[From ws1/18 p. 12 for March 5 – March 11]
“How good and how pleasant it is…to dwell together in unity!”—PS. 133:1.
We find immediate issues with accuracy in the first sentence of the opening paragraph where the claim is made that “’God’s people’ will assemble for the memorial.” That expresses an opinion of the organization rather than a fact. It would be accurate to say “Jehovah’s Witnesses” instead of “God’s people”.
The final sentence then states “Each year, this observance is the most amazing unifying event that takes place on planet Earth.”
According to Wikipedia at least, “The Arba’een Pilgrimage is the world’s largest public gathering that is held every year in Iraq. And last year was estimated at between 20 and 30 million.”
Perhaps what is more important to our discussion here though is the claim that the observance is unifying.
At this point, we would invite comments from our readers. Does the highly formalized way the emblems are passed with no one partaking create a sense of unity? And how about the ritualistic manner in which the emblems are passed between the servers and the speaker? Does this evoke images of the loving manner in which Jesus introduced the “Lord’s Evening Meal”?
Paragraph 2 opens by saying “We can only try to imagine how Jehovah and Jesus must rejoice as they observe hour after hour millions of earth’s inhabitants attending this special event until that day ends.” So let us examine this thought. What happens at the memorial? There is a talk, then a prayer and the bread is passed round, and then another prayer and the wine is passed round. But, except in very rare instances, no one partakes. Are Jehovah and Jesus happy with this? Let the words of Jesus himself answer. “Most truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day;” (John 6:53-54). From this would you conclude Jesus is happy at the symbols of his body and blood just being passed round, rather than eaten and drunk? Or does it sadden him to see so many turning down the opportunity to obey his command.
The article then goes on to discuss the following four questions:r
- How can we individually prepare for the Memorial and benefit from attending it?
- In what ways does the Memorial influence the unity of God’s people?
- How can we personally contribute to that unity?
- Will there ever be a final memorial? If so, when?
This year we are not even treated to a flawed discussion on “Should we or shouldn’t we partake?” and on what Jesus death means for us. No, it seems the most important point to take away from the memorial this year is “unity”.
So in paragraph 4 discussing question (1) they immediately try to guilt us into attending.
“Remember, congregation meetings are part of our worship. Surely Jehovah and Jesus take note of who makes the effort to attend this most important meeting of the year.”
The subtext to this sentence is: You are being watched from above. If you don’t attend, then you may go into Jesus’ black book. Then they take off the cotton gloves:
“Frankly we want them [Jehovah and Jesus] to see that unless it is physically or circumstantially impossible, we will be present at the Memorial….When we show by our actions that meetings for worship are important to us, we give Jehovah added reason to keep our name in his ‘book of remembrance’ – ‘the book of life’“.
How this message from the organization contrasts to the message given by Jesus in the Scriptures. In John 4:23-24 Jesus says “the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth”. James wrote under inspiration in James 1:26-27 “If any man seems to himself to be a formal worshiper [going to 2 meetings a week, and the assemblies and memorial every year] and yet does not bridle his tongue, but goes on deceiving his own heart, this man’s form of worship is futile.” What type of worship was not futile? James continues “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.”
Try as you will, you will not find one scripture that supports the idea that we need to meet to worship. Rather as Jesus said in John 4, it’s how we live our lives. Are we truthful? Do we teach truth? Do we display the fruits of the spirit? It is this display of the fruits of the spirit that shows our love, honour, respect and worship for our heavenly Father, not showing our faces at a meeting. Finally, being at a meeting, even the memorial will not lead to our being written in the ‘book of life’, if we ignore Jesus clear statement quoted above “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves.”
Paragraph 5 suggests that “In the days leading up to the Memorial, we can set aside time to examine prayerfully and carefully our personal relationship with Jehovah (Read 2 Corinthians 13:5)”. We concur wholeheartedly with that statement. But I am sure our readers have already spotted the glaring omission. It is the Memorial of Christ’s death. Why are we not also examining carefully our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, our Saviour and our Mediator? (1 Timothy 2:5-6, Acts 4:8-12)
After all, Israelites and then the 1st Century Jews might strive to have a personal relationship with Jehovah, but Jesus coming to earth and giving his life as a ransom sacrifice changed all that. John 14:6 quotes Jesus words saying “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Therefore if we do not have a relationship with Jesus, how can we have a relationship with Jehovah?
The paragraph continues “How can we do that? By ‘testing whether we are in the faith’. To do that, we do well to ask ourselves: ‘Do I really believe that I am part of the only organization that Jehovah has approved to accomplish his will?” If only our dear brothers and sisters would actually take time to examine prayerfully and carefully this statement. Sadly most Witnesses will read this and automatically respond ‘Of course I believe that’ without thinking about the question: How and when did Jehovah clearly show he had approved the organization as the only one to accomplish his will? To which of course the answer is, there is no evidence he has chosen any particular organization currently on earth.
If the answer to this question is No, (which it certainly is on my part) then how can we answer the majority of the pointed questions that follow because they all involve compliance with the organization’s interpretation and requirements for doing anything? Such as “Am I doing my utmost to preach and teach the good news of the kingdom [according to the organization]?” We cannot preach and teach an incorrect version of the good news, we therefore need to ascertain what real good news the Bible gives us before we can preach it and teach it.
In the same line of thought, we have: “Do my actions show that I truly believe that these are the last days and that the end of Satan’s rule is near?” As Jesus clearly said in Mark 13:32 “No one knows the day or hour”. These may be the last days, or they may not be. No one knows. Nevertheless, we can show by our actions that we are true Christians regardless of where we are in God’s timetable.
The final question in this paragraph is “Do I have the same confidence in Jehovah and Jesus now that I had when I dedicated my life to Jehovah God?” The real question should be, ‘Do I have more confidence in Jehovah and Jesus?’ The answer to this question depends on a number of things.
- Have we personally made an in-depth study of God’s Word the Bible to understand for ourselves what it really teaches, the good news and what is God’s will for us?
- How much has the realisation that we have been taught untruths shaken our faith in God’s word?
- Have we learnt from the experience so that we always double-check properly in the Scriptures anything we are told?
We need to beware because the Organization’s misdirection continues in paragraph 6 where we are encouraged to “read and meditate on Scriptural material that discusses the significance of the Memorial.” To do this would continue to fill our minds with the Organization’s interpretation of these events. If we want accuracy and truth we should always go to the original witness (God’s Word the Bible) rather than through a third party, especially as the original witness is still available to us.
In paragraph 8 when discussing Ezekiel 37:15-17 and the stick for Judah and the stick for Joseph we are treated to another case of ‘When does a prophecy also have an antitype? Whenever it suits us, although we will say ‘Only when the Bible itself clearly indicates it’. This means that the organization hopes all Witnesses will swallow the fabrication hook, line and sinker by assuming that the Bible clearly indicates it is an antitype solely on the basis that the Watchtower says so. The first five paragraphs of the “Question from Readers” are okay, but the last four paragraphs are purely conjecture in an attempt to bolster the false teaching of two groups of righteous people (the anointed and the great crowd). The desperation to do this shows through with the statement of the final paragraph where it says “Although the ten-tribe kingdom does not usually picture those with the earthly hope, [we will make it do so this time to support our fallacious argument] the unification described in this prophecy does remind us of the unity that exists between those with an earthly hope and those with a heavenly hope.“ [words in brackets ours].
Paragraph 9 then makes more of this interpretation of Ezekiel suggesting that the “unity described in Ezekiel is clearly evident each year as the anointed remnant and the other sheep gather to observe the Memorial of Christ’s death!” Really? Most congregations do not have a member claiming to be ‘anointed’. In those that do have such a member in reality it can cause disunity because of the ‘celebrity status’ bestowed on the ‘anointed’ one as this can lead to others claiming ‘anointing’ to receive the same status. Of course, now there are also those of us who through prayer and conscientious study of God’s word believe that all true Christians should partake. (See this previous article for a more in depth discussion)
Once again we are reminded in paragraph 10 to cultivate humility. Sadly, it seems the Organization only believes developing this quality is of use in being able to “help us to be submissive to those taking the lead”. There is no mention of those taking the lead striving to maintain their humility and avoiding “lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3) thereby making it easier for the flock to follow their lead.
The article then goes on to touch on the significance of the emblems used during the Memorial citing 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. In discussing these verses the article omits to highlight that Jesus said “Keep doing this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” He did not say ‘Only you of the anointed should drink it, the great crowd should only watch it passed round.’
After encouraging us not to hold grudges and to try to be peacemakers to keep unity by forgiving our imperfect brothers and sisters, they quote Ephesians 4:2 to remind us we should be “putting up with one another in love”. That is what we should do as much as we can. However, it then goes on to make a generalization in paragraph 14 which most, if not all victims of child sexual abuse and grave injustices, would find hard to take. It says “In our congregations there are found all sorts of people whom Jehovah has drawn to him. (John 6:44) Since Jehovah has drawn them to him, he must find them lovable. How, then, could any of us judge a fellow worshipper as being unworthy of our love?” Here we face a serious question. It is true that Jehovah draws people to Jesus and himself as John 6 states. It is also a fact that good people can get corrupted by bad associations, even as did Adam and Eve and millions since then. Jehovah and Jesus have love for all mankind as they do “not desire any to be destroyed” and have provided the ransom so that all that repent of wrongdoing can have life everlasting . (2 Peter 3:9) However this does not mean that Jehovah finds a child molester (along with other serious sinners) as lovable simply because they are in the congregation. They have to repent and truly turn around. The very fact that they exist in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses would argue against it being his organization. The verses in John 6 show that he draws people to himself and Jesus, there is no indication of any imperfect organization being drawn to him. There may therefore be fellow worshippers who either have not been drawn by God, but are there for their own selfish ends, and who are no longer worshipping God in spirit and truth.
In conclusion, yes, we should celebrate the Memorial, and meditate on what it means for us and our relationship with our saviour Jesus Christ. But as to it being a unifying event for Jehovah’s Witnesses, that is a highly questionable assumption.