God's Sovereignty

Over the years, the Watchtower Society's publications have placed much emphasis on the need for the "vindication of God's sovereignty", explaining how it is the all important issue facing mankind. The article, "Keep Your Eyes on the Big Issue," (The Watchtower June 15, 2017) introduces the subject by saying: "A very big issue facing all of us is the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty. We need to guard against losing sight of this vital issue. How could that happen? We could become so absorbed in the demands of our day-to-day life that we forget just how important the vindication of God’s sovereignty really is. Or we could allow the weight of our personal trials to eclipse that great issue. On the other hand, the keener our appreciation for the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty, the better equipped we are to meet challenges in our daily lives. And such appreciation will draw us closer to Jehovah."

How is God's sovereignty "the big issue" that involves everyone of us? The article explains: "The action of Satan the Devil has raised the question of the rightfulness of Jehovah’s sovereignty. He contends that God’s rulership is corrupt and that Jehovah withholds the best from his creatures. According to the Devil, humans would be far happier and better off ruling themselves. (Genesis 3:1-5) Satan has also implied that no human at heart is loyal to God—that under sufficient pressure, anyone will reject Jehovah’s rulership. (Job 2:4, 5) In connection with the Devil’s challenge, Jehovah is allowing time for human experience to reveal the unsavory truth about life outside of God’s righteous rule."―w17 6/15 p. 22-23 par. 3.

The notion that God's sovereignty has been called into question, and that it somehow needs to be vindicated, does not find support anywhere in the Scriptures. In fact, the very opposite is true! The Scriptures are clear that Jehovah is the Almighty God and sovereign ruler over his Creation—his sovereignty is firmly established. Jehovah himself tells us: “To whom will you people liken me or make me equal or compare me that we may resemble each other? . . . Remember the first things of a long time ago, that I am the Divine One and there is no other God, nor anyone like me; the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done; the One saying, ‘My own counsel will stand, and everything that is my delight I shall do’; the One calling from the sunrising a bird of prey, from a distant land the man to execute my counsel. I have even spoken it; I shall also bring it in. I have formed it, I shall also do it." (Isaiah 46:5, 8-11; 40:25,26)

The prophet Jeremiah expressed God's sovereignty similarly: "In no way is there anyone like you, O Jehovah. You are great, and your name is great in mightiness. Who should not fear you, O King of the nations, for to you it is fitting; because among all the wise ones of the nations and among all their kingships there is in no way anyone like you. But Jehovah is in truth God. He is the living God and the King to time indefinite. Because of his indignation the earth will rock, and no nations will hold up under his denunciation. This is what you men will say to them: 'The gods that did not make the very heavens and the earth are the ones who will perish from the earth and from under these heavens.' He is the Maker of the earth by his power, the One firmly establishing the productive land by his wisdom, and the One who by his understanding stretched out the heavens. At his voice there is a giving by him of a turmoil of waters in the heavens, and he causes vapors to ascend from the extremity of the earth. He has made even sluices for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses. Every man has behaved so unreasoningly as not to know. Every metalworker will certainly feel shame because of the carved image; for his molten image is a falsehood, and there is no spirit in them." (Jer. 10:6,7, 10-14; Psalms 86:8; 89:6-14)

Jehovah does not need to prove, or justify, or vindicate the fact that he is the only true God―the living God―the Creator of everything in existence. (Rev. 4:11) His sovereignty is a fact that cannot be disputed or challenged, as one author defines God's sovereignty: "The sovereignty of God means that He has total control of all things past, present and future. Nothing happens that is out of His knowledge and control. All things are either caused by Him or allowed by Him for His own purposes and through His perfect will and timing (Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 8:6). He is the only absolute and omnipotent ruler of the universe and is sovereign in creation, providence and redemption."

Similarly, Insight on the Scriptures Volume 2, says this under the heading
Jehovah’s Sovereignty: "Jehovah God is the Sovereign of the universe ('sovereign of the world,' Ps 47:9, Mo) by reason of his Creatorship, his Godship, and his supremacy as the Almighty. (Ge 17:1; Ex 6:3; Re 16:14) He is the Owner of all things and the Source of all authority and power, the Supreme Ruler in government. (Ps 24:1; Isa 40:21-23; Re 4:11; 11:15) The psalmist sang of him: 'Jehovah himself has firmly established his throne in the very heavens; and over everything his own kingship has held domination.' (Ps 103:19; 145:13) Jesus’ disciples prayed, addressing God: 'Sovereign Lord, you are the One who made the heaven and the earth.' (Ac 4:24, NW; Mo) . . . In his sovereign position Jehovah has the right and authority to delegate ruling responsibilities. David was made king of Israel, and the Scriptures speak of 'the kingdom of David’ as though it was his kingdom. But David acknowledged Jehovah as the great Sovereign Ruler, saying: 'Yours, O Jehovah, are the greatness and the mightiness and the beauty and the excellency and the dignity; for everything in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Jehovah, the One also lifting yourself up as head over all.'—1Ch 29:11."—it-2 pp. 1008-1009 Sovereignty. (Bold added)

What does the Society say about how God's sovereignty became an issue in the first place? Insight on the Scriptures Volume 2, explains: "Satan’s rebellion, visibly initiated in Eden, produced an issue of universal importance—that of the rightfulness of God’s sovereignty over all his creatures, his right to require full obedience of them." (it-1 p. 1210 Integrity) Is it true that Satan questioned the "rightfulness of Jehovah's sovereignty over all his creation" in the Garden of Eden? The account in Genesis relates: "Now the serpent proved to be the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it began to say to the woman: 'Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?' At this the woman said to the serpent: 'Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat. But as for eating of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, God has said, "You must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it that you do not die.”' At this the serpent said to the woman: 'You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.' Consequently the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon. So she began taking of its fruit and eating it. Afterward she gave some also to her husband when with her and he began eating it." (Genesis 3:1-6)

It was not God's indisputable sovereignty over his creation that the serpent called into question, when he contradicted God's clearly stated command regarding eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. (Genesis 2:9, 15-17) Rather, he raised the issue of the need for us to listen to God
—our obedience to God's commands. The "original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth," claimed that by disobeying God, Eve would actually benefit herself, for not only would she not die, but she would become like God in deciding what is good and bad. The issue raised in the Garden of Eden is well summed up by Jeremiah, when he wrote: "I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step." (Jer. 10:23; Isa. 48:16-19; Rev. 12:9) Satan challenged our dependence on Jehovah for continued life and happiness; after all, did God not create man as an intelligent creature, in his own image? It was on account of his own wisdom and beauty that this "anointed cherub that is covering" rebelled against God in the first place. (Gen. 1:26,27; Ezek. 28:13-17; John 8:44)

The "big" or "important issue facing mankind" is not the "vindication of Jehovah's sovereignty", but rather our obedience to God. It is not about whether God has the right to tell us what is good and bad, but whether it is to our benefit that we listen to him and obey his commandments. It is the same issue that Adam and Eve faced, and which was also placed before the nation of Israel, to whom God said: "I do take the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you today, that I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the malediction; and you must choose life in order that you may keep alive, you and your offspring, by loving Jehovah your God, by listening to his voice and by sticking to him; for he is your life and the length of your days, that you may dwell upon the ground that Jehovah swore to your forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to give to them.” (Deut. 30:15-20; 32:47; Jer. 21:8; Ezek. 20:11)

Jesus called Satan the Devil "the ruler of this world." How did he become such? (John 12:31) Satan himself acknowledged that he received the authority over all the kingdoms of the world; and that he, in turn, could give this glory and authority "to whomever I wish." Thus, he offered it to Jesus in return for one act of worship. (John 4:5-8) Undeniably, the one who confers authority on someone is greater than the one receiving such authority, which Satan wanted Jesus to acknowledge. (Matt. 4:8-10; Dan. 7:13-14) From where or whom did the Devil receive his authority of rulership over the earth? From the Most High, the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. (Dan. 4:17) Before he made himself Satan the Devil
by becoming God's opposerhe was a glorious spirit creature, "the anointed cherub that is covering," whom Jehovah God had anointed as protector over mankind. (Ezek. 28:13-17; Compare Psalms 34:7; 91:9-11; Luke 4:9-13; See also w68 6/1 p. 332 par. 2; w58 8/1 p. 455) But rather than proving to be a Protector, this "covering cherub" sought to bring Adam and all his offspring under his authority, thereby becoming a god to them. (Luke 4:6,7; 2 Cor. 4:4)

Since it was Jehovah God who had initially anointed him for this lofty position of oversight, Jehovah became indirectly responsible for the consequence of the rebellious course that this anointed cherub embarked upon; as in the case of the kings that Jehovah had chosen and anointed over his people Israel
—like Saul and Jeroboamonly to have them rebel against God, who had anointed them. Jehovah did not immediately destroy them, but he allowed them to continue in their disastrous course of opposition. Yet, he did not fail to pronounce his judgment upon them. (1 Sam. 15:17, 22,23; 1 Kings 11:29-31; 12:20, 25-33; 15:29,30) Please note that God's sovereignty was never the issue; but obedience was.

The Watchtower article, "Oppose Satan, and He Will Flee!" said the following: "The Devil has raised the issue of universal sovereignty. Related to it, he has called into question the integrity of humans to their Creator. Satan brought persecution upon the upright man Job. Why? In order to break Job’s integrity to Jehovah." (w06 1/15 p. 28 par. 9) But, rather than the Devil raising the issue of universal sovereignty in connection with Job's integrity, the account in Job shows the very opposite, namely, that Satan acknowledged God's sovereignty. Consider what it says: "Now it came to be the day when the sons of the true God entered to take their station before Jehovah, and even Satan proceeded to enter right among them." (Job 1:6)

If indeed Jehovah's universal sovereignty was the issue, would Satan have stationed himself before Jehovah along with the other sons of the true God? Recall that when Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, both of whom (along with Korah) were rejecting the authority that Moses had received from Jehovah, they both answered in defiance, "We are not going to come up!" (Num. 16:12-14) To have appeared before Moses would have acknowledged Moses' authority over them. Similarly, what can be said about Satan entering before the person of Jehovah, not just once but twice, in this account? Not that Jehovah had summoned Satan, but Satan did appear before Jehovah right in the midst of God's faithful angels; showing that Satan acknowledged God's sovereignty, as did God's other spirit sons. (Job 2:1; Daniel 7:9,10, 13)

And further, it was not Satan who first brought up the matter of Job's integrity, but rather Jehovah himself did, when he said to Satan: "'Have you set your heart upon my servant Job, that there is no one like him in the earth, a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad?' At that Satan answered Jehovah and said: 'Is it for nothing that Job has feared God? Have not you yourself put up a hedge about him and about his house and about everything that he has all around? The work of his hands you have blessed, and his livestock itself has spread abroad in the earth. But, for a change, thrust out your hand, please, and touch everything he has and see whether he will not curse you to your very face.' Accordingly Jehovah said to Satan: 'Look! Everything that he has is in your hand. Only against him himself do not thrust out your hand!' So Satan went out away from the person of Jehovah." (Job 1:8-12)

Again, please note, that it was not Jehovah's sovereignty that was at issue, but man's integrity to God, in this case that of Job. Also, in his attempt to break Job's integrity, Satan accepted the restriction that God placed on him by not touching Job himself in the first instance; and on the second occasion not to take his life. Satan obeyed both times! (Job 2:3-8) That clearly demonstrates that Satan never challenged God's superiority, his sovereignty. And neither have the demons. James writes that the demons believe there is one God, and they shudder. They are in fear of the abyss, into which they know they will be hurled at God's appointed time. And further showing that God's sovereignty is not an issue with the demons is the fact that Jesus gave the twelve apostles "power and authority over all the demons." (James 2:19; Luke 8:31; 9:1; Rev. 20:3)

Do we, by our integrity to Jehovah, like that of Job, support God's rightful sovereignty? That is what the Study article—mentioned above—claims, when it asks:
"What is the lesson for us? Primarily this: Let us not become so absorbed in our own lives that we lose sight of this big issue—the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty. And let us appreciate that our role in this vital issue entails remaining faithful even under difficult circumstances, as did Job." (w17 6/15 p. 22-23; Bold added) Numerous other Watchtower articles have explained the issue similarly. While at times the Watchtower has acknowledged that God's sovereignty does not depend on our integrity, yet at the same time it has insisted that God's sovereignty needs to be vindicated, and stresses our part in that vital issue. For example, an article in The Watchtower back in 2008 said: "Jehovah’s sovereignty does not depend on our integrity. His sovereignty is just, eternal, and universal. It will always be so, regardless of what any creatures say or do. However, God’s sovereignty has been grossly maligned in the heavens and on the earth. His rulership thus needs to be vindicated—confirmed as right, just, and loving—before all intelligent creatures. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we love to discuss God’s universal sovereignty with anyone who will listen. How, though, can we take our own stand on the issue? How do we show that we choose Jehovah as our own Sovereign? By keeping integrity."―w08 12/15 p. 4 par. 9 Why Keep Your Integrity? (Bold added)

What strange notion, to imagine that by our obedience and integrity to Jehovah we somehow support the vindication of his sovereignty; as if Jehovah needs our endorsement. What could possibly be the motive for inventing such an unscriptural teaching? The apostle Paul warned that "oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise up and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves." The apostle Peter similarly foretold that false teachers and false prophets would appear among God's people, and that "with covetousness they will exploit you with counterfeit words." (Acts 20:29,30; 2 Peter 2:1-3) How does the Society's teaching regarding the "big issue" of the "vindication of Jehovah's sovereignty" exploit God's people? In the same way that their other non-scriptural doctrines, such as on Dedication, has served them well, by subtly getting us to conform to their authority and teachings, setting forth the many requirements that our dedication to God is supposed to include
if we are to receive everlasting life. It has proved burdensome for former many zealous servants of Jehovah. (Ezek. 34:4, 27; Matt. 11:28-30)

This point is well demonstrated in an article in The Watchtower, entitled "Welcome to the Best Way of Life!" The article associates the doctrine of Dedication with the issue of God's universal sovereignty. It says: "By dedicating ourselves to God and being baptized, we make it known that we belong to Jehovah. 'None of us, in fact, lives with regard to himself only, and no one dies with regard to himself only,' wrote the apostle Paul, 'for both if we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. Therefore both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah.' (Rom. 14:7, 8) God has dignified us by giving us free will. When we firmly decide to pursue this way of life because we love God, we make his heart rejoice. (Prov. 27:11) Our baptism is both a symbol of our dedication to God and a public declaration that Jehovah is our Ruler. It shows that we have taken a stand on his side of the issue of universal sovereignty. (Acts 5:29, 32) In turn, Jehovah is on our side. (Read Psalm 118:6.) Baptism also opens the way for us to receive many other spiritual blessings now and in the future." w10 2/15 p. 25 par. 6. (Bold added)

Since neither the requirement for our dedication to God nor the "vindication of Jehovah's sovereignty" is discussed in the Scriptures, we may rightly ask: why is so much emphasis placed on these teachings by the Watchtower Society? Perhaps, their question "
How do we show that we choose Jehovah as our own Sovereign?" helps shed light on the answer. We see that when teachers go "beyond the things that are written", and their teaching finds no support in the Scriptures, they then feel free to interpret their teaching to include whatever they want it to mean. (1 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:8) Take for example the reasoning of The Watchtower (November 15, 2010) on how we uphold God's sovereignty, when it says: "We uphold Jehovah’s sovereignty and maintain our integrity by preaching righteousness, making disciples, applying Scriptural counsel, and assembling with fellow believers at meetings, assemblies, and conventions." (w10 11/15 p. 32 par. 23; Bold added)

Further, it states in another article: "Make the most of this grand opportunity to share in the vindication of God’s sovereignty and the sanctification of his holy name by keeping pace with Jehovah’s celestial chariot." (w91  3/15 p. 18 par. 24) In other words, if we want to share in the vindication of God’s sovereignty then we need to keep up-to-date with the ever changing teachings of "God's visible organization"—which is said to be his celestial chariot. And even more incredible, our support for the "big" issue involves "our response to divinely authorized headship. By our respectful cooperation, we show our support for Jehovah’s sovereignty. Even if we do not fully understand or agree with a decision, we will still want to support theocratic order. That is quite different from the way of the world, but it is the way of life under Jehovah’s rulership."w17  6/15 p. 30 par. 15 Loyally Uphold God's Sovereignty. (Bold added)

Thus, we see that when the Society wants to spur us on to greater activity in the preaching work; or to admonish us to be more regular in attending the congregation meetings, and to more fully participate in them; or to encourage us to contribute financially to the world-wide preaching work, because "the material needs of an international organization are not supplied by faith alone"; or to remind us that we must submit to their authority; or anything else they deem is important to the organization; they present these as evidence of "living up to our dedication" and our "hearty support of Jehovah's sovereignty". w55 3/1 p. 151 par. 22 Supporting Jehovah’s Organization; World Government (1977) chap. 12 p. 186 par. 5.

God's sovereignty over his creation has never been in doubt; it has never been challenged; and therefore it has never been an issue that needs to be settled. There is no need for its vindication! Rather, the all important issue that was raised by Satan in the Garden of Eden involves: living our life independent from our Creator Jehovah God, or submitting to his laws and guidance;―which choice will lead to everlasting life and happiness?

The vindication belongs to God's people who have chosen to obediently submit to Jehovah's rightful sovereignty, when he rewards them with the promised everlasting life. The prophet Isaiah tells us: "He will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces. And the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for Jehovah himself has spoken it." (Isaiah 25:8) Yes, "none that rests his faith on him will be disappointed." And, the Psalmist adds: "Happy is everyone fearing Jehovah, who is walking in his ways." That is the all important issue! (Rom. 10:11; Psalms 36:9; 128:1; 144:15; Rev. 21:3-5)