“I have calmed and quieted my soul.” – Psalm 131:2
[From ws 10/18 p.27 December 24 – 30]
Not far into reviewing this article I had to apply the example of Psalm 131:2 to myself. It was what I was reading that required this, and the majority of the advice contained in it was no help in applying Psalm 132. You will see why that was the case in what follows.
The experience given in the opening paragraph appears to be a barely disguised attempt to head off any backlash from the hundreds of Bethel members who have been “reassigned” in the last year or two. As admitted in yet another unverifiable experience, after spending 25 years in Bethel service, it was an emotional roller-coaster for the couple to adjust to being “reassigned”.
That is a rather glossy, positive way of describing effectively being made redundant from what they expected to be their job for life. From what we can understand from others with the same experience (based on their YouTube videos), there are also many who haven’t been able to manage such a positive outlook about the experience. It appears, at least on an individual basis, most reassignments were done with very little to no notice being given, and without any type of redundancy package or assistance. A sudden change of this magnitude after 25 years of stability (as in this couple’s case) is not to be underestimated in its devastating effect on people’s emotional well-being.
When sudden shocks like these affect people they commonly ask questions like, Why me? Why now? Perhaps though troubling as it might be for the individuals involved, we need to ask, Why was so large and so sudden a reduction in Bethel numbers required? If the reduction had been planned properly it could have been managed better by natural wastage and with more notice. This would have made the numbers forcibly reassigned much less and made it easier to readjust for those who were. It also begs the question as to why all this was necessary, especially when recruitment of young adult Witnesses to work at Bethel continues?
Whatever the motives behind these changes—good or more cynical—the planning, speed, timing and implementation was very poor. Yet, this is from an Organization that claims to be Christian and directed by Jehovah. If that is so, then why are they acting like some of the more poorly managed “worldly” companies. The claim for it to be the most loving Organization on earth rings hollow.
Experiencing the Peace of God (Par. 3-5)
These paragraphs deal with the trials Joseph suffered. Sadly, to make the point they require the Organization to resort to a common tactic: speculation. To be fair in this case, given that Jehovah blessed Joseph, the speculation is not entirely groundless when it says, “He likely poured out his anguish to Jehovah on more than one occasion. (Ps. 145:18) In response to Joseph’s heartfelt prayers, Jehovah gave him the inner conviction that He would be “with him” in all his trials. —Acts 7:9, 10.”
However, the Bible does not record whether Jehovah gave him the inner conviction that Jehovah was with him, nor how much of his anguish he shared with Jehovah. The real reason for this speculation though, is to give the impression that if we just act like Joseph allegedly did, then Jehovah will put everything right for us today. But this is a totally false premise. The Bible accounts show that Jehovah takes action to ensure his purpose is not thwarted, as he did with Joseph, but otherwise he does not usually interfere with human affairs.
In today’s world, it is unlikely that any Witness needs assistance from Jehovah to avoid His purpose being thwarted. Thus, he has no reason to intervene. Otherwise, we would be saying he arranges beneficial circumstances for those trying to preach, but not for those suffering from terrible illnesses and disabilities, or whose children have gone missing, or those children who are praying for their abuse to stop. The scriptures state that God is not partial, a God of love would not show such partiality in this way.
Turn to Jehovah to regain Inner Peace (Par.6-10)
Paragraph 6 gives another experience triggered by the recent financial contractions of the Organization. It says: “When Ryan and Juliette were informed that their assignment as temporary special pioneers had come to an end, they felt dejected.”
What could have caused such dejection? Is not this dejection a result of the emphasis given by the Organization to so-called privileges of service, which are designed to be desirable and given a feel-good status? As a result, achieving that artificial state of ‘service’ becomes the objective rather than the result of whole-hearted actions. Then when that objective is suddenly removed with little warning it becomes psychologically traumatizing.
This experience really highlights how artificial the states of Service are that the Organization has created. All because Ryan and Juliette’s artificial assignment came to an end, they became dejected. Yet no one was stopping them from continuing to preach and spending the same amount of time doing it. All that had changed was they no longer had an official Organization-created label attached to them, with which to show off to others. Admittedly they may have had to reduce the time spent preaching because they would need to work secularly at least a little so they could pay their own way instead of getting an allowance. But if their focus had always been on doing all they could in their circumstances they still would have been happy as they adjusted to their new circumstances. Indeed, the couple themselves later “realized that we could continue to be useful to Jehovah if we maintained the right attitude.” (Par.7)
Paragraphs 8-10 cover an experience of a couple called Phillip and Mary. Sadly, they had a number of family bereavements and change of circumstances in a short period of time. However, while they may feel personally that Jehovah blessed them with Bible studies, it is an unprovable assumption and just their personal view. If they had not found these Bible Studies (a) their experience would not be told (as it would not be positive and also would not fit the message the Organization wants to deliver) and (b) the Bible does not even suggest that Jehovah would bless anyone with Bible Studies. Rather Ecclesiastes 9:11 says “I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor; because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.”
Jesus also made this plain when he said in Luke 13:4 “Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Si·loʹam fell, thereby killing them, do YOU imagine that they were proved greater debtors than all other men inhabiting Jerusalem?” Yes, time and unforeseen occurrence was responsible for the Bible Studies.
A question to ponder is the following: Did every other Bethelite who was asked to leave, get the same so-called blessings, even if they had as good or better attitude than this couple? It is highly unlikely. This experience is only quoted as it fits the picture the Organization wants to paint. This picture seems to be ‘accept whatever comes your way from us, even though it may be upsetting or unfair, and get busy in preaching and Jehovah will make everything better.’
Give Jehovah something to bless (Par.11-13)
Paragraph 13 gives another platitude. “However, if we remain patient and work hard at making the best of our circumstances, we will give Jehovah something to bless.” Now while that may be true, surely it does depend on what we are being patient about, and what we work hard at. Would Jehovah bless being patient, waiting for man-made hopes to be realized which he did not see fit to put in his word? Especially, if those false hopes are because of following men rather than his word, something which his son Jesus Christ warned about so that we would not be misled? Likewise, working hard at preaching would not be blessed if we preach untruth. Neither would working hard for congregation appointments instead of on Christian qualities.
Stay focused on your Ministry (Par. 14-18)
Paragraph 14 continues to attempt to foster support for Organizational ‘carrots’. Talking about Phillip the evangeliser, it says “At the time, Philip was enjoying a new privilege of service. (Acts 6:1-6)”. Why was it a privilege? Phillip and others were given an important assignment because they were qualified to handle it and had the respect of their fellow Christians. Furthermore, it was a request of men (albeit the Apostles), not a service to God as per tasks connected to Temple worship. Philip and the others had not ‘reached out’ for this ‘privilege’.
Analyzing this event further, Philip and the others were qualified by being “full of holy spirit and wisdom” having the respect of those they would serve. How unlike many appointed men today, who are neither qualified in experience nor holy spirit nor wisdom nor necessarily have the respect of their fellow Christians, but have nonetheless been given ‘privileges of service’ by the Organization, often because of who they know, or because they have jumped through the artificial hoops put in place by the Organization, such as minimum number of hours of field service each month.
Paragraph 17 continues with an experience to push the Organization’s agenda of ministry at all costs. Here, as a contrast to one of the earlier experiences nothing went right for a couple that had to leave Bethel. They had no work and hence no income (and no savings to fall back on) for three months. But according to them being busy preaching instead of busy job hunting helped them not to worry.
Maybe the cost of living is cheap where they were living, but that couldn’t happen in a big city such as Los Angeles or New York or London or most capital cities. Here the cost of food and rent would soon leave them with large debts and homeless on the streets. Also, it would be unlikely any fellow Witness would be well off enough to have an apartment or house with space to offer them to stay.
In contrast to the previous experience in paragraphs 8-10 it seems this couple were not blessed with Bible studies to encourage them, though it seems they were just as worthy, at least by Organization standards. This experience gives a clear reason why it is wrong to suggest that Jehovah blesses ones in these situations, as he didn’t bless them for at least three hard months.
Waiting patiently on Jehovah (Par.19-22)
This last section is a classic case of a scripture taken out of context and turned into a teaching, which in turn actually goes against clear Bible teachings.
The suggestion that waiting on Jehovah to sort out problems we may have, is based mainly on the Read scripture of Micah 7:7 which says “But as for me, it is for Jehovah that I shall keep on the lookout. I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.”
Let us first examine the context:
The first part of the verse says “But as for me, it is for Jehovah I will keep a lookout”. Micah was an appointed prophet of Jehovah. (Today, we are not.) He had been giving Jehovah’s warning messages to the Judeans and Israelites during the reigns of King Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (Micah 1:1). This was between 777 BCE and 717 BCE (WT dating). Because of the rampant wickedness and corruption he was living amidst, he warned God’s people “Do not put YOUR faith in a companion. Do not put YOUR trust in a confidential friend.” (Micah 7:5)
Therefore, rather than put his trust in an unfaithful fellow Israelite, he was going to trust in Jehovah as his companion and confidential friend. But there was no suggestion that he expected Jehovah would fix or sort anything out there and then. Rather the waiting was until God’s due time came for the punishment of both Samaria and Jerusalem (representing their respective kingdoms). What would happen? Micah 7:13 says “And the land must become a desolate waste on account of its inhabitants, because of the fruit of their dealings.”
Now, Micah may have lived to see the destruction of Samaria, a good 20 years later or he may not have. He certainly did not live to see Jerusalem’s punishment by the Babylonians which occurred over a hundred years later.
It is therefore clear that the waiting attitude and the lookout was for Jehovah fulfilling the promises made in the prophecies Micah had been inspired by Holy Spirit to make. He was not expecting Jehovah to intervene for him personally and sort things out for him, yet that is the result the Organization is trying to portray or imply happened.
Sadly, perhaps the worst results of this misapplication of “waiting on Jehovah” is the continued allowance of wicked or bad elders to remain in their positions. This is based on the wrong extrapolation of this principle, i.e. that Jehovah will remove them when it is his time, and that in the meantime, because Jehovah is merciful, so should we be to these wicked people. The only time Jehovah will remove them will be at Armageddon, at his appointed time that we await. Otherwise, in the meantime, it’s down to us.
The other damaging practice this teaching results in is inaction on the part of elders, and sometimes parents and even victims, in the handling of accusations of sexual or physical abuse, particularly of children. Instead of reporting these accusations of sexual or physical abuse to the secular authorities, whom Jehovah has allowed to be in place to deal with such things, what happens is that sometimes naive, but definitely inexpert elders, (appointed by men, not God) try to handle such matters themselves. This just allows the wicked to continue on unexposed and often emboldens them to further abusive actions.
Despite the fact that Jehovah does not personally intervene unless the outworking of his divine purpose is involved, this does not mean Jehovah does not help us at all.
Perhaps the key scripture to take from this article (par.5) is Philippians 4:6-7 which reminds us:
“Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let YOUR petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard YOUR hearts and YOUR mental powers by means of Christ Jesus”.
So, according to this scripture, if we pray, we personally can receive the ‘peace of God’. Here his Holy Spirit gives us a mental calmness and can bring to our minds the scriptural principles we have learnt so that we can deal with a trying situation.
We also need to bear in mind that though he will help us in this way, as Jehovah has allowed all humans to have free will, he does not force others to assist us. Nor does he arrange for others to choose us to have a Bible study with. Neither will he stop others persecuting us, nor arrange for someone to give us a job. Nor will he stop abuse of authority and trust by wicked men. These things are for us to handle and put a stop to where possible.
A Christian’s willingness to forgive where there is sincere repentance doesn’t mean that someone who commits such heinous crimes should go unpunished by “God’s Minister”—the secular authorities. To act this way would make the congregation complicit in such crimes and worse, would make it easier for the offender to victimize others. (Romans 13:1-4)