Witnesses and yet who maintained their neutrality. Would Jehovah ignore them because they didn’t have a “JW membership card”? The evidence says otherwise.
Our message is clear. It is the organization God cares about and so we have to stay within it to be protected. This is shown by the following paragraphs.
Par. 19, 20 – “Through Jehovah’s organization and its publications, we receive loving reminders for our protection…For instance, we receive fatherly counsel to avoid bad associations through the misuse of social networking.” Much of this “fatherly counsel” comes not from our heavenly father nor from his word, but from our publications; from the men leading the Organization.
“How can we demonstrate that we are really being “taught by Jehovah”? By carefully heeding his commands. In the safe haven of our congregations, we find needed guidance and protection, for it is there that faithful men who serve as elders provide Scriptural help and counsel….How should we respond? Willing submission and obedience result in God’s blessing.”
Over the years, many willingly submitted and were obedient to what was claimed as teaching from Jehovah transmitted through our publications and the elders. As a result, many didn’t marry, didn’t have children, dropped out of university, or refrained from higher education due to this “fatherly counsel” from the Organization. Many made choices they regret because they allowed themselves to be influenced by direction from men and human interpretation that turned out to be false prophecy. They did not get the promised blessings, because Jehovah is not an enabler. He doesn’t bless false teachings and false predictions and he doesn’t encourage a course of error.
Par. 21 – “We also need to meditate on the life course of his Son, Jesus Christ, whose peerless example we strive to follow. For his obedience even to the point of death, Jesus received a rich reward…Like him, we will be blessed for trusting in Jehovah with all our heart.” All true, but notice that all the focus of the article is on Jehovah, while here Jesus is relegated to the place of an object lesson in obedience and trust. Jesus is someone to emulate as we look to Jehovah as our means of protection, counsel and provision.
There is a humorous story of a man caught in a flood, stranded on his roof top. He prays to God for miraculous salvation. Shortly thereafter, an empty raft floats by, but he ignores it because his God will save him. Then a rescue boat comes by and the crew shouts out to him to jump aboard, but he declines because his God will save him. Finally, a helicopter hovers overhead and lowers a rope, but he brushes it aside, saying “My God will save me!” Then as the waters rise and sweep him off the roof, he cries out, “God, why did you not save me?” At which a voice is heard from heaven: “I did. I sent you a raft, a boat, and a helicopter.”
Jehovah has provided the means for our salvation, our protection, our provision: His Son Jesus Christ. Yet that is not for us. We want Jehovah himself to do this for us. Are we not doing the very thing we condemn other Christian religions for doing: Worshiping God our way rather than his way?