[From ws4/17 p. 28 – June 26 – July 2]
“Because of the people’s volunteering, praise Jehovah!” – Judges 5:2
Is a volunteering spirit something desirable in the Lord’s eyes? We can be sure that it is. For instance, we have Isaiah’s eager willingness to serve immortalized in his words: “Here am I, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8) We also have the prophetic assurance from the Psalmist:
“Your people will offer themselves willingly on the day of your military force. In splendid holiness, from the womb of the dawn, You have your company of young men just like dewdrops.” (Ps 110:3)
“What Do You Give Him?”
Under this subtitle, the reader of this study article is helped to see the voluntary gifts and works that Jehovah values from his servants. High on the list are gifts of mercy to our fellow man.
“The one showing favor to the lowly is lending to Jehovah, And He will repay him for what he does.” (Pr 19:17)
Imagine lending to God and having the Almighty in your debt! This is in line with what Jesus taught us at Matthew 6:1-4. After telling us not to broadcast our merciful acts for all to see, he adds that our gifts of mercy should be made in secret, so that “your Father who looks on in secret will repay you.” (Mt. 6:4) The paragraph adds to this by citing a “read” scripture in Luke 14:13, 14.
Witnesses fail to obey this command every time they hand in a field service report, or accept a part on the platform that emphasizes their pioneer service, and the like.
Returning to the issue of gifts of mercy poured out upon the needy, we should ask ourselves if Witnesses are known for this type of volunteer work. They should be because they claim to be the one true religion that worships Jehovah as he requires, and he inspired James to write the following:
“The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” (Jas 1:27)
While such works of mercy may focus first on those related to us in the faith, they cannot be confined to them if we are to find favor with God. As Paul said:
“Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to [us] in the faith.” (Ga 6:10)
Unfortunately, Witnesses are not really known for this type of love. For example, when asked if they joined in with other religious groups by responding to the needs of the then-homeless residents who were victims of the Grenfell Tower Fire in London, they could only respond with stunned silence. Apparently, the thought had simply not occurred. The JW faith is so highly dependent on direction from top level leadership that there is simply no place for personal initiative and independent thought in such cases. In fact, it would likely be seen as evidence of prideful self-will; of running ahead of the Organization.
To be fair, when the Governing Body does organize disaster relief campaigns, as it did after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, many witnesses respond readily both with monetary and resource donations as well as with their personal time and expertise. But it seems they can only engage in acts of mercy when they are organized to do so.
A Contrast in Attitude toward Volunteer Service
According to Judges 5:23, Judge Deborah and Army Chief Barak condemned Meroz and its inhabitants for not offering assistance to those fighting for Jehovah. Paragraph 11, apparently wanting to flesh out this historical account to support the theme, engages in speculation which seems to, almost transparently, morph into fact. To illustrate:
Meroz was evidently cursed so effectively that it is difficult to say with certainty what it was. Could it have been a city whose inhabitants failed to respond to the initial rally for volunteers? If it lay on Sisera’s escape route, did its citizens have a chance to detain him but fail to seize the opportunity? [So we start out with speculation that it may have been a city or may not, but if it were it might have been on the escape route, or it might not.] How could they not have heard of Jehovah’s call for volunteers? Ten thousand people from their region had been assembled for this offensive. Imagine the people of Meroz catching sight of this vicious warrior as he ran right through their streets alone and desperate. This would have been a splendid opportunity to advance Jehovah’s purpose and experience his blessing. Yet, at that critical moment when given a choice between doing something and doing nothing, did they give in to indifference? [In a flash, we’ve gone from conjecture to reality. It will be interesting to hear your comments, gentle reader, of how the brothers answered this particular question.] What a contrast that would have been to Jael’s courageous action described in the very next verses!—Judg. 5:24-27. – par. 11
This contrast between those who volunteered and those who declined is made again in paragraph 12.
At Judges 5:9, 10, we see a further contrast between the attitude of those who marched with Barak and that of those who did not. Deborah and Barak commended “the commanders of Israel, who went as volunteers with the people.” How different they were from the “riders on tawny donkeys,” who were too proud to participate, and those “who [sat] on fine carpets,” loving a life of luxury! Unlike those “who walk[ed] on the road,” preferring the easy way, those who went with Barak were willing to do battle on the rocky slopes of Tabor and in the swampy valley of Kishon! All the pleasure-seekers were urged to “consider!” Yes, they needed to meditate on their missed opportunity to help Jehovah’s cause. So, too, should any who today are holding back from serving God fully. – par. 12
Then the same point is made in paragraph 13:
On the other hand, the tribes of Reuben, Dan, and Asher were each singled out at Judges 5:15-17 for giving more attention to their own material interests—as represented by their flocks, ships, and harbors—than to the work that Jehovah was having done. By contrast, Zebulun and Naphtali “risked their lives to the point of death” to support Deborah and Barak. (Judg. 5:18) This contrast in attitude toward volunteer service contains an important lesson for us. – par. 13
So the point is that we should be serving Jehovah not sitting on our “tawny donkeys and fine carpets”. Well and good, but what is meant by “serving Jehovah”? Are we speaking about helping the poor and engaging in charitable acts of mercy as referred to earlier in the study? Not so much.
What is actually meant—the lesson to be learned from the account of Judge Deborah and Army Commander Barak—is this: Do more for the organization!
A quick view of the images under this subtitle confirms what is said in paragraph 14:
The need for volunteers in Jehovah’s organization is greater than ever. Millions of brothers, sisters, and young people are offering themselves in various fields of full-time service as pioneers, as Bethelites, as Kingdom Hall construction volunteers, and as volunteers at assemblies and conventions. Think, too, of elders who carry weighty responsibilities with Hospital Liaison Committees and convention organization. – par. 14
The first sentence seems to be an odd statement given that the organization just dropped 25% of its worldwide volunteer workforce. Perhaps what they mean is that volunteers that in no way present a financial drain on the organization are needed.
While Witnesses will view all of these activities as facets of holy service to God, consider the fact that there is nothing in Christian Scripture to support them. This is why the Organization constantly goes back to the Old Testament—the former covenant arrangement—under Israel. They seem unwilling to accept that under the New Covenant, things have changed. There is, for instance, no “pioneer service” within the Christian congregation, so the organization draws parallels with the ancient Nazarenes under the now-defunct Israelite system of worship. There was no Bethel after Christ, so they go back to pre-Christian times and pick a place in Ancient Israel known as a site of false worship. (A strange, yet oddly appropriate choice as it turns out.) There was a king and priesthood in Israel—what might be called a governing body—but no such entity existed in the first century Christian congregation. Neither is there is a record of first century Christians building houses of worship, like our kingdom and assembly halls.
Paragraph 15 asks us: Like Barak, Deborah, Jael, and the 10,000 volunteers, do I have the faith and courage to use whatever is at my disposal to carry out the clear command of Jehovah?
Indeed! But just what is the clear command of Jehovah? To pioneer? To serve at Bethel? To build kingdom halls?
Jehovah gave Christians an express command. He did it in his own voice.
“For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when words such as these were borne to him by the magnificent glory: “This is my son, my beloved, whom I myself have approved.” 18 Yes, these words we heard borne from heaven while we were with him in the holy mountain.” (2Pe 1:17, 18)
Jehovah’s one command to Christians is to listen to his son. Interestingly, this article makes nary a mention of Jesus. All the attention is on the organization as the channel Jehovah uses. We are encouraged to have “loyal obedience” (par. 16), but not to Jesus. Rather, our obedience to the organization is expected, as we respond to their call for volunteers.
The title of the article suggests that our volunteer spirit will bring praise to Jehovah, but we cannot praise God under the Christian system without praising the Son. We honor God through the son.
“Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” John 5:23