Build Strong Friendships Before the End Comes – Study 2019/44
“A true friend shows love at all times.” – Proverbs 17:17
[From ws 11/19 p.2 Study Article 44: December 30 – January 5, 2020]
Indeed, how can we “Build strong friendships before the End comes”?
Why cannot the article be entitled “How to build strong friendships”? This study article appears to be a barely disguised attempt to frighten the rank and file witnesses into staying in the Organization because the end is coming. Otherwise why add the qualifier “before the end comes”?
Instead of being treated to a picture (or video) of brothers and sisters hiding in a bunker, as we have been in the recent past, this time it appears we have gone up in the world. In this article we are instead treated to a picture of brothers and sisters hiding in an attic! The reviewer struggles to find any scriptural or logical reason for these portrayals other than as scare tactics. Why true Christians would need to hide is not suggested or hinted at in scriptures that clearly relate to Armageddon.
Learn from Jeremiah.
Talking about Jeremiah, the article says, “In fact, he expressed his feelings to his loyal secretary Baruch and ultimately to us”. (Par.3). True, otherwise how could Baruch write down Jehovah’s message being given to Israel through Jeremiah. But the inference that Jeremiah poured out his feelings to Baruch on a personal level is complete speculation. He could have done, but all the recorded conversations with Baruch were to transmit Jehovah’s warnings to him to convey to others or to record them.
“We can well imagine that as Baruch wrote down Jeremiah’s eventful story, the two developed deep affection and respect for each other”. Again, another wonderful piece of speculation that is neither confirmed nor denied by the scriptural record. Does it matter you may ask? Yes, it matters very much. As many of our awakened readers know, it is because we did it ourselves at one time, as others continue to do today. Did we not believe the speculation as truth because it came from the Organization? Likewise today, many repeat the follow phrase verbatim like a mantra, “we are living in the last of the last days” simply because a member of the Governing Body said so in a talk, or the circuit overseer said it during his visit, or the Watchtower scheduled a study watchtower with that title.
It is also very hypocritical of the Organization to paint such a glowing picture of a friendship that we do not even know existed, to support the agenda of the theme of this study article. Yet, on the other hand in the publication “God’s word for us through Jeremiah” (2010), it paints a black picture of Baruch, again through total speculation. Here are a few examples from that publication of which there are plenty more to be found:
“As to what Baruch’s concerns were, one possibility had to do with fame and prestige” chapter 9 paragraph 4. (Speculation in bold)
“The “great things” that Baruch had in mind—whether the gaining of additional honor in the royal court or material prosperity—might prove to be in vain.” Chapter 9 paragraph 5. (Speculation in bold)
“Baruch’s “great things” might have included material prosperity”. Chapter 9 paragraph 6. (Speculation in bold)
Perhaps the worst insinuation is here in Chapter 9 paragraph 3 where it says “The reason why Baruch felt that he had “no resting-place” while he transcribed Jeremiah’s prophetic utterances was not the assignment itself. It was his own view of what seemed great—what was in his heart. Engrossed in seeking “great things” for himself, Baruch lost sight of the more important things, those pertaining to doing the divine will.”
This interpretation of Baruch’s heart condition is tantamount to character assassination without good cause or evidence that would stand up in court.
Indeed, we can equally speculate that the feeling of a lack of a resting-place was due to his dangerous assignment and the conditions around him. In addition, that Jehovah was concerned that Baruch was tiring out and gave him the warning while he still had sight of and a desire for the more important things. It was just that his enthusiasm and faith just needed a little rekindling.
Does our speculation have any better basis as opposed to the speculation of the Watchtower publication? Yes, for on the basis of the Organization’s speculation and the way humans respond to situations in general it is unlikely that Baruch would have responded so readily to the counsel if he had “lost sight of the more important things”, as they would have ceased to be important to him and hence could have been easily offended.
At least our speculation avoids judging Baruch harshly when there is no proof in the scriptures that we should judge him so harshly.
This shows clearly how the Organization slants its material and speculates frequently. It can also be seen that it does this to suit its own agenda rather than being concerned with sticking to Bible truth, as it can flip flop in attitude. On the basis of these quotes from the Jeremiah publication alone, it is contradictory of the Organization to suggest that Baruch and Jeremiah were good friends in this Watchtower Study article.
Indeed, in many congregations those who have been viewed as “losing sight of the more important things” of the Organization, such as those who get secular training for employment which will enable them to support their family more comfortably, are usually considered bad company by the more super-righteous members of the congregation and shunned accordingly, and not made close friends of. So how can the Organization suddenly use Baruch as a role model?
For a brilliant summary of the hypocrisy of the Organization and a little light relief, why not view “Plan for the future, Like the Governing Body” ?
“Heart to Heart communication”
Paragraph 9 states “Jesus showed that he trusted his friends by communicating openly with them. (John 15:15) We can imitate him by sharing our joys, concerns, and disappointments with others.”
Given where this suggestion is coming from, how well does the Organization match its own suggestions?
For example, does the Organization show that they trust their members by communicating openly with them? Do the congregation members have access to the Shepherd the Flock of God elder’s handbook for example, so that they know how they would be dealt with in a judicial committee?
Has the Organization come clean about the frequent lawsuits being made against them by those who were not protected by the elders from child sexual abuse?
Have they openly told the congregations that they are paying out millions in court fines and compensation to such victims? No, it is hidden, even in their publicly published accounts.
Did they openly mention the Australian Royal High Commission into Child Abuse and the cross-examination of Geoffrey Jackson?
Did they apologise for misleading the flock about 1975 being the year Armageddon would come? No, instead they blamed the flock (for believing them!).
Further thoughts also need to be given to the second sentence. Within the Organization is it safe or a good idea to share our joys of understanding a scripture in a different and correct way to what the Organization teaches?; or is it good to share our concerns about certain teachings of the Organization; or our disappointments about Armageddon not coming yet, and perhaps having to face up to failing health or old age in this system of things, which we were led not to expect. Confide any of these feelings to any non-awaken witness would likely lead to being reported to the elders and being invited to appear before a judicial committee.
The picture above paragraph 10 suggests that good friends work together in the ministry. However, as we all know, good friends would do much more than that, but none of those things are suggested.
Paragraphs 13-16 correctly encourage us to try to focus on the positive aspects rather than negative aspects of our friends. This, however, should not involve overlooking serious flaws.
After spending the entire article pushing the speculation that Jeremiah was a close friend of Baruch, it suddenly switches tack and claims that Ebed-Melech was a friend of Jeremiah. Perhaps the Organization is hoping you will not spot the change of subject of speculation!
There is no scriptural support for their view. In fact, it is unlikely that Jeremiah was a close friend, given that Ebed-Melech talked about Jeremiah as “Jeremiah the prophet” in a formal way. Ebed-Melech also used ordinary human compassion and sense of justice to argue for Jeremiah to be removed from the well. Furthermore, Jeremiah 39:15-18 says “Go, and you must say to Eʹbed-melʹech the E·thi·oʹpi·an,”. It does not say “you must say to your friend, Ebed-Melech”.
Nevertheless, that did not stop Jeremiah from conveying Jehovah’s message that Ebed-Melech would escape Jerusalem’s destruction with his life. Given that Ebed-Melech was in charge of King Zedekiah’s household, Nebuchadnezzar would otherwise likely have killed him. After all, Seraiah the High Priest and others like Ebed-Melech were killed according to 2 Kings 25:18-21. Interestingly the passage of Jeremiah 39:15-18 is immediately after a brief allusion to the events of the account in 2 Kings 25. This appears to act as a confirmation that Ebed-Melech and Baruch survived when most around them did not.
The final paragraph attempts to give another reason to make friends only within the Organization and distrust all others when it says “We must be determined to build and maintain strong relationships with our brothers and sisters now. Why? Because our enemies will try to divide us by means of lies and misinformation. They will try to turn us against one another”.
There is definitely no need for opposers and enemies of the Organization to try to divide by means of lies and misinformation. The truth of the matters and correct information will do (and is doing) far more than that.
It is good to make friends and long-lasting friends at that. But the reason provided by this Watchtower article for making friends is deeply flawed. It appears to be a barely disguised attempt at scaremongering the brothers and sisters into making friends and their only friends amongst fellow witnesses, all because in the Organization’s view allegedly the end is nigh, yet this is a time Jesus said we could not know.
The Watchtower article is not a genuine attempt nor helpful enough, to assist those who may struggle for many reasons to make friends such as shyness. One does not make true friends just by spending time in field service with them. Furthermore, true friends would not shun you simply because you decide many of the beliefs you once had in common are seriously flawed.
To benefit from anything in this study article we have to sieve out all the Organization’s slanted application and speculation with which it is riddled. The drought in the so-called spiritual paradise continues.