[From ws15/02 p. 24 for April 27-May 3]
“I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself,
the One guiding you in the way you should walk.”— Isa. 48:17
“He also subjected all things under his feet and made him head
over all things with regard to the congregation,” (Eph 1:22)
The theme text for this week’s study is Isaiah 48:11 (quoted above). The article is discussing the global preaching and teaching work of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, yet we choose as a theme text a Scripture relating to the ancient nation of Israel which was not engaged in a preaching and teaching work ever—global or otherwise.
What is truly shocking about this study is that it makes no mention—not a single reference—to the actual head of the Christian Congregation. Does that seem appropriate to you? To put this into a familiar frame of reference, consider the case of a wife who is serving as a pioneer. Would it be appropriate for the local branch office to direct her to go into unassigned territory to preach and teach without consulting her husband? If they did, would he not be justified in feeling marginalized, disregarded, and disrespected?
Paul told the Ephesians that God has subjected all things under the feet of Jesus and that he is now head of “all things with regard to the congregation”. Therefore we, including the Governing Body, are subject to Jesus. As subjects, we bow before his authority. He is our Lord, our King, our husbandly head. We are told to kiss the son for his anger flares up easily. (Ps 2:12 NWT Reference Bible) Given this, why do we continually show disrespect for him by ignoring his position? Why do we fail to give him the honor which is his due? Jehovah’s name is sanctified through Jesus. If we disregard—even to the point of eliminating as we do this week—the name of Jesus, how can we claim to be sanctifying Jehovah’s name? (Acts 4:12; Phil. 2:9, 10)
The Last Days
Paragraph 3 refers to Daniel 12:4 and applies its fulfillment to the days of Charles Taze Russell. However, everything in that prophecy fits with a first century application. We think of our day as the time of the end, but Peter referred to the events then happening in Jerusalem as evidence they were in the last days. (Acts 2:16-21) True knowledge did become abundant as never before just as Daniel prophesied. It was certainly the time of the end for the Jewish system of things, and that is what Daniel was asking about when he said, “How long will it be to the end of these marvelous things?” (Da 12:6) While it is true that Russell and others rediscovered many Bible truths not commonly taught in the churches of Christendom, they were hardly the first to do so. And together with these truths a good deal of falsehood was mixed, such as the unscriptural idea of an invisible kingdom presence, the start of the great tribulation in 1914, and the use of pyramids to understand the ages of God—to name just a few. Rutherford added to this assortment of false teachings by teaching that millions then living would never die because he believed the end would come in the mid-1920s. He then preached a two-class system dividing Jehovah’s Witnesses into a clergy/laity structure, and denying the offer of adoption as sons by God to the millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses alive today. While this might be considered roving about in the Scriptures, it can hardly fulfill Daniel’s words that “the true knowledge will become abundant.”
How Bible Translation Has Helped Us
To read this article, one would think that we alone are using the Bible to spread the message of the Good News. If so, then what are all the other Bible Societies doing with the hundreds of millions of Bibles they are printing in over 1,000 languages? Are we to believe these are all sitting in a warehouse somewhere gathering dust?
We boast that only we are preaching the message door-to-door as if that were what Jesus commanded. He told us to make disciples, but he did not command us to employ only one method for doing that. Consider this fact: Our religion began as an offshoot of Adventist thought. William Miller came up with the Seven times of Daniel and the 2,520 prophetic years even before Russell was born. (Miller may have been influenced by the work of John Aquila Brown who wrote The Even-Tide in 1823. He predicted 1917 as the end, because he started at 604 B.C.E.) His work led to the formation of the Adventist religion which was founded about 15 years before the first Watchtower came off the press. Adventists do not go from house to house, yet they claim over 16 million members worldwide. How did this happen?
No one here is suggesting that it is wrong to preach from door to door, even though the efficacy of this method has declined greatly. It is likely that other methods are equally, if not more, effective, yet under what we claim is Jehovah’s (not Christ’s) direction, we have avoided them all until very recently. Only now are we beginning to explore the other mediums that competing Christian denominations have been using for decades.
How Peace, Travel, Language, Laws, and Technology Have Helped Us
The bulk of the article discusses how peace in many countries has opened doors for the preaching work. How computer technology has improved printing, translation, and the means to distribute the word. How a growing international law code to defend and uphold human rights has served as a protection.
Then it concludes:
“Clearly, we have strong evidence of God’s blessing.” Par. 17
We seem to be increasingly materialistic in our viewpoint. We see all these things as evidence of God’s blessing, forgetting that they help all other faiths equally. Every Christian religion has made use of these things to spread the good news as they understand it. In fact, many have been using these tools long before we have. We are only now using the internet and TV broadcast, claiming that this is God’s direction. Is God playing catch up? And what of the fastest growing religion on earth today? Can Islam look at all these things we’ve just described and say as we do, “See what strong evidence we have of Allah’s blessing?”
God’s blessing is not evident by technological, humanitarian, nor cultural advances. Nor are huge numbers of converts evidence he is with us. In fact, quite the opposite, to go by Jesus warning at Matthew 7:13.
What sets us apart is our faith, meaning our obedience to the Christ and our loyalty to the truth. If our conduct imitates him and our words are as true as his, people will recognize that God is with us.
It is with great regret that I admit that less and less can this be said of the faith I grew up in.