[From ws 10/18 p. 22 – December 17 – December 23]
“Your Leader is one, the Christ.” — Matthew 23:10
[With grateful thanks to Nobleman for his assistance for the vast majority of the article this week]
Paragraphs 1 and 2 open the article with Jehovah’s words to Joshua at Joshua 1:1-2. The opening paragraphs have elements of speculation. Take for instance the following:
Paragraph 1: “What a sudden change for Joshua, who had been Moses’ attendant for almost 40 years!”
Paragraph 2: “Because Moses had been Israel’s leader for so long, Joshua may have wondered how God’s people would respond to his leadership.”
It is true that Moses had led Jehovah’s people for a long time, almost 40 years. However, it is untruthful to say that Jehovah’s instructing of Joshua to lead his people was sudden.
Here are a few scriptures which clearly highlight the fact that the change from Moses to Joshua was not unexpected:
“Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel, saying to them: “I am 120 years old today. I can no longer lead you, for Jehovah has said to me, ‘You will not cross this Jordan. Jehovah your God is the one crossing before you, and he himself will annihilate these nations before you, and you will drive them away. Joshua is the one who will lead you across, just as Jehovah has spoken.” – (Deuteronomy 31: 1 – 3)
“Moses then called Joshua and said to him before the eyes of all Israel: “Be courageous and strong, for you [bold ours] are the one who will bring this people into the land that Jehovah swore to their forefathers to give to them, and you [bold ours] will give it to them as an inheritance. Jehovah is the one marching before you, and he will continue with you. He will neither desert you nor abandon you. Do not be afraid or be terrified.””- (Deuteronomy 31: 7, 8)
Moses had reassured Joshua and the Israelites before his death that Jehovah would be with them and had affirmed Joshua as God’s chosen leader in front of the whole assembly of Israel. There was nothing sudden about the instruction at Joshua 1:1-2.
Furthermore, we find no suggestion that Joshua had any doubts about how the Israelites would respond to his leadership, because Jehovah further reassures Joshua that He is with him in verse 9 of Joshua 1.
Why then does the writer include these remarks in the opening paragraphs?
You may be wondering, ‘What does Joshua’s example have to do with putting trust in Christ and His leadership?’
The answer of course would be that it has nothing to do with putting trust in Christ. The Watchtower article only begins to discuss Christ’s leadership in paragraph 10. With that in mind let us continue with the review.
Paragraph 4 states the following:
“With Jehovah’s help, Israel successfully navigated the transition from Moses’ leadership to that of Joshua. We too are living in times of historic change, and we may wonder, ‘As God’s organization is rapidly moving forward, do we have good reasons to trust in Jesus as our appointed Leader?’ (Read Matthew 23:10.) Well, consider how Jehovah provided trustworthy leadership in the past during times of change.”
The reference to Joshua in the opening paragraphs now becomes clear. The paragraph attempts to establish two things:
- Firstly, create the premise that we live in “times of historic change” as in Joshua’s case.
- Secondly, use the example of Joshua being appointed by Jehovah to lead the Israelites as grounds to establish that Jesus has appointed the Governing Body to lead his people in modern times.
For a more comprehensive discussion on whether we are living in “times of historic change” or the “Last Days” as the Organisation often refers to it, please refer to the following article on this site: “The Last Days Revisited”.
LEADING GOD’S PEOPLE INTO CANAAN
Paragraphs 6 reads:
“Joshua received clear instructions from the angelic Leader on how to take the city of Jericho. At first, some of the instructions may not have appeared to be a good strategy. For instance, Jehovah commanded that all the men be circumcised, which would leave them indisposed for several days. Was it really the right time to circumcise those able-bodied men? ”
The paragraph again speculates about how the Israelites may have perceived the Angel’s direction at Joshua 5:2 for the men of Israel to be circumcised. Joshua 5:1 states the following: “As soon as all the kings of the Amʹor·ites who were on the west side of the Jordan and all the kings of the Caʹnaan·ites who were by the sea heard that Jehovah had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the Israelites until they had crossed over, they lost heart, and they lost all courage because of the Israelites.”
The nations surrounding the Israelites had lost “all courage” because they had seen Jehovah’s miraculous power when the Israelites crossed the Jordan. Therefore, the thought raised in paragraph 7 that the Israelite soldiers were “defenseless” and likely wondered how they would protect their family seems to have no grounding in any Scripture, but is pure speculation.
Paragraph 8 again introduces more speculation about how the Israelite soldiers may have felt:
“In addition, the Israelites were commanded not to attack Jericho but to march around the city once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. Some soldiers may have thought, ‘What a waste of time and energy”.
Again, no scriptural reference is made for such speculation.
Paragraph 9 now asks the question: “What can we learn from this account?” The question that should be asked is “What can we learn from the speculative thoughts raised in the previous paragraphs?” based on the statements that follow:
“We may not at times fully comprehend the reasons for new initiatives put forth by the organization. For example, we may at first have questioned the use of electronic devices for personal study, in the ministry, and at the meetings. Now we likely realize the benefits of using them if possible. When we see the positive results of such advancements despite any doubts we might have had, we grow in faith and unity.” (Par. 9)
It is difficult to imagine that such a powerful passage of scripture only teaches us about comprehending “new initiatives” put forth by the organisation. There are so many rich lessons we can learn from how Jehovah lead the Israelites and showed His miraculous saving power on their behalf. For instance, we can learn about the importance of having faith in Jehovah through Rahab’s example and how her faith in Jehovah saved her life despite her sinful state (she was a known prostitute).
Those who had attended Elders and Ministerial Servants meetings with the Circuit Overseer when Tablets first became popular among publishers may recall that the initial directive given to Circuit Overseers was that no electronic devices were to be used by the brothers when giving talks. This directive was subsequently reversed only 18 months later. It is therefore very misleading for the organisation to claim they had put electronic devices forth as a “new initiative”. The Organisation simply adapted to the changes which were taking place globally.
CHRIST’S LEADERSHIP IN THE FIRST CENTURY
Paragraphs 10 – 12 highlight the circumcision issue which arose as a result of some Jewish Christians promoting circumcision as necessary for salvation. Paragraph 12 mentions several reasons why some Jewish believers may have needed time to come to terms with the fact that circumcision was no longer a requirement.
Paragraph 10 attempts to reinforce the unscriptural teaching that there was an appointed governing body in Jerusalem. Acts 15:1-2 cited shows that some Christians came to Antioch from Judea teaching circumcision was required of Gentiles. Jerusalem was the center of the region of Judea, and this was where the majority of the Apostles still were, and this was where those teaching circumcision had come from. It therefore made sense for Paul, Barnabas and others to go to Jerusalem to sort out this issue. The discussion was initially with the congregation, and the apostles and older men (Acts 15:4). When some spoke up to reinforce that circumcision and the law of Moses was required, then the apostles and older men gathered in private to discuss it further (Acts 15:6-21). When this group had discussed the main points with the congregation again, then they all, including the congregation, agreed on what to do. In the Scriptures, there is no concept of a governing body, especially one that rules over and directs the worldwide congregation. The Apostles and older men acted as peace makers, not as rule makers.
In attempting to show the existence of a governing body, paragraph 10 is attempting to lay a precedent to support the claim from paragraph 13 onward that Christ is still leading his congregation through a governing body. This claim has even less basis than that which the Catholic Church makes regarding the Popes.
CHRIST IS STILL LEADING HIS CONGREGATION
Paragraph 13 reads:
“When we do not fully understand the reasons for some organizational changes, we do well to reflect on how Christ exercised his leadership in the past.”
Many Organisational changes have no bearing on Christ’s leadership or His purpose. For instance, the change in the number of Watchtowers published for the public or the change in the location of the Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses has no spiritual significance. Most Organisational changes are usually functional in nature. The only changes where reflection is required, are changes related to scriptural teachings. Where such teachings are doctrinal and not based on scripture, we would reflect on how the first century Christians and Apostles rejected any false teachings.
Paragraphs 14-16 attempt to show Christ is behind organization changes, but as usual gives no proof or indication of the mechanism that could accomplish this. Nor why if the new arrangements are so brilliant, why they were not done from the beginning.
LOYALLY UPHOLDING CHRIST’S DIRECTION
Paragraph 18 again makes an unsubstantiated claim. The last sentence speaks about “Christ’s concern to use the organization’s resources wisely”. Why would Christ be concerned about reducing the literature printed for the publishers and the public to use, but not have the same concern for how organisational resources are used when building state of the art Headquarters and Branch offices?
Paragraph 19 seems to suggest that Jesus is behind the directive to reduce the number of Bethelites globally. Again, no evidence of this is presented for the assertion made.
In conclusion, the Watchtower has not demonstrated scripturally how we can Put trust in Christ in a manner that can strengthen our faith. The focus of the article has been to create the impression that all Organisational changes are led by Christ and therefore we should readily accept them.