“Who is wise, that he may understand these things? Discreet, that he may know them?” -Hosea 14:9 –
Marital infidelity is an all-too-common social problem—even among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Adultery is the subject of countless love-gone-wrong songs, tawdry novels and dramas. Other than the actual death of a loved one, there is probably nothing as emotionally devastating to the innocent mate and family as matrimonial unfaithfulness and betrayal. It might be supposed that the heartbreak associated with the unfaithfulness of a spouse is confined to the human experience; however, through the prophet Hosea, God relates his own inner feelings in such familiar human terms it allows us to appreciate that Jehovah also intimately knows the pain of a broken heart caused by the unfaithfulness of someone whom he loves very dearly. .
But, who could possibly break Jehovah’s heart? And how does God intend to remedy the distressing situation? Can there be any reconciliation in this type of estrangement? And, how does this extraordinary case of infidelity involve you? These questions will be considered and answered from the book of Hosea.
The Watchtower featured the book of Hosea in a symposium at the 2004 Walk With God District Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. While adding valuable historical insights, predictably the Watchtower’s exposition of the prophetic significance of Hosea woefully distorts and ultimately conceals the vital message contained in the prophecy. For good reason, then, Jehovah poses the rhetorical question in the very last verse of Hosea: “Who is wise, that he may understand these things? Discreet, that he may know them?”
In the opening verse of Hosea, Jehovah commands his prophet, saying to him: “Go, take to yourself a wife of fornication and children of fornication, because by fornication the land positively turns from following Jehovah.”
Jehovah’s intimate spiritual relationship with his people carries the same dynamics of emotions as a human marriage. By comparing his covenanted relationship to his organization of worshippers with that of a husband and wife in the sacred covenant of marriage, humans can better appreciate the resentment God must feel over the unfaithfulness of his people. By likening the nation of Israel to a cheating wife and himself to an offended and heartbroken lover, the prophecy of Hosea presents an all-too-familiar picture. To further drive home the point, Jehovah again commands Hosea: “Go once again, love a woman loved by a companion and committing adultery, as in the case of Jehovah’s love for the sons of Israel while they are turning to other gods and are loving raisin cakes.”
Only God is qualified to judge whether his people are actually honoring him whole-heartedly. Human opinion has no bearing on God’s judgment. Being a jealous God who demands and rightly deserves exclusive devotion, Jehovah rejects halfhearted devotion or divided affections from his worshippers. Jehovah confesses his love for the “sons of Israel,” but it is they, who, like an adulterous wife, betray his love by worshipping other gods and loving the raisin cakes offered in sacrifice to their false gods. Hence, Jehovah says: “Do not rejoice, O Israel. Do not act joyful like the peoples. For by fornication you have gone from alongside your God.”
While Jehovah’s Witnesses are well aware that through the prophets God unflatteringly compares the nation of Israel to an adulterous wife, due to their practicing various forms of idolatry and for their faithlessly forging alliances with the surrounding nations; however, the Watchtower always applies such comparisons to modern-day Christendom. But, is that really the way the prophecy was intended to be understood? If so, why does Jehovah repeatedly confess his love for the nation and call them “my people”; even urging them to return to him?
Upon closer examination, as presented here, the prophecy of Hosea is indisputably directed to the genuine Christian congregation. If that is not the case, then why does Paul partially quote the following verse from the first chapter of Hosea and apply it to the anointed congregation of Israel? “And the number of the sons of Israel must become like the grains of the sand of the sea that cannot be measured or numbered. And it must occur that in the place in which it used to be said to them, ‘you men are not my people,’ it will be said to them, ‘The sons of the living God.’”
But how can it be that the sons of God are those who have ultimately broken Jehovah’s heart by their acts of unfaithfulness? Indeed, how can the formal worship practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses today possibly compare to the crude form of idolatry and baalism practiced by the ancient Israelites, which Jehovah likened to spiritual prostitution?
It must be recognized that idolatry comes in many forms. For example, after receiving the awe-inspiring apocalypse, the apostle John nearly succumbed to a form of idolatry when he twice attempted to prostrate himself before an angel. We read at Revelation 22:8-9: “Well, I John was the one hearing and seeing these things. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel that had been showing me these things. But he tells me: ‘Be careful! Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave of you and of your brothers who are prophets and of those who are observing the words of this scroll. Worship God.’”
Idolatry can take even subtler forms than that. First, though, consider the definition of idolatry as stated in the Insight on the Scriptures volume under the heading of Idolatry:
“An idol is an image, a representation of anything, or a symbol that is an object of passionate devotion, whether material or imagined. Generally speaking, idolatry is the veneration, love, worship, or adoration of an idol. It is usually practiced toward a real or supposed higher power, whether such power is believed to have animate existence (as a human, an animal, or an organization) or is inanimate (as a force or lifeless object of nature). Idolatry generally involves some form, ceremony, or ritual.”
According to the Watchtower, making an organization the “object of passionate devotion” is idolatry. Could that also include what is commonly called “Jehovah’s visible organization”? Undeniably, the Watchtower has been instrumental in enlightening Jehovah’s Witnesses concerning many long-hidden, vital biblical truths concerning the nature of God and his universal purpose. But, in so doing it is also equally undeniable that the organization has taken on an inordinate importance in the hearts and minds of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is apparent in ever so many ways that Jehovah’s Witnesses surpass simply having appreciation for the Watchtower Society and may, at least from God’s perspective, offer what amounts to undue reverence and homage to the organization—at Jehovah’s expense.
Of course, idolatry does not necessarily mean that the idolater no longer worships God. It merely means that a measure of honor and affection due the Creator is misdirected to someone or something else. But, since Jehovah is a jealous God he will not consent to sharing his worship with anyone or anything else. If the organization has not become an idol, why is it that in all of the Watchtower’s voluminous writings they have never, not even so much as once, cautioned Jehovah’s Witnesses against over-emphasizing the importance of the Watchtower organization?
Knowing the deeply-ingrained human tendency toward idolatry, is it not the Watchtower’s solemn responsibility to make sure it does not receive any honors that rightfully belong to God—just as the angel refused to receive John’s worship? On several occasions the apostles stalwartly prevented people from conferring god-like honors upon them. Why has the Watchtower not similarly tried to discourage Jehovah’s Witnesses from bestowing undue honor on the organization? Surely, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is not greater than the angel who sternly warned the apostle John not to worship him, is it? Why, then, has the Watchtower never showed the same humility before God? If the organization has not become an idol, why is it that the Watchtower has never acknowledged any wrongdoing or serious error on its part? Is it because the Watchtower can do no wrong, or is it because the leadership does not want to tarnish the righteous image of the organization in the eyes of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Further, if the organization’s righteousness has to be so carefully crafted and jealously guarded, is that in itself not indicative of idolatry?
“FOR THE CALF IDOL OF BETHAVEN”
After Jehovah divided the kingdom of Israel into the northern 10-tribe kingdom of Ephraim (Israel) and the southern kingdom of Judah, King Jeroboam of the northern kingdom set up two golden calves at Bethel and Gilgal in order to keep the Israelites from reuniting in worship at Jerusalem. The idols were merely a matter of convenience so that the Israelite worshippers did not have to travel all the way back to the temple in Jerusalem to worship Jehovah. For the reason that Bethel became a center of false worship, Jehovah aptly renamed the city—Bethaven—meaning: “House of wickedness.” Thus, Hosea 10:5 reads: “For the calf idol of Bethaven the residents of Samaria will get frightened; for over it its people will certainly mourn, as well as its foreign-god priests who used to be joyful over it, on account of its glory, because it will have gone into exile away from it.”
The world headquarters of the Watchtower Society is similarly named Bethel, meaning “House of God.” And, although Jehovah’s Witnesses may vigorously protest, Brooklyn Bethel may be likened to a modern-day “Bethaven” in God’s eyes. Over the years, as the so-called hub of Jehovah’s “visible organization,” the Watchtower has gradually been transformed into a sophisticated version of a crude calf idol. Although there is no overt act of veneration bestowed upon any physical appendage of the Watchtower by Jehovah’s Witnesses, nonetheless, like the “calf idol of Bethaven,” the Watchtower organization similarly promotes a convenient form of worship; and an organizational loyalty that verges on idolatry.
Consider a few facts in regards to the unwarranted place of honor the Watchtower occupies in the minds and hearts of Jehovah’s Witnesses today: From its humble living-room Bible-study beginnings and rented storefront meeting places, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has grown to become an extremely successful international corporation. It is recognized as one the largest publishing companies in the world—the largest publisher of religious literature. During a recent time of rapid expansion, the Watchtower was also considered to be one of the largest construction companies in the world. It is even listed as the 37th most profitable corporation in New York City—raking in almost one-billion dollars in 2001! That is quite something indeed, seeing that New York City is home to many of the richest corporations in the world.
There is no question but that the Watchtower has enormous holdings in real estate as well as money market funds. For example, the Watchtower is listed as a major investor in a fund in the range of $200 million held by one of the major New York investment banks. Documents widely circulated on the Internet show that the Watchtower is even a majority stakeholder in the Rand Cam Corporation, a company with military contracts. The Watchtower even sponsors a car-leasing program in order to profitably unload luxurious automobiles previously used by circuit and district overseers. Watchtower Inc. enjoys all the prestige of a successful worldly corporation.
The attitude of Ephraim, recorded at Hosea 12:8, seems to be echoed today from Bethel: “Indeed, I have become rich; I have found valuable things for myself. As regards all my toiling, they will find, on my part, no error that is sin.”
The Watchtower’s physical facilities around the world include 100 branch offices and numerous printing factories as well as dozens of large assembly halls and tens of thousands of kingdom halls. But, particularly, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society’s headquarters at Brooklyn Bethel and the lavish Stanley Assembly Hall, and more recently the Patterson complex, have become like holy shrines and Meccas that beckon the faithful to make their sacrificial pilgrimages—commonly called Bethel tours. How true Jehovah’s words at Hosea 10:1, which read: “In proportion to the abundance of his fruit he has multiplied his altars. In proportion to the goodness of his land, they put up good pillars.”
The Governing Body and other officers of the Watchtower Society live quite comfortably. They are often given generous gifts wherever they travel and are provided with all of life’s necessities by donations made to promote “the world wide work” of preaching the kingdom. The older men of Bethel are held in the highest esteem and are regarded by Jehovah’s Witnesses as princes and kings. Indeed, through Hosea, Jehovah makes the same observation of his people, saying: “They have set up princes, but I did not know it. With their silver and their gold they have made for themselves idols…” (Hosea 8:4)
As an example of how the modern “Bethaven” has made the worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses a matter of convenience, consider some of the following comments taken from the June 1, 1967, Watchtower magazine, from the article entitled: “Move Ahead with Jehovah’s Organization.” In the 12th paragraph it states:
“We may think of study as hard work, as involving heavy research. But in Jehovah’s organization it is not necessary to spend a lot of time and energy in research, for there are brothers in the organization who are assigned to do that very thing, to help you who do not have so much time for this, these preparing the good material in The Watchtower and other publications of the Society. But you do not study enough? Take this suggestion: Often the very best and most beneficial studying you do is that done when you read a new Watchtower or Awake! or a new book with the joy of getting the new truths and a fresh view”
Studying God’s Word is part of our worship. But, instead of buying out the opportune time for ourselves, as the apostle admonished Christians; and using our own mental energies and God-given powers of reason in researching the deep things of God’s Word, the Watchtower unashamedly admits to having conveniently done all the necessary research for us, so that we do not need to personally research the Bible for ourselves.
Gradually, subtly, the Watchtower has superseded the authority of the Bible in the minds and hearts of Jehovah’s Witnesses; as evidenced by the fact that many feel that all they have to do to gain Jehovah’s approval is study the Watchtower and Awake! and other publications. Just as the Jewish Talmud gradually gained more authority than the Scriptures themselves, so too, the Watchtower is often quoted by Jehovah’s Witnesses as if it were holy writ and the ultimate authority.
That the Watchtower holds more authority over Jehovah’s Witnesses than the Bible quickly becomes apparent when there is a contradiction between the two. Because the Watchtower claims sole authority to interpret the Bible for Jehovah’s Witnesses, any of Jehovah’s Witnesses who might point out any number of obvious errors in the Watchtower’s teachings are forced to either recant, keep silent, or they are disfellowshipped from the congregation. Thus, Jehovah and his Bible are effectively relegated to the background; while the so-called “slave”—the Watchtower—is elevated to the most prominent place of worship. In this connection, too, the idol calf of Bethaven was intended to make gaining knowledge from God more convenient: “Of their wooden idol my own people keep inquiring, and their own hand staff keeps telling them…” (Hosea 4:12a)
According to the Insight on the Scriptures volume previously quoted: “Idolatry generally involves some form, ceremony, or ritual.” Is that true of the worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Inarguably, what is called “theocratic arrangement” has become mere ritual. Take the weekly Watchtower Study as a case in point. For over half a century, every week Jehovah’s Witnesses have followed a very rigid, choreographed ritual of discussing a select Watchtower article. Bethel actually takes pride in the fact that all congregations throughout the world are required to study the same material simultaneously—in the name of organizational uniformity. As part of the ritual, everyone is expected to “study” the Watchtower before even coming to the meeting, and most of Jehovah’s Witnesses underline the answers beforehand, usually with a colored highlighter. During the meeting the paragraphs are read one or two at a time and then pre-scripted questions are asked. The audience is expected to briefly answer the questions from the material in the paragraph. Other meetings follow a similar format. True, the Scriptures are discussed and read from the Bible as part of the Watchtower Study, but by and large the focus is on the Watchtower publications—not the Bible.
Certainly the early Christian congregations were not burdened with the spirit-stifling formulaic worship that the Watchtower has imposed upon Jehovah’s Witnesses. Paul’s only counsel to the Corinthian congregation concerning their meetings was that they should not all speak at the same time and there were to be interpreters on hand when someone was speaking in tongues. Each congregation largely functioned autonomously; even though Christ was the head of each separate congregation. There is no scriptural basis for the scripted and rigid “theocratic arrangement” imposed on the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nor is there any precedent set by the early Christian society for Christians engaging in great temple building projects, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses have done in constructing giant assembly halls and branch facilities. In this respect can it not also be said of spiritual Israel: “And Israel began forgetting his Maker and building temples; and Judah, for his part, multiplied fortified cities. “ (Hosea 8:14)
Elders and ministerial servants routinely make public statements and prayers expressing deep appreciation for the faithful slave and the Watchtower for providing an abundance of so-called “spiritual food.” But, it is a rare occasion indeed when anyone thanks Jehovah for providing the Bible. And, as previously stated, no one has ever dared to caution Jehovah’s Witnesses not to lavish too much praise on the faithful slave or the Watchtower. Likewise, you will never hear a brother offering public prayer ask Jehovah to forgive the organization for their sins. That would be considered a shocking blasphemy. Such is the sin of the calf worship of Bethaven! “My own glory they have exchanged for mere dishonor. The sin of my people is what they keep devouring, and to their error they keep lifting up their soul.”
But do Jehovah’s Witnesses really serve the Watchtower? According to the same previously cited Watchtower article about moving ahead with Jehovah’s organization, the answer is no. The ninth paragraph states:
“So moving ahead is not a cold, calculated thing. It is a matter of coming closer to Jehovah, perfecting obedience, seeking and receiving Jehovah’s spirit. We are dedicated to him, not to the organization.”
However, that particular article was written in 1967. Has something changed since then? Yes, something has profoundly changed since then, at least in the relationship newly dedicated Jehovah’s Witnesses have with the Watchtower. In 1985, the Watchtower changed the baptism vows to include the phrase:
“Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization?”
Prior to 1985 all newly baptized witnesses were simply asked if they had repented of their sins and accepted Christ as their ransomer and whole-heartedly dedicated themselves to do Jehovah’s will. Since 1985, however, the Watchtower has insidiously insinuated itself into the solemn vows that all baptismal candidates must now publicly declare!
What gives the Watchtower the right to insert itself into the place exclusively reserved in Scripture for Jehovah, Jesus Christ and the holy spirit? Is it such a trivial matter before heaven that persons desiring to dedicate themselves to Jehovah and Jesus are also required to publicly declare that they belong to the Watchtower organization as well? Readers can decide for themselves. But let it be noted that even the apostle Paul, who has arguably been the most prominent witness of Jehovah in the entire Christian era, did not presumptuously take to himself such high honors as the Watchtower has taken to itself.
Apparently, the same tendency toward idolatry existed in the Corinthian congregation. Some disciples actually said they belonged to Paul; others claimed they belonged to Cephas and Apollos. That is why Paul issued a statement to the Corinthians disavowing any claim to their devotion, saying: “The Christ exists divided. Paul was not impaled for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I am thankful I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.”
While the apostle gladly declared his relief that none of the Corinthians were actually “baptized in the name of Paul,” why is it that Jehovah’s Witnesses are compelled by the Watchtower to be baptized “in association with God’s spirit-directed organization”? Was not the first century congregation “spirit-directed” too? Since it obviously was directed by God’s spirit, why did not Jesus or Paul command those Christians to recognize that their baptism identified them with an organization?
Another way the organization has insinuated itself into the ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses is in the matter of reporting “field service activity” every month. If Jehovah’s Witnesses are truly dedicated to God and not an organization, then why must everyone dutifully write out a detailed report of their activities in the ministry every month? If Christ is the Head of the congregation, surely he is aware of the extent of each Christian’s activity. Why then must the congregation and Bethel headquarters be informed of every hour spent and every ministerial visit that Jehovah’s Witnesses perform in service to God? Surely no such burden was placed upon the original Christians.
The apostle Paul described Satan as being capable of transforming himself into an angel of light. In other words, Satan can convince Christians that evil is good without their even detecting his guile. That is why Paul expressed his deep concern that some of the Corinthians might somehow be seduced by Satan’s deceit. Paul knew full well that Satan exerted a powerful influence through the superfine apostles in the congregation; who, like Satan, also transformed themselves into ministers of righteousness.
The Watchtower’s preoccupation with numerical growth and publisher hours bears an eerie similarity to King David’s disastrous census, which the Scriptures reveal was the result of Satan’s enticement of the king. “And Satan proceeded to stand up against Israel and to incite David to number Israel.” (I Chronicles 21:1)
“THOSE FALLING AWAY HAVE GONE DEEP DOWN”
While the demons were undoubtedly the unseen spirits instigating the Bethaven calf worship in the days of Israel, it was the very kings of Israel and the priests of God, the nation’s leaders, who were instrumental in misleading Jehovah’s people into apostasy and the snare of idolatry. That is why God said to them: “Hear this, O priests, and pay attention, O house of Israel, and you, O house of the king, give ear, for with you people the judgment has to do; because a trap is what you have become to Mizpah and as a net spread over Tabor. And in slaughter work those falling away have gone deep down, and I was an exhortation to all of them.” (Hosea 5:1-2)
In view of his past successes in over-reaching and ensnaring God’s servants in idolatry, no one should imagine that the Devil is at all opposed to the idolization of the Watchtower in modern times. For a certainty, the demons promote anything that detracts from Jehovah’s glory—including the insidiously subtle worship of Jehovah’s “visible organization”!
Satan the Devil is without doubt the most ardent promoter of the Watchtower Organization; cleverly disguising such organizational idolatry as pure worship! An angel of light indeed! And a potential snare for all of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the judgment—as described at Hosea 5:1-2.
Let each Christian witness of Jehovah discern by the spirit of Jehovah the significance of Hosea 4:15, where is found God’s stern warning to the faithful not to join in attaching the name of Jehovah to the golden calf of Bethaven: “Although you are committing fornication, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty, and do not you people come to Gilgal, neither go up to Bethaven nor swear ‘As Jehovah is alive!’”
But, how may it be discerned that the prophecy of Hosea applies to Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower today? While the prophecy of Hosea is set in ancient times, the relevant issues between Jehovah and his people have not changed. Jehovah’s worshippers today face the very same challenges to their faith as did the Israelites. For that reason the message of Hosea, as well as the writings of all the other prophets, are just as vital today as when they were written centuries ago. In fact, the book of Hosea seamlessly connects the primitive worship practiced by Israel to the time of Christ’s arrival. Consequently, we read at Hosea 3:4-5: “It is because for many days the sons of Israel will dwell without a king and without a prince and without a sacrifice and without a pillar and without an ephod and teraphim. Afterwards the sons of Israel will come back and certainly look for Jehovah their God, and for David their king; and they will certainly come quivering to Jehovah and to his goodness in the final part of the days.”
“The final part of the days” has reference to a specific period of time when God commences his judgment—beginning with his own house first. “The sons of Israel” are in reality spiritual Israelites and “David their king,” is Jesus Christ. Seeing that the prophecy foretells “the sons of Israel will come back and certainly look for Jehovah their God” indicates that spiritual Israel is yet to become estranged from Jehovah due to the falling away of some of her anointed priests—thereby leading the organization into apostasy.
Through Hosea, Jehovah declares that the purpose of the words of the prophets is to correct and discipline his people. At Hosea 6:5, God says: “That is why I shall have to hew them by the prophets; I shall have to kill them by the sayings of my mouth. And the judgments upon you will be as the light that goes forth. For in loving-kindness I have taken delight, and not in sacrifice; and in the knowledge of God rather than in whole burnt offerings. But they themselves, like earthling man, have overstepped the covenant. There is where they have dealt treacherously with me.”
The words of God through the Hebrew prophets are intended to chisel and shape God’s people and kill off, through judgment, the tendency to rebel against him. No other people, other than the Israelites and their priests, could overstep God’s covenant for the simple reason that no other people were in a covenant with Jehovah. The same holds true today. The words of the prophets are likewise directed to the congregation of anointed Christians, who, like the ancient Israelites, are also in a covenant with God.
For example, Jesus also says that he will wage a war of words against anointed Christians who do not repent of their idolatry, saying at Revelation 2:16: “Therefore repent. If you do not, I am coming to you quickly, and I will war with them with the long sword of my mouth.”
Should it be supposed that Jesus is calling Christendom to repentance? Or could it be that the sacrifices and “whole-burnt offerings” of Hosea 6:5 relate to the ritualistic worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Could it be that God is not so pleased with the millions of hours Jehovah’s Witnesses boast of sacrificing in preaching because of neglecting more important matters?
Clearly, to “have overstepped the covenant” a people must first be in a covenant with Jehovah. Only anointed Christians (spiritual Israel) are in a covenant with God through their Mediator—Jesus Christ. That means that those who “have dealt treacherously” with Jehovah are Jehovah’s Witnesses. But in what way have Jehovah’s Witnesses dealt treacherously with Jehovah by overstepping his covenant with them? Hosea highlights two specific areas that God’s people “have gone down deep in bringing ruin.”
“AS IN THE DAYS OF GIBEAH”
Hosea 9:9 reads in full: “They have gone down deep in bringing ruin, as in the days of Gibeah. He will remember their error; he will give attention to their sins.”
“The days of Gibeah” have to do with a gross sin that took place there during the time of the judges. The account in the 19th chapter of the book of Judges contains the account of “good-for-nothing” sexual perverts who intended to sodomize a man who was staying overnight as a guest in Gibeah. Instead, though, the man gave them his concubine and the sex-crazed mob ended up raping her to death. Outraged by the atrocity, the man cut the dead woman’s body up into twelve parts and sent a piece to each of the twelve tribes. The result was that all the tribes of Israel were shocked by the depravity of the crime and came against the tribe of Benjamin and demanded that they hand the guilty men of Gibeah over to them to be put to death in accord with the Law.
Judges 20:13 reports: “Accordingly the tribes of Israel sent men to all the tribesmen of Benjamin, saying: ‘What is this bad thing that has been brought about among you? And now give over the men, the good-for-nothing men, that are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and let us clear out what is bad from Israel.’”
However, the verse goes on to say: “And the sons of Benjamin did not want to listen to the voice of their brothers, the sons of Israel.” As a consequence of Benjamin’s foolish refusal to do justice, war erupted; and as a result, the city of Gibeah was burned to the ground and the tribe of Benjamin was nearly wiped out of existence. It should be noted, though, that Jehovah sanctioned the war against Benjamin.
Something similar to the horrific sex crime of Gibeah has happened among Jehovah’s Witnesses today—only on a much grander scale. As related already, in recent years thousands of cases of child abuse have come to light within the organization. And as was the case of the original sex crime in Gibeah, the Watchtower’s scandalous pedophile problem has been broadly publicized. First, though, it must be pointed out that the sex crime of Gibeah was not the reason for the civil war—nor was it the reason Jehovah called attention to Gibeah’s error centuries later. Had the Benjaminites turned the guilty men over to be executed, as the Law prescribed, the sex crime, as shocking as it was, may not have even been mentioned in the Bible. It was the Benjaminites’ stubborn refusal to allow justice to take place that was the real sin of Gibeah.
So, too, in a similar manner, the Watchtower and Jehovah’s Witnesses “have gone down deep in bringing ruin” upon themselves by stubbornly refusing to do justice in the eyes of God in behalf of the many thousands of children of Jehovah’s Witnesses who have been victimized by pedophiles and rapists in the congregations. How “deep down” has the Watchtower gone in bringing ruination upon themselves? Consider a few facts: The Society maintains a secret database with the names of over 20,000 pedophiles. And just like the Benjaminites, the organization has done everything in its power to shield child molesters from facing the consequences for their crimes.
As is the Watchtower’s policy, and as numerous experiences testify, the congregations and often even family members are not even warned when a suspected pedophile is in their midst. In many cases victims were told not to call the police to report the crimes committed against them and were threatened with disfellowshipping if they did so. And even when abusers are disfellowshipped they are often soon reinstated and the congregation is never made aware of the nature of their sin—thus putting more children at risk. As a consequence of that code of silence the Watchtower is directly responsible for giving abusers safe haven to practice their vile sins upon Jehovah’s innocent lambs. Considering that the sin of Gibeah involved a relative handful of good-for-nothing perverts and only one victim, we may begin to get some approximation of Jehovah’s displeasure over the Watchtower’s failure to better protect the very children Jehovah has entrusted to them.
One of the Watchtower’s spokesmen states that the Watchtower has published much information to help parents to protect their children from pedophiles. True, the Watchtower’s literature does indeed have a number of articles on the topic of child abuse prevention. However, most of the articles do not directly deal with the problem of pedophilia among Jehovah’s Witnesses; nor do they specifically warn parents of the dangers from within the congregations. The Watchtower article entitled “Let Us Abhor What is Wicked” specifically addresses instances when one of Jehovah’s Witnesses commits an act of child abuse, but the article makes no clear acknowledgment that the victim could also very well be a child in the congregation.
The Watchtower’s Public Relations and Legal departments are obviously intent on cultivating the misleading impression that the perpetrators of child abuse are either not Jehovah’s Witnesses; or if they are, then their victims are not. As an example, the April 8,1999, Awake! magazine has an article entitled “Who Will Protect Your Child?” On page four, the article states:
“Think of the heartbreak of parents who have discovered, too late, that their children have been abused by trusted clergymen, teachers, or even close family members. It would be good for you as a parent to ask yourself, ‘Does my church tolerate or cover up child abuse? Is my religion holding firmly to high moral principles?’ Answers to such questions could help you to make wise choices in protecting your children.”
Considering that the Awake! is written primarily for Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is very unlikely that the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses will ever be sexually molested by “trusted clergymen.” And as the Watchtower is well aware, many thousands of children of Jehovah’s Witness parents have already been molested by Jehovah’s Witnesses; and yes, some of the perpetrators have been trusted elders and ministerial servants and otherwise respected brothers in the congregation.
Rumors have circulated for years that even a respected member of the Governing Body was guilty of having sex with Bethel boys back in the 1980’s, and although he eventually left Bethel he remained an overseer until his death.
If the Watchtower is really interested in helping Jehovah’s Witness parents protect their children from pedophile predators, why does not the Awake! article warn parents to be on guard against leaving their child with brothers in the congregations? Certainly that would be the honest and responsible thing to do—seeing that the Watchtower is fully aware that thousands of pedophiles lurk within the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And instead of posing the question “does my church tolerate or cover up child abuse?” why not pose the much more relevant question: “Does my local body of elders tolerate or cover up child abuse?”
The Watchtower’s hypocrisy is appalling, which must be why Jehovah stated the following at Hosea 10:2: “Their heart has become hypocritical; now they will be found guilty.” Truly, Bethel has “gone deep in bringing ruin” upon Jehovah’s people by their own treachery and hypocrisy!
“LAWSUITS SPRING UP LIKE POISONOUS WEEDS”
While the Watchtower’s oath-bound lawyers and public relations men promise trusting parents that the Watchtower has always done everything possible to protect children from being victimized by pedophiles, numerous victims of abuse insist otherwise. More disconcerting, so does Jehovah God. Interestingly, in the New International Version of the Bible, Hosea 10:4 states: “They make many promises, take false oaths and make agreements; therefore lawsuits spring up like poisonous weeds in a plowed field.”
True to the prophecy of Hosea, numerous lawsuits against the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society are popping up like weeds in a plowed field—due primarily to ‘Bethaven’s’ stubborn refusal to do what is right. How appropriate, too, that Jehovah likens his organization to a dumb, stubborn cow, saying at Hosea 4:16: “For, like a stubborn cow, Israel has become stubborn.” And again at Hosea 9:15: “On account of the evil of their dealings I shall drive them away from my own house. I will not continue on loving them. All their princes are acting stubborn.”
The Watchtower’s legal counsel stubbornly insists before courts throughout the United States that the elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses bear no community responsibility to report suspected abusers to authorities. And not only that, the Watchtower’s lawyers even argue that the elders have no congregational responsibility to protect members from abusers. Whether the courts agree with that legal argument or not is irrelevant, because, admittedly, in the universal scheme of things the lawsuits the Watchtower has been embroiled in are a relatively trivial thing. However, what defense will Bethel’s attorneys present before the Supreme Court of Heaven when called to account for the thousands of innocent children who have been raped and seduced on their watch? Hosea 4:1 calls out the court’s docket: “Hear the word of Jehovah, O sons of Israel, for Jehovah has a legal case with the inhabitants of the land, for there is no truth nor loving-kindness nor knowledge of God in the land.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses may assume that they have knowledge of God. But does merely knowing God’s name and that he and Jesus do not make up two thirds of a trinity necessarily mean that a person has knowledge of God? No, not at all. Knowledge of God involves much more than that. True knowledge of Jehovah involves accepting and practicing his ways in imitation of his dealings. Since God declares himself to be the Protector of the downtrodden and he requires the judges of his people to plead the legal case of orphans and widows above all else, it is apparent—reflected in the Society’s callous disregard for the welfare of children—that Jehovah’s assessment of the situation is absolutely correct—there is no knowledge of God in the land. Manifestly, if the lawyers and leading men of Bethel really knew Jehovah would they foolishly provoke the Almighty to outrage?
As a consequence of their sins Bethel’s institutional prophets and the revered organizational mother, along with all those whom Jehovah presently recognizes as his people, will be silenced during the oncoming judgment, even as Hosea 4:5-6 foretells: “And you will certainly stumble in the daytime, and even a prophet must stumble with you, as at night. And I will put your mother to silence. My people will certainly be silenced…”
But organizational idolatry and injustice are not the full measure of Bethaven’s sin. There is more
“TO ASSYRIA THEY HAVE GONE”
Jehovah has on many occasions rescued his people from powerful enemy nations. The execution of Jehovah’s judgments against Pharaoh’s Egypt during the Exodus stands to this day as a testament to God’s power and the zeal he has for his people, even as Jehovah reminded them of this fact at Hosea 13:4-5: “But I am Jehovah your God from the land of Egypt, and there was no God except me that you used to know; and there was no savior but I. I myself knew you in the wilderness, in the land of fevers.”
Eventually, though, Israel no longer trusted his God to protect him and so he sought to make political alliances with his enemies— foolishly imagining that making “peace” with his worldly enemies would somehow provide him with security. What a deplorable lack of faith was demonstrated by the kings of Israel when they forged treaties with the ascending Assyrian Empire and sought favor with Egypt. “And Ephraim proves to be like a simpleminded dove without heart. To Egypt they have called; to Assyria they have gone.” (Hosea 7:11)
Interestingly, Hosea 11:1, which says: “when Israel was a boy, then I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son,” relates to the establishment of Christianity, too. The Bible writer, Matthew, specifically noted that the prophecy of Hosea was fulfilled when Jesus, the Son of God, was also called out of Egypt after Mary and Joseph were told to flee there with the child to escape Herod’s infanticidal rage. So, it is apparent that Jehovah’s reference to “when Israel was a boy” applies to the establishment of spiritual Israel. And just as the literal nation of Israel at one time trusted God but then went astray, spiritual Israel also would follow the same path of degeneracy, so that all things are not as they should be at the time of God’s inspection. Indeed, the very same pattern of faithlessness and presumptuous, disobedience has been exhibited by the leadership of the Watchtower Society today.
There are many reasons to believe that Jehovah has blessed the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses and delivered them from many powerful religious and political enemies—just as he did Israel in ancient times. The humble beginning of the International Bible Students was a modern Pentecost-like revival of primitive Christianity. The harrowing accounts of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nazi Germany and Russia, for instance, as well as the experiences from many other lands, including Malawi, are truly inspiring and are an evidence of Jehovah’s support and personal care. The Yearbooks and other publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses have literally thousands of experiences that show Jehovah has blessed his people in small and large matters.
In spite of all that God has done in behalf of his people in modern times, in 1992, the Watchtower signed a political alliance with the UN and became a political advocate of the United Nations’ global agenda. As all of Jehovah’s Witnesses know, the Watchtower has for many years identified the United Nations as a devilish counterfeit of the kingdom and a “disgusting thing” in the eyes of God. That makes the Watchtower’s treacherous and duplicitous alliance with the United Nations a disgusting, shameful and lawless act according to God’s standards. It is no different in Jehovah’s estimation than what the Israelites did when they willfully dedicated themselves to the disgusting worship of Baal or made alliances with the surrounding nations.
How true of modern spiritual Israel: “They themselves went in to Baal of Peor, and they proceeded to dedicate themselves to the shameful thing, and they came to be disgusting like the thing of their love.” (Ho. 9:10)
The Watchtower is well aware that the terms of Jehovah’s friendship are non-negotiable. Christ’s kingdom is no part of this world and if any Christian even merely wants to be a friend of this world he unavoidably constitutes himself an enemy of God. That is why Jehovah’s Witnesses scrupulously avoid becoming involved in politics and are even willing to die rather than compromise their Christian integrity by violating the covenant of Christ that requires Christians to be no part of the Devil’s religious or political system. The boundaries of worldly involvement are very well defined.
Yet, in spite of that knowledge the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, representing the anointed congregation of spiritual Israel earth-wide, have taken it upon themselves to sign a partnership pact with the modern counterpart of the king of Assyria.
It is as if the organization has pulled up the borderline markers and illegally moved a spiritual boundary; going out of its way to appease an enemy, exactly as Jehovah’s prophet has written: “The princes of Judah have become just like those moving back a boundary…Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in justice, for he had taken it upon himself to walk after his adversary.” (Hosea 5:10-11)
The Watchtower’s NGO compact with the United Nations amounts to what the Bible calls a covenant—a binding agreement. How applicable the words of the prophet: “Ephraim is feeding on wind and chasing after the east wind all day long. Lying and despoiling are what he multiplies. And a covenant with Assyria they conclude, and to Egypt oil itself is brought.” (Hosea 12:1)
Regrettably, all of Jehovah’s Witnesses have also unknowingly participated in Bethel’s wicked scheme. Because the publishers and pioneers have distributed tens of millions of copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines in the ministry, many articles being written specifically for the purpose of disseminating UN propaganda, all of Jehovah’s Witnesses have become guilty in the eyes of God. This is in accord with the Watchtower’s own well-articulated principle of community responsibility, as stated in the November 15, 1973, Watchtower article, which declared:
“[Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses] want no share in the community responsibility for the sins and corruption of politics. They know that the ones who keep clean from such worldly defilements will be the ones whom God will preserve into His new order.”
The Watchtower’s own words condemn Jehovah’s Witnesses for their sin! How tragic!
Just as Hosea 5:1-2 describes, the leadership of the organization has become a snare by spreading their net over all of God’s people; bringing the entire organization under Jehovah’s judgment.
Still, Bethel scoffs at the suggestion that there was anything untoward about their immoral NGO affair. Some apparently assume that the leading men cannot possibly ever lose God’s favor, since “the slave” has already (according to the Watchtower) been appointed over all of the master’s belongings.
The Watchtower trusts the counsel and guidance of its unduly venerated older men and lawyers.
Once again, Hosea’s prophecy astutely describes the situation, saying: “You people have plowed wickedness. Unrighteousness is what you have reaped. You have eaten the fruitage of deception, for you have trusted in your way, in the multitude of your mighty ones.” (Hosea 10:13)
“LIKE A BEAR THAT HAS LOST ITS CUBS”
How does Jehovah propose to rectify the deplorable state of affairs into which his people have sunken deep down, in order to restore his relationship with them? At Hosea 13:7-8, God answers: “And I shall become to them like a young lion. Like a leopard by the way I shall keep looking. I shall encounter them like a bear that has lost its cubs, and I shall rip apart the enclosure of their heart. And I shall devour them there like a lion; a wild beast of the field itself will tear them to pieces.”
A she bear that has been separated from her cubs is probably one of the most formidable animals on earth. A mother bear thus deprived could not be appeased or pacified. While the Watchtower may be inclined to assume that the unpleasant encounter described at Hosea 13:7-8 has no application to genuine Christians, the context suggests otherwise. It is evident that the purpose of God’s ripping “apart the enclosure of their heart” is not to destroy, but to discipline and restore. God encountering his people like a lion, leopard and a ferocious she-bear that has lost her cubs, has a direct bearing upon the final outworking of Jehovah’s purpose to produce a kingdom of faithful priests from among sinful mankind.
How may that be determined to be true? Because Hosea 13:14 goes on to say: “From the hand of Sheol I shall redeem them; from death I shall recover them. Where are your stings, O Death? Where is your destructiveness, O Sheol? Compassion itself will be concealed from my eyes.”
In the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul quoted directly from Hosea 13:14 and applied it to the resurrection of the holy ones during the last trumpet. Therefore, the means by which Jehovah repairs the relationship with his wife-like spiritual nation is by means of the resurrection. That redemption is made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, the prophecy of Hosea is foretelling that God will destroy his earthly organization and create a new, incorruptible, heavenly organization made of 144,000 redeemed from mankind.
The preceding verses, Hosea 13:12-13, provides a most interesting contrast. Those two verses reads: “The error of Ephraim is wrapped up, his sin is treasured up. The labor pangs of a woman giving birth are what will come to him. He is a son not wise, for in season he will not stand still at the breaking forth of sons from the womb.”
How is it, that, on the one hand, Jehovah likens the travails of his wayward nation to a woman giving birth to her sons and the very next verse God says he will redeem them from death? How is the birth and death of God’s people related?
Isaiah sheds light upon these questions. Isaiah 26:16-19 also relates birth and death, saying: “O Jehovah, during distress they have turned their attention to you; they have poured out a whisper of prayer when they had your disciplining. Just as a pregnant woman draws near to giving birth, has labor pains, cries out in her birth pangs, so we have become because of you, O Jehovah. We have become pregnant, we have had labor pains; as it were, we have given birth to wind. No real salvation do we accomplish as regards the land, and no inhabitants for the productive land proceed to fall in birth. ‘Your dead ones will live. A corpse of mine—they will rise up. Awake and cry out joyfully, you residents in the dust! For your dew is as the dew of mallows, and the earth itself will let even those impotent in death drop in birth.’”
There are two entities conversing in the prophecy. By means of inspiration, Isaiah records a conversation between the anointed and Jehovah that will take place during the distress of the tribulation. That is when God’s people will turn their attention to him—when they become subject to his disciplining. Predictably, though, the Watchtower asserts that the prophecy was fulfilled in 1919. Commenting on the span of verses above, the Isaiah volume says:
“What a demonstration of Jehovah’s power! Further, what a great demonstration there was when these words were fulfilled in a spiritual sense in 1919!”
However, it is apparent in the context that the prophecy was not fulfilled in 1919. That is evident by the fact that the very next verse in Isaiah states: “Go, my people, enter into your interior rooms, and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourself for but a moment until the denunciation passes over. For, look! Jehovah is coming forth from his place to call to account the error of the inhabitant of the land against him, and the land will certainly expose her bloodshed and will no longer cover over her killed ones.”
So, the context indicates that the time of disciplining for God’s people is an immediate prelude to the execution of Jehovah’s judgments at Armageddon. That being the case, what is the meaning of the text cited above?
In highly symbolic imagery, Isaiah’s prophecy portrays the distressing situation that will come upon Christ’s congregation that will seem as if all is lost. It will be as if a woman in labor simply cannot deliver the child.
That is how it will be for the sons of the kingdom when they come to their wits’ end; exerting their full power to accomplish God’s will as an organization and still not achieving the hoped for salvation. That is when Jehovah responds, saying: “Your dead ones will live. A corpse of mine—they will rise up.”
The resurrection God is describing is not an earthly resurrection of the dead, since it occurs before the wicked are destroyed. The “corpse of mine” (singular) that Jehovah refers to can be none other than the body of Christ at the moment the heavenly resurrection begins. During the darkest hour when the kingdom-producing Israel of God is faced with annihilation, Jehovah’s enlivening spirit will become like the refreshing life-giving dew; bringing to immortal life the apostles and holy ones, who remain asleep in the dust of the earth up until that very moment.
By a miracle of Almighty God, the kingdom will finally give birth to her sons; as “those impotent in death drop in birth.”
Jehovah’s spirit will also act upon the living saints; transforming them in preparation for their dying and simultaneously being born into the heavenly kingdom as well.
Ultimately, even though the chosen are born again, they are still in a dying condition and must be resurrected to become fully reborn as sons of the living God. That is the final fulfillment of Hosea 1:10, which reads: “And it must occur that in the place in which it used to be said to them, ‘you men are not my people,’ it will be said to them, ‘The sons of the living God.’”
The 12th chapter of Revelation similarly symbolizes the woman-like covenant of God giving birth to the kingdom and then subsequently she is forced to flee into the wilderness during a time of trial and bitter persecution.
Hosea uses the very same imagery as Revelation, saying at Hosea 2:14: “Therefore here I am prevailing upon her, and I will cause her to go into the wilderness, and I will speak to her heart.” So it is that God “will speak to her heart” in the same way he “will rip apart the enclosure of their heart”—by humbling his people through adversity.
After expressing his rage and indignation toward his adulterous organization, in his love and compassion Jehovah implores them to return to him, saying in the opening words of the 14th chapter of Hosea: “Do come back, O Israel, to Jehovah your God, for you have stumbled in your error. Take with yourselves words and come back to Jehovah.”
In spite of the unfaithfulness of his people, Jehovah is still willing to extend mercy and seek reconciliation with his estranged wife-like organization. How encouraging that is for Jehovah’s Witnesses to know! In spite of their hypocrisy, idolatry, apostasy, spiritual adultery and downright stubbornness of its leaders, Jehovah is willing to forgive if his people truly humbly repent and “come back to Jehovah” with words imploring his favor.
How wonderful to know, too, that Jehovah will still accomplish his purpose in connection with his kingdom—in spite of the folly and error of his people!
The closing words of Hosea are truly touching and echo Isaiah’s prophecy in likening Jehovah’s refreshing life-giving spirit to the dew: “I shall heal their unfaithfulness. I shall love them of my own free will, because my anger has turned back from him. I shall become like the dew to Israel. He will blossom like the lily.” (Hosea 14:4-5)