[From ws5/16 p. 23 for July 25-31]
“I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself.”—Isa 48:17
The article quotes Isaiah for its theme text in an attempt to establish that Jehovah is teaching Jehovah’s Witnesses not only through his Word the Bible, but through the publications, videos, and platform teaching of the Organization. Is this true?
The theme text comes from the Hebrew Scriptures. Does the way Jehovah taught the Israelites correlate to the way Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught? The Israelites were taught from the Book of the Law and by prophets speaking and writing under inspiration. How were Christians taught? Did something change when Jesus Christ came to teach? Or are we safe to stick with the Israelite model?
Equating the Word of Men with the Word of God
Paragraph 1 states: “Jehovah’s Witnesses love the Bible.”
Paragraph 3 states: “Because we love the Bible, we also love our Bible-based publications.” The simplified edition goes on to say: “All the books, brochures, magazines, and other literature we receive are provisions from Jehovah.”
Statements like these are intended to put the publications on a par with the Bible. To deepen this feeling, the audience is asked to publicly express its appreciation for the publications. The question for paragraph 3 is, “How do we feel about our publications?” Certainly, this will generate much glowing praise in the over 110,000 congregations around the globe for what the rank and file view as a provision from Jehovah.
Having set this up, paragraph 4 continues to place the publications and web site material on a par with the Word of God by applying yet another verse from the Hebrew Scriptures to them.
“Such an abundance of spiritual food reminds us that Jehovah has kept his promise to “make for all the peoples a banquet of rich dishes.—Isa. 25:6” (Par. 4)
We are to understand that the words published by the Governing Body constitute a fulfillment of the prophecy concerning Jehovah’s provision of “a banquet of rich dishes”. However, before we jump to that conclusion, let us read the context.
Isaiah 25:6-12 isn’t talking about the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but of the mountain of Jehovah, which represents the kingdom of God under Christ. When we consider that during the past century and a half, the publications have taught many Bible “truths” which were subsequently abandoned as wrong; have promoted many prophetic understandings, virtually all of which turned out to be false; and have also taught things of a medical nature which have proved harmful, even fatal,[a] it is very difficult to view such a legacy as evidence of a banquet of rich food from the table of God.
This emphasis on the value of our publications continues in paragraphs 5 and 6:
Very likely, most of us wish that we had more time to read the Bible and Bible-based publications. – Par. 5
Realistically, we may not always be able to give equal attention to all the spiritual food available to us. –Par. 5
For example, what if a portion of the Bible does not seem relevant to our situation? Or what if we are not part of the primary audience for a certain publication? – Par. 6
Above all, each one of us should bear in mind that God is the Source of our spiritual provisions. – Par. 6
It will be helpful to consider three suggestions for benefiting from all portions of the Bible and the various types of spiritual food available to us. – Par. 6
The affect this propaganda has on the perception of Jehovah’s Witnesses at every level of our society is profound. If the Bible says one thing and the publications another, it is the publications which are held as the final word on any matter. We love to look down our long noses at other religions, but are we any better? Catholics will take the Catechism over the Bible in all matters. Mormons accept the Bible, but if there is any conflict between it and the book of Mormon, the latter will always win out. Yet both these groups accept their books, not as the works of men, but of God. By elevating their publications to a point where they value them more than God’s Word, they have made the Word of God invalid. Now we are doing the same. We have become the very thing we have long disdained and criticized.
Applying the Criteria
Some will counter that the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses only help us to understand God’s Word better, and that to criticize them this way is harmful.
Is that true, or are the publications being used to lead us to follow men over God? Let’s examine the evidence before us. We can start with this very study article.
Under the subtitle “Suggestions for Beneficial Bible Reading” we are given several good pointers:
- Read with an open mind.
- Ask questions.
- Do research
Let us put these into practice.
“As an example, think about the Scriptural qualifications for Christian elders. (Read 1 Timothy 3:2-7)” – Par. 8
Applying point number 2, here’s a question you could ask yourself: “Where in that passage is anything said about the number of hours the elder, his wife, or his children have to spend in field service for him to qualify?”
The Bible gives us clear direction, but we add to it and further, make the addition of greater importance than the original. Any elder will tell you that when considering a man for the office of overseer, the first thing they look at is the man’s service report. This is because the first thing the Circuit Overseer is taught to consider are a man’s hours, then those of his wife and children. A man can meet Christ’s qualifications as found at 1 Timothy 3:2-7, but if his or his wife’s hours are below the congregation average, he is almost certain to be rejected.
“He [Jehovah] expects them [the elders] to set a good example, and he holds them accountable for the way they treat the congregation, “which he purchased with the blood of his own Son.” (Acts 20:28)” – Par. 9
Jehovah does hold them accountable, which is good, because the Organization certainly does not. If an elder vocally objects to the conduct of those higher up the chain of command, he is likely to find himself under scrutiny. Circuit Overseers now have discretionary power to remove elders on their own. That said, how often have we seen them use that power when it comes to dealing with elders who do not treat the flock with kindness? In my forty years as an elder in three different countries, I have never seen this happen. On the rare occasions that such ones were removed, it did not come from above, but from the grass roots, because their conduct had reached such egregious proportions that an outcry from below forced the hand of those in the lead.
What does this have to do with the study at hand? Simply this: the publications which are now put on par with the Word of God must include that which is published orally, such as the directions the elders receive from the Governing Body through their travelling representatives. There has always been an oral law that elders are familiar with, handed out at Elders schools and assemblies, as well as during the semi-annual visit of the Circuit overseer. Copies of these instructions are never printed up and handed out. Elders are instructed to make personal notes and hand written annotations in the broad borders of the Elders Manual.[b] This oral law often supersedes anything written in the publications, which as we know, supersede what is found in Scripture.
Failing to Think for Ourselves
There is another problem with putting the publications on par or above the Word of God. It makes us lazy. Why dig deep if we already have a provision from Jehovah? So, while encouraged by the article to “keep an open mind”, “ask questions” and “do research”, the average reader is just as likely to consume his spoon-fed diet without concern.
The publishers of the Watchtower want us to research, but only if we stick to the publications as our authority source. They want us to read the Bible, but only if we don’t really ask questions. For instance, this statement seems truthful on the surface.
“In fact, each Christian can learn from the qualifications listed in these verses, as most of them involve things that Jehovah asks of all Christians. For instance, all of us should be reasonable and sound in mind. (Phil. 4:5; 1 Pet. 4:7)” – Par. 10
“Jehovah asks of all Christians”? Is Jehovah doing the asking? Look up the immediate context of Phil. 4.
“Always rejoice in the Lord. Again I will say, Rejoice! 5 Let your reasonableness become known to all men. The Lord is near.” (Php 4:4, 5)
Question: “Why doesn’t the article say that Jesus asks us to be reasonable?” Given that Jesus is head of the congregation and the one who provides the food to the slave (Mt 25:45-47), why isn’t this article titled “Benefit Fully from Jesus’ Provisions”. In fact, why is Jesus not even mentioned in this article? His name doesn’t appear even once, while “Jehovah” appears 24 times!
Now there is a question we should ask ourselves with an open mind. If we look at the context (just four verses on) of the other Scripture reference from paragraph 10, we find further support for this.
“. . .If anyone speaks, let him do so as speaking pronouncements from God; if anyone ministers, let him do so as depending on the strength that God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. The glory and the might are his forever and ever. Amen.” (1Pe 4:11)
If Jehovah cannot be glorified except through Jesus, why is Jesus role completely passed over in this article?
This goes back to one of our opening questions. How were Christians taught? Did something change when Jesus Christ came to teach? The answer is Yes! Something did change.
Perhaps a more appropriate theme text would have been this one:
“And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded YOU. And, look! I am with YOU all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Mt 28:18-20)
This marginalizing of Jesus in our publications affects our foremost printed work, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Yes, even here we’ve found a way to divert attention from our Lord. There are scores of examples, but two will suffice for now.
“. . .Then the proconsul, upon seeing what had happened, became a believer, as he was astounded at the teaching of Jehovah.” (Ac 13:12)
“. . .However, Paul and Barʹna·bas continued spending time in Antioch teaching and declaring, with many others also, the good news of the word of Jehovah.” (Ac 15:35)
In both these places, “Jehovah” has been inserted to replace “Lord”. Jesus is the Lord. (Eph 4:4; 1Th 3:12) This shifting of focus away from our Lord Jesus to our God Jehovah may seem harmless, but it has a purpose.
The full role of Jesus in the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose poses a bit of an inconvenience for an Organization which likes to refer to itself as our Spiritual Mother.[c] The point of this article is that provisions of spiritual food come to us from Jehovah through his Organization, not through Jesus. Jesus went away and left the “Faithful and Discreet Slave” (aka, the Governing Body) in charge. True, he did say, “I am with you all the days…”, but we ignore that, bypass him, and focus only on Jehovah, just as this article has done. (Mt 28:20)
And just why is this change of focus harmful to us spiritually? Because it takes us off the path to redemption that Jehovah laid down. Salvation is achieved only through God’s Son, yet the “Mother Organization” would have us look to them for salvation.
w89 9/1 p. 19 par. 7 Remaining Organized for Survival Into the Millennium
Only Jehovah’s Witnesses, those of the anointed remnant and the “great crowd,” as a united organization under the protection of the Supreme Organizer, have any Scriptural hope of surviving the impending end of this doomed system dominated by Satan the Devil.
The men of the Governing Body are revered. They are viewed as noble men. Yet, putting our trust in nobles, and hoping for salvation through them, will lead to disillusionment and worse. (Ps 146:3)
Why, these men cannot even get the foundation for their so-called appointment as the slave right!
According to Matthew 24:45-47, the reason this slave is commissioned to feed Christ’s domestics is that he has left to secure kingly power. (Luke 19:12) In his absence, the slave feeds his fellow slaves.
In his absence!
This Slave began to feed us in 1919 according to the Governing Body[d], and according to this article is still feeding us with printed material and online publications and videos. Yet, Jesus departed in 33 C.E. and returned, according to the teachings of this self-same slave, in 1914. So while he was absent, there was no slave, but now that he’s back, the slave is needed??
We are supposed to have an open mind, ask questions, and do research. The unspoken rule is that we stay within the confines of the publications of the Organization. However, even that will create problems for the honest Bible student, as we’ve just seen.
Catholics run into many doctrinal inconsistencies because they’ve elevated the declarations of their leaders above the inspired Word of God. They are not alone. The fact is all organized Christian religions have been lead astray by putting the teachings of men on par or above the Word of God. (Mt 15:9)
We can’t change that, but we sure can stop giving in to it ourselves. It’s time to see God’s Word restored to its rightful place in the Christian congregation. The best place to start is with ourselves.