“O Jehovah, your name endures forever.” – Psalm 135:13
[Study 23 from ws 06/20 p.2 August 3 – August 9, 2020]
The title of this week’s Study article is taken from Matthew 6:9 where Jesus gave what is known as the model prayer. In it he stated “You must pray, then, this way. “Our Father in the heavens let your name be sanctified”.
The Greek word “onoma” translated “name” means “name, character, fame, reputation”, and the Greek word “hagiastheto” translated “sanctified” means “to make holy (special), set apart as holy (special), treat as holy (special)”.
We could, therefore, get a better flavor for the meaning of what Jesus said if we translated it “Our Father in the heavens, let your reputation and character be set apart as special and treated as special”.
In this way, we see the aim of the prayer is for the success of making known God’s reputation and people accepting him as God, as special above anything else. It is not making the literal name Jehovah known, that is an appellation, not reputation or character. It is an interesting point to note that it is not clear exactly what YHWH actually means.[i] [ii]
Is it not reasonable to believe that if God wanted the exact meaning and pronunciation of his name known because it was important to know and say, that he would have ensured the clear survival of these aspects? Yet, he has ensured that as God of the Bible he is still known and his actions, character, reputation are still known. Furthermore, that today hundreds of millions still profess to set the God of the Bible apart as the God they worship and the God they treat as special in their lives.
With this background in view let us review the contents of the study article.
Paragraph 1 opens with “VERY important issues are facing us today—sovereignty and vindication. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we love discussing those fascinating subjects.”.
It would be good to start with really understanding what “sovereignty and vindication” mean.
- “Sovereignty” is the “supreme power or authority” of someone or a body of people over others. [iii]
- “Vindication” is the “action of clearing someone of blame or suspicion” or “proof that someone or something is right, reasonable, or justified.” [iv]
Have you heard any brothers and sisters excitedly talking about Jehovah’s sovereignty or about Jehovah’s vindication? Do Jehovah’s Witnesses really “love discussing those fascinating subjects”? When I think back over the many years I was a Witness, I do not remember ever hearing anyone talking about these topics, other than in a Watchtower Study like this. While I personally talked about many Bible or Watchtower topics, I do not remember this being top of my list. What about yourself?
Can you or I give or take away Jehovah’s sovereignty? No, of course we cannot. The only thing we can do in relation to Jehovah’s sovereignty is show by our actions either that we acknowledge it by obeying his commands or reject it by rebelling against his laws.
Likewise, can you or I vindicate Jehovah, clearing him of blame or suspicion? Or can we provide proof that he is right, reasonable or justified?
As individuals, there is little we can do to clear God from suspicion. Nor can we prove that he is right, reasonable or justified. In fact, for the latter, the best witness and proof would come from God himself.
The paragraph continues “However, it is not as if we would have to contrast God’s sovereignty and the sanctification of his name—as if they were separate matters.” This is a strange sentence. The exercise of supreme authority is a separate matter to clearing one’s name. It should say the rightfulness of his sovereignty is not a separate matter to sanctifying his name. That would make more sense.
What does reproach mean? As a verb “to reproach” it primarily means to find fault with, or blame someone or some group, or to be a cause of blame or discredit to one’s family. As a noun, it means “blame”, “disgrace”. The issue here is primarily you reproach someone else, or you bring reproach on yourself and those closely associated with you, and only you can remove that reproach.
That is why this review takes issue with paragraph 2 when it says “All of us have come to see that God’s name must be cleared of reproach”. There are three problems here.
- Origins: Where has the reproach come from? God has not brought reproach on his own reputation. It has only come, if that is possible, from those closely associated with him.
- Cause: Who are those most strongly associated with Jehovah? Is it not the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses because of claiming to be his spirit-directed Organization? Therefore, by extension that Organization must be responsible for the reproach. It is also therefore their responsibility to clear any reproach that exists.
- Ignoring solutions: There are three simple solutions, but none seem palatable to the Organization.
- Either no longer bear the name Jehovah’s Witnesses, claiming to be his chosen people, thereby distancing themselves somewhat from God’s reputation, moving to the same distance as other religions,
- Or change the policies that cause people to be stumbled or blame Jehovah God for allowing such things. For example,
- the shunning policy,
- or the hiding of domestic and child abuse within the Organization. Ironically this is done on the basis that making it known would bring reproach on Jehovah’s name when actually the dishonest hiding and maltreatment of victims is bringing more and more reproach
- or the refusal to allowing the free exercising of the individual’s conscience on many matters including blood transfusions, and higher education. If the decisions were truly up to a person’s individual conscience in these matters then any reproach would be on the individuals, and not on Jehovah God’s reputation.
- Or ideally both (a) and (b).
Hence, it is hypocritical of the Organization to imply it is so concerned with God’s reputation. As of the time of writing the Organization has failed to join the redress scheme set up by the Australian Government for Child Abuse victims. See https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jul/01/six-groups-fail-to-join-australias-national-child-abuse-redress-scheme
Yes, they are one of only four who have failed to join out of so many that have joined up. The latest list of those who agreed to participate in the compensation scheme is here https://www.nationalredress.gov.au/institutions/institutions-intending
The guilty list including the Organization as at 21/7/2020 is here https://www.nationalredress.gov.au/institutions/institutions-have-not-yet-joined
The reasons given are because “The Jehovah’s Witnesses have not sponsored any programs or activities that separate children from their parents at any time,” it said in a statement to AAP.
The statement said the Jehovah’s Witnesses did not operate boarding or Sunday schools, did not have youth groups, choirs or sponsor any programs for children, nor run youth centers.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses simply do not have the institutional settings that result in children being taken into their care, custody, supervision, control, or authority.”
So, the obligatory field service meetings before participating in field service, where children are often placed with others, not their parents, is not an institutional setting?
For a further fine balanced discussion on “Bringing Reproach on Jehovah’s Name” see https://avoidjw.org/en/doctrine/bringing-reproach-jehovahs-name/
Paragraphs 5-7 discuss “the Importance of a Name”, where it brings out that it is really a reputation that is important. As Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great wealth; To be respected is better than silver and gold”.
Paragraphs 8-12 deals with “How the Name was first slandered”.
Paragraphs 13-15 briefly looks at “Jehovah sanctifies his Name”.
Overall, the study article perpetuates the ongoing issue, that is that too much focus is put on the actual name Jehovah, rather than Jehovah’s reputation in the publications and media produced by the Organization. This can be seen in the footnote which says “On occasion, our publications have taught that Jehovah’s name does not need to be vindicated because no one has called into question his right to bear that name. [NOTE: the focus on the actual name] However, a clarified understanding was presented at the 2017 annual meeting. The chairman stated: “Simply put, it’s not wrong to say that we pray for the vindication of Jehovah’s name because his reputation certainly needs to be exonerated.” [NOTE: Again, ‘name’ is given prominence and ‘reputation’ takes second place]
The final paragraphs 16-20 examines “Your role in the Great Issue”.
“Despite being in a world full of people who slander and blaspheme Jehovah’s name, you have the opportunity to stand up and speak the truth—that Jehovah is holy, righteous, good, and loving.”(par.16)
Paragraph 17 tells us “we follow the example of Jesus Christ. (John 17:26) Jesus made his Father’s name known not only by using that name but also by defending Jehovah’s reputation. For example, he contradicted the Pharisees, who in various ways painted Jehovah as harsh, demanding, distant, and merciless. Jesus helped people to see his Father as being reasonable, patient, loving, and forgiving”.
Did Jesus refuse to speak to the Pharisees? No, he tried to help them, he did not shun them, that would have been counterproductive. Would Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea, both Pharisees, have put faith in him, if Jesus had shunned them for leaving the correct worship of Jehovah? Luke 18:15-17 shows how kindly Jesus treated children and listened to them. Do we think Jesus would have ignored them if they told him they had been abused?
Yes, regardless of what the Organization tells us, let us be determined to tell the truth at all times, including in court. Also, let us be prepared not to hide matters that should be reported to the governmental authorities. The Catholic faith is hardly heard of these days in connection with child abuse. Because it no longer happens? No, but rather because they are prepared to apologize to victims and make serious efforts to stop further recurrence, obeying the secular authorities to adopt best practices. By contrast, the Organization is still in denial and has procedures not fit for purpose and far inferior to other institutions and religions.
Why are they doing this? Is the problem even more serious than we are aware of? They should be remembering the maxim “Truth will out”.[v]
[i] https://www.thetorah.com/article/yhwh-the-original-arabic-meaning-of-the-name This is a very interesting discussion on the topic, with the exception of accepting the fallacy that camels were not domesticated at the time of Joseph.
[ii] The current NWT (2013) says this in appendix A4 “What is the meaning of the name Jehovah? In Hebrew, the name Jehovah comes from a verb that means “to become,” and a number of scholars feel that it reflects the causative form of that Hebrew verb. Thus, the understanding of the New World Bible Translation Committee is that God’s name means “He Causes to Become.” Scholars hold varying views, so we cannot be dogmatic about this meaning. However, this definition well fits Jehovah’s role as the Creator of all things and the Fulfiller of his purpose. He not only caused the physical universe and intelligent beings to exist, but as events unfold, he continues to cause his will and purpose to be realized.
Therefore, the meaning of the name Jehovah is not limited to the related verb found at Exodus 3:14, which reads: “I Will Become What I Choose to Become” or, “I Will Prove to Be What I Will Prove to Be.” In the strictest sense, those words do not fully define God’s name. Rather, they reveal an aspect of God’s personality, showing that he becomes what is needed in each circumstance to fulfill his purpose. So while the name Jehovah may include this idea, it is not limited to what he himself chooses to become. It also includes what he causes to happen with regard to his creation and the accomplishment of his purpose.”
The older Reference Bible (Rbi8) of 1984 which is the Bible used in these reviews unless otherwise stated, gave a definitive meaning and states in Appendix 1A “Jehovah” (Heb., יהוה, YHWH), God’s personal name, first occurs in Ge 2:4. The divine name is a verb, the causative form, the imperfect state, of the Hebrew verb הוה (ha·wahʹ, “to become”). Therefore, the divine name means “He Causes to Become.” This reveals Jehovah as the One who, with progressive action, causes himself to become the Fulfiller of promises, the One who always brings his purposes to realization. See Ge 2:4 ftn, “Jehovah”; App 3C. Compare Ex 3:14 ftn.”
[iii] Definition from Oxford Languages
[iv] Definition from Oxford Languages
[v] Roger North in 1740 “Early or late, Truth will out”. Shakespeare in the Merchant of Venice 2.2 “Truth will come to light”