“Who is blind as the one rewarded, or blind as the servant of Jehovah?”– Isaiah 42:19 –
Just imagine the wonderful privilege that the apostles had of personally associating with Jesus on a daily basis; traveling with him; being with him on social occasions and listening to him masterfully silence the Pharisees and other critics. What an honor to be able to ask Jesus any question that they might have on their mind and he would answer!
When Jesus gave the most inspiring sermon ever given—the Sermon on the Mount—they were there.
They were on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus roused himself from sleep in the storm-tossed little fishing boat, and when he, with a mere word, instantly calmed the tempestuous wind and waves! .
When Jesus’ very word would make the demons shiver in fright; open the ears of the deaf; give sight to the blind, and even wake the dead from their slumber, the apostles were at his side. They were eyewitnesses to so many amazing things that Christ said and did that John was later moved to write that he supposed that all the books in the world could not contain the detailed account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ!
However, in spite of having Jesus as their personal tutor, the modern reader of the gospel accounts cannot help but be struck by how unenlightened the apostles seemed to be at times. While they had the privilege of speaking directly with Jesus, he also frequently rebuked them. Take, for example, the fact that Jesus plainly spoke to the apostles on numerous occasions about his impending death and resurrection, yet for some reason they simply could not grasp what he was telling them.
In the 16th chapter of Matthew, Jesus asked the apostles who they thought he was. Peter responded positively and said that Jesus was the Son of the living God, to which Jesus acknowledged that his Father was responsible for revealing that to them. But shortly after that, the account says: “From that time forward Jesus Christ commenced showing his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things, and be killed, and on the third day be raised up. At that Peter took him aside and commenced rebuking him, saying: ‘Be kind to yourself, Lord; you will not have this destiny at all.’”
What a humiliation for Peter to presume to counsel Jesus Christ in this matter, as if Jesus did not know what he was talking about when he spoke of his impending death, especially since Christians living some 2,000 years after Christ recognize that the death and resurrection of Jesus is the very cornerstone of the Christian faith. So the question has to be asked how the apostles could have been so blind to the truth. The question is not merely an academic exercise. The answer is most relevant to the situation Jehovah’s Witnesses find themselves in today.
The reason the apostles just could not comprehend what Jesus was teaching when he spoke so plainly of his death and resurrection is because it was not Jehovah’s will that they understand at that time. Consider what Luke 9:43-45 states in this regard: “Now as they were all marveling at all the things he was doing, he said to his disciples: ‘Give lodgment to these words in your ears, for the Son of man is destined to be delivered into the hands of men.’ But they continued without understanding of this saying. In fact it was concealed from them that they might not see through it, and they were afraid to question him about this saying.”
In view of that statement, two very important questions arise: First—why could not the apostles understand something that seems so elementary and straightforward to Christians today? Secondly, why did God apparently conceal this vital truth from the apostles when previously Jesus had commented that his Father had revealed the vital truth to them that he was the Christ? What purpose was served by their enforced ignorance?
No doubt the primary reason that the apostles could not grasp Jesus’ teaching in regards to his death is because they had preconceived ideas based upon their limited knowledge of the prophecies that dealt with the Messiah. They imagined that Jesus was literally going to sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem. That misunderstanding made it impossible for them to comprehend the greater spiritual reality; namely, that the heir to the throne of David was going to reign from a heavenly Jerusalem and not from any literal city on earth. All that the apostles knew and believed was that Jesus was the heir and rightful king, the Son of God—which, admittedly, was certainly more than the Jewish establishment was willing to accept. But, since the Hebrew prophecies foretold that the messianic descendant of King David was going to reign forever over all nations, the talk of Jesus’ death did not make any sense to them at the time. So, it was their own erroneous ideas and lack of vision that prevented them from understanding that Jesus had to die.
However, after Jesus was resurrected he fully opened up their minds, even as Luke 24:27 says: “And commencing at Moses and all the Prophets he interpreted to them things pertaining to himself in all the Scriptures.”
But, the question remains as to why Jehovah did not see fit to lift the veil of ignorance that shrouded the apostles before Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Besides their preconceived notions, another reason had to do with the apostles’ own lack of faith. That is why in the preceding verse Jesus rebuked them again, saying: “O senseless ones and slow in heart to believe on all the things the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into his glory?”
Matthew 28:17 reveals that some of the apostles doubted, even when they were in the very presence of their resurrected Lord! It should serve as a humbling lesson to all Christians that Jesus described his closest disciples—the very foundation stones of his congregation—as being “senseless and slow in heart to believe on all the things the prophets spoke.”
Another reason the apostles had to have their faith tested is because Satan demanded that such a test be made of those whom Jehovah had chosen to rule the universe with Christ. That is why Jesus explained to Peter on the night of his betrayal and arrest that Satan had especially demanded to have the apostles, to ‘sift them as wheat.’ Jesus reassured Peter, though, that he had supplicated Jehovah in their behalf in order that their faith might not give out under test.
Peter could therefore speak from experience when he later wrote about Christians “being grieved by various trials, in order that the tested quality of your faith may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Satan’s demand appears to be the primary reason Jehovah concealed the reality of the death of Christ from the otherwise enlightened apostles. And what a test it was! When faced with the accusation of having been associated with Jesus Peter three times denied even knowing the man.
Without question with the establishment of Christianity, the quality of each Christian’s faith and depth of devotion to God became the focus of the Devil’s accusations. Before the universal issue is settled with finality, every servant of God must face some sort of trial that can only be surmounted by faith. God is pleased to allow his servants to prove their faith under trial in order to silence the Accuser.
Now, the question to be considered here is this: If Jehovah saw fit to allow so severe a test of faith to befall the original followers of Christ, why should anyone suppose that Christians living at the tumultuous time of Christ’s return will somehow be exempt from such tests?
HE HAS COVERED YOUR HEADS, THE VISIONARIES
Just as certain vital truths were concealed from the apostles, the prophecies reveal that it also serves the divine purpose to allow a similar “operation of error” to have its work complete with true Christians during the parousia. In this regard Jehovah has determined that his own people shall be stupefied as with intoxicating liquor, so as to be blind to the very outworking of his grand purpose in connection with them. Isaiah 29:9-10 reads: “Linger, you men, and be amazed; blind yourselves, and be blinded. They have become intoxicated, but not with wine; they have moved unsteadily, but not because of intoxicating liquor. For upon you men Jehovah has poured a spirit of deep sleep; and he closes your eyes, the prophets, and he has covered even your heads, the visionaries.”
Although intoxicated with their own knowledge and supposed importance as God’s appointed spokesmen, from Jehovah’s standpoint the leading men of Ariel are as unreasoning as an inebriate. And it should be noted that the scripture does not say that God closes the eyes of those who merely claim to be his prophets and visionaries. Nor does it say that they are necessarily false prophets and valueless visionaries, although elsewhere in prophecy they are described as such. After all, though, the apostles served as spokesmen and prophets when they were first commissioned by Jesus to announce that the kingdom of God had drawn near; nevertheless, Jehovah was pleased to temporarily conceal from them the vital truth as regards Jesus’ sacrificial death.
Reasonably, then, God also recognizes the “prophets” and “visionaries” of Isaiah’s prophecy as his servants; but following the pattern that was established in connection with the pre-Pentecost apostles and disciples, Jehovah has likewise concealed the meaning of the recorded prophetic visions from his otherwise enlightened servants, until such time as he is pleased to unveil the truth to those with faith. The context of the prophecy in the 29th chapter of Isaiah has to do with Jehovah making things difficult for his servant Ariel; allowing him to suffer mourning and lamentation, before finally redeeming him from calamity. The reason that God allows such a judgment is stated in the 13th verse, which reads: “And Jehovah says: ‘For the reason that this people have come near with their mouth, and they have glorified me merely with their lips, and they have removed their heart itself far away from me, and their fear toward me becomes men’s commandment that is being taught.’”
Only God can read the secrets of the human heart and only he is in a position to determine if our hearts are complete towards him. It matters not how we may judge ourselves; it is God’s judgment that counts. That is why Paul stated at 1 Corinthians 4:4: “For I am not conscious of anything against myself. Yet by this I am not proved righteous, but he that examines me is Jehovah.”
As an example of Jehovah’s penetrating foresight and insight, Jesus quoted the prophecy of Isaiah and applied it to the Jews, when he said: “You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you, when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from me.’”
The Jews had corrupted God’s law by turning it into mere human tradition. But, the point is that the Jews were God’s people at the time—they were his servants. Yet, the context indicates the prophecy primarily applies to spiritual Israel, as Jesus merely applied the principle to the Jews of his day.
In reality, the judgment applies most aptly to Jehovah’s Witnesses today. How so? Well, who else glorifies Jehovah with their mouths? The clerics and parishioners of Christendom certainly have not honored the name of Jehovah. Far from it! They refuse to even acknowledge that Jehovah is God. Translators of the Bible have even gone so far as to expunge the sacred name of God from their versions of the Bible—substituting God’s unique personal name with generic terms like Lord and God. They have dishonored Jehovah with their nonsensical Trinity and other babylonish religious doctrines and practices.
On the other hand, though, Jehovah’s Witnesses glorify Jehovah “with their lips” by speaking about God in an organized public ministry and within the congregations. Be that as it may, from God’s lofty vantage point he evidently discerns that the fear of him has degenerated into following mere human commandments. Indeed, who can deny that Jehovah’s Witnesses place great emphasis on closely adhering to organizational procedures and policies emanating from the Watchtower?
Unquestionably, the Watchtower is the very heart and soul of the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Equally undeniable is that Jehovah’s Witnesses are more the agents and representatives of the Watchtower Society and far less so the actual ministers of Jehovah. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not only instructed as to what to say in the ministry, but how to say it as well. Bethel determines virtually every aspect of faith to such an extent that it is not at all unusual to hear Jehovah’s Witnesses cite the authority of ‘The Society,’ as opposed to the authority of the Bible or Jehovah God himself. With no hint of irony, the Society has even instructed Jehovah’s Witnesses not to say ‘the Society says…’ It is no wonder that outsiders and ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses alike view Jehovah’s Witnesses as the victims of a brainwashed cult.
It is true that Paul counseled Christians to be obedient to those taking the lead among them; but the apostle was also aware of the prevailing tendency among Christians to become mere followers of men. Some of the Corinthians had even declared themselves to belong to Paul, others to Peter and Apollos. Are Christians today any less inclined to follow men or an organization? Clearly, the answer is no. That being the case, and in view of the all-imposing role that the Organization plays in the lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the question is whether Jehovah’s Witnesses are actually devoted to Jehovah God and are really following in the footsteps of Christ or whether they are mere followers of men.
What is to be the end for those who merely honor Jehovah with their lips but whose hearts are far removed from him? That is exactly what the remainder of the 29th chapter of Isaiah is about. The 14th verse states that God “will act wonderfully again with this people, in a wonderful manner and with something wonderful; and the wisdom of their wise men must perish, and the very understanding of their discreet men will conceal itself.”
If the judgment of Isaiah applies to Christendom, how is it that God is to “act wonderfully again with this people”? It should be considered a good thing if God acts toward someone in a “wonderful manner.” Since the entire context of Isaiah outlines how Jehovah will bring about a restoration of heart for his people, it must be concluded that “their discreet men,” those whose wisdom “must perish” in the face of God’s judgment, is none other than the faithful and discreet slave class. That such is the case is evident from verses 15-16, which say: “Woe to those who are going very deep in concealing counsel from Jehovah himself, and whose deeds have occurred in a dark place, while they say: ‘Who is seeing us, and who is knowing of us?’ The perversity of you men! Should the potter himself be accounted just like the clay? For should the thing made say respecting its maker: ‘He did not make me’? And does the very thing formed actually say respecting its former: ‘He showed no understanding?’”
Jehovah God is the master Potter, the wise Maker and Former of Israel for his own glory. It is sheer perversity for any lowly creature animated from mere mud to question why it would suit God’s purpose to bring hardship and confusion upon his own beloved spiritual organization. It is significant that the apostle Paul quoted from the illustration of the potter and the clay and applied it to Christians in the first century who might foolishly question the way God deals with his people to accomplish his purpose. Logically then, “those who are going very deep in concealing counsel from Jehovah himself” can only be those who are in a position to give Jehovah’s counsel in the first place. Thus, Jehovah’s pre-recorded rebuke seems to be directed toward those, who, in modern times, have gone to great lengths to prop up the fictitious doctrine that Christ returned in 1914 and that he has already set matters straight within the house of God.
In spite of the collective wisdom and knowledge of the Watchtower Society, when it comes to understanding the judgments of Jehovah contained in prophecy the Society’s discreet men and organizational seers may as well be illiterate. There is no greater testament to their interpretational illiteracy and blindness than what is contained in the Watchtower’s own commentary of Isaiah.
Although Bethel would never admit to being blind or ignorant it is apparent that the following portion of prophecy most aptly fits them: “And for you men the vision of everything becomes like the words of the book that has been sealed up, which they give to someone knowing the writing, saying: ‘Read this out loud, please,’ and he has to say: ‘I am unable, for it is sealed up’; and the book must be given to someone that does not know writing, somebody saying: ‘Read this out loud, please,’ and he has to say: ‘I do not know writing at all.’”
Just as the apostles’ assumptions stumbled them,” so too, the Watchtower’s cocksureness that Christ began ruling the world in 1914 virtually insures that Jehovah’s Witnesses will be confronted with a severe test of faith when Christ actually arrives. And precisely at that critical moment the prophecies indicate that Jehovah’s earthly mouthpiece will silenced. Isaiah 29:4 foretells: “And you must become low so that you will speak from the very earth, and as from the dust your saying will sound low. And like a spirit medium your voice must become even from the earth, and from the dust your own saying will chirp.”
Jehovah cryptically describes his organizational servant, Ariel, as being brought low, so that his voice becomes ghostlike—as if arising from the dust in a faint whisper from beyond the grave. By such imagery God is foretelling that the once robust voice of his Christian servant will become muted during the judgment. Since Jehovah’s Witnesses have come to accept that the Watchtower is the earthly mouthpiece of Jehovah’s organization, Ariel’s chirping from the dust means that Christ’s faithful and discreet slave will become speechless, as if afflicted with aphasia.
Only then will God open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the spiritually deaf. Not by means of any earthly agency, but directly by means of Christ Jesus, as foretold at Isaiah 29:18: “And in that day the deaf ones will certainly hear the words of the book, and out of the gloom and out of the darkness even the eyes of the blind ones will see. And the meek ones will certainly increase their rejoicing in Jehovah himself, and even the poor ones of mankind will be joyful in the Holy one of Israel himself…”
If the meek ones are to “increase their rejoicing in Jehovah himself,” of necessity that means that the meek have rejoiced in Jehovah prior to their having their eyes and ears opened— just not to the fullest extent.
The 29th chapter of Isaiah concludes with Jehovah accomplishing his purpose in connection with his erring people by personally instructing them—finishing their training. And just as the apostles finally had their blinded eyes pried open after Christ’s resurrection, in the same way “Jacob” is reassured that his children, the other sheep, will finally come to know God and fully understand the truth: “For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in the midst of him, they will sanctify my name, and they will certainly sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and the God of Israel they will regard with awe. And those erring in their spirit will actually get to know understanding, and even those who are grumbling will learn instruction.”
“MY OWN IDOL HAS DONE THEM”
The 48th chapter of Isaiah similarly explains that Jehovah has concealed a considerable body of scriptural truth from his people, keeping it in reserve until a future time of revelation. Isaiah 48:6-7 speaks from a future point in time, as if from a time capsule, saying: “You have heard. Behold it all. As for you people, will you not tell it? I have made you hear new things from the present time, even things kept in reserve, that you have not known. At the present time they must be created, and not from that time, even things that before today you have not heard, that you may not say, ‘Look! I have already known them.’”
What purpose is served by Jehovah concealing matters from his servants? The fifth verse explains that it is in order “that you might not say, ‘My own idol has done them, and my own carved image and my own molten image have commanded them.’” That Jehovah withholds light from his people in order to discredit the Watchtower idol is evident from the 11th verse, which goes on to say: “For my own sake, for my own sake shall I act, for how could one let oneself be profaned? And to no one else shall I give my own glory.”
Because the Watchtower immodestly takes credit for revealing all truth, God has seen fit to withhold vital revelations in order to discredit the all-knowing, all-seeing idol. During the period of distress and affliction, Jehovah then becomes King by repurchasing his humiliated servants and revealing the things held in reserve directly to them.
Now for the questions posed in the title and caption of this chapter, taken from Isaiah 42:19, which reads: “Who is blind, if not my servant, and who is deaf as the messenger whom I send? Who is blind as the one rewarded, or blind as the servant of Jehovah?” What is the answer?
Well, to whom is God speaking in the 20th verse, which says: “It was a case of seeing many things, but you did not keep watching. It was a case of opening the ears, but you did not keep listening.” Jehovah’s Witnesses certainly give evidence of having had the privilege “of seeing many things”—even many deep and hidden things from God’s Word. And Jehovah’s Witnesses boast of being “in the truth” and of having their ears opened to hear the truth. But, just as God holds things in reserve in order that his people may not continue to brag that their idol has already revealed it to them, the verse preceding God’s series of questions at Isaiah 42:18-20 also reveals that the underlying reason for the blindness of his servants is because they are idolaters. The 17th verse reads: “They must be turned back, they will be very much ashamed, those who are putting trust in the carved image, those who are saying to amolten image: ‘You are our gods.’”
God’s purpose is to cause his people to “be turned back” from their organizational idolatry so as to worship and trust God exclusively.
Now, as regards the answer to the searching rhetorical questions God poses as to who is blind as the servant of Jehovah; when Jehovah himself becomes king the only answer that a humble servant can possibly offer to God in reply is: ‘No one, Father. No one is as deaf as your own messengers. No one is as blind as your servant. None are as blind as Jehovah’s Witnesses!’