[This is an updated post of one released back in August, 2013 when this issue of The Watchtower was first released.]
This week’s study contains one of the more controversial statements which the Governing Body has presumed to make of late. If you care to scan paragraph 17 on page 20, you’ll come across this rather astonishing assertion: “When “the Assyrian” attacks…the life-saving direction that we receive from Jehovah’s organization may not appear practical from a human standpoint. All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.”
The unspoken assumption for any one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that to survive Armageddon, we will have to follow some “life-saving instructions” from the leadership of the Organization. This gives the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses a tremendous amount of power. Naturally, the world will not be privy to this instruction and even if they were, would not follow it. However, we will but only if we stay in the Organization and only if we do not doubt, neither the Governing Body, nor the elders in our local congregation. Absolute and unquestioning obedience is needed if we want to save our life.
This article is yet another occurrence of a trend we’ve been experiencing this year and actually for some time now where we cherry-pick a prophetic application that is convenient to our organizational message, gleefully ignoring other relevant parts of the same prophecy what might contradict our claim. We did this in the February Study Edition when dealing with the prophecy in Zechariah chapter 14, and again in the July issue when dealing with the new understanding of the faithful slave.
Micah 5:1-15 is a complicated prophecy involving the Messiah. We ignore all but verses 5 and 6 in our application. Micah 5:5 reads: “…As for the Assyrian, when he comes into our land and when he treads upon our dwelling towers, we shall also have to raise up against him seven shepherds, yes, eight dukes of mankind.” Paragraph 16 of The Watchtower explains that “the shepherds and dukes (or, “princes,” NEB) in this implausible army are the congregation elders. (1 Pet. 5:2)”
Quite a statement, isn’t it? Jehovah will raise up against the attacking Assyrian and in defense of his people…the congregation elders. One would expect—indeed, one should expect—to see scriptural proof for this astonishing interpretation. Yet, one and only one scripture is given. No problem. How many scriptures do we really need? Still, it must be a whopper. Let’s read it together.
(1 Peter 5:2) Shepherd the flock of God in YOUR care, not under compulsion, but willingly; neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly;
It’s hard not to sound facetious when faced with the stunning effrontery of presenting this scripture as relevant. But it doesn’t end there. These elders will not be directed by Jehovah, nor the Messiah referred to in this prophecy, but by a group not even alluded to by Micah. The Governing Body will give the elders the direction they need.
We are given a four-point checklist in paragraph 17 to make sure we don’t die when the Assyrian attacks. The crux of it is that we have to trust the elders and of course, the Organization (read, the Governing Body) to direct us to life-saving action when the time comes. In other words, we are trusting men to tell us the right thing to do to be saved. Funny thing about that is the very next verse of Micah has this to say:
The remaining ones of Jacob will be in the midst of many peoples
Like dew from Jehovah,
Like showers of rain on vegetation
That do not put hope in man
Or wait for the sons of men.
How ironic that the prophecy on which they are basing this new understanding actually contradicts it. The remaining ones (or remnant) of Jacob are likely the same ones Paul refers to at Romans 11:5. These are the anointed Christians who are in the midst of many peoples. They do not “put [their] hope in man or wait for the sons of men.” So why would they wait on the Governing Body and elders for life-saving direction from Christ?
How will the seven shepherds and eight dukes provide protection? Jesus provides those anointed ones resurrected to kingdom glory with iron rods with which to shepherd and break the nations. (Rev. 2:26, 27) In a similar way, the shepherds and dukes here pictured will shepherd the attacking Assyrian with the sword. To fit out flaccid interpretation, we say the elders will shepherd the nations attacking God’s people with the sword of God’s word the Bible. How exactly they are going to defeat the combined forces of Gog and Magog, Bibles in hand isn’t explained.
There is this, however. Reading this account is intended to inspire a certain dread should we be thinking of abandoning the Organization. Leave, and we will die because we’ll be cut off from the life-saving information when the end comes. Is that a reasonable conclusion?
Amos 3:7 does say, “For the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will not do a thing unless he has revealed his confidential matter to his servants the prophets.” Well, that seems clear enough. Now we just have to identify who the prophets are. Let’s not be too quick to say the Governing Body. Let’s examine the Scriptures first.
In the time of Jehoshaphat, there was a similar overwhelming force coming against Jehovah’s people. They gathered together and prayed and Jehovah answered their prayer. His spirit caused Jahaziel to prophesy, and he told the people to go out and face the invading forces; strategically, a foolish thing to do. His inspired words were obviously designed to be a test of faith; one they passed. It is interesting that Jahaziel wasn’t the high priest. In fact, he wasn’t a priest at all. However, it appears he was known as a prophet, because the next day, the king tells the gathered crowd to “put faith in Jehovah” and to “put faith in his prophets”. Now Jehovah could have chosen someone with better credentials like the high priest, or the king himself, but he chose a simple Levite instead. No reason is given. However, if Jahaziel had had a long record of prophetic failures, would Jehovah have chosen him? Not likely!
According to Deut. 18:20, “…the prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak…that prophet must die.” So the fact that Jahaziel wasn’t dead speaks well for his reliability as a prophet of God.
The first member of the faithful and discreet slave (according to our most recent reinterpretation) was Judge Rutherford. He foretold that “millions now living would never die”, because he also taught that the end would come on or about 1925. In fact, he foretold that ancient men of faith like Abraham and David would be resurrected in that year. He even purchased a California mansion, Beth Sarim, to house them upon their return. If we had been observing Mosaic law at that time, we would have been obliged to take him outside the city gates and stone him to death.
I do not say this in jest, but rather to put things we might casually dismiss into the proper perspective, that which Jehovah has laid down in his word.
If a false prophet must die, it would be inconsistent for Jehovah to use as his principal prophet, a man or group of men who have a long, virtually unbroken record of failed prophecies.
It is clear from the tone of this Watchtower article as well as the two that sandwich it that the Organization is depending on inducing fear—a kind of separation anxiety within our ranks—to keep us in line and loyal and obedient to men. This is a very old tactic and we’ve been warned about it by our Father.
(Deuteronomy 18:21, 22) . . .And in case you should say in your heart: “How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?” 22 when the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak. With presumptuousness the prophet spoke it. You must not get frightened at him.’
For the past century, the Organization had repeatedly spoken words which ‘did not occur or come true’. According to the Bible, they spoke presumptuously. We should not get frightened of them. We should not be induced to serve them out of fear.
Who the seven shepherds and eight dukes will turn out to be—assuming the prophecy has a modern-day fulfillment at all—is something we’ll have to wait to learn. As for any life-saving direction revealed to and through his prophets, well, if he has something to tell us, you can be sure that the source of the information will be beyond dispute, with credentials provided by God himself.
There is a ramification to the statement in paragraph 17 that the Governing Body probably didn’t intend to convey. Since there is no scriptural support for this apparently impractical, non-strategic life-saving direction, one has to question how they know they will be given such a revelation from God. The only way would be if God has revealed this to them now. Therefore, the only way for us to consider this statement to be true—again, given the lack of scriptural proof—is for us to conclude that they have been inspired. Therefore, God has inspired them to let them know that in the future they will be inspired yet again.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being afraid of men.