"My People Like it That Way"
"A horrible and shocking thing has happened in this land-- the prophets give false prophecies, and the priests rule with an iron hand. And worse yet, my people like it that way! But what will you do when the end comes? —Jeremiah 5:26-31; New Living Translation.
The Watchtower has for many years noted the horrible and shocking conditions inside the churches of Christendom. For example, the issue of January 15, 1960, page 40, had this to say:
"The fruits of Christendom’s religious confusion are to be seen in its rising rate of crime, its juvenile delinquency and its alarming increase in divorce and godlessness. It is all what Jehovah foretold for ungodly Christendom in these “last days.” (Matt. 7:15-23; 2 Tim. 3:1-7; Jer. 5:29-31) (bold mine)
"Millions of people from nearly every religion and sect of Christendom have been led to believe that they are “born again” and “saved.” Unblushing politicians blithely make the same claim. Yes, their favorite preachers tell them that they are at peace with God because they are “saved”—and this in spite of their religious, political, and nationalistic divisions! And the people love it, even as they did in Jeremiah’s day! (Jeremiah 5:31; 14:14) They think they are beyond the reach of God’s Armageddon judgment.—Jeremiah 6:14; 23:17; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Revelation 16:14, 16." —w88 4/1 pp. 17-18, Christendom Exposed as the Promoter of False Worship (bold mine)
Also, under the heading “Praise Jah, You People!” we are told:
"In fulfillment of Bible prophecy, horrible things have been happening in Christendom. (Compare Jeremiah 5:30-31; 23:14.) Largely because of the permissive attitude of the clergy, their flocks are riddled with immorality. In the United States, supposedly a Christian nation, about half of all marriages end up in divorce. Teenage pregnancies and homosexuality run riot among church members. Priests are sexually abusing young children—and not in just a few instances. . .Christendom has disregarded the apostle Paul’s warning found at 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.” —The Watchtower 1996, April 1, pages 18-19. (bold mine)
When Jehovah instructed Jeremiah to write that "among my people are wicked men," who did he have in mind by saying "my people?" Is he denouncing the people of Christendom? (see the Box "Is Jehovah also the God of Christendom?") Amos, one of Jehovah's prophets, answers, "Hear this word that Jehovah has spoken concerning YOU, O sons of Israel, concerning the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt, saying, ‘YOU people only have I known out of all the families of the ground. That is why I shall hold an accounting against YOU for all YOUR errors." (Amos 3:1,2) Jehovah acknowledged only the sons of Israel as his people, and as such he was holding them accountable for all their sins, the horrible things they were guilty of committing. But before he was going to act in a frightful way against them he revealed their errors and his intention to do something about it. For that reason he raised up his prophets, as Amos writes, "If a horn is blown in a city, do not also the people themselves tremble? If a calamity occurs in the city, is it not also Jehovah who has acted? For the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will not do a thing unless he has revealed his confidential matter to his servants the prophets." (Amos 3:6-7)
Jehovah does not execute his judgment upon his people, or anyone else for that matter, unless he first presents all the evidence against them, just as in a court of law, for all to see. It is as Isaiah 3:13-14 says, "The LORD takes his place in court. He is the great prosecuting attorney, presenting his case against his people! The leaders and the princes will be the first to feel the LORD's judgment." (NLT)
How do we respond to the case that Jehovah is now presenting against us? Do we dismiss the evidence, saying it applies to others, for example, to the members of Christendom's churches? Are we also claiming that Jehovah's people are in Christendom, thereby rejecting any charges that God is bringing against us? If we insist that we are God's people then we must also apply all the scriptures that Jehovah addresses to his people as applying to us. And he tells us that there are shocking and horrible things being done in our midst. Our marriage breakups are as high, if not higher in some places, as they are in Christendom. (Jer. 5:8-9) We have men in responsible positions getting their names published in the Newspapers because of sexually abusing children in their midst. There have been Jehovah's Witness murderers mentioned, extortionists fleecing elderly sisters of their savings, etc. There is nothing rotten happening in the churches of Christendom that is not also happening among us.
But there are "horrible" things being done in our case, that are not even being done in Christendom. Yes, Jehovah says that among his own people there are "wicked men who lie in wait for victims like a hunter hiding in a blind." Who are these wicked men, and how are they "continually setting traps for other people?" (Jer. 5:26-31) They are the ones who lie in wait, set traps, for any among us who might have doubts about their teachings, due to some contradictions because of not being solidly based on God's Word. At one time such ones were helped to reason on the Scriptures, but for the last few decades these doubters have been harshly dealt with. The disciple Jude, a brother of James, wrote to those "loved in relationship with God the Father and preserved for Jesus Christ" this counsel: "Be helpful to all who may have doubts. Rescue any who need to be saved, as you would rescue someone from a fire. Then with fear in your own hearts, have mercy on everyone who needs it. But hate even the clothes of those who have been made dirty by their filthy deeds." (Jude 1:22-23; Contemporary English Version)
The wicked hunters among God's people today do not prove to be helpful to any doubters, as rescuing them from a fire, thus saving their lives. (see James 5:19-20) Rather, they lie in wait for any who might entertain some "apostate" ideas. By this they mean anything that is not in agreement with their teachings, never mind if these "apostate" ideas are in harmony with God's own Word. They do not shrink back from disfellowshipping "God's beloved ones," even anointed ones, who "do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God." (1 John 4:1; Rom. 1:7) Do they not understand that the sheep belong to Jehovah, and that Christ died for them, and that they will have to render an account to God for how they treated his sheep? (John 21:15-17; Heb. 13:17; James 3:1) Do we see that sort of paranoia in Christendom's churches?
They tolerate no dissent! With what result? They have grown "great and rich," and are "well fed and well groomed." Yes, they are highly esteemed within God's household as if they are prospering because of God's blessing upon them. But do they deserve any respect? Do they genuinely care for the flock, the ones over whom they are ruling? (1 Peter 5:3) What does Jehovah see? They refuse justice to "orphans," the young ones among us whose spiritual lives are entrusted to the care of the elders. Not a few of them have been abused, sometimes even by congregation servants, who hide such horrible wrongdoing with the mistaken intent of not wanting to bring reproach on God's name. Yet, they are the ones who bring reproach on his name by covering over the wicked deeds and by dealing harshly with the victims, some of whom they have expelled from the congregation for speaking out and revealing some personal abuse they themselves suffered. They ignore the fact that Jehovah has never covered over wrong doing. In fact, he is zealous in exposing it, becoming a "swift witness" against them. (Prov. 28:13; Mal. 3:5; Luke 8:17) They show favoritism. They look down upon the spiritually weak ones whose hours spend in the ministry might be very low, judging them as poor examples, while heaping praises upon the ones rich in hours. (James 2:8-9)
Is Jehovah not taking notice of all these things? He tells us that he is and sees even more terrible things that greatly disturb him. Those who claim to represent him and speak in his name have become powerful by promoting false prophecies. Woe to anyone who dares question the failed predictions. And there are those serving under these "prophets" who rule "with an iron hand." As the God’s Word Bible puts it, "Prophets prophesy lies. Priests rule under the prophets’ directions." The cooperation of these "priests" with the "prophets" is not for the benefit of the flock. The New World Translation says it this way, "and as for the priests, they go subduing according to their power." Yes, those appointed by the prophets have been empowered to subdue, subjugate, bring under control the members within their respective congregations on behalf of the prophets, enforcing their teachings and laws.
The prophets who "give false prophecies" are not Jehovah's prophets. Neither has he empowered any "priests" to rule over any of his sheep. Then how is it that the prophets and priests have come to wield so much control and authority within God's household, having become great and rich, being well fed and well groomed? In all of the "subduing according to their power" why does Jehovah not mention his anointed king? Where does he fit into all of this? In Jeremiah's day the kings were still ruling although greatly influenced by the princes, prophets and priests. But where is the authority of our king, Christ Jesus, today? Would he not be just as shocked as Jehovah at the situation among God's people? And if he were already ruling, would he be permitting this? As the evidence shows, the prophets and priests have supplanted the rightful king. They have seized rulership, albeit claiming with the king's blessing, and they are doing so with harshness, having made themselves "masters over [our] faith." (NWT) How unlike the attitude of the apostle Paul, who wrote, "We are not bosses who tell you what to believe. We are working with you to make you glad, because your faith is strong." (2 Cor. 1:24; Contemporary English Version)
What makes everything so much worse, Jehovah says, is that as a whole, his people "like it that way." Yes, it astonishes him that they actually "have loved it that way," the deplorable conditions, heavy handed control and all. (Jeremiah 5:31; New World Translation) There is no outcry from them to Jehovah for aid. They mock any who may be disturbed because of it, for they claim that speaking out against it is the same as speaking against God. After all, if God has allowed it, is that not prove that he is in agreement with it? And besides, have they not taught us the truth about God and his kingdom? Yes, they have taught us many important truths, but liberally interspersed with their own "truths." Jehovah's allowance of their wickedness and rebellion is no indication that he has been in favor of it. Their tyranny is quickly coming to an end, just as soon as Jesus returns in kingdom power, at a time they do not think to be it. (Matt. 24:44)
It is a very serious matter to reach out for glory or to covet positions that do not belong to us. (Ex. 20:17; Prov. 28:16) Neither Moses, nor Aaron, nor even Christ himself, glorified themselves, nor did they seek any glory. (Num. 12:3; Phil. 2:5-9) In this regard Paul writes: "Also, a man takes this honor, not of his own accord, but only when he is called by God, just as Aaron also [was]. So too the Christ did not glorify himself by becoming a high priest, but [was glorified by him] who spoke with reference to him: 'You are my son; I, today, I have become your father.'" (Heb. 5:4,5)
Let us consider as a warning the example of some who coveted glory that did not belong to them. (1 Cor. 10:11,12)
Moses, the One Entrusted With All God's House
It was an historic event when, in 1513 B.C.E., Moses was chosen by Jehovah
to lead Jacob's (Israel's) descendants out of Egyptian slavery to freedom,
to the good land that God had promised to give to Abraham's offspring.
(Gen. 15:18; Ex. 3:1-12) By divine direction Moses first led the people to
Mount Sinai, where Jehovah entered into a covenant with his people, with
Moses as their mediator. Moses was indeed used in a mighty way by Jehovah.
Concerning him Jehovah himself said: “If there came to be a prophet of
yours for Jehovah, it would be in a vision I would make myself known to
him. In a dream I would speak to him. Not so my servant Moses! He is being
entrusted with all my house. Mouth to mouth I speak to him, thus showing
him, and not by riddles; and the appearance of Jehovah is what he
beholds.” (Num. 12:6-8)
It was said that "Jehovah spoke to Moses face to face, just as a man would speak to his fellow." (Exodus 33:11) Yes, Moses had a relationship with Jehovah that was more intimate than that of any other prophet prior to Jesus Christ. Moses was entrusted with all Jehovah's house. What a privilege! In this he pictured the prophet that he foretold Jehovah would eventually raise up, one greater than Moses. Jehovah foretold: "A prophet I shall raise up for them from the midst of their brothers, like you; and I shall indeed put my words in his mouth, and he will certainly speak to them all that I shall command him. And it must occur that the man who will not listen to my words that he will speak in my name, I shall myself require an account from him." (Deut. 18:18-19)
This foretold prophet proved to be Jesus Christ. (Acts 3:20-23) Jehovah used Moses to foreshadow what Jesus would do, but in a much larger way. Whereas Moses was entrusted with all God's house as a faithful attendant, Jesus would prove to be the master of God's house. This is what the Watchtower says concerning it:
"To stress the value of Christian faith, Paul compared Jesus with Moses, whom the Jews viewed as the greatest prophet among their ancestors. If Hebrew Christians could wholeheartedly grasp the fact that Jesus is greater than Moses, they would have no reason to doubt the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. Paul pointed out that while Moses was counted worthy of being entrusted with God’s "house"—the nation, or congregation, of Israel—he was only a faithful attendant, or servant. (Numbers 12:7) On the other hand, Jesus was the Son, the master over the house. (1 Corinthians 11:3; Hebrews 3:2-3, 5) To reinforce his point, Paul cited this universal truth: "Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God." (Hebrews 3:4) No one would dispute that God is greater than anyone, for he is the Builder, or Creator, of all. Logically, then, since Jesus was God’s coworker, he must be greater than all other creation, including Moses.—Proverbs 8:30; Colossians 1:15-17." —w98 7/15 p. 11; Beware of a Lack of Faith.
As we see, Moses was entrusted by Jehovah with all his "house"—the nation, or congregation, of Israel. In this he foreshadowed Jesus Christ. No, Moses did not picture the twelve apostles, as a whole or individually, nor any of the anointed at some future time, individually or as a class. As we see, Moses was entrusted by Jehovah with all his "house"—the nation, or congregation, of Israel. In this he foreshadowed Jesus Christ. No, Moses did not picture the twelve apostles, as a whole or individually, nor any of the anointed at some future time, individually or as a class. (For a fuller consideration on how Jesus was like Moses, please see the Box "How Was Jesus Christ a Prophet Like Moses?")
The account in the Book of Numbers tells us that on one occasion Miriam and Aaron began speaking against Moses, having found fault with him on account of the Cushite wife he had taken. So they kept saying, "Is it just by Moses alone that Jehovah has spoken? Is it not by us also that he has spoken?" Miriam and Aaron started to question the authority Jehovah had given Moses; what made him so special? After all, he was just their brother. They wanted to have some of his glory of leading God's people. Jehovah was listening and his "anger got to be hot against them." Miriam was struck with leprosy. Aaron and Moses interceded in behalf of Miriam, Moses crying out to Jehovah, saying: "O God, please! Heal her, please!" Miriam suffered the humiliation of being quarantined outside the camp for seven days, after which Jehovah healed her. (Num. 12:1-15)
Why did Aaron speak out against Moses? Was he not also used by Jehovah in a mighty way, first as Moses' spokesman before Pharaoh, and then also being anointed as the high priest? Jehovah did not smite him, as he had Miriam, because Aaron too was a prophetic type of the Christ, in the capacity of the high priest. He was not stepping outside the bounds of what he foreshadowed, although he should not have spoken against Moses but rather have corrected his sister.
In the case of Moses and Aaron Jehovah was presenting a prophetic scenario, an illustration, a "shadow" that would lead to Christ. (Col. 2:17; compare Galatians 4:22-26) All the things that Jehovah did in connection with Moses and Aaron would be fulfilled in the promised Messiah. Any deviation from the role that Moses and Aaron played would detract, yes, make void their prophetic significance. That is why it was so vital for both, Moses and Aaron, to be obedient to God's direction and leading of them, not stepping outside their God assigned roles. (see the Box "Why Was Moses Not Forgiven?") And it would also be important for all the people to act in harmony with this fact, which was of course not understood by them at that time. In the prophetic drama, any rebellion against Moses and Aaron would be the same as rebelling against the greater Moses and Aaron, Christ Jesus.
Later there was an even greater, more serious rebellion against Moses, when Korah, of the tribe of Levi, together with Dathan, Abiram, and On, plus "two hundred and fifty men of the sons of Israel, chieftains of the assembly, summoned ones of the meeting, men of fame," proceeded to rise up against Moses. "So they congregated themselves against Moses and Aaron and said to them: 'That is enough of YOU, because the whole assembly are all of them holy and Jehovah is in their midst. Why, then, should YOU lift yourselves up above the congregation of Jehovah?'" (Num. 16:1-3)
Korah, Dathan, Abiram, On, and all their followers, "men of fame," wanted to have the same authority and glory that Moses had been given. They complained: where had his leadership taken them? Why were they not yet in that promised land, instead of wandering around in the wilderness for so many years? Again the question was raised: what made Moses so special? Was not the whole assembly, all of them, holy, having Jehovah in their midst? Concerning this rebellion and the seriousness of it, the Watchtower of 1965 had this to say:
"In the above-mentioned cases of the Israelites Korah, Dathan and Abiram, we must remember that they were rebelling and speaking against typical or prophetic figures. Both Moses as prophet and his brother Aaron as high priest were types of Jesus Christ in similar offices. (Deut. 18:15-19; Acts 3:20-23; Heb. 3:1, 2; 5:4-6; 9:23-26) When Jesus was on earth and was being spoken against he said: “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in the present system of things nor in that to come.” (Matt. 12:32) Korah, Dathan and Abiram were speaking against the two men, Moses and Aaron, who were types or prophetic figures of the Son of man, Jesus Christ." —w65 2/1 pp. 81-82 Part Two (bold mine)
Notice the point the Watchtower makes: Korah, Dathan and Abiram were speaking against the two men, "Moses and Aaron, who were types or prophetic figures of the Son of man, Jesus Christ." Yes, Moses and Aaron were prophetic figures of Jesus Christ, but never were they types or prophetic figures of any of God's chosen ones, including the twelve apostles. (Heb. 3:1-3; 5:4-5)
Professing or desiring equal authority to that what Moses and Aaron had would be the same as anyone claiming to share in Jesus' authority, when Jehovah had not yet given it. It would amount to the same rebellion that Korah, Dathan and Abiram became guilty of. Even though these "things went on befalling them as examples," and "were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the system of things have arrived," yet, today we have those in God's household who do not shy away from doing exactly that. They covet the authority and glory Jehovah has bestowed upon his Son, "authority in heaven and on earth." (Matt. 28:18; 1 Cor. 10:11)
Who, today, in the greater picture leads God's people the way Moses did? The Watchtower answers: "God used Moses to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage, even as Jesus brings about spiritual liberation." —w91 9/15 p. 21 How Christ’s Transfiguration Affects You.
Yes, it is Jesus that leads us and brings about our spiritual liberation. But the modern day Korah, Dathan and Abiram desire the same authority as Jehovah has entrusted to Jesus. Says the Watchtower:
"The Israelites murmured vehemently against Moses and Aaron when 10 of the 12 spies sent out to search the land of Canaan brought back bad reports. They even talked about replacing Moses as their head and going back to Egypt. (Numbers 14:1-4) Today, do we accept the leadership that is given to us through the action of Jehovah’s holy spirit? From seeing the bountiful spiritual table that is provided by the faithful and discreet slave class, it is clear whom Jesus is using to dispense “food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45) Whole-souled dedication to Jehovah requires us to show respect for his appointed servants. May we never become like some modern-day murmurers who have turned to a new head, so to speak, to lead them back into the world." —w95 3/1 pp. 17-18 Living Up to Our Dedication “Day After Day” (bold mine)
If Moses and Aaron were prophetic figures of Jesus Christ, then who prefigured the ones who claim equal authority with Jesus today? Has Jehovah arranged for a "faithful and discreet slave class" to have the same authority as the greater Moses, Jesus, has? Is Christ Jesus sharing his leadership of us with others? This is what the Watchtower says:
"How are we blessed? Well, while millions within Christendom suffer from spiritual famine, we can be “radiant over the goodness of Jehovah.” (Jeremiah 31:12) Through Jesus Christ and 'the faithful and discreet slave,' Jehovah has provided a bountiful supply of spiritual food that helps us to remain on 'the road leading off into life.'" (Matthew 7:13, 14; 24:45; John 17:3) —11/1 pp. 28-29 “The Blessing of Jehovah—That Is What Makes Rich” (bold mine)
Who, besides Moses, did Jehovah use to lead his people on the way to the promised land? In Moses' time the above article might have read, had Jehovah allowed the rebels their way: "Through [Moses] and [Korah, Dathan and Abiram], Jehovah has provided a bountiful supply of spiritual food that helps us to remain on the road leading off [into the promised land]." O how those rebels would have cherished that. Is that not what motivated them to oppose Moses? They wanted to share in his glory and authority. Did they not claim that "the whole assembly are all of them holy and Jehovah is in their midst?" Were they not just as good as Moses? Could they not be trusted the same that Jehovah trusted Moses? Says the Watchtower:
"In addition, trusting in Jehovah means trusting those whom he trusts. For example, Jehovah has arranged for “the faithful and discreet slave” to care for the earthly Kingdom interests. (Matthew 24:45-47) We do not try to go it alone, and we do not ignore that appointment, for we trust in Jehovah’s arrangement." —w03 3/1 p. 17 Trust in Jehovah With All Your Heart (bold mine)
Those who are leading God's people today claim to have been appointed by Jehovah, just as Moses had been. It is said to be "Jehovah's arrangement." Although they acknowledge that Moses was a prophetic type of the Son of man, Jesus Christ, they do not hesitate to apply the prophetic figure also to themselves, for they insist that questioning their leadership is the same as what Korah, Dathan and Abiram were guilty of. They have clearly become presumptuous and there will certainly be serious consequences for them.
Entrusted With All God's House?
"Is it just by Moses alone that Jehovah has spoken? Is it not by us also that he has spoken?" —Numbers 12:2
Today Jehovah has not
appointed anyone to take the place of his Son Christ Jesus to lead his
people, as foreshadowed by Moses.
To claim otherwise
would be following the wicked example of the rebels Korah, Dathan
and Abiram, yes, even Miriam and Aaron. After the disciples had again argued among themselves over
which one of them seemed the greatest, Jesus admonished them, saying, "You
know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them and the great men
wield authority over them. This is not the way among you; but whoever
wants to become great among you must be your minister, and whoever wants
to be first among you must be your slave."
Jesus' words to his disciples did not allow for a worldly corporation with its President and board of directors, which is patterned after the political system of the land and formed out of necessity to fulfill the requirements of the law, to "lord it over" his people. That would be bringing the way of the world into the Christian congregation, in imitation of the "rulers of the nations." (Luke 22:24-26) But that is exactly what happened in the early days of the Society. Explains the Watchtower:
"To give the Bible Students legal status, Zion's Watch Tower Society was incorporated in 1884 in the United States, with headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Its directors served as a central Governing Body, overseeing the global preaching of God's Kingdom." —The Watchtower, February 1, 1999, on page 17. (see Box "A Board of Directors")
Contrary to what it says, the directors of the Society did not form a "central Governing Body" at that time. That did not take place until 1971 and 1975 when the operation of the Society was reorganized. Upon the death of the first president, Charles Taze Russell in 1916, J. F. Rutherford gained control of the corporation and began to exercise absolute authority over God's people, claiming that he received this authority from Christ himself, who he insisted had already returned to inspect God's people and found him and his board of directors of the corporation "faithful and discreet." Anyone who opposed his actions was dismissed as an "evil slave," although the dissenter also might have professed to have the heavenly calling the same as Rutherford did. Jehovah expressed his anger by sending president Rutherford and his seven associate directors to a federal penitentiary. During the time the Society’s officials were in prison, a committee was named by Brother Rutherford to act in his stead. The brothers could not function, it seems, without having a visible leader. (see Box "Was there a Governing Body in Jerusalem?")
Although they acknowledged that their suffering was an expression of God's anger they failed to get the sense of it, even suggesting that perhaps one reason might have been because of "the cutting of pages from The Finished Mystery," in compromise to please those who had assumed the position of censor. (see Box "A New Outlook") Although they had been sentenced for twenty years why did Jehovah allow them to be freed the following year? Because it was not yet the time for him to judge his household. He allowed them time to repent and make the needed adjustments. As the apostle Peter tells us: "Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with YOU because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
Jehovah gave the rebels time to repent and this also afforded time to have the "good news of the kingdom preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations," before finally the end would come. To their credit this they did with great zeal. However, God knew that, as the years progressed, it would become more and more evident that his approval was not upon the arrangement of those who asserted that the master had already entrusted them with all his belongings. (see Box "How the Governing Body Differs From a Legal Corporation") With time problems would develop and increase, complicating our lives and transforming our joyful worship into a heavy burden, as our deviation from God's Word would become evident. (Matt. 23:2-4; Col. 2:18,19)
And as their interpretation of prophecies, which at first brought excitement and motivated zeal, went unfulfilled and turned to disappointment, God's people would start to wonder and question the authority of those who had assumed it. In turn, those being challenged would find it necessary to become ever more authoritarian, "subduing according to their powers." (Jer. 5:31) Yes, Jehovah foreknew all this. Wickedness within the congregations would take a back seat to the importance of being loyal to the self-appointed "faithful and discreet slave." In other words, as long as a person loyally supported the arrangements, as put in place by this slave, he would prosper within the congregation, even though he might be given to a lot of wine, a slanderer, disorderly, unsociable, haughty, not qualified to teach, a smiter, unreasonable, belligerent, a lover of money, greedy for dishonest gain, poor example in presiding over his own family, etc. etc. (1 Tim. 3:2-10)
Some congregations may have more than their share of these types of individuals who are taking the lead among them. They would not hesitate to beat their fellow slaves, even expelling anyone who would dare question the arrangement and the teachings of the "faithful and discreet slave." But the master will settle accounts with them, upon his sudden and unexpected arrival, while finding them in the act of beating his slaves, precious members of his household. (Matt. 24:44,48-51)
The Greatest Sin of
"O Jehovah our God, other masters besides you have acted as owners of us. By you only shall we make mention of your name." —Isaiah 26:13
By far the most serious transgression of all is that they have displaced
the holy spirit as the helper that Jesus promised to send his disciples.
He said: "But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in
my name, that one will teach YOU all things and bring back to YOUR minds
all the things I told YOU." (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26) Note what the
Watchtower says about how the holy spirit was active in the first century:
"Through his powerful holy spirit, Jehovah, along with the resurrected Jesus, directed the preaching activity. (John 14:28; 15:26) When the spirit was poured out on Cornelius, his relatives, and his intimate friends, the apostle Peter recognized that uncircumcised Gentiles could qualify to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 10:24, 44-48) Later, the spirit played a key role in appointing Barnabas and Saul (the apostle Paul) for missionary activity and in directing where they should and should not go. (Acts 13:2, 4; 16:6-7) It directed the decision-making process of the apostles and older men in Jerusalem. (Acts 15:23, 28-29) Holy spirit also guided the appointment of overseers in the Christian congregation. —Acts 20:28." —The Watchtower, April 1, 2001, on page 13, The Word of Jehovah Went On Growing.
Note how it acknowledges that Jehovah had send the helper, the holy spirit, as Jesus had promised, to direct the preaching activity in the first century. It was not a central governing body in Jerusalem, but rather the holy spirit that appointed Paul and Barnabas for their missionary activity. Please notice how the holy spirit appointed Barnabas and Paul in a real way. At Acts 13:2 it reads, "As they were publicly ministering to Jehovah and fasting, the holy spirit said: "Of all persons set Barnabas and Saul apart for me for the work to which I have called them." It was the holy spirit in action, communicating, making a decision. That is why the account goes on to say, "Accordingly these men, sent out by the holy spirit, went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed away to Cyprus." (verse 4)
Further, it was the holy spirit who directed them as to where they should or should not go. "Moreover, they went through Phrygia and the country of Galatia, because they were forbidden by the holy spirit to speak the word in the [district of] Asia. Further, when getting down to Mysia they made efforts to go into Bithynia, but the spirit of Jesus did not permit them. So they passed Mysia by and came down to Troas. And during the night a vision appeared to Paul: a certain Macedonian man was standing and entreating him and saying: 'Step over into Macedonia and help us.' Now as soon as he had seen the vision, we sought to go forth into Macedonia, drawing the conclusion that God had summoned us to declare the good news to them." (Acts 16:6-10)
Yes, the holy spirit was a real force, a helper to Jesus' disciples, under his direction even communicating by means of visions. And it was the holy spirit who appointed the overseers in the congregations, not merely guiding the appointments, as the Watchtower suggests. Paul said: "Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son." (Acts 20:28)
How did the holy spirit appoint elders? Not just any man was appointed to that position. In the various congregations that were being formed the holy spirit indicated who among the brothers would qualify as overseers. It was at work in the individuals, energizing and creating in them the power and desire to work for the good of the congregation. (Phil. 2:13; Amplified Bible) Paul wrote down the qualifications to look for in such men when writing to Timothy and Titus, in order for the holy spirit not to be grieved by perhaps side-stepping what it was indicating, and not appoint just any man due to favoritism. (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9) Such men who were appointed by holy spirit were a real blessing to all the members in the congregation, for they had in abundance the fruitage of the spirit, namely, "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control." (Gal. 5:22,23; Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19)
Today, who appoints the elders in their various congregations, even when some don't meet the scriptural qualifications, for we have added as more important some of our own, such as a certain amount of hours spent in the preaching activity? We have come to accept that the holy spirit is no longer active in the way that it was in the first century. And is it any wonder? Is there any room for the holy spirit to direct us today? What if it set aside and appointed certain ones to preach in a particular area, like it did Paul and Barnabas? What if Jehovah chooses to use an anointed servant apart from the governing body members? Who would allow that? Does not the governing body have greater authority today than the holy spirit?
Many among us are convinced that we need a governing body because we "should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among [us], but that [we] may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought." (1 Cor. 1:10,11) But is listening to a group of men really what ensures our unity? Is it not rather Jehovah through his spirit who teaches us and unites us to be "in the same mind and in the same line of thought"? (Eph. 4:3-6)
"God's Spirit has shown you everything. His Spirit finds out everything, even what is deep in the mind of God. You are the only one who knows what is in your own mind, and God's Spirit is the only one who knows what is in God's mind. But God has given us his Spirit. That's why we don't think the same way that the people of this world think. That's also why we can recognize the blessings that God has given us.
"Every word we speak was taught to us by God's Spirit, not by human wisdom. And this same Spirit helps us teach spiritual things to spiritual people." —1 Corinthians 2:10-13, Contemporary English Version.
The governing body has "resisted" God's spirit in their attempt to unify his people. (Acts 7:51) For the sake of unity loyalty to the organization is demanded, equating it with loyalty to God.
Unity at All Cost?
"I urge you, my brothers and sisters, for the sake of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree to live in unity with one another and put to rest any division that attempts to tear you apart. Be restored as one united body living in perfect harmony." —1 Corinthians 1:10, TPT.
Unity, or oneness of the faith, is important for God's people if they are
to enjoy peace. Deviating from God's Word of truth will disrupt any
unity. Therefore, is it not vital that we unitedly listen and obey the
ones who are taking the lead over us? Regarding this the
First, since “oneness” is to be observed, a mature Christian must be in unity and full harmony with fellow believers as far as faith and knowledge are concerned. He does not advocate or insist on personal opinions or harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding. Rather, he has complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and “the faithful and discreet slave.” By regularly taking in the spiritual food provided “at the proper time”—through Christian publications, meetings, assemblies, and conventions—we can be sure that we maintain “oneness” with fellow Christians in faith and knowledge.—Matthew 24:45. —w01 8/1 p. 14, Make Your Advancement Manifest (bold mine)
If our unity is disrupted, who really is the one responsible for that? If someone were to tell you that you must trust him the same as you trust God and Christ, would that not raise your eyebrows? Is that not already an untrustworthy statement? Should we have the same confidence in them as we have in Jehovah and Jesus? What if what they reveal to us as truth contradicts what God tells us? For example, they tell us that we must have "complete confidence" in them, yet Jehovah tells us, at Psalms 146:3-4: "Do not put your trust in nobles, Nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs. His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; In that day his thoughts do perish." Rather, in whom should we put our confidence? It goes on to say: "Happy is the one who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in Jehovah his God." (verse 5)
Jehovah tells us that our salvation does not depend on any son of earthling man, no human being, except Jesus who died for us. (John 3:16) We must trust only in Jehovah. The apostle Paul emphasizes that fact by saying, "But let God be found true, though every man be found a liar." (Rom. 3:4) Does the so-called "faithful and discreet slave" agree with that? Do you? For the sake of unity should we accept everything they do and teach? Could that not actually hinder us from worshipping "the Father with spirit and truth"? (compare Matt. 23:2-5; John 4:23-24) Is it not presumptuous on their part to seat themselves beside Jehovah and Jesus, in effect making themselves equal to them, demanding that we all must have the same confidence in them as we do in Jehovah? (Isaiah 42:8; 2 Thess. 2:3-4) Can you think of anyone else who had that ambition? (Ezek. 28:2) Did not Korah, Dathan and Abiram desire to be equal to Moses? But at least, they did not demand to be equal to God.
If you feel that this assessment of the self-appointed "faithful and discreet slave" is too harsh, perhaps you should stop and reflect on whether you share Jehovah's view on the matter. While what they do is "horrible and shocking" to our God, are you among those of his people who "like it that way?" Remember that the religious leaders in Jesus' day also were held in high esteem by the people, but that in no way agreed with Jehovah's and Jesus' estimation of them. "How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You pretenders! You are like tombs that are painted white. They look beautiful on the outside. But on the inside they are full of the bones of the dead. They are also full of other things that are not pure and clean. It is the same with you. On the outside you seem to be doing what is right. But on the inside you are full of what is wrong. You pretend to be what you are not." —Matt. 23:27-28, (New International Reader's Version)
The religious leaders represented God before the people. The priests were officiating at the temple as Jehovah had instructed, they were offering up the sacrifices on behalf of the people, and they kept the Sabbath and all the festivals. They taught the people the Law, although liberally injecting their own commandments. So, why did Jesus condemn them? Is there anything for us to learn from that? You must realize that if Jesus condemned people for certain matters two thousand years ago then surely he will still feel the same about it today, in our modern age, for he and Jehovah have not changed. Shouldn't you be bothered, yes, shocked, that we have come to accept all the things being done in our midst, even "loving" it (NWT), and defending it, yet at the same time denouncing the same things in Christendom? Is that what unity is about?
To many of Jehovah's people our worship of him has become burdensome. Have you heard anyone expressing himself to the effect that if Armageddon were to come tomorrow they would not "make it?" Do you, perhaps feel that way too, because you can no longer keep up with all the meeting attendance, preparing for them, personal study, reading all the literature, getting your expected quota of hours for the month which is at least the congregation average? And juggling this with your family obligations, financial difficulties, struggling with poor health, old age or other infirmities? Jesus invited his disciples to accept his yoke, as he said, "Take my yoke upon YOU and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and YOU will find refreshment for YOUR souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light." (Matt. 11:29-30) If you no longer find refreshment in worshiping Jehovah, because your load has become burdensome and heavy, it is not the yoke that Jesus has offered us.
The assignment that Jehovah has given us to do is enjoyable and refreshing. You probably at one time rejoiced in it, even singing with happiness. What has changed? The work has become oppressive because of having to be accountable to others for the amount we do, when we can no longer do it to the same extent we once were able. Regarding our "making gifts of mercy" Jesus told us not to "let your left hand know what your right is doing." (Matt. 6:3) Concerning the making of gifts of mercy the Watchtower says that there is no better way we can do that than by sharing the good news of the kingdom with others. Why then are we required to report what we do in the way of "making gifts of mercy" when Jesus exhorted us not to do that? If there is a need to know how the preaching work is progressing in various parts of the world, why not report time anonymously? But if that were the case how could they judge our spirituality? As one elder said, if we don't report our time, how would we know who qualifies as elder? I am not aware that much time spend in the preaching work is a scriptural qualification to be an elder. There must be a good reason why the holy spirit omitted that. I have seen elders who pioneered, yet at the same time boast about the quality and size of their homemade wine cellar, which rivaled that of any wine store. Does this not matter to Jehovah? How do you feel about it?
Another thing that makes us worse than the self-righteous religious leaders of Jesus' day is in connection with reporting small amounts of time spend in the preaching work. When Jesus observed a needy widow drop two small coins of very little value into the treasury chest, she did not first have to seek the priests' approval for her contribution. The priests may have sneered at her insignificant offering but at least she did not need their consent. (Luke 21:1-4) Not like the poor publishers today who have to get the elders' permission for dropping in only an insignificant 15 minutes of service for the month. Is it right for anyone to place himself between Jehovah and his people and decide on behalf of God what is and is not acceptable offerings? There are those who view this arrangement as a blessing from Jehovah. Is that how you view it? Do you like it that way?
If someone wants to share in the preaching of the good news he first has to get the permission of the elders. Who is it that has commanded us to preach in the first place? Does anyone have the authority to stop or hinder us? (compare Acts 4:18-20; 5:29) The same is true when a person wants to get baptized. Although the elders know full well that baptism originated with God when he first commissioned John the Baptist, and is a command that Jesus gave to his disciples as part of their assignment, having to do with their relationship with God and their very salvation, the elders have been instructed that the person who wants to get baptized can only do so after meeting with them and getting their approval. (Matt. 3:1-6; 28:19) Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." And yet another voice is heard at the top, declaring, "And also only through us!" (see also John 10:7-15)
What should we do? For the sake of unity should we accept their form of worship, believing, as they say, that it is from Jehovah, and going against them is the same as opposing God? Jehovah has made it very plain how he feels about all this. He is shocked, not just at the wickedness being committed among his people, but even more at the fact that his people "like it that way." Are you among them?
"Sitting Content" or "Sad and Sorry"?
Jehovah tells us that before the coming of his great day, his day of fury
at Armageddon, he will carefully examine his people and expose those who
are content with the way things are. Through his prophet Zephaniah he
foretold, "At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps. I will punish
those who are so contented. They are like wine that has not been shaken
up. They think, 'The Lord won't do anything. It doesn't matter whether
it's good or bad.' Their wealth will be stolen. Their houses will be
destroyed. They will build houses. But they will not live in them. They
will plant vineyards. But they will not drink the wine they produce." —Zephaniah 1:12-13; (New International Reader's Version)
Yes, Jehovah will expose all those within his household who are sitting content like a bottle of wine that has not been shaken and the dregs (NWT), which is the least desirable part of the wine, has not been disturbed. He will maneuver events that will bring to light and reveal all the ones among his people who are not disturbed by the things that he finds horrible and shocking. They do not believe that Jehovah is still doing good things for his people the way he did in "Bible times." Not seeing much evidence of holy spirit in their lives or the congregations they feel that God is not doing anything. Neither do they fear that he will do anything bad to them. They are unconcerned by the thought of any future judgment, for they have been convinced that they have already been judged, even though nearly ninety years have passed. They are sitting at ease while waiting for God to destroy the wicked in Christendom and the rest of this world. But suddenly Jehovah's foretold judgment will come upon them, and they will lose everything they have. Has Jehovah not warned them?
While exposing those who are sitting content Jehovah is also taking note of those among his people who are disturbed over all the terrible things he sees. Regarding them he foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, "Then the Lord called to the man who was dressed in linen clothes. He had the writing kit. The Lord said to him, 'Go all through Jerusalem. Look for those who are sad and sorry about all of the things that are being done there. I hate those things. Put a mark on the foreheads of those people.'" (Ezek. 9:3-6; NIRV)
Are you among those who are "sad and sorry" (sighing and groaning, NWT) because of the conditions within God's household? Don't let anyone beguile you with their twisted reasoning to the effect that for the sake of unity and in order to be loyal to Jehovah you must like things the way they are. Make sure that you share Jehovah's attitude of the situation. He hates those things. But all you who are sitting content, who like it that way, take Jehovah's warning to heart. You will not be concealed in the day of his anger unless you seek righteousness and meekness, two things sorely lacking among his people today. Having Jehovah's approval will mean our survival at the time when his judgment starts with his own household, and he will preserve alive only those who had the mark of being sad and sorry. (Zeph. 2:2,3; 1 Peter 4:17-18) Already a clear distinction is becoming evident between those who sigh and groan and those who are sitting content, undisturbed, liking it the way things are.
Jehovah is not requiring any action on our part, such as laying bare the faults of our brothers, as if we have been empowered by him to judge anyone. That would not be evidence of meekness. (Psalms 50:20-22; Rom. 14:10) He wants us to keep busy in the preaching assignment, for that honors him and it is the means by which he draws people to himself, while at the same time proving to be a source of great joy to those engaged in it, in spite of the troublesome time we are living in. (2 Tim. 3:1-5)
Attend the meetings to the extent possible for they are still valuable for training us for the preaching work, and there you can be a source of encouragement to others who are likewise in need of being strengthened. Keep in mind that if Jehovah has not yet made present practices and teachings an issue, neither should we. He realizes that it is hard enough for us just to endure. Paul encourages us this way, "Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5; Amplified Bible; Luke 21:19; Heb. 10:36)
Jesus' words to the congregation in Ephesus are especially applicable to us today, "I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don't tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting." —Revelation 2:2-3 (New Living Translation)
Don't let the present situation within God's household be a cause of stumbling to you. Expect things to get worse, but don't allow that to rob you of your joy. (2 Tim. 3:12,13) Continue to suffer "without quitting." There is no need for endurance when times are good. Those of us who have worshiped Jehovah for many decades can remember the good times, when we wondered about the need to heed the scriptures about endurance. If you are among those who are now "sad and sorry," those scriptures have taken on new meaning. There is also a real need now to express in a positive way our love for our fellow brothers. It is our love that unites us, much more so than our teachings and practices. "But I don't need to write to you about the Christian love that should be shown among God's people. For God himself has taught you to love one another. Indeed, your love is already strong toward all the Christians ... Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we beg you to love them more and more." (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10; New Living Translation) Elders in particular should heed those words of the apostle Paul.
There is no need to make things harder for yourself by being righteous overmuch. (Ecclesiastes 7:16) Are you required to report your hours spent in the ministry? Then doing so is not a sin for you, but rather for those who demand it. And so it is with many other things they have put in place. Perhaps Jesus' words to the crowds and his disciples can help us to have some balance in this respect, "Do what they tell you to do and keep on doing it. But do not follow what they do. They preach but do not obey their own preaching." (Matt. 23:1-3) Patiently wait on Jehovah to rectify matters in his due time, and be assured that he will.
7 Be still. Be patient. Wait for the Lord to
Don't be upset when other people succeed.
Don't be upset when they carry out their evil plans.
8 Keep from being angry. Turn away from anger.
Don't be upset. That only leads to evil.
9 Sinful people will be cut off from the land.
But it will be given to those who put their hope in the Lord.
10 In a little while, there won't be any more sinners.
Even if you look for them, you won't be able to find them.
11 But those who are free of pride will be given the land.
They will enjoy great peace.
—Psalm 37:7-11; New International Reader's Version.