[From ws6/16 p. 6 for August 1-7]
“O Jehovah, . . . you are our Potter; we are all the work of your hand.”—Isa 64:8
If you are finding that these reviews are getting a bit repetitive, it is simply because, being reviews, they are tied to the topics that week after week are fed to the flock of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world. While last week’s study inferred that these studies are part of a banquet of rich food, the fact is that they are repetitious and superficial in nature. One can go months without learning anything truly new and inspiring at the congregation meetings.
(By contrast, I participate in a weekly on-line study group with fellow Christians in which we read a single chapter of the Bible and all are invited to share their thoughts without fear of judgment. I learn several new points every week. The difference between this and the diet I was fed for decades is outstanding!)
This week’s Watchtower study continues the de-emphasizing of Jesus’ role that was evident last week with the 28 to 0 ratio of “Jehovah” to “Jesus” references. This week the ratio is close to 20 to 1, with ”Jehovah” referred to 46 times by name and 25 times by the title “God”, while “Jesus” is only mentioned 4 times, all in paragraph 10.
This may not seem inappropriate to the average Witness fed on a steady diet of WT publications. Indeed, more than a casual mention of Jesus makes JWs somewhat uncomfortable. “We don’t want to sound like evangelists” will be the thought. Yet, if we pay attention while reading the Christian Scriptures, we’ll start to realize just how much emphasis these place on Jesus. Indeed, if a WT writer were to imitate the writing style of Paul, or John, or James, I’m sure he’d be taken off the writer list.
If you think I’m exaggerating then try this the next time you’re with a group of your Witness friends, like in a field service car group. Mention Jesus instead of Jehovah, whenever appropriate. For instance, if you’re out in service, you might say:
Or if talk turns to life in the New World, you could say:
“Won’t it be great in the New World when everyone bows before the Lord Jesus?” (Phil 2:9-11)
If you’re doing the cart work, you could say:
In my experience, any ongoing conversations stop abruptly while minds whirl trying to process what to say next.
Well, enough fun. Let’s get down to the study.
A Baiting Article
This is what we might like to call a “Baiting Article”. Its purpose is to prepare the soil of the mind for a second article, the “Switch Article”. This week we are taught something we can all readily agree upon. Our God Jehovah shapes us through discipline and guidance and instruction. Next week comes the “switch”. Discipline, guidance, and instruction from the Organization is slipped in as coming from Jehovah. Marginalizing Jesus is part of the process, because if we only focus on Jehovah who is far away and not Jesus who is here with us all the days until the end, then that vacuum can be filled by the Organization. (Mt 18:20; Mt 28:20)
For example, look at paragraph 4. Yes, God calls people. Yes, he chooses his servants. But in the example of Saul, it was Jesus who appeared to him. It was Jesus who spoke to Ananias and said, “this man is a chosen vessel to me to bear my name to the nations.” Yet, no mention whatsoever is made of our Lord when drawing from this account. It’s like Jesus wasn’t even involved and the only name being borne to the nations was Jehovah’s.
The Father Who Is Not a Father
Jehovah is spoken of as our Father scores of times in the Christian Scriptures. Logically, we are spoken of as his children, since to call someone your father when you are not his child makes no sense. Never—not once—are Christians called his friends. This is rather inconvenient for the Governing Body which lately has been working hard to convince us that we are not God’s adopted children, but can only aspire to friendship with Jehovah. Perhaps this increased emphasis on friendship with God is part of an effort to curb the rising tide of partakers we’ve seen over the past decade.[i]
However, the emphasis the Christian Scriptures place on the father/child relationship means it cannot be ignored, so a blurring of the meaning of the term takes place in the publications. For instance,
“They consider it an honor to address Jehovah as Father” – Par. 3
The publishers would have us hold an absurd idea in our mind, that we can address God as Father even though we are not his children. Some would contend that all humans are his children, because he created our forefather, Adam. However, if we accept that viewpoint there is no distinction between the Christian and the Pagan, is there? This is not an honor, as the article states, but a simple fact of biology. Thus the father-child relationship Jesus taught us to desire is perverted. The Organization would have us believe we can still pray, “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified…” while holding in our mind the contrary thought that the Father we are addressing is really just a good friend. (Mt 6:9)
The fact is that Mankind has been orphaned from God. We want back into the family, and the only way back in is through adoption. If we are not God’s children, then we remain orphans and the idea that we can still have the honor of calling Jehovah “Father” is just nonsense.
Perhaps you are unconvinced. Perhaps the article’s use of Isaiah 64:8 has confused the issue for you.
“O Jehovah, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are our Potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isa. 64:8)
Jehovah is spoken of in the Hebrew Scriptures as the Father of the nation of Israel, and it is in this context that Isaiah speaks. (De 32:6, 18) Neither he nor any of the other prophets ever presented Jehovah as the adoptive father of individuals, nor did they speak of a personal one-on-one father and son relationship as Jesus did.
Make no mistake, however. We are God’s children in a very, very real sense, if we put faith in the name of Jesus. We have this authority and no man nor group of men can take it away from us.
“However, to all who did receive him, he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name.” (Joh 1:12)
Inside Is Light—Outside Is Darkness and Despair
I’ve had a few conversations of late with long-time friends who acknowledge that some of what we teach is false and that our conduct with regard to handling child abuse and our past involvement in the UN is reprehensible. Still, they will not leave. They wait on Jehovah to fix things. Why will they not act, not stand up for truth? Often, it is because they’re terrified of leaving. They have no friends on the outside and cannot countenance losing their social support structure. They also genuinely believe that if they leave, they will only have worldly people to associate with and that will lead them into immoral lifestyles and sin.
This viewpoint has been carefully fostered by such statements as this one:
“Therefore, the environment in which Jehovah is now molding us is viewed as a spiritual paradise that is presently taking shape. We feel safe and secure despite the wicked world around us. Moreover, in this setting, those of us who grew up in loveless, dysfunctional families finally experience real love.” – Par. 8
So we are again reassured that real love is only to be found inside the Organization. The Organization is a spiritual paradise where we can be safe and secure. Outside, is a desert of darkness; a wicked world where we would be alone, unloved, unsafe, and insecure.
Bollocks, balderdash, and another word that starts with “b”.
Speaking from personal experience as well as from firsthand observation of others, true Christian freedom comes when one looks, not to men nor their institutions, but to the Christ for a “safe and secure” environment. Our love of God protects us from immoral influences, far better than the fear of reprisals from a human organization. As for the claim to being a spiritual paradise where we can “finally experience real love”, let’s put that to the test.
The Christian congregation is to be distinguished by what type of love? Is it conditional love? The kind of love that says, “We will love you as long as you are one of us?”
Jesus warned us about confusing that type of love for the love he exemplified. He said:
“For if YOU love those loving YOU, what reward do YOU have? Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? 47 And if YOU greet YOUR brothers only, what extraordinary thing are YOU doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing?” (Mt 5:46, 47)
I’ve had various ones relate how they have been supported in the congregation by some who cared for them in times of trouble. That’s wonderful. But is it the kind of love that Jesus spoke of? He told us to love our enemies.
“However, I say to YOU: Continue to love YOUR enemies and to pray for those persecuting YOU; 45 that YOU may prove yourselves sons of YOUR Father . . .” (Mt 5:44, 45)
This is the type of love the children of God have and readily display.
In the past few years of working on this forum, many have written in to share their personal experiences. I also know a number personally and have borne witness to their stories. Then there is my own.
If you stop attending meetings, this “real love” the article boasts of will evaporate faster than dew in Death Valley. If you express doubts about some of the WT teachings, you will experience persecution. Notice that Jesus didn’t say to love those whom you are persecuting, because real love will never cause us to persecute anyone. But to have love for those who are persecuting you, well, that is a challenge, isn’t it?
I have known more real Christ-like love since I distanced myself from the Organization than I ever experienced in it.
The Potter Organization
Rather than wait till next week, the switching begins now.
Jehovah molds his servants today primarily by means of his Word, his holy spirit, and the Christian congregation. – Par. 11
Jehovah uses the Christian congregation and its overseers to mold us on a personal level. For example, if the elders discern that we are having spiritual problems, they try to help us—but not on the basis of human wisdom. (Gal. 6:1) Rather, they humbly look to God, asking for insight and wisdom. With our situation in mind, they act on their prayers by doing research in God’s Word and in our Christian publications. This can equip them to render help tailored to our needs. If they come to you to offer kind, loving help, such as about your style of dress, will you accept their counsel as an expression of God’s love for you? In doing so, you prove to be like soft clay in Jehovah’s hands, ready to be molded to your benefit. – Par. 13
“Your style of dress”!? Of all the examples of spiritual molding that they could come up with to show how Jehovah molds us, the one they settle on is personal dress and grooming!
This is just a very transparent attempt to reinforce an Organization agenda. Conformity of dress is important in a high control environment, so here we are led to believe that this doesn’t come from men, but it is Jehovah who is molding us to dress a certain way. If we resist, we are not allowing God to mold us.
We will continue this review in the following article next week.
[i] See w12 7/15 p. 28 par. 7: “Jehovah has declared his anointed ones righteous as sons and the other sheep righteous as friends”