QUESTION: The June 2017 Watchtower has a couple of articles entitled Keep Your Eyes on the Big Issue and Uphold Jehovah’s Sovereignty. The “big issue” is explained to be the ‘vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty.’ The Watchtower has used this phrase since back in the 1930’s when Rutherford published a book called Vindication. But nowhere in the Bible do we even find the words “vindicate” or “vindication,” and there isn’t even any scriptural support for the suggestion that Satan questioned God’s right to rule. You have pointed out many errors the WT teaches, is this concept of the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty just another false teaching the WT made up to control JW’s? Thanks.
Having just read the Watchtower articles in question, I must say I wholeheartedly agree with what is stated therein.
So what if the exact words “vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty” do not appear in the Bible? The concept certainly is conveyed throughout the Scriptures.
Perhaps a better understanding of the meaning of the word “vindicate” will help. The primary meaning of the dictionary definition vindicate means “to clear, as from an accusation, imputation, suspicion, or the like…” Also, it may mean: “to assert, maintain, or defend (a right, cause, etc.) against opposition.”
According to the first definition, although Satan did not come right out and say God has no right to tell you what to do, that is certainly implied by his accusation that God was acting against the best interests of his creation by forbidding them from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and bad. And he undoubtedly intended to create suspicion in the minds of others regarding the rightness of God’s orders. By his sly imputation the Devil implied that God was evil and selfish. And if God is unjust, what right does he have to be our ruler?
From the very beginning of mankind’s existence God presented himself as the sovereign ruler of Adam and Eve and their intended offspring. His first recorded utterances came in the form of commands. Read it. God said to them: “Be fruitful and become many, fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving on the earth.”
Next, God issued his directive on what Adam and Eve were allowed to eat. God said: “Here I have given to you every seed-bearing plant that is on the entire earth and every tree with seed-bearing fruit. Let them serve as food for you.”
However, prior to Eve’s creation God issued a prohibition, saying: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will certainly die.”
So, when Satan directly contradicted God’s clearly stated command it was a direct attack upon Jehovah’s sovereignty. And because the first two humans defied God as their ruler the need arose for Jehovah to defend, yes, to vindicate his sovereignty. Anyone who does not understand this does not understand the most basic foundation of the truth. Sadly, apparently some of Jehovah’s Witnesses do not.
When Jesus was on earth immediately after he was baptized and anointed as the Messiah the scripture says he was led by the holy spirit into the wilderness for the express purpose of being tempted by the Devil. This certainly seems odd since in the Lord’s prayer Jesus advised us to pray that God deliver us from temptation. Why would God deliberately lead his Son into a personal encounter with the Tempter? Obviously, the temptation of Christ had nothing to do with his mission to preach and teach and ultimately give his life as a ransom.
So, why did God present Jesus to the Devil in order for him to be tested? It has to do with the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty. How so?
Because just as with Adam and Eve, Jesus was obligated to obey God’s commands. As a fleshly Jew Jesus was under the authority of the law of Moses. Each of Satan’s temptations were intended to induce Christ to break the law. For example, Satan’s first temptation was designed to get Jesus to misuse his power by performing a miracle in his own behalf, to which Jesus replied: “It is written: ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every word that comes from Jehovah’s mouth.’”
The account in Deuteronomy that Jesus quoted has to do with the 40-year wilderness trek, when God miraculously provided the Israelites with manna —the bread from heaven. So, knowing that God could provide him with bread, miraculously if necessary, Jesus was not going to break his 40-day fast by turning stones into bread. As with the other two temptations, Jesus prefaced his reply with “it is written.”
In so doing Jesus demonstrated that he was in total subjection to God’s sovereignty. On other occasions Jesus made that clear too, saying “I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative…”
Of course, being a free moral agent Jesus could do something on his own initiative, if he chose to, even as did Satan and Adam and Eve. What he meant was he would never allow himself to do anything to displease God, such as acting on his own initiative.
Ultimately, it was Jehovah’s will for Jesus to be put to death. And not just an ordinary death, but it was God’s will for Jesus to be subjected to a humiliating and torturous ordeal. Why? Because Satan’s contention is that no one will obey God if it involves suffering or death. That too is a direct attack upon God’s sovereignty.
But contrary to the accusation that God was withholding something good, Jesus knew that it was also God’s stated command that if he willingly submitted himself to death then God would not only raise him from the dead, but exalt him to his own throne, making Jesus the immortal ruler of the universe.
The 53rd chapter of Isaiah relates to the death and resurrection of the Messiah. And it clearly states that God took delight in crushing him. What that means is, Jehovah willed that his Son be crushed to death in order to completely demonstrate his submission to God’s authority. God was delighted that his Son was willing.
Clearly, the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty is the very heart of the truth. That is why Jesus is called the faithful and true witness. He gave witness to God’s sovereignty over his life. By faithfully submitting himself to Jehovah as his sovereign, Jesus gained the ultimate reward, proving that God not only has the right to rule over his creation, but that our complete obedience to him results in unending blessings.
The complete vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty will come with the return of Christ. Of course, the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses must first come to know that he is Jehovah, just as will the world, ultimately. Christ will impose his authority over all, beginning first with those who are in the Kingdom —tossing some out. At that time Satan will impose his rulership upon the world to such an extent that anyone who does not submit to the Devil’s beast and its image will be under threat of death.
The issue of the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty will be unavoidable and inescapable.