[Watchtower study for the week of April 14, 2014 – w14 2/15 p.8]
This week’s Watchtower study continues the discussion on the 45th Psalm, focusing on the marriage of the King.
We used to have a penchant for attributing some prophetic significance to every element in historical Bible accounts. We would refer to these as “a prophetic drama” and not content to look at the overall picture, we would take great pains to attribute special significance to the most minute of details. This could at times result in some really silly interpretations. For example, in the 1967 Watchtower article on the life of Samson, the young lion he kills is said to “picture Protestantism, which in its beginnings came out boldly against some of the abuses perpetrated by Catholicism in the name of Christianity…. But how did this Protestant “lion” fare? “Jehovah’s spirit became operative upon [Samson], so that he tore it in two, just as someone tears a male kid in two, and there was nothing at all in his hand.” (Judg. 14:6) Prior to World War I, the triumph of Jehovah’s “slave” over Protestantism was just as decisive. It was by God’s spirit. (w67 2/15 p. 107 par. 11, 12)
If you think that seems a stretch, read on to see what symbolism we attach to the honey that came from a bee’s hive Samson discovered later in the carcass of the dead lion. (par. 14)
As Brother Franz’ influence declined, so did the incidence of those articles. However, it seems that may be changing. As we saw last week, each element of the prophetic poem that is the 45th Psalm is given some application. No support is provided for many of these symbolic interpretations. We are expected to believe because of the authority of the source, it would seem. This is just not acceptable for a Christian with a Beroean mentality, unless the source is Jesus himself.
Par. 4 – An example of this can be seen in this paragraph where we state unblinkingly that “’the royal consort’ is the heavenly part of God’s Organization, which includes ‘the daughters of kings,’ that is, the holy angels.“
I was watching the Tony Awards a couple of years ago and they sang one of the songs from the Book of Mormon: I Believe. We may tilt our noses up at such blind faith in men, but are we not guilty of the same if we accept unsupported interpretations as truth, just because they come from a source we trust? Of course, whether the “daughters of kings” depicts the holy angels or not is of no great consequence. However, the presumptuousness that would allow men to boldly assert such a thing is not likely to stop at the inconsequential. Of that we must be wary.
Par. 5-7 – We do provide some scriptural support for the idea that the bride depicted in the Psalm is the same one Revelation speaks of, stating that it is made up of spirit anointed Christians. Agreed! Of course, by that we mean that means a mere 144,000 thousand individuals make up the bride. We are directed to read from Ephesians 5: 23, 24 to make the point that the congregation is the bride. This is true, but it raises a bit of a conundrum for us. In the latter part of the fifth chapter of Ephesians, Paul is instructing Christian husbands and wives about their relationship, using Jesus and the congregation (depicted as his wife) as the object lesson. The congregation is Jesus’ bride, and as he deals with her, so a Christian husband should deal with his wife. Jesus gave his life for his bride, the congregation. Why? Paul explains:
“…in order that he might sanctify it, cleansing it with the bath of water by means of the word, 27 so that he might present the congregation to himself in its splendor, without a spot or a wrinkle or any of such things, but holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:26, 27)
Do you see the conundrum? If the congregation is the bride and the bride are the anointed and the anointed only number 144,000, then Jesus only sanctifies, cleans and dies for 144,000 individuals. What about the rest of us?
Or is this passage in Ephesians yet more proof that there are not two classes of Christians?
Par. 14 – We now engage in a fallacy that has served us well in the past. To support a new interpretation, we use another prophecy which we have already interpreted (arbitrarily) in a way that supports our doctrinal teachings. Having an interpretation which is “accepted fact” in our grab bag, we then use it to shore up our newest understanding. This gives the appearance we are building on bedrock rather than the sand of human speculation. In this case, the “ten men” of Zechariah’s prophecy become the “daughter of Tyre” in Psalm 45. The “ten men” are the “other sheep”, earthbound Christians who serve as “loyal companions of the anointed Christians”. This has been long “established” as truth. We are looking for a place to put them in our Psalm, and along come the “virgin companions” of the bride. Seems like a prefect fit. The only problem is that these earthbound Christians, these virgin companions, follow the bride right into the King’s palace, which is, alas, in heaven. The wedding is after all held in the heavens, in the presence of God. How will we resolve this latest conundrum?
Par. 16 – To start, we fall back on a old piece of misdirection. We explain that “appropriately, the book of Revelation represents the members of the “great crowd” [i.e., the other sheep, the virgin companions] as “standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” They render Jehovah sacred service in the earthly courtyard of this spiritual temple.” So the virgin companions don’t actually enter the temple (Greek: naos, the inner sanctuary) which is in heaven, but stand in some earthly courtyard (Greek: aulen). The problem with this is that if the great crowd are the other sheep and if the other sheep are earthbound, then why is the great crowd shown standing before the throne in the naos (inner sanctuary) and not in some courtyard (aulen)?
When Judas threw the 30 pieces of silver into the temple (naos), he must have thrown it into the sanctuary where only the priests entered, not into some courtyard where the average Israelite could walk. Enough money to buy a piece of land strewn about on the floor of a public courtyard would have caused a mad scramble, yet the Bible indicates that only the priests knew about it. (Mat. 27:5-10)
So in trying to explain away an inconsistency in our prophetic interpretation of Psalm 45, we are compounding our error and misleading our readers by shifting the divinely appointed locale of the great crowd from the heavenly temple to some conveniently imagined earthly courtyard of which the Bible makes no mention.
Par. 19 – “The remaining anointed on earth are enthralled by the prospect of soon being united in heaven with their brothers and with their Bridegroom. The other sheep are moved to be ever more submissive to their glorious King and are grateful for the privilege of being associated with the remaining members of this bride on earth.”
We are all for submission to our glorious King. However, that really isn’t the submission that is being called for here. Otherwise, why would the other sheep be singled out as “moved to be ever more submissive”? Are the remaining anointed not likewise moved to increased submissiveness? No, the meaning is clear in the following phrase describing the other sheep as being “grateful for the privilege of being associated with the remaining” anointed ones.
Jesus was “mild-tempered and lowly in heart”. There could be no greater privilege for any human than to have spent time with him, and those that did were surely grateful for that privilege, yet he never voiced such an idea. As for the apostles and other Bible writers, following Jesus’ instruction, they considered themselves to be good-for-nothing slaves, and never wrote that those in the congregations should be grateful for the privilege of having worked with them. I’m sure the brothers in the congregations were grateful. They fell on Paul’s neck and tenderly kissed him, weeping when he was leaving them. Yet, he never claimed that association with him was some kind of privilege. (Mat. 11:29; Luke 17:10; Gal. 6:3)
This statement from paragraph 19 is troubling in that in reinforces the idea of a two-tier class system in the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses; one in which the smaller class is privileged. I can’t think of anything that is farther from the Christian ideal, though it is very common among the churches we like to refer to collectively as Christendom. (See Mat. 23:10-13 – Isn’t in interesting that in the very next verse Jesus denounces those who shut up the heavens?)
We must free ourselves from this Russell/Rutherford/Fundamentalist penchant for trying to find meaning in every little morsel of Bible verse. There is no Da-Vinci-code-like message hidden in Bible allegory to be deciphered by a privileged few. The Bible was given to all God’s servants, from the lowliest to the mightiest, with perhaps the lowliest having a slight edge on the mightiest. The 45th Psalm is a beautiful and inspiring piece of poetic allegory. The image of a handsome young prince being married to a beautiful maiden bedecked in the finest royal garments, both standing in the palace of the king surrounded by joyous throngs of onlookers, supporters and friends is one we can all grasp, and one that gives us a little glimpse of a greater, unimaginable scene in the actual heavens of what is to come. If we try to take it apart, dissecting the imagery piece by piece, there can only be diminishment. We do best to leave it alone and enjoy it as Jehovah has presented it to us.