[This post was contributed by Alex Rover]
Some leaders are exceptional human beings, with a powerful presence, one inspiring of confidence. We are naturally drawn to exceptional people: tall, successful, well spoken, good looking.
Recently, a visiting Jehovah’s Witness sister (let’s call her Petra) from a Spanish congregation asked my opinion about the current Pope. I could sense an undertone of admiration for the man, and keeping in mind that she used to be Catholic, I sensed the true issue at hand.
The current Pope may well be such an exceptional person—a reformer with an apparent love for Christ. It would be only natural then that she feel an ounce of nostalgia for her former religion and inquired about him.
Spontaneously, 1 Samuel 8 came to my mind, where Israel asks Samuel to give them a king to lead them. I read verse 7 to her where Jehovah responded firmly: “It is not you [Samuel] whom they have rejected, but it is I whom they have rejected as their king”. – 1 Samuel 8:7
The people of Israel may not have had the intention to abandon worship to Jehovah as their God, but they wanted a visible king like the nations; one who would judge them and fight their battles for them.
The lesson is clear: no matter how exceptional human leadership may be, the desire for a human leader is tantamount to rejection of Jehovah as our sovereign ruler.
Jesus: King of Kings
Israel had its share of kings throughout history, but finally Jehovah showed mercy and installed a king with an everlasting mandate on the throne of David.
Jesus Christ is by any measure the most charismatic, confidence-inspiring, powerful, loving, just, kind, and meek man to have ever lived. In the complete sense of the word, he can also be termed the most handsome of any son of Adam. (Psalm 45:2) The Scriptures name Jesus the ‘King of kings’ (Revelation 17:14, 1 Timothy 6:15, Matthew 28:18). He is the ultimate and best King we could ever desire. If we look to replace him, it is a double act of betrayal to Jehovah. First, we would reject Jehovah as King as did Israel. Second, we would reject the king Jehovah gave us!
It is our Heavenly Father’s desire that in Jesus’ name every knee shall bend and every tongue shall openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Father’s glory (2 Philippians 2:9-11).
Do Not Boast In Men
Looking back, I am glad Petra didn’t stop her questions at the Pope. I nearly fell off my chair when she continued to ask me about how I would feel in the presence of a member of the Governing Body.
I immediately responded: “Not any different or more privileged than I feel in the presence of the brothers and sisters at our Kingdom hall!” Consequently, I looked up the passage in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, “…let no one boast in men… you belong to Christ; Christ, in turn, belongs to God”; and Matthew 23:10, “Neither be called leaders, for your leader is one, the Christ”.
If we have but ‘one’ leader, it means our leader is a single entity, not a group. If we follow Christ, then we cannot look to any brother or man on earth as our leader, for that would mean rejecting Christ as our sole leader.
Petra’s mother—also a witness—was nodding in agreement the whole time. And taking it one step further, I said: “Didn’t you hear that the Governing Body themselves have said that they are fellow domestics? On what basis then, could we treat these brothers as more special than others?”
Jehovah’s Witnesses Are Asking for a King
It is most interesting how the human mind works. Once the defensive walls are brought down, the floodgates open. Petra went on to tell me a personal experience. Last year, a member of the Governing Body spoke at the Spanish District convention she attended. She went on to recall how afterward the audience kept applauding for minutes. According to her, it became so uncomfortable that the brother had to leave the stage, and even then, the applause still continued.
This bothered her conscience, she explained. She told me that at one point she stopped clapping, because she felt it was tantamount to—and here she used a Spanish word—“veneración”. As a woman from a Catholic background, there is no misunderstanding the import of this. “Veneration” is a word used in conjunction with the Saints, demonstrating honor and reverence to an extent one step beneath adoration which is due to God alone. The Greek word proskynesis quite literally means “kissing in the presence [of]” a superior being; acknowledging the recipient’s divinity and the giver’s submissive humility. [i]
Can you picture a stadium filled with thousands of people performing an act of veneration to a man? Can we imagine these same individuals calling themselves Jehovah’s people? Yet this is exactly what is happening before our eyes. Jehovah’s Witnesses are asking for a king.
The Consequences of What’s Being Published
I have not shared with you the full story on how my conversation with Petra initially came about. It actually started with another question. She asked me: “Will this be our last memorial”? Petra went on to reason: “Why else would they write that”? And her belief was reinforced by the brother at the memorial talk last week who said something to the tune that the recent rise in anointed proves that the 144,000 are nearly sealed. (Revelation 7:3)
I reasoned with her from the Scriptures and helped her come to her own conclusion about this topic, but what it illustrates are the consequence of what’s being written in our publications. What effect does the current spiritual food have on the congregations? Not all Jehovah’s servants are blessed with a large amount of knowledge and experience. This was a very sincere, but average sister from a Spanish congregation.
As to the veneration of the Faithful Slave, I am a personal witness to this. In my own congregation, I count more mention of these men than of Jesus. In prayers, elders and circuit overseers thank the ‘Slave Class’ for their direction and their food more often than they thank our true leader, the Logos himself, the Lamb of God.
I beg to ask, did these men claiming to be the Faithful Slave spill their blood for us so we might live? Do they deserve more mention of praise than the only begotten Son of God who gave his life and blood for us?
What has caused these changes in our brothers? Why did this member of the Governing Body have to leave the stage before the applause was complete? It is a consequence of what they are teaching in the publications. One only has to take a look at the endless stream of reminders about loyalty and obedience to the organization and the ‘Slave Class’ over the past months in our Watchtower study articles.
Standing on the Rock at Horeb
I can only imagine what kind of ‘veneration’ all this will invoke this coming summer, when the Governing Body will speak directly to the crowds, be it in person or through video projector systems.
Gone are the days when these brothers were unknown to us; virtually anonymous. I hope that this summer I will still be able to recognize the religion I grew up in. But we are not naïve. We’re already witnessing the consequences of our latest writings in the attitudes of many of our dear brothers and sisters.
All hope now lies squarely in the hands of the Governing Body. When undue praise does occur, will they firmly correct the audience, say it is improper and redirect praise to our true King? (John 5:19, 5:30, 6:38, 7:16-17, 8:28, 8:50, 14:10, 14:24)
This summer, the Governing Body will address the nation of Jehovah. They will stand on a figurative rock at Horeb. There will be those they consider as rebels in the audience; murmurers . It is obvious from the material in The Watchtower that the Governing Body is growing increasingly impatient with such ones! Will they attempt to silence these by trying to provide their version of ‘waters of life’, truth from the ‘faithful slave’?
Either way, we are likely to witness an historic event in the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses at this year’s district conventions.
As a closing thought, I will share a symbolic drama. Please follow along in your Bible at Numbers 20:8-12:
Write a letter to the congregations and call them together for an international convention, and say that many Scriptural truths will be discussed, and that the brothers and sisters will be refreshed along with their households.
So the Faithful and Discrete Slave Class prepared the talk material, just as Jehovah commanded to give food at the proper time. Then the Governing Body called upon the congregations at the international convention and said: “Hear, now, you rebel apostates! Must we produce living water, new truth for you from God’s Word?”
With that the Governing Body members lifted their hands up and struck the audience with awe as they released new publications, and the brothers and sisters and their households broke out in a thundering applause and gave thanks.
Jehovah later said to the Faithful Slave: “Because you did not show faith in me and sanctify me before the eyes of the people of Jehovah, you will not bring the congregation into the land that I will give them.”
May this never come true! As one associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses, it truly saddens me that this is the path we are on. I do not seek new waters as proof, I seek a return to the love of Christ as early bible students had. And so I pray that Jehovah can soften their heart before it is too late.
[i] 2013, Matthew L. Bowen, Studies in the Bible and Antiquity 5:63-89.