Treasures from God’s Word – Do you have a heart of flesh?

Ezekiel 11:17, 18 – Jehovah promised a restoration of true worship (w07 7/1 p. 11 par. 4)

The wording of the heading is slightly misleading. The Israelites claimed to worship Jehovah. However they had allowed themselves to be misled into disgusting and detestable practices. What was promised was that they would be ransomed from their captivity and would then restore pure worship, worship without the disgusting and detestable practices they have fallen into.

The reference again slightly twists the impact of the scripture when it says ‘Jehovah sends his heavenly executional forces to express his anger at the apostates, only those who have received a ‘mark on the forehead’ will be spared’.  It looks innocent on the surface but in reality it serves in the minds of the brothers to vilify those who have been disfellowshipped (and labelled as apostates) for not accepting everything without question from the Governing Body as truth. However, Ezekiel clearly shows that those who received the ‘mark on the forehead’ would be those that were sighing and groaning over the detestable things going on among Jehovah’s own people. Those who would be destroyed were not those who had a difference of opinion over understanding some part of the Mosaic Law that Jehovah had given them, but those practicing disgusting and detestable things while still claiming to serve Jehovah and be his people.

This surely serves as a warning to us today.

These ones were not apostates per se, rather they were wicked Israelites. Ezekiel 9:9,10 shows these ones were saying ‘Jehovah has left the land, and Jehovah is not seeing’, i.e. ‘we can do what we want, Jehovah will not stop us.’ They claimed to worship and believe in Jehovah, but their hearts were far from him. To label them apostates is misleading the reader as to the cause of Jehovah’s anger. Jesus reminded us that it was love among the disciples that would identify them as his disciples, (John 13:35) not blind adherence to the decrees of a self-appointed governing body.

Digging for Spiritual Gems

Ezekiel 14:13,14 – What lessons do we learn from the mention of these individuals? (w16 5/15 p. 26 par. 13, w07 7/1 p. 13 par. 9)

One thing we learn is that surely the dating of Jerusalem’s destruction, etc., by the organization must be wrong. Let us do some simple calculations.

  1. The reference claims that this portion of Ezekiel was written 612 B.C.E (in the 6th year of Zedekiah). The fall of Babylon to Cyrus is agreed to be 539 B.C.E. [1] So 612-539 = 73.
  2. Daniel 6:28 shows Daniel prospered in the kingdom of Darius and in the kingdom of Cyrus the Persian. The return to Jerusalem was at least 1 or 2 years after the fall of Babylon. So let us add 2 years. So 73+2 = 75.
  3. According to the reference Daniel was probably in his late teens or early 20’s[2] in the 6th year of Zedekiah. We will take the median value and say 20. So 75 + 20 = 95.  Even in today’s world of longevity, and good health how many 95 or 93 year olds can be said to be prospering. Alive, undoubtedly yes, prospering, no.
  4. So suppose instead of taking 607 BCE as the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, we take 587 BCE[3] instead and deduct 20 years from Daniels age. So 95 – 20 = 75. Do you find 75-year-olds prospering today, as opposed to just being alive? YES! There are 75-year-olds who are fit and still do a full day’s physical work.

Discuss the lessons learned from the Yearbook (yb17 pp. 41-43)

Three events are recorded here. All the outcomes support the concept that Jehovah is guiding those in the organization. Let us examine the evidence for this concept.

One question we should ask about the events recorded in this section of the Yearbook is: Would we have still heard about the event if the events had not ended as they did? The answer to this is No.

Another is: Is it reasonable to believe that Jehovah is responsible for these outcomes?

The Music Stopped.

What would have happened if everything occurred as described except a fight did not break out, or a fight did break out but the police did not shutdown the event? In either of these scenarios the brothers would not have been able to observe the Memorial in a very quiet and peaceful atmosphere. Would these scenarios lead to the events being put in the Yearbook? Clearly Not. The implied message is that Jehovah ‘fixed it’ so that the brothers could have a quiet and peaceful memorial. But to accept that implication is to believe that Jehovah used his holy spirit or an angel to start a fight amongst the concert goers. While Jehovah could do that, would he? Is it not much more likely that the fight started naturally, as it so often does when people are drunk?

Praise for jw.org.

The scenario is that of a CEO of a company was impressed with the jw.org site design. (It doesn’t say what he thought of its contents!) We do not know what company it was, how big or important, nor the skills and understanding of the CEO in website design. We therefore have no means of verifying this.

Despite this, the implied message is that only Jehovah’s organization can build such a wonderful website. Is this true? A short browse on the internet will reveal many large companies have very well designed and usable web-sites, because they use the best web designers and software to create their sites.

So, the organization may have done the same, but it is no proof that Jehovah is backing the organization. If a very good web site indicates Jehovah’s backing, then by extension he is also backing successful companies too. Is it right to believe that?

If the CEO had stated that in his opinion it was a poor website, and hence by implication did not have Jehovah’s backing, would we have heard about it. No, because the choice of story and outcome is highly selective as always.

He said No to Soccer.

Poor Jorge. He gives up the offer to play for a major soccer club in Germany to be a publisher. He could still have become a publisher if that was his desire, without giving up his dream. Will he regret being influenced to make the decision he did? The account also gives no indication on what he now does to support himself as a publisher.

That is not to say there were not potential problems in following his preferred career, but these same problems can affect any job.

Again the implied message is that Jehovah moved an ex-witness coach to tell Jorge about his own personal bad experience even though it was from a different continent and different circumstances. But did Jehovah do that? Again, yes he can, but why would he?

The thinking conveyed seems to be more along the lines of the concept of a guardian angel stepping in before he made a serious mistake in his life choices. What would have happened if this same scenario had occurred, but Jorge had not changed his mind and had gone to Germany and become a publisher there, while enjoying being a professional soccer player? Would his experience appear in the yearbook? It is highly unlikely.

So what lessons can be learned from the Yearbook?

  1. Don’t let the real facts and likely coincidences and consequences of actions get in the way of a good story that supports organizational rules and self-belief as God’s chosen organization.
  2. The organization encourages the idea that whenever anything positive happens that favors the Organization, Jehovah has intervened.  Of course, when things go wrong, this is never viewed as evidence of God’s disapproval.  This is a one-way street bringing only approval and blessing.
  3. The Bible is given high praise, even by secular historians, for its candor and truth in telling both good and bad about the actions and events in Israel’s history.

Do these 3 accounts in the Yearbook give you the same confidence about the candor and truth in telling, warts and all, actions and events in the organization?

Gods Kingdom Rules (kr chap 14 pars. 15-23)

This section deals with nationalistic ceremonies and the issues faced by witnesses over the years.

Here follows a potted history of quotes on the organization’s attitude to national anthems.

  1. 1932

Summary of 2 pages: One cannot stand during a national anthem.[4]

  1. 1960

“According to custom, one indicates that he is in sympathy with the sentiments of this song merely by standing. This fact was highlighted by the action of certain Allied officers who refused to stand at the playing of the German national anthem some time after World War II. Since the Christian is not in sympathy with the sentiments of any national anthem of this old world, he may not give others the impression that he is by rising when it is being played or sung. He can no more conscientiously take this special action toward the national anthem of his country of residence than the three Hebrews could have taken the special action demanded of them by King Nebuchadnezzar toward the image.—Dan. 3:1-23” [5]

  1. 1974

“With regard to the national anthem, sometimes those in a group are expected to stand and sing. This situation, then, would be comparable to what was just mentioned regarding a national flag. However, more often the audience is expected merely to stand while the anthem is played or while it is sung by one person (a soloist) but not by all. In this case, one’s standing would denote approval of the words and sentiments expressed in the song.” [6]

  1. 2002

“When national anthems are played, usually all that a person has to do to show that he shares the sentiments of the song is to stand up. In such cases, Witness youths remain seated. However, if our youths are already standing when the national anthem is played, they would not have to take the special action of sitting down; it is not as though they had specifically stood up for the anthem. On the other hand, if a group are expected to stand and sing, then our young people may rise and stand out of respect. But they would show that they do not share the sentiments of the song by refraining from singing.”[7]

Did you spot the differences? Do you understand what you should do if in a similar situation? No? The problem is that there is a myriad of complicated statements provided, which are treated as rules by the brothers, but as they do not cover every situation, it can leave one in a position of not knowing what to do. If someone is constantly told what to do, and they obey without question, then they are not able to develop their own conscience.

There are also problems with some of the premises on which the rule is based. For instance in the 1960 quote, did the Allied officers who refused to stand at the playing of the German national anthem some years after the Second World War take that action because they were not in sympathy with its sentiments, or was it because they had no respect for Germany? This could have been because of atrocities they had witnessed or come to know about personally arising from the war such as Auschwitz?

Ponder the following made up example. Why is the situation of an American national in another country, Argentina, when the Argentine National Anthem is played, not dealt with? Would an Argentine expect a non-Argentine to sing their national anthem? This type of scenario could typically occur in a major sporting event final such as soccer, or the Olympics or other Athletics event. Often two or more national anthems will be played, all are encouraged to stand to show respect, but only the nationals of the country of the anthem being played are expected to sing.  In general, usually countries would expect foreign nationals to show respect for their national anthem by standing, but do not expect them to sing. Using this principle, if we view ourselves as ‘nationals’ of Christ’s Kingdom, we would show respect for all other countries anthems, but not support.

As with other issues for which witnesses have been persecuted, is it for sticking to Bible principles on the basis of their own conscience, or because of sticking to organization rules? As we can see, these rules have changed over the years and are complicated to remember and do not cover all situations. Likely many have suffered unnecessarily as a result.

So when paragraph 17 says:”The victory for God’s enemies was short-lived.” were they actually God’s enemies or merely people angry at perceived disrespect for their treasured national flag and anthem.

Paragraph 22 says “Why have Jehovah’s people won so many landmark legal victories?Yet, in country after country and court after court, fair-minded judges have protected us from the onslaught of tenacious opposers and, in the process, have set precedents in constitutional law. Without a doubt, Christ has backed our efforts to gain those victories. (Read Revelation 6:2.)”  The question about victories is answered in the next sentence. Because of the fair-minded judges. Yes, they really do still exist, despite the fact they are ‘worldly people’ in the brothers’ eyes. So how can the organization jump without any backup, to attribute those victories to Jesus, providing Revelation 6:2 as proof? If the judges were fair-minded then Jesus assistance in the matter was not required.  Additionally if the Lamb, Christ Jesus, is the one opening the seal, why does John not identify him as the one on the white horse? It may be or maybe not.

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[1] Insight Book Volume 1 page 236 para 1, amongst others.

[2] Daniel 1 shows Daniel was taken to Babylon in the 3rd Year of Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim ruled 11 years. Hence by the time Ezekiel wrote Chapter 14, Daniel was [11-3 = 8 +6 = 14] plus say a minimum of 6 years old to be taken from his parents: 14 + 6 = 20.

[3] Generally accepted date by historians. Also compatible with the Bible record. For more information see already published articles on this site discussing the Bible record on dating the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar.

[4] Watchtower 1932 15/1 page 20 & 21

[5] Watchtower 1960 15/2 page 127

[6] Watchtower 1974 15/1 page 62

[7] Schools Brochure sj p15. Also Watchtower 2002 15/9 p24 is almost identical word for word except for replacement of ‘youths’ with ‘group’ and ‘they’.