My Meeting Notes: Week of March 17, 2024. Psalm 19 and the Origin of Simony

Psalm 19 was the one to focus on this week. 20 and 21 were also included in the week’s assigned material. They’re fine, but 19 is where its at.

You can almost divide the psalm into two parts: 1-6 is of Jehovah’s created works: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God.” 7-14 is how He turns his attention toward humans, putting those works at his disposal. It is almost like a ‘What is mortal man that you keep him in mind?’ (Psalm 8, also of David) scenario.

For example, (vs 6) “It [the sun] emerges from one end of the heavens, And it circles to their other end; And nothing is concealed from its heat.” A pinhead sized piece of it—you’d still have to stand 90 miles away so as not to fry, the speaker said. And then, He uses that power, that nothing can be concealed from, to examine humans—don’t think you can keep any secrets from him. But his purpose is not to grill anyone—give them the third degree. It is to benefit with laws and reminders far beyond what they might come up with on their own—as though providing an owner’s manual for the product that is us:

The commandment of Jehovah is clean, making the eyes shine. The fear of Jehovah is pure, lasting forever. The judgments of Jehovah are true, altogether righteous. They are more desirable than gold, Than much fine gold, And sweeter than honey, the honey that drips from the combs. By them your servant has been warned; In keeping them, there is a large reward.” (8-11)

Back up to 3-4 about the heavens which “night after night declare knowledge:’ “There is no speech, and there are no words; Their voice is not heard. But into all the earth their sound has gone out,” How can one not like the imagery of Psalm 19? “The skies above proclaim the work of his hands.”

Speaking of imagery, get a load of this one, depicting the power of the rising sun: “It is like a bridegroom emerging from the bridal chamber.” Anyone recall how that guy feels?

Then, there was the study from the Book of Acts. This week the focus was on Simon, the sorcerer who tried to buy the miraculous gifts that turned out to be free to people of right heart: 

Now when Simon saw that the spirit was given through the laying on of the hands of the apostles, he offered them money, saying: “Give me this authority also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive holy spirit.” But Peter said to him: “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could acquire the free gift of God with money. You have neither part nor share in this matter, for your heart is not straight in the sight of God. So repent of this badness of yours, and supplicate Jehovah that, if possible, the wicked intention of your heart may be forgiven you; for I see you are a bitter poison and a slave of unrighteousness.” In answer Simon said to them: “Make supplication for me to Jehovah that none of the things you have said may come upon me.” (Acts 8: 18-24)

The conductor, a man of kindness and empathy, spoke of how sometimes you have to give counsel, “even when it is difficult.” I dunno—it doesn’t look like Peter found it all that difficult. He roasted the fellow!

There was a paragraph that pointed out how Simon has become a word, simony, stemming from this account—trying to buy ecclesiastical things with money. My remark was that the account reminded me of the saying, ‘Don’t ever say a person is worthless. They can always be used as a bad example.’ Not that Simon was a worthless—he turned out okay, but there was a moment . . . I mean, his recovery wasn’t a slam dunk. Supplicate Jehovah that, if possible, this sin may be forgiven you, Peter said. 

In a way, he got what he wanted. Had he succeeded in buying miraculous gifts, he would have been one one many and nobody would recall him today. But because he flirted with being ‘worthless,’ he got a word named after him and thus lives on forever!

The conductor ended up saying how he wasn’t a bad man; his thinking just got screwy and had to be corrected. It happens today. There will be brothers who aren’t bad people, but their thinking gets askew over this point or that and must be readjusted.  The conductor is a good guy.

Then, there was that 3-minute part assigned to me on inviting someone to the Memorial. This I already wrote about here.

 

****  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

My Meeting Notes: Week of March 4, 2024

When the Scriptural Gems portion came, five separate people commented on this verse, for the most part not repeating each other. The scripture was a hit

“Rescue me with your hand, O Jehovah, From men of this world, whose share is in this life.” (Ps: 17:14)

Imagine. You have to be rescued from them. Whatever they have rubs off, that determination to have it all, whereas any Christian knows the meaning of delayed gratification. You don’t want to overdose on people “whose share is in this life.” Alas, when one gives up on God completely, it is all that remains.

The contrast is in the very next verse (15): “I am satisfied to awaken in your presence.”

Then there was the student talk in which was quoted Mark 7:9: “Further, he said to them: ‘You skillfully disregard the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.’”

 

‘Skillfully disregard.’ They have to work at it.

 

And from the commentary on Acts (7:54-8:3):

“What can we learn from Stephen’s speech? . . .  We can also learn about graciousness and tact from Stephen. His audience could hardly have been more hostile! Yet, for as long as possible, he maintained common ground . . . he also addressed them with respect, calling the older men “fathers.” (Acts 7:2) We too need to present the truths of God’s Word with “a mild temper and deep respect.”​

How respectful can you be when you go on to call those religious high court members “obstinate men?” It recalls to me the quip that if you begin your remarks with, “With all due respect,” you can say any horrific thing you want.

 

“Which one of the prophets did your forefathers not persecute?” Stephen charges. (vs 52)

Now, the scribes and Pharisees were sensitive to that charge. They’d worked up a defense against it. Earlier, Jesus had said, (Matthew 23: 29-30) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you . . . say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have shared with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’”

Oh, hogwash, he says. You’re fully in that tradition. Keep on keeping on:

“Therefore, you are testifying against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Well, then, fill up the measure of your forefathers.” (31-32)

 

Someone commented on Stephen’s forgiveness: “Finally, Stephen prayed directly to God in a loud voice: “Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them.” After saying this, he fell asleep in death.​“—Acts 7:59, 60. Not his role to judge, apparently. Besides, maybe they were just being used.

 

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

My Meeting Notes, Week of 2/18/24–Psalms 8-10, Acts 6

“When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers, The moon and the stars that you have prepared, What is mortal man that you keep him in mind, And a son of man that you take care of him? You made him a little lower than godlike ones, And you crowned him with glory and splendor. You gave him dominion over the works of your hands; You have put everything under his feet:” (Psalm 8:3-6)

It is a good, appreciative, attitude for life, much better than ‘We pulled ourselves up from our own bootstraps!’ evolution.

Metaphorically, you can probably use it even if you do believe in evolution. After all, it is only ‘origin of life’ [happenstance or created?] at which one must absolutely draw the line. Should developing life incorporate elements of evolution, we can all live with that. Let scientists be scientists and Bible students be Bible students.

The psalmist’s attitude is harder to pull off if you are undergoing Job-like trials. Then again, such an attitude might better enable one to endure them while they last.

 

***When the nations get too big for their pants, which they are wont to do, the psalmist says,

“Rise up, O Jehovah! Do not let mortal man prevail. May the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with fear, O Jehovah, Let the nations know that they are only mortal men.” (9:19-

 

***His eyes are watching for an unfortunate victim. He waits in his hiding place like a lion in its lair. He waits to seize the helpless one. . . . The victim is crushed and brought down.” (Psalm 10:8-10)

I don’t know anyone like this. Even of the mechanic who billed me for a new carburetor on my Tesla I didn’t go that far.

The whole psalm is about how the wicked one shakes you like a dog with a rat. This may be why Rosie said when she first read the psalms as a young girl, “Man, this guy sure whines a lot!” 

Could you apply it to machinations of humans, be they political parties, governments, or powers transcending governments who push schemes, sometimes will full knowledge they are making you trouble, doing so for their idea of the ‘greater good.’ That scenario fits the tone of the psalm. It’s not for nothing that the Bible likens governments to ‘the heavens.’ They drench you one moment, scorch you the next, freeze you after that, and there’s not a thing you can do about it.

Verses like #4 suggest it’s the atheists up to no good: “In his haughtiness, the wicked man makes no investigation; All his thoughts are: “There is no God.’” But other verses are to the effect that they acknowledge God but count him as a non-factor: “He says in his heart: “God has forgotten. He has turned away his face. He never notices.” (vs 11)

Besides, here’s a commentator (in connection with ‘the senseless one who says in his heart ‘there is no Jehovah’) who says there were no atheists back then, at least not enough to single out as a class: “It never occurred to any writer of the OT [Hebrew Scriptures] to prove or argue the existence of God. . . .It is not according to the spirit of the ancient world in general to deny the existence of God, or to use arguments to prove it. The belief was one natural to the human mind and common to all men.” Dr. James Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible.

It matters little to say there is a God. What matters is what attributes you assign him. We diss the ancient peoples who worshipped different gods, but when people hold to radically different views of God, is it not in effect different gods they speak of? Just like you mention Oscar Oxgoad and I say ‘I know that guy!’ But further discussion reveals the attributes and physical qualities don’t line up, so you say, ‘Oh, I guess I don’t know him after all. It’s two people who share the same name.’

Who are these characters that assign him whatever attributes they find convenient? I’ll take the overall lesson of the psalm. They’re cocky as all get-out, but God will set matters straight—an underlying theme of the Bible. Humans insist upon self-rule, the underlying Genesis message of knowing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ God says, ‘Don’t try it—you’ll mess it all up.’ They do so anyway. God says, ‘Alright, I allot you such-and-such an amount of time to make good on your claim. When the time is up, we’ll see what kind of a world you’ve made.’

“[The wicked one] says in his heart: ‘I will never be shaken; For generation after generation I will never see calamity.’” (vs 6)

What says the psalmist of God? “Rise up, O Jehovah. O God, lift up your hand. . . . you do see trouble and distress. You look on and take matters in hand. To you the unfortunate victim turns. . . . Break the arm of the wicked and evil man, So that when you search for his wickedness, You will find it no more.” (vs 12-15)

 

***This is from the previous week, but the idea had to gel and be prompted by a question on Quora:

Q (from Quora): Its odd that 1 out of 9 men in the governing body is a person of color. How does that reflect their constituents?

A: 100% of the American presidency was a person of color for 8 years running. Did that result in a country where blacks and whites get along seamlessly, as with JWs? Pew Research reports that [in the United States] the makeup of Jehovah’s Witnesses is almost exactly 1/3 white, 1/3 black, 1/3 Hispanic, with about 5% Asian, mirroring the national population quite well. It is the biblical values taught that count, not the people who serve as placeholders. One should go for substance, rather than symbolism. As the stats show, Witnesses have all but solved racism.

It is pretty much as in Acts 6, when “the Greek-speaking Jews began complaining against the Hebrew-speaking Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution,” necessary because an annual pilgrimage for the Pentecost celebration unexpectedly turned into an extended stay with the formation of the Christian congregation. The apostles jumped on the problem right away, selecting “seven reputable men . . . full of spirit and wisdom, that we may appoint them over this necessary matter.”

Five of the seven are Greek, judging by their names. (vs 5). Good. The Greek names would build confidence among the Greek persons who were agrieved, no doubt. But the apostles saw no need to change their own makeup, incorporating some Greeks among themselves. It’s the same with the Governing Body themselves. With Branches, the governing arrangements start out heavily foreign but as locals advance spiritually a greater load shifts to them, very much like the appointment of the Greek speaking disciples.

 

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'