"Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things. They have made no distinction between the sacred and the secular, neither have they taught people the difference between the unclean and the clean." —Ezekiel 22:26, Amplified Bible.
Jehovah God is
holy! (Isaiah 6:3) Everything that is from Him is holy. On
the other hand, the things
originating with men is secular, ordinary, common, or "worldly"
as Webster's Dictionary defines it. (Matt.
requires his people to distinguish between the holy and the secular
things. To treat the holy as something common, or to treat the
common as something holy, makes one guilty of showing irreverence [a
profaning] toward God and the holy [sacred] things. In his holy
Scriptures Jehovah has taught us to know the difference, which the
world cannot understand. The apostle Paul wrote: "We do not speak in
words taught by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, as
we explain spiritual truths to those who have the Spirit. Whoever
does not have the Spirit cannot receive the gifts that come from
God's Spirit. Such a person really does not understand them, and
they seem to be nonsense, because their value can be judged only on
a spiritual basis."—1
Corinthians 2:13,14; GNT.
God's standards have not changed because of the passing of time. His dealings with his people in the past serve as an important lesson on how Jehovah deals with his people today, for we are reminded that "these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrive."—1 Corinthians 10:11.
Jehovah had become furious with his people Israel because they lacked proper respect for the things that were holy, making their entire worship unclean and unacceptable. Differentiating between the holy and the secular was an integral part of God's covenant with them. It was what made them God's special property and thus holy. (Exodus 19:5,6) But he placed the primary blame on the priests whose responsibility it was to teach the people the difference, saying: "Her priests themselves have done violence to my law, and they keep profaning my holy places. Between the holy thing and the common they have made no distinction, and between the unclean thing and the clean they have made nothing known. . . So I shall pour out my denunciation upon them. With the fire of my fury I will exterminate them. Their way I will bring upon their own head." (Ezekiel 22:26, 31; 44:23) Jehovah further explained the seriousness of the matter through his prophet Isaiah: "For my own sake, for my own sake I shall act, for how could one let oneself be profaned? And to no one else shall I give my own glory."—Isaiah 48:11.
That is really the crux of the matter! Failing to differentiate between the holy and the secular profanes God; it robs Him of his rightful holiness and glory, as we shall see.—Isaiah 42:8; Rev. 4:8.
The entire arrangement for worshipping the true God, that he
set up in the wilderness under the direction of the mediator Moses,
was holy. Everything in connection with the tabernacle — the
priesthood; the services rendered there; the garments worn by the
priests; all the utensils, etc. — they were all holy, because they
originated with God and were put in place according to his instructions. In fact, the
entire nation was holy as long as they obeyed God, which meant
abstaining from the things God declared as unclean, including
certain foods. (Exodus 28:36, 38; 29:29,30; 30:25-29; Lev. 19:2; 1
Peter 1:15; Acts 10:9-15)
What about today? Is everything that is associated with the worship of Jehovah, and used by his people, holy? Are our publications holy? Can things that are secular, although used in God's service, be pronounced as holy? (James 1:27) Does anyone have the authority to declare holy the things that are common? What about the Watch Tower Society, the corporation that has been used by Jehovah's Witnesses for over a hundred years, that directs every aspect of our worship? Is it holy? Have the Board of Directors, including the President, been appointed by God to lead his people?
"The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania was formed in 1881 and was first incorporated in 1884 under the name Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society." (w84 7/1 p. 19) What was the purpose of forming such a secular corporation? One Watchtower explains:
"It is beneficial for us to have legal entities. We thereby conform to local and national laws, as required by God’s Word. (Jeremiah 32:11; Romans 13:1) Legal entities facilitate our work of spreading the Kingdom message by printing Bibles, books, magazines, brochures, and other material. Such entities also serve as legal instruments to handle matters related to property ownership, relief efforts, contracts for the use of convention facilities, and so forth. We are thankful for the services of such legal entities."—The Watchtower, January 15, 2001, pages 28-30, How the Governing Body Differs From a Legal Corporation. (Bold mine)
A corporation is formed and functions according to the legal requirements of the land in which it exists, which includes a charter setting forth its laws, such as having a president and board of directors, and their responsibilities — in this case being composed of seven members. (jv chap. 6 p. 65, footnote) There is the need for a head office, which in turn requires a residence address, which calls for a building, and workers who take care of things. In time, as the work may increase, more and more space is required, and money for such expansion needs to be raised. It may thus prove beneficial to add numerous other corporations, as for example was done in 1909, when the Peoples Pulpit Association was formed "in connection with the Society's moving of its principal offices to Brooklyn, New York." (jv chap. 7 p. 73, footnote) The above Watchtower further explains:
"The Pennsylvania corporation is not the only legal entity used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are others. One is the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Incorporated. It facilitates our work in the United States. . . The International Bible Students Association is used in Britain. Other legal entities are used to promote Kingdom interests in other lands."
It is unclear just how many legal entities and associations exist today under the direction of the original corporation, the Watch Tower Society, but there are indeed many in different parts of the world. Are all these corporations holy? It is readily acknowledged that a corporation is secular, formed in order to satisfy governmental requirements, and includes benefits associated with legal recognition. That is not against God's will, who tells us that we should be "in subjection to the superior authorities." (Rom. 13:1; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13, 17) What is objectionable to God, however, is when we fail to distinguish between the secular corporation, which exists because of compliance with Caesar's law, and God's own household, his temple, that God himself has put in place with Christ Jesus as the foundation corner stone. (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 2:19-22) Please consider how the secular Watch Tower Society is viewed by its leaders, and how they interweave the sacred with the common:
"Who controls the organization, who directs it? Who is at the head? A man? A group of men? A clergy class? A pope? A hierarchy? A council? No, none of these. How is that possible? In any organization is it not necessary that there be a directing head or policy-making part that controls or guides the organization? Yes. Is the living God, Jehovah, the Director of the theocratic Christian organization? Yes!
12 Because of the vital fact that the law that governs the operation of the theocratic New World society is the Word of Jehovah God, and because of the fact that the heaven-enthroned Christ Jesus is Jehovah’s Executive Officer carrying on his work in the earth, and because of the further fact that the spirit of God by Christ Jesus is operating through his Word and upon the hearts and minds of his dedicated servants, the New World society is theocratic, meaning “God-ruled.”—w56 11/1 p. 666 pars. 11-12 Turn to the New World Society. (Bold mine)
Does Jehovah not view their claim, namely, that He is the Director of the secular organization, as blasphemous, profaning his holy name? This has also naturally led them to assert that they, serving under God's direction as members of the governing body, which belongs to this corporation, have been appointed by God and therefore they are "Jehovah's channel of communication for our day;" and that, if we want to have God's favor, "it is vital that we appreciate this fact and respond to the directions of the 'slave' as we would to the voice of God, because it is his provision." (w57 6/15 p. 370) Did Jehovah not say that he does not share his own glory with anyone, save for his only-begotten Son? (Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 1:1-3; 5:5; 9:24) Like the priests in the time of the Israelites, they are failing to "teach my people the difference between the holy and the common?" Are the members of the board of directors, who later came to form the governing body, really appointed by Jehovah, as is claimed by the same Watchtower article quoted earlier?
"ANNUAL meetings of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania have been held since January of 1885. When the ingathering of anointed Christians was underway in the late 19th century, the directors and officers of this corporation had the heavenly hope. In fact, this has almost always been the case.
"There was one exception. In 1940, Hayden C. Covington—then the Society’s legal counsel and one of the “other sheep,” with the earthly hope—was elected a director of the Society. (John 10:16) He served as the Society’s vice president from 1942 to 1945. At that time, Brother Covington stepped aside as a director to comply with what then seemed to be Jehovah’s will—that all directors and officers of the Pennsylvania corporation be anointed Christians. Lyman A. Swingle replaced Hayden C. Covington on the board of directors, and Frederick W. Franz was elected vice president.
"Why did Jehovah’s servants believe that all the directors and officers of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania should be anointed Christians? Because at the time, the board of directors and officers of the Pennsylvania corporation were closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which has always been made up entirely of spirit-anointed men." —w01 1/15 p. 28 How the Governing Body Differs From a Legal Corporation. (Bold mine)
Having convinced themselves that the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was put in place by Jehovah, and that he is its Director, they also came to the conclusion that certain developments within the organization were prophesied long ago by means of God's ancient prophets. Under the subheading A Historic Annual Meeting, the article further reports:
"At the annual meeting held on October 2, 1944, in Pittsburgh, the members of the Pennsylvania corporation adopted six resolutions amending its charter. The charter had provided that voting shares be issued to contributors of funds to the Society’s work, but the third amendment eliminated that provision. A report on that annual meeting noted: “Membership in the Society will be limited to not more than 500 . . . Each one chosen must be a full-time servant of the Society or a part-time servant of a company [congregation] of Jehovah’s witnesses and must show the spirit of the Lord.”
"Thereafter, directors of the Society were to be voted into office by individuals who were fully devoted to Jehovah, irrespective of the amount of money that they contributed to advance the Kingdom work. This turned out to be in accord with the progressive refinements foretold at Isaiah 60:17, where we read: “Instead of the copper I shall bring in gold, and instead of the iron I shall bring in silver, and instead of the wood, copper, and instead of the stones, iron; and I will appoint peace as your overseers and righteousness as your task assigners.” In referring to “overseers” and “task assigners,” this prophecy pointed to improvements in organizational procedures among Jehovah’s people.
"This important step in bringing the organization into theocratic alignment came at the end of the “two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings,” mentioned at Daniel 8:14. At that time, “the holy place” was “brought into its right condition.” (Bold mine)
How arrogant! How blasphemous! to claim that the prophets Isaiah and Daniel actually foretold the adjustments made by the directors of the Society within their secular corporation, even equating it with the "holy place." Will Jehovah not hold an accounting with them just as surely as he did with the priests in the time of the Israelites? Their growth in numbers and seeming prosperity in acquiring properties around the world, which are supported by many volunteer workers, is to them evidence of God's blessings upon them:
‘The faithful slave’ has been ‘appointed over all his master’s belongings.’ These include facilities at headquarters in New York State, U.S.A., and the 110 branches now operating worldwide. The members of the slave class know that they will be called upon to render an account for the way in which they have used what has been entrusted to them. (Matthew 25:14-30) Yet, this does not prevent the ‘slave’ from allowing qualified overseers from among the “other sheep” to care for legal and administrative responsibilities. In fact, this allows members of the Governing Body to devote more time “to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”—Acts 6:4."
All their worldly possessions — their many secular organizations and corporations that they are ruling over, including the extensive real estate with their branch offices and Bethels throughout the world — are considered by them as Christ's belongings over which they have been appointed. (Matt. 24:45-47; compare John 11:48) As was true of the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus' day, they are enjoying their present prosperity and honor! We don't envy them that! According to Jesus words, they are at present "having their reward in full," for they will receive nothing further from the master when he arrives, except be punished "with the greatest severity" and have their portion assigned "with the hypocrites."—Matthew 6:2; 23:1-12; 24:48-51; 2 Thess. 2:8.
As is true with all secular organizations, they eventually become oppressive and authoritarian as they grow in size, influence and self-importance, although that may not have been the original intent! It has proved to be no different with the Watch Tower Society and its governing body. As Jesus warned, they will not hesitate to expel from the congregation anyone not submitting to them. (John 16:1-4) But how can we expect it to be any different when we fail to listen to God, and bring the things of the world into God's household, passing it off as holy. Jehovah never purposed to have any group of men lord it over his people, as was the case with the Jews when Jesus was on earth, who had a governing body of seventy men (known as the Sanhedrin) dictating every aspect of their worship, a thing that Jesus condemned!—Matt. 23:2-8; John 11:47,48; 1 Peter 5:1.
The Scriptures foretold that such a situation would arise again among God's people in the last days, prior to Christ's return. The apostle Paul wrote: "Let no one seduce you in any manner, because it [the Lord's day] will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction. He is set in opposition and lifts himself up over everyone who is called 'god' or an object of reverence, so that he sits down in the temple of The God, publicly showing himself to be a god. Do you not remember that, while I was yet with you, I used to tell you these things?" (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12) Paul explains that the presence of this "lawless one" is "according to the operation of Satan," and not from God contrary to their claim. Like Satan, they "publicly show themselves to be a god," and pronounce everything in connection with their Society and their teachings, as holy, which all of us must submit and adhere to.* —2 Corinthians 4:4; 11:13-15.
This should be more than just of passing interest or curiosity to us, because it affects our relationship with Jehovah, and consequently our everlasting life! (1 Peter 4:17-19; 2 Thess. 2:10; Jude 21) By interweaving the holy with the secular (profane; Webster's) it has become a challenge to distinguish between the things from God, and the common from men, as everything is presented as "theocratic procedure." This includes, of course, all their teachings. (Matt. 15:7-9; Acts 20:29,30) But we, who worship Jehovah, must loyally make the distinction between the holy and the profane, even when it results in persecution for us! (Acts 5:29) The secular Watchtower Society, under the direction of the governing body, has brought reproach on God's name over the years by combining the holy with the common, so that now "the way of the truth [is being] spoken of abusively." Jehovah has said that he will once more act, "for my own sake, for how could one let oneself be profaned?" (2 Peter 2:2; Isaiah 48:11) This has resulted in some of God's former zealous servants now questioning the fact that God even has a household. They too have failed to make the distinction between the sacred and the secular.
The problem is not in the forming of any secular Society and corporation in accordance with the law of the higher governmental authority, which enables God's people to go about preaching the good news of the kingdom in a peaceful way. (Matt. 24:14; 1 Tim. 2:1-3; 1 Peter 2:13-17) No, that is not the sin! The sin, or profanity, is in pronouncing that which is secular (from men, the Society and its charter) as holy (from God), even making God the CEO; and requiring the obedience of everyone who worships Jehovah, under penalty of expulsion from his household for failing to submit. That, according to the apostle Paul, is what the "man of lawlessness" is guilty off, making him "lawless."—2 Thessalonians 2:8.
Long ago God clearly expressed his view regarding the holy and what makes his people unclean, when he sent his prophet Haggai to the priests: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Ask, please, the priests as to the law, saying: “If a man carries holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and he actually touches with his skirt bread or stew or wine or oil or any sort of food, will it become holy?”’” And the priests proceeded to answer and say: “No!” And Haggai went on to say: “If someone unclean by a deceased soul touches any of these things, will it become unclean?” In turn the priests answered and said: “It will become unclean.” Accordingly Haggai answered and said: “‘That is how this people is, and that is how this nation is before me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and that is how all the work of their hands is, and whatever they present there. It is unclean.’" (Haggai 2:10-14) Clearly, something common will not become holy simply by coming into contact with the holy, while on the other hand, the holy can be made unclean by the common, or profane.
No, the secular Watchtower Society is not God's holy temple! (1 Cor. 3:16,17) And neither are their many associations. But they exist and operate within his temple, which is his household, in the same way that wicked kings in the time of Israel introduced the profane into God's temple. (2 Chron. 33:1-5, 7-10; 1 Tim. 3:15) Thus, they have made themselves unclean, with coming consequences.—Rev. 22:10-12.
The foundation of the Society itself is based on the lie that Jesus returned in 1914, at which time he is said to have set up his kingdom, and appointed his "faithful and discreet slave" over all his earthly belongings; pointing to the signs we have seen since that date as prove of their claim. (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) But, according to Jesus' own words, the signs he gave regarding his presence (parousia) are evidence of, not that he has already arrived, but rather of the fact that he is "near at the doors," and that "the kingdom of God is near." (Matt. 24:32,33; Luke 21:29-31) Immediately upon his arrival, Jesus will do away with the man of lawlessness; and judging by the signs Jesus gave, that time is indeed very near at hand.—Matthew 24:48-51; 25:14-30; 2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 3:3.
After the removal of that wicked slave, God will bring back into his fold the many of his sheep who were scattered and lost on account of the wicked shepherds: "'I myself shall feed my sheep, and I myself shall make them lie down,' is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. 'The lost one I shall search for, and the dispersed one I shall bring back, and the broken one I shall bandage and the ailing one I shall strengthen, but the fat one and the strong one I shall annihilate. I shall feed that one with judgment.'" (Ezek. 34:2-16) Then the congregation will again function as it did in the first century, and we will see God's holy spirit in action upon his holy people as it was back then.
* "The visible governing body of Jehovah’s organization has also been given authority by Him to direct the work of His worshipers on earth at this time. (Matt. 24:45-47) The congregation and its overseers show their proper view of authority by accepting willingly its counsel provided through the printed page, letters or its traveling representatives. Sometimes there is a tendency to doubt the fitness of certain counsel, perhaps about the matter of dress or hairstyle, regarding it as an undue invasion of privacy and one’s 'freedom.' Yet one with the proper view of authority will realize the concern Jehovah’s organization has for the way God is represented to the world through us. (1 Cor. 4:9) He will view the instructions, not as arbitrary rules, but as an evidence of Jehovah’s loving interest in his worshipers." —w72 5/1 p. 272 pars. 15 How Your View of Authority Affects Your Life.
In 1881, Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society was organized to facilitate the distribution of Charles Taze Russell's publications, including Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence, first published in July of 1879. In 1884, Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society was legally chartered in Pennsylvania, U.S.A., and soon the Watch Tower publications were being distributed around the world. Upon C. T. Russell's death (October, 1916), J. F. Rutherford became president of the Society (January, 1917), but by no means unanimous consent. Four on the board of directors, who opposed his appointment, were expelled from the Society and denounced as the "evil slave."
In a short time J. F. Rutherford's control went beyond that of running the Watchtower Society with all its assets, including the publishing department; for it soon extended also into every congregation to regulate every aspect of worship. Elders came to be appointed by the Society, and it was the Society that came to establish the qualifications, such as the need to display the evangelizing spirit, that is, zeal in the preaching work; and of course, subjection to the Society's directives. This is how it came about in 1919 and evolved into what exists today, as explained by the Society: "Each congregation that desired to share in this [preaching] activity was invited to ask the Society to register it as a 'service organization.' Then a director, or service director as he came to be known, not subject to yearly election, was appointed by the Society. As the local representative of the Society, he was to organize the work, assign territory, and encourage participation by the congregation in the field service. Thus, alongside the democratically elected elders and deacons, another type of organizational arrangement began to function, one that recognized appointive authority outside the local congregation and that gave greater emphasis to the preaching of the good news of God’s Kingdom." —Jehovah's Witnesses, Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, chap. 15 p. 212, Development of the Organization Structure. (Bold added)
The footnote on the above quote also states that "through the service director, the field service of those associated with the congregation, or class, was to be reported to the Society each week, starting in 1919." Yes, "another type of organizational arrangement began to function" within the congregations, but this did not originate with Jehovah, nor Jesus who is the head of the congregation. The Pennsylvania corporation, that had originally been formed as a legal entity to facilitate the distribution of the Society's publications, was now in control of God's household, dictating to every member every aspect of their sacred service which they rendered to God. (Heb. 9:14) The foretold "man of lawlessness" had effectively seated himself within God's temple, and, while "publicly showing himself to be a god," was now exercising authority over everyone, in every congregation. —2 Thessalonians 2:3,4.
To this very day, every member of the congregation is required to report his monthly "field service" activity, which is then forwarded to the Society, in order to remain in good standing. Those who hand in their reports sporadically are labeled as "irregular," while anyone not reporting for at least six months has become "inactive." How, though, does the reporting of our activity in God's service harmonize with Jesus' words: "But you, when making gifts of mercy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, that your gifts of mercy may be in secret; then your Father who is looking on in secret will repay you?" (Matt. 6:3-4) The Society often equates the "gifts of mercy," mentioned by Jesus, with our preaching activity. Yes, "engaging in the holy work of the good news of God" came under the control of the Watchtower Society—the board of directors and its president, today's governing body. This has resulted in "some (dare we say many) preaching the Christ through envy and rivalry," and "out of contentiousness, not with a pure motive," for a brother's spirituality could now be measured by consulting his service report, which might become his primary concern when reporting his activity for the month.
(Some time ago I asked one elder about the importance of reporting our time spent in the preaching work. He answered, as I expected, that it is needed in order to know who qualifies to be appointed as elder. I then asked, if an elder is appointed by holy spirit, doesn't the spirit know what he has done in the ministry in order to qualify? Or are we thereby indicating that he is not appointed by holy spirit but rather by the Society who need to know such things?) —Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 16:10; Philippians 1:15-17.
How different from the way things were done in the Christian congregations of the First Century, as recorded in the Greek Scriptures. Today, God's people have become mere employees of a corporation, and like with all corporations, there is rivalry and a desire for promotion. Employees can be dismissed (disfellowshipped) if they do not submit to the management. (Ezek. 34:27) The ones who should set the example in humility have instead exalted themselves as leaders, and have brought the way of the world into God's house. Do you find all this confusing?—2 Cor. 1:24; 1 Peter 5:1-4.
(Make Sure of All Things)