This is a slightly edited repost of an article originally published in January 2011
Upon his final pilgrimage to Jerusalem Jesus denounced the Pharisees with a scathing series of “woes.” Ultimately, on that same occasion, Jesus condemned the holy city of Jerusalem itself, saying to the Jews: “Look! Your house is abandoned to you.”
Jerusalem had fulfilled its purpose. It had received its promised messianic king – he being rejected and put to death outside its hallowed walls. The 5th chapter of Isaiah likewise issues a series of denunciatory woes against the leaders and inhabitants of Jerusalem.
As has already been discussed in previous installments of this commentary on Isaiah, Jerusalem typifies Christ’s congregation before it is refined. Although the prophecy is couched in the ancient setting of a vineyard the principles apply in our modern times.
The Watchtower, of course, recognizes the truthfulness of that statement, but invariably they apply its meaning to Christendom or to individual Christians – certainly not the organization as a whole and especially not its leadership. But in view of the fact that Jesus primarily denounced the leaders of the Jews, and in recognition of the clearly established axioms that those whom people put in charge have greater accountability (Luke 12:48) and that teachers will receive a heavier judgment, this portion of the prophecy of Isaiah deserves a second look.
“Woe to the ones joining house to house, and those who annex field to field until there is no more room and you men have been made to dwell all by yourselves in the midst of the land! In my ears Jehovah of armies has sworn that many houses, though great and good, will become an outright object of astonishment, without an inhabitant. For even ten acres of vineyard will produce but one bath measure, and even a homer measure of seed will produce but an ephah measure.”
In recent decades the Watchtower Society has grown to become an international corporation with dozens of branch offices and publishing facilities operating around the globe. Evidently, at one point during the ’90s the Watchtower Society was actually ranked as one of the biggest construction companies in the world due to its many building projects. The crowning project being the new headquarters facility in Warwick and a proposed Hollywood movie production facility close by. The Society has also implemented the closure and consolidation of operations of several Central American branches. Evidently, these developments have come about due to financial considerations, amounting to cost-cutting measures because of falling contributions.
But what sort of precedent is there in the activities of the original Christians to justify the massive construction projects the Watchtower has sponsored over the years? There is none. The first-century Christians did not engage in building temples or cathedrals or meeting places of any kind. Most certainly they did not construct factories, dormitories, or office buildings. Jesus merely told his followers to go preach. And that is what they did. Jehovah’s spirit impelled them.
As it stands now, the Watchtower Corporation has filled the land, so to speak, as the prophecy states. There are thousands of kingdom halls all over the developed world (all owned by the Watchtower Society, though built and paid for by hard-working rank-and-file contributors). While all credit is given to God, especially on occasions when facilities are officially dedicated to Jehovah, no doubt the men who have engineered the development of the organization consider the organization to be indispensable to the accomplishment of the Christian evangelical work.
But is it? Obviously not.
Jesus once said that God could make the stones cry out if men did not fulfill God’s mandate. And as already stated, first-century Christians are said to have preached the kingdom message to the entire inhabited earth back then, all without so much as one magazine, tract, book, or video or anything other than a few tattered scrolls.
In spite of the massive corporation behind the worldwide ministry of Jehovah’s Witnesses today the results have not been particularly impressive. In fact, as the growth of Jehovah’s Witnesses in recent years appears to have stagnated the Governing Body has resorted to accepting field service reports of 15 minutes and promoting the baptism of younger and younger children. Overall, the growth of Jehovah’s Witnesses appears to have merely kept pace with population growth overall.
Could this be the meaning of the prophecy quoted above, wherein 10 acres of vineyard produces a mere bath measure? In other words, without Jehovah’s blessing, it doesn’t matter what men do —their success will be limited.
In any case, although it is unthinkable and considered completely out of the realm of possibility in the minds of Jehovah’s Witnesses presently, the “many houses, though great and good,” which are destined to become “an outright object of astonishment, without an inhabitant,” must be the houses of worship and related facilities belonging to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. How may that be determined?
All prophecy is harmonious. And this portion of Isaiah harmonizes with the prophecy of Joel, which states in its opening words: “Wake up, you drunkards, and weep; and howl, all you wine drinkers, on account of sweet wine, for it has been cut off from your mouths. For there is a nation that has come up into my land, mighty and without number. Its teeth are the teeth of a lion, and it has the jawbones of a lion. It has set my vine as an object of astonishment, and my fig tree as a stump. It has positively stripped it bare and thrown it away. The twigs of it have become white. Wail, as a virgin girded with sackcloth does over the owner of her youth.”
Just as in Isaiah, in the prophecy of Joel Jehovah likens his earthly nation to a vineyard, the vine of which is made to become an object of astonishment. And just as in Joel, the concluding part of the fifth chapter of Isaiah describes the desolator of the vineyard as a growling lion. The significance of the harmony between the two prophecies is that Joel, although also set in ancient Israel, clearly applies to God’s special possession during the conclusion. (See Chapter 18 – Joel)
By the light of prophecy, it is the Watchtower and all of its holdings worldwide that is destined to become an object of astonishment in the very near future!
Considering the harmony of the two prophecies the drunkards are not to be understood as being literal wine drinkers or the imbibers of literal intoxicating liquors. Also, given the fact that the 28th chapter of Isaiah is basically an enlargement of the prophecy under consideration here, and that part of Isaiah undoubtedly speaks to spiritual drunkards who are the leaders of God’s people at the time of Christ’s return, this segment of Isaiah must also be understood to speak to those who are spiritually drunk.
Jehovah’s Witnesses typically think of the common churchgoer as being drunk on Babylon’s wine. To be sure, they are drunk. Or as a famous communist once put it: “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”
But the truth can have an intoxicating effect also. It can cause one to become overly confident in their supposed righteousness and worth. And when men are given great honor and authority over others, that can have an intoxicating effect too. Did not Paul reprove some of the Corinthians for their unjustified cocksureness?
But how could the prophecy possibly apply to the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses? In what sense do they not look at the work of Jehovah’s hands? Well, could it possibly be pleasing to God if Christians praise Jehovah with their mouths and exalt over the success of their organization, such as is routinely done at assemblies and conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses, while neglecting to properly care for the weak and defenseless? In that respect, Jehovah’s Witnesses indeed imbibe of spiritual wine and intoxicating liquors and exalt with harp, stringed instrument, etc, but do not consider that Jehovah places a priority on pleading the cause of the proverbial fatherless boy.
As has been my unhappy duty to write about on many occasions, the many sexually abused children who have had the unfortunate experience of having the Watchtower as their adversary at law testifies against the spiritually inebriated and self-exalting leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The prophecy continues: “Therefore my people will have to go into exile for lack of knowledge; and their glory will be famished men, and their crowd will be parched with thirst. Therefore Sheol has made its soul spacious and has opened its mouth wide beyond bounds; and what is splendid in her, also her crowd and her uproar and the exultant one, will certainly go down into it. And earthling man will bow down, and man will become low, and even the eyes of the high ones will become low. And Jehovah of armies will become high through judgment, and the true God, the Holy One, will certainly sanctify himself through righteousness. And the male lambs will actually graze as in their pasture; and the desolate places of well-fed animals alien residents will eat.”
As in the book of Joel, in Isaiah Jehovah declares those whom his judgments come against as “my people.” When Jehovah puts himself on high, the high ones and “the exultant one” will be brought low. This does not bode well for the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Woe indeed! The oncoming presence of Christ will not only discredit the Watchtower, seeing that they have been falsely heralding an invisible presence since 1874, but the entire organization is destined to go into exile, in the sense of having an awareness of having come under God’s rebuke. Ultimately, though, God will more directly become the shepherd of his people, so that is why immediately following the denunciation the male lambs are spoken of as peacefully grazing in their pasture.
This analogy well describes the directors of the Watchtower Society. For decades it is as if they have drawn their 1914 wagon with ropes of error and untruth, all the while declaring their eagerness for the day of Jehovah to arrive. Apparently, they actually believe their own hokum, that Christ judged the house of God back in 1918. Woe to them when the actual day arrives and the counsel of the Holy One of Israel is unveiled against them!
The prophecy continues: “Woe to those who are saying that good is bad and bad is good, those who are putting darkness for light and light for darkness, those who are putting bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those wise in their own eyes and discreet even in front of their own faces!”
If there is any doubt the prophecy of Isaiah is intended to be directed against the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern times the verse above should dispel it.
Although Jesus referred to a faithful and discreet slave on only two occasions, the pages of the Watchtower make reference to that phrase hundreds of times. At virtually every meeting and convention gathering, Jehovah’s Witnesses may be heard praising and thanking the leading men of the Watchtower for being faithful, wise and discreet.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, though, are oblivious to the extent to which they have been misled. Woe, indeed, to those who claim the sons of the Kingdom are now shining as brightly as the sun within the Watchtower Society. Their light is going to flicker out when the hour of darkness arrives.
The prophecy continues: “Woe to those who are mighty in drinking wine, and to the men with vital energy for mixing intoxicating liquor, those who are pronouncing the wicked one righteous in consideration of a bribe, and who take away even the righteousness of the righteous one from him!”
As has already been established, the leadership of God’s earthly organization is spiritually intoxicated. But in what way are they “pronouncing the wicked one righteous in consideration of a bribe”?
One facet of this evil is reflected in their secretive partnership with the United Nations. While the Watchtower used to resolutely denounce the United Nations as an abomination, after becoming officially accepted by the United Nations’ Department of Public Information as an associate-level NGO, the Watchtower was obligated to use a portion of the corporate resources to present the public with positive information regarding the United Nations and their plethora of initiatives and programs. This they undeniably did, as has been painstakingly documented on this site. (See Chapter 11 – Strange Bedfellows)
In return for their promoting the United Nations, the Watchtower received help for humanitarian relief programs, including the use of UN vehicles and aircraft. So, in effect, the Watchtower pronounced the UN to be a righteous institution in exchange for their assistance, which amounts to receiving a bribe in return for publishing positive information about the UN.
Conversely, the Watchtower Society has also taken “away even the righteousness of the righteous one.” How so? To date, the Watchtower organization has never, ever admitted an error or accepted any responsibility for stumbling others. Anyone who dares to challenge the Watchtower for their hypocrisy is ruthlessly crushed.
Take the case of Barbara Anderson. She and her husband were both zealous Watchtower supporters for many years. They both were volunteer workers at Bethel. Due to her extensive research and close association with the Governing Body Sister Anderson became aware that the Service Department knowingly appointed pedophiles to positions of responsibility and maintained a database with the names of thousands of known pedophiles lurking within the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, many of whom had never been disfellowshipped, nor were their vile crimes against children ever reported to the local police.
When her concerns for the safety and welfare of the children in the congregations were dismissed by the princes of Bethel she became disillusioned and eventually went to the media as a whistleblower. Even though Barbara had left Bethel and eventually stopped associating altogether, in order to discredit Anderson the Watchtower Society ordered her former congregation to disfellowship her before the media aired their exposé. When queried by the press as to why Anderson was disfellowshipped right before the airing of the program the Watchtower’s spokesman lied, implying that her disfellowshipping had nothing to do with her going to the press, but was because she was an immoral sinner. Consequently, a libel lawsuit against the Society is presently winding its way through the judicial system.
One thing became clear to the Anderson’s, as well as to many others too, the leaders of the Watchtower give the public image of the organization greater priority than the well-being and protection of children. But this is an example of how the Watchtower takes away the righteousness of the righteous. Of course, this is merely one example. There are many instances of righteous persons running afoul of the Society and paying the price for it. Woe, indeed, for the lawyers and policymakers of the Watchtower Society! Their day is coming!
Jesus foretold a day of reckoning between himself and the servants whom he appointed to feed the household of his domestic servants. What will the master find when he unexpectedly returns? As Jesus explained by means of numerous illustrations, he will find an ignorant but faithful faction and an unfaithful, evil, sluggish slave. The wicked slave will be put out into the outer darkness, where he is destined to weep and gnash his teeth. In other words, he will be put to death.
It is a serious responsibility to bear the name of God before the world. It is an even weightier thing to wield authority in the name of Jehovah and to teach his word. Inevitably, Jehovah must judge those who do. And it is only those who speak and teach in the name of Jehovah who can bring reproach upon the name and show disrespect for the God who bears that name. For that reason, woe, indeed, for the Watchtower Society!
“Therefore just as a tongue of fire eats up the stubble and into the flames mere dried grass sinks down, their very rootstock will become just like a musty smell, and their blossom itself will go up just like powder, because they have rejected the law of Jehovah of armies, and the saying of the Holy One of Israel they have disrespected. That is why the anger of Jehovah has grown hot against his people, and he will stretch out his hand against them and strike them. And the mountains will be agitated, and their dead bodies will become like the offal in the midst of the streets.”