[This article was contributed by Alex Rover]
When we learn that our religious leaders have not always been honest with us, that certain teachings are squarely against what Scripture teach, and that following such teachings may actually lead us away from God, then what are we to do?
You may have noticed that so far we have steered away from advising whether to leave the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses or to remain in it. We acknowledge that this is ultimately a personal decision based on one’s circumstances and the personal leading of the Holy Spirit.
For those who remain, you may feel that you cannot afford to be found out, because life as you know it is at stake. Therefore, you must watch what you say and with whom you share your thoughts. If you are browsing articles such as this one at a meeting, you’ll be guarding that no one is looking over your shoulder.
Perhaps you have told yourself, ‘I’ll stay because I can do a good work for my brothers and sisters by carefully discerning those with whom I can share morsels of truth.’ Perhaps you try to give answers that are just under the radar of raising suspicion, in the hope that someone will start thinking for themselves?
Do you sometimes feel like an undercover agent?
I would like to introduce you to Esther, the undercover queen. The name Esther means “something hidden”. Basically Esther deceived the king about her identity and associated with him even though she knew he was not circumcised. Both of these things might easily cause our conscience to object, but it happened to be the circumstance Jehovah allowed her to be in.
As anointed Christians, we are part of Spiritual Israel, hence spiritually circumcised. Associating with ‘uncircumcised ones’ who are rejecting their adoption, and hiding our identity as anointed in fear of persecution is pretty much the situation Esther found herself in.
So controversial is the book of Esther that Luther once told Erasmus that it “deserves … to be regarded as non-canonical”. Likewise, in the eyes of some of our readers it may appear highly controversial that to this date the writers of this blog continue associating in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Divine providence is a theological term which refers to God’s intervention in the world. We understand that our Heavenly Father himself is Sovereign and may even allow questionable things to take place for a time so that his purpose for new heavens and a new earth may come to fruition.
Even our Lord knew this when he said:
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” – Mt 10:16 NIV
What Luther failed to realize with regard to the book of Esther is the demonstration of “Divine Providence” through Esther. We may not understand why God has punished some over seemingly small sins, while continuing to use others guilty of far graver misdeeds.
Yet there is comfort in this, for whatever mistakes we have made in the past, we are exactly where God wants us to be today. It is often said that we can look at a glass as half full or half empty. Scripture encourages us to look at our tribulation as something joyful. This also is Divine Providence in our lives, that we may be used according to how he pleases in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
By recognizing Divine Providence in Esther’s life, we can see that even though we have been in unfortunate situations throughout our life, we can allow Jehovah to use us in the position we find ourselves in.
Paul made this clear: “as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each person, so he must live”. So Esther found herself in the position of a queen when our Father intervened on behalf of the Jews and made appeal through her to accomplish his will.
“Let each remain in that situation in life in which he was called” […]
“Were you called as a slave? Do not worry about it” […]
“In whatever situation someone was called, brothers and sisters, let him remain in it with God” – 1 Co 7:17-24 NET
We recognize God’s Providence that he called us in a certain circumstance. What matters now is that we don’t BECOME slaves to men. Henceforth we do his will:
“Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Instead, keeping God’s commandments is what counts.” – 1 Co 7:19
If by following God’s lead we are eventually set free, then make the most of this freedom (1 Co 7:21). For some of you that is indeed the case, but others remain as Queen Esther and will be given opportunities to do much good. Getting “out of her” (organized religion) means that we no longer bow to it, we are already free even if we continue to serve as we are.
How we remain Faithful
The moment of truth for Esther arrived when she was tasked to put her life on the line for her brothers and sisters. She had to confess she was a Jew, and speak to the king. Both of these acts carried a risk of death penalty. In addition to that, she had to resist Haman, the second most powerful man in the nation.
Mordecai, her cousin, also had his moment of truth when he refused to bow before Haman. In the end, while Esther seems to accomplish her mission with the king, it looks like Mordecai will see death:
“Now Haman went forth that day pleased and very much encouraged. But when Haman saw Mordecai at the king’s gate, and he did not rise nor tremble in his presence, Haman was filled with rage toward Mordecai.” – Esther 5:9 NET
Then, on advice of Zeresh (Haman’s wife), Haman orders gallows to be made so that Mordecai could be hung to death the next day. Esther did not receive a prophet’s reassurance, she did not receive a vision. What could she do?
Remain faithful by trusting in Jehovah in such moments:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” – Pr 3:5 NIV
We don’t know what our Father has planned for us. How could we? Mordecai’s days appeared numbered and his life over. Read Esther chapters 6 & 7 to see how the story ended!
The moment of truth may also arrive for us, even as we remain in association with our congregation. When this moment arrives, we remain faithful by not bending our knee and not fearing for our well being. At such a time, we must fully trust in our Father. A Father never abandons his children. We must trust in him with all our heart and not lean on our own understanding. We must trust he will make things right.
“Jehovah is on my side; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” – Ps 118:6 NWT
We mustn’t judge others for the position our God has accepted them in. Let us simply stop bending our knee to Haman and if that leads us to a situation where we are set free from slavery then let us continue to use our newfound freedom for the benefit of our brothers and sisters.
We don’t know what our Father has in store for us, nor how he plans to use us. What greater privilege is there than to serve God according to his will?
Holy Father, let not my will but yours take place.
If I find myself a slave, I know that in your eyes I am free.
I will continue as I am for as long as you permit me,
and to no man, I shall bend my knee.
Please, Glorious Father by my side,
grant me boldness and courage,
grant me your wisdom and spirit to manage.
Truly – what might man do unto me –
when you open your mighty hand