[From ws8/16 p. 20 for October 10-16]
“THE little one will become a thousand and the small one a mighty nation. I myself, Jehovah, will speed it up in its own time.” (Isa. 60:22)
This scripture opens this week’s Watchtower study. Jehovah’s Witnesses apply this prophecy to their own growth. However, since the growth of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses—such as it is—consists of the gathering of millions of individuals who are not considered to be anointed, adopted children of God, we are required to believe that Isaiah was foretelling the growth of the “other sheep” as defined by JWs. Is that reasonable based on the context?
Even a cursory read of Isaiah chapter 60 will reveal that the prophecy pertains to the Israel of God—those making up the New Jerusalem. Since chapters and verses were not part of the original manuscript, we can consider the next verse to be part of this prophecy. There, in Isaiah 61:1, we find a passage that applied in the first century to Jesus. In fact, he reads from it before applying it to himself. (Lu 4:16-21) Then, when we read the preceding verses, we are reminded of John’s words concerning New Jerusalem:
“And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God illuminated it, and its lamp was the Lamb.” (Re 21:23)
“Also, night will be no more, and they have no need of lamplight or sunlight, for Jehovah God will shed light upon them, and they will rule as kings forever and ever.” (Re 22:5)
So the speeding up would have to involve the anointed children of God, not some alleged secondary classification of Christian not mentioned in Isaiah–nor in the rest of Scripture for that matter.
Nevertheless, if we are wrong in arriving at this understanding—if indeed, the interpretation of the Watchtower is accurate and Isaiah was inspired to foretell the growth of JW.org—then the facts should bear that out. The writer of this week’s study article clearly believes that Isaiah’s words are being fulfilled by the “phenomenal…preaching work”[i] of the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses today, for he writes:
“Why, during the 2015 service year, 8,220,105 Kingdom publishers have been active in the world field! The last part of that prophecy should affect all Christians personally, for our heavenly Father says: “I myself, Jehovah, will speed it up in its own time.” Like passengers in a vehicle gaining speed, we sense the increased momentum in the disciple-making work. How are we personally reacting to that acceleration?” – par. 1
Having read this paragraph, if I were to ask you how many publishers were regularly engaged in the preaching work in the 2015 service year, what would you answer? Most would point to the above figure of 8,220,105 as their answer. That’s understandable because the writer has used the present perfect verb tense (“have been”) to indicate an action that has been ongoing throughout or “during” the 2015 service year which runs from September 2014 to the publishing of this The Watchtower issue in August 2015. So one would naturally assume the writer is referring to the monthly average of publishers. This turns out not to be the case. The monthly average during the 2015 service year was only 7,987,279, well below the one-month peak of 8,220,105.
Why mislead us this way?
It doesn’t stop there. We are next led to believe, by phrases such as “gaining speed”, “increased momentum”, and “acceleration”, that the foretold “speeding up” is actually taking place now.
We’ve heard a lot about “fact-checking” in political debates of late. What do the facts reveal?
The percentage growth in the 2014 service year was 2.2%. However, in the 2015 service year, it was only 1.5%. That’s a 32% reduction. If your car is speeding along at 60 mph and then suddenly drops in speed by 32% to 41 mph, would you call that “gaining speed”? Would you be feeling the “increased momentum” of “acceleration”?
Was this one-year drop an aberration?
If you look at the Yearbooks stats for the years from 1980 to 1998, you’ll see growth ranging from a low of 3.4% to a high of 7.2%. Now look at the next year, 1999, to the present. The high is 3.1% and the low, a measly 0.4% with the majority ranging between 1.5 and 2.5. Since the turn of the century, the best year’s growth hasn’t even reached the worst year’s growth from the 20 years that closed out the 20th century!
“Acceleration”? “Gaining speed”? “Feeling the increased momentum”?
Whether we look at the statistics for the past two years or the past 40 years, all we see is significant deceleration, slowing speed, and a significant loss of momentum. We are getting close to a standstill. Add to these statistics, the recent layoffs by the Governing Body of 25% of its worldwide work force and the dismissal of virtually all the special pioneers around the world.
What we are seeing is diminishment! And lots of it!
How does that constitute a fulfillment of Isaiah 60:22?
The men who compile these statistics and who have made these cutbacks are the same men who write, edit, and vet what is published in The Watchtower. They cannot be ignorant of these facts. Therefore, they are knowingly misrepresenting the Organization through the telling of lies. This is hypocrisy!
Is “lies” too harsh a word? Are we misapplying the word “hypocrisy”?
In this week’s Bible Study (part of “Our Christian Life and Ministry” meeting) we are told that the early Bible Students (who became Jehovah’s Witnesses) were told to flee from any Christian denomination that taught “doctrinal lies”. This is good advice because the Bible has this to say about the relationship between lying and salvation.
“Outside are the dogs and those who practice spiritism and the fornicators and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone liking and carrying on a lie.” (Re 22:15)
Hypocrisy is a particularly insidious form of lying, one that can lead to eternal death.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you travel over sea and dry land to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one, you make him a subject for Ge·henʹna twice as much so as yourselves.” (Mt 23:15)
Hypocrisy is lying that presents a false and usually flattering picture of oneself, or of those one represents, with a view to misleading others so as to take advantage of them. Jesus often condemned the religious leaders of his day—the Governing Body of the Jewish nation—as hypocrites and said they were from the Father of the Lie, Satan the Devil. (John 8:44)
Some will suggest that what we find in paragraph 1 of this week’s study article is just a “little white lie”. They might complain that we are making too big of an issue of this; “much ado about nothing”; “a mountain out of a molehill”. That would be the view of men. What we want is the viewpoint of God. How does God view a “little white lie”?
There is no such thing as a little white lie in Scripture. By way of example, turn to Acts 5:1-11. There we find a Christian couple wanting to appear as something they were not by claiming to be more self-sacrificing than they actually were. This tiny hypocrisy, this seemingly minor offense, would seem to have harmed no one. Yet, both were struck down by God for their lie. Later, far worse lies and hypocrisy were tolerated in the congregation. Why? Perhaps this was a question of timing. The congregation was in its infancy when Ananias and Sapphira sinned. At that early stage, any deviation from the truth could have had far-reaching negative consequences. The death of these two had a powerful and positive impact on the fledgling congregation.
“Consequently great fear came over the whole congregation and over all those hearing about these things.” (Ac 5:11)
So while God has permitted liars and hypocrites to exist and even prosper in the congregation without summarily striking them down as he did Ananias and his wife, the penalty for lying remains the same. It is only the punishment which has been postponed. We should bear this in mind when we see lies intended to deceive us, to induce in us a false sense of urgency, or a false sense of divine approval.
If we read or hear a hypocritical lie and dismiss it as meaningless or insignificant, we simply enable the liar and worse, do nothing to protect our minds and hearts from even greater deceptions.
“When wisdom enters into your heart and knowledge itself becomes pleasant to your very soul, 11 thinking ability itself will keep guard over you, discernment itself will safeguard you, 12 to deliver you from the bad way, from the man speaking perverse things, 13 from those leaving the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, 14 from those who are rejoicing in doing bad, who are joyful in the perverse things of badness; 15 those whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their general course;” (Pr 2:10-15)
If we apply the counsel of Proverbs, it will continue to safeguard our minds and hearts from the deception and hypocrisy of men with an agenda of their own.
[i] Watchtower, July 15, 2016, p. 14, par. 3