A Mind Freed for Godly Combat
“Tear down the altar of the Baal that your father has, and cut down the sacred pole that is beside it. Then build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of this stronghold with the material.”—Judg. 6:25, 26, An Amer. Trans.
1. With what freedom did God endow man? Illustrate.
JEHOVAH is not a God of captivity. He imprisons none of his creatures behind iron bars. He does not tie down even the mental processes of the individual, but allows freedom of thought in the minds that he created. He brought into existence no physical or mental robots to mechanically move in the ways he ordained, but provided his creatures of intelligence with minds not only capable of knowing right and wrong but also free to choose either course. Did not he extend this freedom of choice, accompanied by cautioning counsel, to the first human pair in Eden? And did not his spokesmen do likewise with the nation of Israel? “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed; to love Jehovah thy God, to obey his voice.” But, “If it seem evil unto you to serve Jehovah, choose you this day whom ye will serve.”—Gen. 2:17; Deut. 30:19, 20; Josh. 24:15, Am. Stan. Ver.
2. How did Satan become a captive? and how has he drawn others into bondage with him?
2 The spirit creature now known as Satan the Devil chose to serve himself, and became captive to his own evil pride and ambitious greed. (Isa. 14:12-14) Prodded on by those jailers of his mind, Satan set out to imprison others. In the name of securing greater mental liberty for Eve, he took her mind captive, and through her appeal to Adam’s selfish desires Satan was able to draw the husband into captivity. Since that time the majority of the descendants of that first pair have been “taken captive by him at his will”. (Gen. 3:3-6; 2 Tim. 2:26) Though their bodies be unfettered, Satan has “blinded the minds of them” to a state of dungeon darkness. (2 Cor. 4:4) Yet it is these blinded ones, themselves captives, who would blaze a trail to freedom for mankind. “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved.” (2 Pet. 2:19, Rev. Stan. Ver.) Just as the captive Satan could bring no liberty to Eve, so men today enslaved by sinful lusts and corruption can play no effective role as liberators. Blind leaders and blind followers together will topple into the ditch of destruction.—Matt. 15:14.
3. Who cannot open the doors to mental freedom? but what will?
3 Without literal bars Satan the Devil has jailed the minds of men, and to prevent any prison breaks he has many visible jailers standing guard over his mental prison-houses. Devilish Lucifer is known as one that “opened not the house of his prisoners”; hence his jailers have no keys that unlock the cells. Why, they themselves have “taken away the key of knowledge”, and that is the only key that throws wide the doors to mental freedom! Did not Jesus say, “Know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”? (Isa. 14:17; Luke 11:52; John 8:32) The most vital truth is that contained in God’s Word, the Bible. Do you doubt that? If Scripture truths were known and followed there could be no racial prejudice, religious hate, national greed, no juvenile delinquency nor adult crime nor international wars. It would be a changed world, a new world. Bible truth would free the mind from satanic captivity and give it a new outlook that would reveal what would be really good and pleasing and perfect for mankind. Romans 12:2 states: “You must not adopt the customs of this world but by your new attitude of mind be transformed so that you can find out what God’s will is—what is good, pleasing, and perfect.”—An Amer. Trans.
4. Why is mental freedom more important to ministers than bodily liberty?
4 Hence it is Bible truth that will enable mankind to make a successful prison break from Satan’s jailhouses, that will spring humanity from bondage into the freedom of knowing and serving the true God. When the mind is free, Jehovah’s people can serve him even though their bodies languish in prison cells or suffer in concentration camps. When the apostle Paul was incarcerated he wrote: “Now I want to assure you, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in furthering the preaching of the good news. Thus it is generally known throughout the Imperial Guard and elsewhere that it is for the sake of Christ that I am in prison, and so most of the Christian brothers have been exceedingly encouraged by my example to declare God’s message without any fear of the consequences.” (Phil. 1:12-14, An Amer. Trans.) Freed from error and fear of consequences, the mind filled with Bible truth fights in godly combat to liberate others for Jehovah’s service.
5. What is the divine purpose in freeing men from satanic captivity?
5 Was it not in the interests of freedom of worship that the Almighty God swept Egypt with devastating plagues in order to deliver the Israelites held captive by Pharaoh? (Ex. 5:1-9) Again, centuries later, when the Israelites were liberated from Babylonish captivity and returned to their homeland, it was not for the purpose of establishing their political independence as a nation, but was in order that the temple at Jerusalem might be rebuilt and Jehovah’s true worship restored. (Ezra 1:1-4; Isa. 61:1-6) Similarly today, the freedom that comes by Scripture knowledge is to be used in serving God. Persons freed by hearing the truth should then preach that truth to free others, that as many as will may be free to worship God according to his commands. And once liberated, stand fast in that freedom, as counseled: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 5:1) That some succeed and others fail is shown by prophetic events that befell Israel in the days when judges ruled.
CAPTIVITY DUE TO UNFAITHFULNESS
6. What conditions relative to worship existed during the period of the judges?
6 The period of the judges was a turbulent time in Israel’s history. It was marked by ups and downs, ups and downs in proportion to their obediences and disobediences. When the Israelites possessed the promised land they did not drive out the demon-worshipers, but put them under slavery. True to God’s warning, this course led the Israelites into the snare of heathen religions. (Deut. 7:16) They compromised and made leagues with the inhabitants of the land, failed to root out and destroy false worship, and came under bondage to it. Hence Jehovah said to Israel concerning the demon worshipers: “They shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.” Permitting themselves to be ensnared by demon religion, “the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about.” Nevertheless, “the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them,” but when the delivering judge died “they returned, and corrupted themselves”. After each deliverance and upswing to the high plane of true worship, the Israelites would soon start hobnobbing with the demon-worshiping worldlings, and again the unstable Israelites would succumb to the bondage of heathen religions. (Judg. 2:1-23) The following shows that to be the state of affairs just prior to the rise of Gideon as judge:
7, 8. What was the state of affairs in Israel just prior to Gideon’s judgeship, and why so?
7 “Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, so that the LORD delivered them into the power of Midian for seven years, and the power of Midian prevailed over Israel. It was because of Midian that the Israelites made for themselves the dens which are in the mountains, and the caves and strongholds. Whenever the Israelites put in seed, the Midianites, Amalekites and Kedemites used to come up, and attack them. They encamped against them, and destroyed the produce of the land as far as the vicinity of Gaza. They would leave nothing in Israel for the sheep, oxen, and asses to live on; for they used to come up with their cattle and tents; they used to come like locusts for number.”—Judg. 6:1-5, An Amer. Trans.
8 Israel reaped the harvest for disobedience, as Jehovah had forewarned: “Ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.” (Lev. 26:13-17) What had they done that “was evil in the sight of the LORD”? Jehovah told them, when he sent a prophet in answer to the cries for help that Israel raised: “It was I who brought you up out of Egypt, and brought you out of a state of slavery; I rescued you from the power of Egypt, and from the power of all your oppressors; I drove them out of your way, and gave you their land. So I said to you, ‘I, the LORD, am your God; you must not stand in awe of the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living.’ But you have not heeded my injunction.” (Judg. 6:8-10, An Amer. Trans.) Jehovah God had liberated them from Egyptian bondage and established them in the promised land for the very purpose of enabling them to worship him freely; but they had abused and misused freedom of worship to practice Baalism. This Devil religion had captured their minds, and heathen oppressors fattened on the fruits of their physical labors.
9. In what way are such conditions prophetic of Christendom’s religious status?
9 All of this is a prophetic drama that foreshadows conditions in this twentieth-century world. The peoples of Christendom take the name of God and Christ, and are supposed to be serving Jehovah, freed from the ignorant and contaminating practices of heathendom. But only a glance suffices to show how unChristian is Christendom, how so many of its works are evil in God’s sight, how his injunctions have gone unheeded. Even religiously, Christendom has been taken in the snare of modern Baalism. Careful students of ancient religions know that all of the basic doctrines stem from the Babylon founded by Cush and Nimrod, and that Baal can be traced to them, and that Nimrod is the one responsible for the present-day popular conception of the Devil as horned and tailed and cloven-hoofed. When Nimrod’s tower-building project collapsed and the peoples were scattered by the confusing of tongues, the peoples took with them their religious beliefs. That is why the various false religions have so much in common: they sprang from the one source of ancient Baalism.—Hislop’s The Two Babylons, pp. 21-40.
10, 11. When and how did Baal-worship ensnare the system that has now developed into Christendom?
10 Nor has modern Christendom evaded this snare of Baal worship, for many of her doctrines can be traced, along with the teachings of heathen religions, back to ancient Babylon. The Scriptures foretold that evil men would bring in destructive heresies after the death of the apostles; and this contamination was climaxed A.D. 325, when Emperor Constantine fused apostate Christianity with paganism. Shortly thereafter the Roman Catholic Church had its beginning, and when centuries later Protestantism split off it carried with it many of the pagan religious teachings. Today those who follow what is known as the “Christian religion” are not mentally free to worship God properly; their minds have been enmeshed with the modern forms of Baalism and are blinded to Biblical true worship. To establish the common ground of paganism and orthodox “Christian religions”, consider the following quotations.
11 “The copious transfusion of heathen ceremonies into Christian worship, which had taken place before the end of the fourth century, had, to a certain extent, paganized (if we may so express it) the outward form and aspect of religion.”—Church History, by Dean Waddington.
12. How does Van Dyke’s Popery show the heathen origin of Catholicism’s practices?
12 “The worshippers of Buddha in Burma, Siam, and the Chinese Empire . . . have their relics and their images, the objects of supreme veneration; their temples costing fabulous sums of money; their saints canonized by ecclesiastical authority; their priests with shaven heads, vowing chastity, poverty and obedience; their wax candles burning night and day; their penances and self-inflicted tortures; their endless traditions, and hair-splitting moral distinctions; and even their confessional. They have also their Lent, when for four or five weeks all the people are supposed to live on vegetables and fruits; their acts of merit, repetition of prayers, fasting, offerings to the images, celibacy, voluntary poverty, enforced devotions, and munificent gifts to temples, monasteries and idols. Even the rosary, a string of beads used in saying prayers, and supposed by Papists to be a device specially revealed to St. Dominic, is part of the sacred machinery of the devout Buddhist.”—Popery, by Van Dyke.
13. How does Cardinal Newman corroborate the fact that Roman Catholic worship stems from paganism and demonism?
13 “Confiding then in the power of Christianity to resist the infection of evil, and to transmute the very instruments and appendages of demon worship to an evangelical use, and feeling also that these usages had originally come from primitive revelations and from the instinct of nature, though they had been corrupted; and that they must invent what they needed, if they did not use what they found; and that they were moreover possessed of the very archetypes, of which paganism attempted the shadows; the rulers of the [Roman Catholic] church from early times were prepared, should the occasion arise, to adopt, or imitate, or sanction the existing rites and customs of the populace, as well as the philosophy of the educated class. The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees; incense, lamps, and candles; votive offerings on recovery from illness; holy water; asylums; holydays and seasons, use of calendars, processions, blessings on the fields; sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure, the ring in marriage, turning to the East, images at a later date, perhaps the ecclesiastical chant, and the [song] Kyrie Eleison, are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church.”—Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, by Cardinal Newman.
14, 15. Can demonism be sanctified by adoption into a so-called “Christian” church? and what conditions in Christendom paralleling those in Gideon’s day support your answer?
14 Certainly Christendom has dipped deep into paganism for her religious lore, though it bears the name “Christian”. Contrary to some religious belief, it is no more possible to sanctify demonism by adopting it into orthodox Christian Churches than it was for Israel to whitewash Baal worship. (2 Cor. 6:14-17) Because of her deflection from Jehovah’s true worship as set forth in the Bible, Christendom does not have God’s protection and her peoples suffer mental captivity and bodily oppression. Today the people are in a position paralleling that of the Israelites under Midian. The Midianites and their allies picture Satan’s visible agents that ride roughshod over the peoples that must bear them up.
15 Political, commercial, religious and military systems rule and oppress the mass of the people. Like robbers and plunderers and murderers they prey upon the defenseless and take away the fruits of their labor. The common people toil to produce food and raiment and homes, while others, who have produced nothing, reap the benefits of the work. The Israelites had to make dens in which to hide their substance, in order to eat. At the present time the people skimp and save for an uncertain future, but the ruling factors seek out these savings and dip into salaries and wages as they levy exorbitant taxes, which are used not so much for necessary expenditures in the interest of the people but for fat salaries made fatter by graft, for useless schemes and governmental blunders and outright waste. Big business seeks all the profit it can get by keeping the prices spiraling upward, while lowering the quality of its wares. Parasitic false religions beg and wheedle money from people who think they thereby serve God, but who in fact forward the modern Baalism that lies at the root of so much of their trouble. Disillusioned and oppressed, in bitterness many cry out to the Lord in their distress; but when slight relief and temporary prosperity come they forget God. Just as the Israelites did in the days of the judges.
“THROW DOWN THE ALTAR OF BAAL”
16. What message is brought to Gideon, and what is his reaction to it?
16 Among the Israelites that cried out in sincerity was Gideon. Our first view of him is in Ophrah threshing wheat by a winepress, and not on the open threshing-floor where the plundering Midianites might easily spot him. He has a visitor. An angel of the Lord addresses him as “thou mighty man of valour”, and says, “Thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” “Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house,” responds Gideon. He did not think more highly of himself than he ought, but was meek and lowly of heart. Yet he was willing to take on the dangerous service, if he could be sure that God would back him up. Hence he asked for a sign, and got it when the angel caused fire to burst out of a rock and consume a food-offering Gideon had provided.—Judg. 6:11-24.
17. What did Gideon quickly do, in response to whose instruction?
17 Jehovah God was not slow in instructing Gideon how to proceed, nor did Gideon tarry over acting on those instructions. The record reads: “That very night the LORD said to him, ‘Take the choicest of the bulls that your father has (it has been the choice bull for seven years), and tear down the altar of the Baal that your father has, and cut down the sacred pole that is beside it. Then build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of this stronghold with the material, and take the choice bull, and offer it up as a burnt-offering with the wood of the sacred pole which you are to cut down.’ So Gideon took ten of his slaves, and did as the LORD told him; but since he was too afraid of his father’s household and the townsmen to do it by day, he did it by night.”—Judg. 6:25-27, An Amer. Trans.
18. Whom did Gideon picture and how was the position of these prefigured ones similar to Gideon’s when the angel visited him?
18 In this prophetic drama Gideon pictured Christ Jesus and the remnant of anointed body-members. During and immediately after World War I the true Christians were in a position similar to Gideon’s at the time of the angel’s visit. Like the Israelites in the promised land, they were located in a position to serve God, and did some sowing of the seed of truth, but were unable to bring their Christian fruitage to full harvest. They had been contaminated with some of the religions practices of the modern Baal-worshipers around them, and thus blinded did not frame the message in just the straightforward and uncompromising way that it should have been presented. They looked upon the rulers of the world as the “higher powers” mentioned in Romans 13, were afflicted by a degree of creature worship and fear of man, and did not preach as openly and boldly as they should have. Oppressive worldlings exercised harsh control over them, held them in mental restraint, and jailed many. They were not free for godly combat.
19. How did the anointed remnant react to the coming of Christ Jesus to the temple, in 1918?
19 Then Christ Jesus came to the temple in 1918, as prefigured by the visit of the angel to Gideon. Their commission to preach was made clear to them. Yes, they were but a small group, least among men so far as numbers and influence were concerned, and from all appearances could do nothing. But the truths that now illuminated their minds and cleared away misunderstandings signified to them that God was with them in the work, and they came to sudden life in Kingdom service, though the enemy thought these imprisoned ones appointed to death were as good as destroyed. (Ps. 79:11; Isa. 42:7; Rev. 11:9-11) Convinced that God’s power was now operating on their behalf, and filled with the new truths that flooded forth from the temple, this small band of Christians closed in to attack the false religions that were blinding men of good-will.
20. As Gideon had done, how did Christians use in godly service things once misused in improper sacrifices?
20 Gideon and his fellows struck with boldness against Baalism, uprooting the image of Baal, chopping down the sacred pole, and laying hold on the bull dedicated to Baal. This substance previously misused they now put to work in God’s service. With the material they build an altar for Jehovah, slaughter the choice bull, and use it as a burnt-offering to God, feeding the flames with the sacred pole they had hacked down. Similarly, following World War I Jehovah’s revived witnesses consumed in Kingdom service things once appropriated by oppressing world systems. Time and energy once misspent now go into God’s service. Material possessions are used to Jehovah’s honor. (Prov. 3:9) Words once used in improper religious ways are now offered as sacrifices of praise to God, as sacrificial bullocks wholly devoted to Jehovah by burnt offering. “Take with you words, and return unto Jehovah: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and accept that which is good: so will we render as bullocks the offering of our lips.” “In his name let us continually offer praise as our sacrifice to God—the utterance of lips that glorify God’s name.”—Hos. 14:2, Am. Stan. Ver.; Heb. 13:15, An Amer. Trans.
21. How does the Christian’s sacrifice of praise dispose of and throw down modern Baalism?
21 Just as it was Gideon’s sacrifice to God that consumed Baal’s goods, so it is the Christian sacrifice of praise that disposes of false religion’s doctrines. When Christians cite Ezekiel’s words, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” the religious doctrine of immortality of the human soul perishes. When they quote Paul’s words, “The wages of sin is death,” the fable of eternal torment for the wicked goes up in smoke. When they repeat Jesus’ words, “My Father is greater than I,” the trinitarian’s claim that God and Christ are equal is proved a lie. As for the three-in-one doctrine of trinity, only one text in older Bibles supports it, and now that scholarly research has proved it spurious and it no longer appears in accurate modern translations, it has been blasted from the pages of God’s Word. (Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 6:23; John 14:28; 1 John 5:7) These and other words of praise that Christians catch up from the Bible and use in their preaching overturn the false teachings of today’s organized “Christian religions”. The traditional creeds and teachings of Christendom that trace back to paganism rather than Holy Scripture are thrown down; they have no more standing in the minds of sincere, informed men than did Baal’s image and the sacred pole after Gideon and his helpers leveled them to the ground.
22, 23. (a) How, in type and antitype, does the meaning of Gideon’s name have significance? (b) In type and antitype, how do opposers react to the throwing down of Baalism?
22 Gideon’s name means “feller, hewer; warrior”. To the unclean implements of Baal worship Gideon did act as a feller and hewer in uprooting them, and his subsequent conduct vindicates his name’s meaning of “warrior”. The greater Gideon, Christ Jesus, reveals truths and judgments from the temple that bring low down the Devil’s system in the minds of His followers, and these followers share in this leveling-off work against modern Baalism by relaying these cutting, smashing truths on to others. With what reaction from listeners? For a clue, note the repercussions Gideon’s typical actions touched off: “When the townsmen rose early next morning, there was the altar of the Baal torn down, and the sacred pole which was beside it cut down, and the choice bull offered up on the altar which had been built! Then they said to one another, ‘Who has done this deed?’ When they had inquired and investigated, they declared, ‘Gideon, the son of Joash, has done this deed.’ So the townsmen said to Joash, ‘Bring out your son that he may die; for he has torn down the altar of the Baal, and has cut down the sacred pole which was beside it.’”—Judg. 6:28-30, An Amer. Trans.
23 Doubtless these men were among those who had previously cried to the Lord because of their afflictions. They had probably heard the answering message God sent by the prophet, who told Israel that their backslide into Baalism was at the root of their trouble. Yet when the cause of their woes was attacked they rose up in a mob against its exposer. They wanted more of the thing that plagued them. They could not meet the situation with reason and logic, but in true mob spirit flatly demanded the life of the Baal-exposer. Today when Jehovah’s witnesses expose the orthodox religions as of pagan origin and contrary to God’s Word, and thereby cast down false religion in the minds of some hearers, many others raise a great howl against God’s servants, demand their arrest, want them jailed, form mobs against them, and even go so far as to demand and sometimes get the life of the servants of God. Periodically the world leaders in religion or politics plead for more of what plagues them, cry out that what is needed is more of their religion. When their sore tribulation descends upon them at Armageddon, let them call to their chosen gods of heathen origin for deliverance, and not to Jehovah God.—Judg. 10:14.
24. What proves the falsity of Baal worship, whether ancient or modern?
24 Gideon’s father Joash stopped the mob in their tracks with these words: “Will you take the Baal’s part, or will you champion him? Whoever takes his part will be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him take his own part; for his altar has been torn down!” But Baal could not answer for himself, nor can modern-day Baalism maintain its teachings in the face of declared Bible truth or withstand by logical argument the testimony brought against it by Jehovah’s witnesses. The Christian faith is proved by works, Baalism is disproved by the absence of good works. Hence, “Gideon was named Jerubbaal that day, meaning, ‘Let the Baal take his own part against him; for he tore down his altar.’” (Judg. 6:31, 32, An Amer. Trans.) That altar of Baal had belonged to Joash, yet Gideon did not feel as many today do, that the religion of their father is good enough for them; and Joash was willing to change his worship when his god was proved powerless.
25. Why is it so necessary to oust demon worship before one can enjoy Jehovah’s backing and blessing?
25 So away with all false religion that holds men’s minds captive, restrains and blinds mental faculties so that they cannot perceive God’s true worship! Down with Baal’s altar, the images, the sacred poles, the offerings! God would not deliver Israel as long as the Baal stood to be credited with the deliverance; he saves only when there is no strange god among his people. (Isa. 43:12) Before Jehovah directed steps against the invading hordes of Midianites in Gideon’s day, Baal was cast down and the sincere Israelites were cleansed of its taints. Antitypically, before Jehovah sent his witnesses against the Devil’s systems in bold attack he caused them to undergo a spiritual cleansing under the oversight of the Greater Gideon Christ Jesus at the temple, all to the end that they might “offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness”.—Mal. 3:1-5; 1 Pet. 4:17.
ASSEMBLY CALL FOR THE FEARLESS
26. What may the enemy have been shrewd enough to grasp, and with what reaction on their part?
26 Disobedience to God had led the Israelites into a state of virtual captivity; obedience was the key that would unlock the prison and free them to drive out the oppressors. Ousting Baal worship was the first necessary step on the comeback trail to true worship. The heathen looters of the land may have been shrewd enough to grasp this fact, and to see in the purge against Baalism the first signs of concerted uprising against their customary plundering of the land. Anyway, it was at this critical time that all the oppressors joined forces, at least 135,000 strong, and their hordes spilled down over the banks of Jordan, churned across the river, and streamed into the heart of Israel, into the fertile valley of Jezreel. There they squatted, a sprawling enemy camp bristling with swords to cut down any opposition that might rise against them.—Judg. 6:33; 8:10, An Amer. Trans.
27. How did Gideon meet this major threat, and with what concern for God’s backing?
27 The record recounts how Gideon was spurred on by the Lord’s spirit to meet this invasion by sounding the alarm, sending messengers to certain territories, and mustering troops to oppose the invaders; how he sought more assurance from Jehovah that He was going to be with them in the fight and save Israel; and how this assurance was given by God’s causing dew to settle first on the fleece while the ground remained dry, and then on the ground while the fleece collected none. Previously Gideon had checked to be sure of divine guidance when the angel came; now he double-checked in this test to make certain of the rightness of his position. Then “Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley”.—Judg. 6:34-40; 7:1.
28. What lawful sifting of Gideon’s force did God now order, and why?
28 With a mere 32,000 Israelites assembled in the hills above, and an enemy horde of 135,000 spread out in the valley below, Jehovah God issued this amazing command to Gideon: “There are too many men with you, for me to hand over the Midianites; Israel might glory over me by claiming, ‘My own hand has won the victory.’ Come now, issue this proclamation to the people, that ‘anyone who is terrified and trembling must go home.’” (Judg. 7:2, 3, Moffatt) This time the test was not one asked by Gideon to show correctness of position or assurance of Jehovah’s backing, but it was a sifting by God himself of those assembled for the fight. The scared ones were told to go home; and 22,000 left the assembly, retreated from the fighting force. Ten thousand remained at the well of Harod; the name of which well, incidentally, means ‘’trembling, palpitation”. Odds against Israel once four to one now become thirteen to one! Yet, Jehovah wisely acted within his law: “The officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.”—Deut. 20:8.
29. What has taken place to fulfill the typical gathering of the Midianites against Gideon, and his testing for God’s backing?
29 In fulfillment of these parts of the prophetic drama, following the enthronement and temple-coming of Christ Jesus and the cleansing of the anointed remnant on earth, Satan’s organization set itself for battle against Kingdom publishers. (Rev. 12:17) Several prophecies predict that at that time men and nations would conspire and join forces to resist the witnesses, now mentally freed from many false religious ideas that hamstrung their service to God. (Psalms 2 and 83; Isa. 8:9-12; Rev. 11:17, 18) Greatly outnumbered, as was Gideon’s band, Jehovah’s anointed witnesses must rely upon God’s help; of themselves they can do nothing. So they continually test their position, examine themselves, search the Scriptures to see that their preaching remains in harmony therewith, look for evidences of Jehovah’s direction and blessing, and stay alert to profit by any divine rebuke or correction. As Gideon checked and re-checked, so they continue to test their standing with God as they move along in the stream of time.—2 Cor. 13:5; 1 Thess. 5:21; Heb. 12:5-11.
30. Today, how does fear operate to separate many from Christian assembling?
30 As the witnesses preach throughout the earth they invite others to assemble with them. Many hearers agree in their heart with the message against hypocritical religion, but refuse to assemble. Others agree and assemble, like the 32,000 Israelites. But at these meetings they discern the fight involved, see the enemy host arrayed against the witnesses, discover that persecution comes to those who stand for Jehovah, and after a brief period of meeting attendance they withdraw from the company of the fearless ones. Not having the perfect love for God that casts out all fear, they are snared by fear of man and fright binds their mind in bondage. The meetings where the waters of truth flow forth become places of trembling and palpitation for them, just as did the well of Harod for the 22,000. They prefer a good standing in the community rather than a good standing with God, as prominent men did in Jesus’ time: “A number even of the authorities believed in him, though they would not confess it on account of the Pharisees, in case of being excommunicated; they preferred the approval of men to the approval of God.” (John 12:42, 43, Moffatt) So their feeble try at a prison break from Satan’s jailhouse systems ends as they lose courage, forsake assembling, and return to captivity.—Prov. 29:25; Matt. 5:10-12; 2 Tim. 3:12; Heb. 10:25; 1 John 4:18.
SEPARATING THE LAZY FROM THE ZEALOUS
31-33. How were the ranks of Gideon’s army further thinned out, and why?
31 Jehovah God made this test to weed out the fearful. He did it by revealing truth disclosing the fight ahead, that the Devil’s organization was to be exposed, and such disclosures brought fear to the surface. The truth cut out from the flock of sheep those who would not courageously follow their Leader, Christ Jesus. It sacrificed quantity for quality, but still further revelations of truth were to thin out the ranks even more, as foreshadowed by what next happened to Gideon’s army of ten thousand:
32 “And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go. So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink. And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water. And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.”—Judg. 7:4-7.
33 Odds against Israel rocketed to 450 to one! What could this mere handful do against 135,000 enemy swordsmen? Of themselves, surely nothing! Any deliverance that might now come through them would certainly not be due to their strength of numbers. Never could they later swell with pride and boast, “My own hand has won the victory.” Not to the Baal now thrown down and uprooted, not to their ranks now so thinned out and depleted, but only to Jehovah God could credit for any forthcoming victory go!
34. What existing circumstances provided a sound basis for the drinking test?
34 But why were the 9,700 who kneeled to drink sent home, rejected? It is readily agreed that fearfulness was a good reason for weeding out the 22,000; but what sound basis could this drinking test have? Well, remember that Gideon’s force was on the outskirts of the enemy camp, that the opposition was in range of vision, that a fight was just ahead. Did not the circumstances call for alertness, watchfulness? And how much can a man see who bows over or prostrates himself to greedily suck in water, oblivious to his surroundings? Did not the 9,700 show carelessness, negligence, indifference, a lack of appreciation for the criticalness of the situation, by getting off their feet and sinking down comfortably to satisfy their personal needs? Yes; just as much so as the 300 showed the opposite good qualities by keeping their feet on the ground, handing the needed water up to their mouths by scooping with cupped palms, having eyes front and heads up to the events that were rapidly reaching a climax. While slaking their thirst, they forgot not the fight.
35. Today, where are symbolical watering-places for many, and what Scriptural support has your answer?
35 The prophetic significance of this? Well, the Scriptures overflow with evidence that water represents life-giving truths from Jehovah. Such expressions as wells of salvation, fountains of living waters, rivers of life, and being cleansed by the “washing of water by the word” are but a few examples. (Isa. 12:3; Jer. 2:13; Ezek. 47:1-12; Amos 8:11; Eph. 5:26; Rev. 22:1, 17) While one may drink of the truth waters privately in his own home, he should also drink in congregational assemblies. Such meetings are watering-places for many; and in the drama being considered it was an assembled group doing the drinking. Hence the drinking test in modern times has manifested itself at the assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses.
36. What class was foreshadowed by the 9,700 who failed in the drinking test in Gideon’s day, and when was it particularly in evidence?
36 The 22,000 scared ones did not hang around the well of Harod long enough to quench any thirst, but the 9,700 did. Many today come to a meeting or two and are frightened away by the prospects of service and persecution before they really get the taste of the truth waters, but others do continue to assemble and drink in the message. They attend meetings, get off their feet and assume positions of ease and comfort, enjoy the harmonious explanation of difficult scriptures that is as beautiful music to their ears, and drink in the descriptions of new world blessings that strike them as a very lovely song; but they will not make that beautiful music for others, they will not sing the lovely song for other ears, they will not get on their feet for witnessing, or open their eyes to service, or face the enemy in the field. (Ezek. 33:30-33) Their only expansion program is a selfish one, to enlarge their own head, to puff up with a knowledge unaccompanied by understanding, to hoard truth to themselves as a miser buries gold. This class, foreshadowed by the 9,700 in Gideon’s time, was particularly in evidence during the 1920’s, when so many were ensnared by the self-centered process of developing “character”, and when so few saw the need for field service. When the necessity to do service in the field was repeatedly pounded home at meetings, that truth was too hard for many to take and it removed them from the assembly of Jehovah’s people.—Prov. 4:5, 7; John 6:60-66; 1 Cor. 8:1.
37. How do others show purpose and alertness at meetings that makes them comparable with the faithful 300 in the drama?
37 How different the attitude of the antitypical three hundred when they attend meetings! They must drink, and do; but to them the message is not just a nice Sunday sermon to tickle ears and be forgotten, not beautiful music to drift in one ear and out the other, not a lovely song to lull one into daydreams about a new world. When they enjoy at meetings instructive experiences or practical demonstrations, their mind is on the lookout as to how they may use that instruction in their own field service. When the Watchtower magazine is studied by the congregation and good Scriptural points are brought out, they not only enjoy that truth themselves but think how they can use that knowledge in their own preaching work. They are “doers of the word, and not hearers only”. (Jas. 1:22) They fill up with the waters of truth that gush forth at meetings, but as they do they keep eyes and ears open to service opportunities wherein they can let truth flow to others. As they themselves learn, the desire to tell others builds up pressure till it approaches the bursting point; then they get relief by opening lips and letting the message bubble out for others to enjoy, as Elihu did.—Job 32:17-20, An Amer. Trans.
38. During the 1920’s how were the ranks of the anointed witnesses diminished, yet why was their fewness no cause for loss of courage?
38 During the 1920’s the testings that came by the continuing new truths and judgments from the temple cleansed and purged the anointed remnant till only the unshakable few were left, the tried and tested, the fearless and unselfish, the alert fighters “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might”. (Isa. 6:5-7; Zech. 3:1-5; Eph. 6:10) A small band of witnesses in comparison with the enemy hordes to be faced; still, numbers are not needed for victory when Jehovah sides with the few. (1 Sam. 14:6; Luke 19:40; Rom. 8:31) Developments proved that principle true in Gideon’s day; antitypical events corroborate it today.
WHY MINDS ARE MADE FREE
39. How did and do the majority resent and resist the efforts toward spiritual cleansing, both in the drama and today?
39 But before plunging into the Scriptural narrative of the actual fight and paralleling with its events the antitypical fulfillments, take some time out to reflect on the drama up to this point. All Israel was in an unclean state in God’s sight, due to Baal worship. They were in virtual hiding from cruel occupation forces. They cried to the Lord in their distress. He answered, by sending a prophet, and an angel, and raising up a judge as deliverer. The majority resisted the message sent through the prophet, and wanted to kill by mob violence the judge raised up by the angel’s visit. They preferred popular Baalism to true worship. Likewise today, it is the orthodox but false religions of Christendom that are popular, and the unadulterated Bible truths sounded by Jehovah’s witnesses that rile mobs to violence.
40. How are the anointed remnant prepared for battle, and what folly do they avoid?
40 But faithful Gideon and his men threw Baal to the ground, sent out invitations to assemble, prepared their forces for battle by weeding out the fearful and the selfishly lazy, and kept on the alert for action. Today a similar group, an anointed remnant, is in existence. They have been prepared for battle by ousting false religious ceremony and doctrine from their minds, freed mentally from modern Baalism, with minds open to receive the truths from God’s Word and from the Greater Gideon at the temple. They study, privately and in assembly, free from fear and selfishness. They do not cease assembling and return to Baalism. Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom, the Israelites in the wilderness looked back at Egyptian pleasures, the washed sow goes back to the mire, the dog returns to his vomit; but Christians delivered from modern Baalism do not return, do not look back after putting hand to the plow of Kingdom service.—Gen. 19:26; Num. 11:4-6, 18-20; 2 Pet. 2:20-22; Luke 9:62.
41, 42. How do mentally free witnesses use God’s truth, as shown by Bible symbolisms?
41 With minds made free, and filled with the truth that makes men free, these anointed witnesses went forth and still go forth to free others. They engineer prison breaks, not from literal cells, and not by using saws or explosives, but by the truth of God’s Word, which is sharper that any two-edged sword, and which can slash free minds bound by devilish cords. The sword of the spirit stabs and slashes, waters of truth overflow the hiding-places of error, hard cutting truth like hail rips away the refuge of lies, as a scourge it vexes and terrorizes clerical jailers unable to cover over their fraudulent ministry, fiery truth consumes the religious chaff, and like a hammer cracking rocks it pulverizes the doctrinal stumblingstones that trip up so many when they try to follow the pathway of true worship. It is as Isaiah and Jeremiah say:
42 “The hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. . . . When the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation when he shall make you to understand doctrine. For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.” (Isa. 28:17-20, margin) “The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?”—Jer. 23:28, 29; Isa. 62:10; Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12.
43. Aside from throwing down modern Baalism, what else is accomplished by the truth? and how should Christ’s followers declare such truth?
43 The truth as to the pagan origin and Baal-like qualities of Christendom’s religious doctrines frees the mind of the hearer from them, overturns them, upsets them from any Christian standing they once had in the person’s mind. But Bible truth does more than root out, pull down, throw down and destroy, as shown by Jeremiah’s commission: “I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” (Jer. 1:10) As Gideon built up true worship after downing Baalism, so today the anointed remnant plant and build up correct teaching after clearing out the doctrinal rubbish of the supposed Christianized paganisms. In performing this service Christ’s followers should shun foolish speculations and quarrelings, and be meek and gentle and persuasive, that the learner may recover the mental freedom snatched from him by Satan. “Avoid foolish, crude speculations; you know they only lead to quarrels, and a slave of the Lord must not quarrel, but treat everyone kindly; he must be persuasive and unresentful, correcting his opponents with gentleness; for God may possibly let them repent and acknowledge the truth, and they may yet return to their senses and escape from the toils of the Devil, who has caught them to make them do his will.”—2 Tim. 2:23-26, An Amer. Trans.
44. Why have Jehovah’s witnesses been mentally freed? and how are they equipped to fulfill that purpose?
44 It is for such godly combat in the interests of liberation that Jehovah’s witnesses themselves have been mentally freed. The truth that has freed them must be used to free others, as shown by the parable of the pounds. (Luke 19:11-27; Matt. 5:14-16) They fight as soldiers of Christ, enduring hardness, separate from worldly entanglements. (2 Tim. 2:2-4) Armed not with carnal weapons but with Bible truth, they can overthrow the mental prison-houses and strongholds, and any argument or obstacle raised by the visible jailers can be smashed, and minds once captive to Satan become bound in obedience to Christ and God. “Though I do live an earthly life, I am not carrying on an earthly war, for the weapons I use are not earthly ones, but divinely strong for destroying fortresses. I destroy arguments and every obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God, and I take captive every thought and make it obey Christ.”—2 Cor. 10:3-5, An Amer. Trans.
45. What questions remain for settlement in the next issue?
45 When we turn back to the ancient prophetic drama involving Gideon and his little band of three hundred, when we follow them into battle against the enemy that spread over the valley of Jezreel like locusts for number, will we find prefigured there the Christian warfare that uses no carnal weapons? Will the outcome of the battle in the days of the judges match the results of Christian combat in these last days of Satan’s world? For the facts in answer please see our next issue.