Gibbon: Decline and Fall—Why the Fall? Part 2–a take on Psalm 2

From Part 1: “Anti-cultists in particular build upon the notion that it is wrong to depart from the mainstream of rule by human efforts. Any serious consideration of a ‘God’s kingdom’ that calls the shots is disagreeable to them and, they would have you believe, also to you. The human experiment of self-rule is what must consume people. It’s wrong to sit it out, they maintain.”

The cacophony of ‘cult’ accusations over the past 20 years helps to understand Psalm 2. It’s a little hard to understand otherwise, though I’ve tried. I used to play with Psalm 2 in service, observing that nations today are not in agreement on anything, but there is one thing upon which they do agree:

“The kings of the earth take their stand And high officials gather together as one Against Jehovah and against his anointed one.” (Psalm 2:2)  

They’re all united in that. They can’t stand Jehovah and his anointed one. But in what practical way is that loathing manifested?

“They say: ‘Let us tear off their shackles And throw off their ropes!’” (vs 3)

It’s not at all clear how that applies—until one considers accusations from the anti-cultists. Service to that ‘cult’ that is the Jehovah’s Witness organization, they say, ‘shackles’ a person. But those anti-cultists would work to ‘free’ them from that ‘bondage’—‘throw off their ropes.’

Their underhanded doings are disguised as efforts to ‘help’ individual Witnesses, freeing them. In Russia, Dvorkin charges that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a “rather oppressive cult which violates the rights of its members, abuses people, and . . . often ruins their lives . . . They deprive them of normal human existence [and] deprive people of normal social life.” (the quotation included in chapter 18 of Don’t Know Why)

It’s crazy talk. Witnesses do the only thing reasonable people can be expected to do: they don’t understand it, at least not at first. But, crazy or not, this kind of reasoning is all the rage today among those who point the ‘cult’ finger.

There must have been similar accusations made toward Christian’s in the first century, for Paul feels obliged to push back at them. “We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. (2 Corinthians 7:2) Why would he write such except to counter charges that they had?

Another Psalm says,

“Jehovah will extend the scepter of your power out of Zion, saying: ‘Go subduing in the midst of your enemies. 118B1CE8-0395-42CF-9C08-213FAA15D1F5Your people will offer themselves willingly on the day of your military force. In splendid holiness, from the womb of the dawn, You have your company of young men just like dewdrops.’” Psalm 110:2-3

‘They’re our dewdrops, dammit, not yours! You can’t have them!’ fume ‘the nations’ as their “peoples [keep] muttering an empty thing?” (Back to Ps 2:1) The ‘empty thing,’ the Research Guide’ points out, and it makes perfect sense, has to do with their sovereignty. Humans can rule the earth their way. They do know what is good and bad, just like the god of this system of things said: “For God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Gen 3:5) They don’t need no stinkin ‘God’s kingdom’ to put them in ‘shackles’ and ‘ropes’ with its own notions of what is good and bad.

This thinking puts pressure on Witnesses everywhere. Paul writes Timothy to “urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made concerning all sorts of men, concerning kings and all those who are in high positions, so that we may go on leading a calm and quiet life with complete godly devotion and seriousness.” (1 Tim 2:1-2) That sounds reasonable. If you keep out of the king’s way, obey all his laws, and never speak ill of him, won’t he leave you alone?

Increasingly he will not. It is not enough to not pull against him. He requires you pull for him. Thus, Christian ‘neutrality’ is increasingly not tolerated in ‘authoritarian countries.’ But it also starts to come under fire in more democratic countries too. There you don’t have to pull for the king. You can pull against him if you want. You can pull for his opponent. But you have to pull for someone! If you don’t, you are part of a weird cult and come under fire for not serving the purpose of the greater god of this system of things who champions human rule in all of its manifestations, not just those of authoritarian kings but also of those ‘kings’ who acquiesce to sharing power with the clay of the more democratic governments.

It’s not wrong to consider the human (political reasons) but to be blind to the underlying spiritual reasons is to present a misleading picture

 

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’

Are We Looking at a Bait and Switch?

In the manner of the Lord’s death, Roman soldiers break legs to hasten death. But they don’t do it to Jesus. He is already dead. The apostle John says: “In fact, these things took place for the scripture to be fulfilled: ‘Not a bone of his will be broken.’” (John 19:36)

He is quoting Psalm 34:20: “He is guarding all his bones; Not one of them has been broken.”

Yet, if you read the verse in its Psalm 34 context you would never get the impression that the subject dies.

They cried out, and Jehovah heard; He rescued them from all their distresses. (17)

Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted; He saves those who are crushed in spirit. (18)

Many are the hardships of the righteous one, But Jehovah rescues him from them all. (19)

He is guarding all his bones; Not one of them has been broken. (20)

Disaster will put the wicked to death; Those hating the righteous will be found guilty. (21)

Unbroken bones runs parallel to ‘rescued from all distresses,’ ‘saves those who are crushed,’ and ‘rescued from all hardships.’ If you’re rescued from all your distresses, you don’t expect to die. The only one who dies is ‘the wicked’ of verse 21, the one ‘hating the righteous!’

Hmm.

Are we looking at a bait and switch? 2D95125F-6A6D-4B31-9BDA-2CECD47C1F21 Is John doing some ‘quote-mining,’ pulling a verse out of context? Better to think that in applying it to Jesus he adding a new dimension to Psalm 34:20. Was Jesus’s life unbroken? Anyone seeing him impaled, his disciples included, would have to say no. What was unbroken, however, was his integrity.

Bones likened to integrity works pretty well. What gives a body ‘integrity’? What makes it stand up? Bones. Break the bones and it no longer stands.

Bones are often not literal in scripture. They can be “filled with dread,” in the case of a fearful person. (Job 4:14) “Jealousy is rottenness to the bones.” (Pr 14:30) On the bright side, “pleasant sayings are . . . a healing to the bones.” (Pr 16:24) The fear of Jehovah is ‘a refreshment to the bones.’ (Pr 3:8) In all of the above, ‘bones’ are symbolic.

But if the bones that not one will be broken are not literal then probably the other items of Psalm 34 are not literal either. ‘Rescued from all your distresses?’ You may still die, but with your integrity unbroken. It’s a little like the sparrows that “not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.” That doesn’t mean they don’t fall to the ground. It just means God knows about it. This is a downright bummer to those whose sole focus is the present life, and it’s a bit of a check even for those whose is not

Still, in the long run, integrity is life. Jesus was resurrected. Those who keep integrity toward God, though they die, are resurrected. They may yet live forever, just with a little hiccup at the beginning.

This brings no comfort to those whose sole horizon is the short run, but it does to those who have the big picture. See what a difference your time frame makes. People do die in this system of things. Sometimes your faith gets you out of a jam even now, and when that is the case—well, you won’t hear me complain about it. They throw Felix into the hellhole (related Saturday AM at the Pursue Peace Convention) where prisoners are broken, and he emerges with the toughest one of them saying, ‘If anyone messes with you, they’ll have me to answer to.’ It’s his faith on display that protected him, in combination with qualities engendered by the Word of faith—don’t repay evil for evil but repay evil with good, consider others as superior to oneself, treat others with deep respect, keep a primary eye, not on your own concerns, but that of others.

The qualities instilled by application of Bible principles go a long way in safeguarding a person. They are very hard to instill in the absence of Bible study, since they go so contrary to the dominant spirit today. Even now, they bail a person out of trouble. But when they don’t, one is fortified by knowing that keeping integrity means resurrection, and resurrection means life. That confidence, in turn, strengthens the resolve not to break one’s integrity. All the people manipulated to do terrible things through fear of being killed themselves, whom Bro Sanderson spoke of? Doesn’t happen to those who trust in God.

One’s time frame makes all the difference. ‘Keep your eyes on the prize,’ as the song taken from 1 Corinthians 9:24 says. Make life in this system count, but even so, know it is not the ‘real’ one. John Maynard Keynes, the economist, shot back at those who insist the economy would always revert to normal ‘in the long run’ with, “In the long run, we’re all dead.”

He is right with regard to the time frame of persons whose sole reality is the present system of things. But in the time frame of those who trust in God, it is, “in the long run we all live.”

 

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’