Wednesday, June 22

Stop keeping company with anyone called a brother who is sexually immoral.1 Cor. 5:11.

A heartrending experience for Aaron’s family is recorded at Leviticus 10:1-11. They must have been devastated when fire from heaven consumed Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu at the tabernacle. What a test of faith it was for Aaron and his family not to mourn their dead relatives! Are you personally proving yourself holy with regard to not associating with family members or others who have been disfellowshipped? We may not face as severe a test as that experienced by Aaron and his family. But what if we were invited to attend and participate in a church wedding of a non-Witness relative? No explicit Scriptural command forbids us to attend, but there are Bible principles involved in making such a decision. Of course, we try to avoid offending our relatives, but it is usually best to speak with them in a kind, though straightforward, way—well in advance of the event.

COMMENTARY

Some time after the Jews were taken to Babylon and certainly after they were dispersed into many lands, synagogues began to appear. They were the forerunner of congregations and kingdom halls —places of meeting and worship. Along with the synagogues came the Pharisees, who along with the Sadducees, dominated the religious life of the Jews. But the Pharisees seem to have been the most influential.

The Pharisees interpreted the Law for the Jews and added to it with endless regulations. For example, the Law forbid any sort of work or travel on the Sabbath. The Pharisees defined what constituted work. Wikipedia lists 39 categories of permissible and non-permissible “work.”

One category was devoted to defining “grinding,” which was defined as: “Reducing an earth-borne thing’s size for a productive purpose.” Something as simple as cutting fruit into small pieces for a salad might violate the Law according to the Pharisees’ strict interpretation. No doubt that is why the Pharisees accused Jesus of violating the Sabbath when he and his disciples were walking through a grain field on the Sabbath and took some of the grain heads and rubbed them in their hands to remove the chaff. Jesus and his disciples were guilty of “grinding” on the Sabbath, at least according to the Pharisees.

The Pharisees believed that they could attain holiness by various rituals and by avoiding association with people who were not holy. Thus, they also condemned Jesus for associating with the common people, the sinners, tax collectors, the Amharets —people of the earth, as the Pharisees disdainfully called them.

The Pharisees used a form of disfellowshipping to keep the Jews inline. Being thrown out of the synagogue would mean complete ostracism from Jewish society. The Pharisees used that as a form of coercion to prevent the Jews from confessing their belief that Jesus was the Messiah. Any Jew who did was thrown from the synagogue.

Over the years the leadership of the Watchtower has developed into a similar pharisaical sect that dominates the lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They determine the meaning of the Scriptures and their application. Just as the Pharisees added to the Law, so too the Watchtower.

That is demonstrated in today’s text. What principle might come into play as regards any of Jehovah’s Witnesses who might be considering attending a church wedding? It doesn’t say. Since, as the Watchtower acknowledges, there is no specific scriptural injunction against it, why not let each Christian decide for themselves what is the appropriate course? Jesus attended a wedding feast in Cana and even contributed a miraculous wedding gift. Might that be a guiding principle?

In the first century some Christians ate meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Paul explained that it was perfectly fine for them to do so, reasoning that all things belonged to Jehovah anyway. However, some weak Christians might be stumbled or emboldened to eat the things sacrificed to idols as part of the ceremony. For the sake of the weaker ones in the faith Paul exhorted the strong Christians not to do anything that might stumble the weak brothers and sisters. Love was the guiding principle.

So, why not let that be the guiding principle?

Like the Pharisees of old, the Watchtower uses the threat of disfellowshipping as a means of coercion.

For example, although the habit was always discouraged, for years the Watchtower permitted tobacco users to be baptized. However, sometime around 1973 the Governing Body determined that smokers would be disqualified for baptism. But not stopping there, Bethel decreed that any of Jehovah’s Witnesses who were tobacco users were to be disfellowshipped —thrown from the synagogue. So, those who were previously approved became disapproved by a ruling of the rulers.  

While smoking is certainly a filthy habit and would certainly be considered a defilement of the flesh had it been  a common practice in the first century, Paul did not list uncleanness as a reason to expel anyone from the congregation. On the contrary, the apostle exhorted Christians to cleanse themselves of all defilements of the flesh and spirit. Clearly, the Watchtower has gone beyond what is written, just as the Pharisees were inclined to do. 

Disfellowshipping is especially used as a tool to silence critics. Barbara Anderson and Bill Bowen were two of Jehovah’s Witnesses who protested the Watchtower’s policy of shielding pedophiles from exposure and prosecution.

Barbara Anderson —a mother and grandmother —was horrified when her research at Bethel led her to discover that the Watchtower maintained a massive database of over 23,000 known JW pedophiles. Upon realizing that the Governing Body had no intention of changing their policies, she was moved to go public with her concern for the welfare of the children in the congregations. As a result Bethel’s legal Department ordered her local elders to disfellowship her on the week the Dateline program was to be aired as a means of discrediting her.

Just think, due to the policies of the Watchtower Jehovah’s Witnesses and vulnerable children are forced to unknowingly associate with men whom Bethel knows are pedophiles, while ostracizing any who speak out against such evils!

The prophecy of Malachi, which was written after the Jews returned from Babylon, speaks against the injustice practiced by the priests —referred to as the sons of Levi. Levi, of course, was the tribe that God assigned as priests, except the book of Malachi is only ostensibly directed to the Levitical priests. In reality it is addressing anointed Christians, who are under priests of Christ, especially immediately prior to the coming of the messenger of the covenant, which is a reference to the second coming.

Now consider the second chapter of Malachi. Speaking of Christ, who became the high priest, it says: “My covenant with him was one of life and of peace, which I gave to him, along with fear. He feared me, yes, he stood in awe of my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and no unrighteousness was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and in uprightness, and he turned many back from error…”

As regards the followers of Christ in the new covenant Malachi reads: “‘For the lips of a priest should safeguard knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth, because he is the messenger of Jehovah of armies. But you yourselves have turned aside from the way. You have made many stumble with regard to the law. You have ruined the covenant of Levi,’ says Jehovah of armies. ‘So I will make you despised and low before all the people, because you did not keep my ways but showed partiality in applying the law.”’

Surely, this judgment most aptly fits the Watchtower. Although teaching many the basic truth of the Bible, Bethel has ruined the Christian covenant. They have stumbled many of Jehovah’s Witnesses and perverted Christian law.

As a consequence the preceding verses say: “Look! I will ruin your sown seed because of you, and I will scatter dung on your faces, the dung of your festivals; and you will be carried away to it. Then you will know that I have given this commandment to you so that my covenant with Levi may continue…”

Just as Jesus denounced the Pharisees we may expect a similar denunciation and rebuke of the Watchtower in the near future. But even more disconcerting, since the organization has promoted a fake parousia since its inception in the 1880’s, it is inconceivable that Bethel will accept Christ when he actually comes. On the contrary, it will oppose him. It will seek to throw out of the synagogue any who accept the new reality. Although some individuals will have faith, just as individual Pharisees accepted Christ, the organization will then become an antichrist.

It is important to note that Jesus instructed his disciples to obey the Pharisees, only not hypocritically. However, after Jesus was resurrected and appeared to the disciples, and especially after they too were anointed, the apostles did not obey the Pharisees, but openly defied their orders for them to desist from preaching Christ. Similarly, the Watchtower’s authority is only valid until such time as the Christ returns. At that point it will be necessary to defy Bethel. 

Indeed, look out for the leaven of the Pharisees!

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