“Be slaves to Jehovah.”—Rom. 12:11, NW.
1. What makes it questionable whether being a slave is an honor, but upon what features does it depend?
IS THERE any honor and dignity in being a slave? By the standards of this world that could hardly be. During the prevalence of slavery generally those in such servitude, although often carrying on occupations and duties which are today looked upon as professional, cultured and honorable, were looked down upon as inferiors. There was great abuse of the institution of slavery, and relief for the slaves was slow and long in coming. Some Mohammedan lands are reported to cling to the institution still. It was introduced into the British colonies in America as late as the seventeenth century, and it was not abolished in the United States of America till the latter half of the nineteenth century. In fact, it was not till that same nineteenth century that slavery was abolished by the governments of Christendom in general. In many parts the descendants of those freed slaves are still considered with contempt and kept within bounds and under limitations. How, then, could being a slave carry any honor and dignity with it? How could being called a slave or choosing to call oneself such be anything but humiliating? Well, that all depends upon whose slave you are and upon what kind of one you are. To be a theocratic slave is an honor and privilege. It is a servitude that leads to eternal life.
2. When did slavery begin, and for whom was it a cursed state?
2 Slavery is an ancient institution. Its existence socially and economically before the flood is not recorded in the Bible. But that it would arise sometime after the flood was forecast when Noah, after being abused by his son Ham, cursed one of Ham’s boys, saying: “Cursed be Canaan! The meanest of slaves shall he be to his brothers. . . . Blessed of the LORD my God may Shem be; and let Canaan be his slave! May God expand Japheth, and dwell in the tents of Shem; but let Canaan be his slave!” (Gen. 9:25-27, AT; Mo) This did not condemn one of the three main branches of the human family to unavoidable slavery. No, but the fact is that this curse which God inspired Noah to speak was fulfilled centuries later. At that time Jehovah God brought his chosen people, the Israelites, into the land of Canaan and at the divine command they exterminated the Canaanites or enslaved many of them, such as the inhabitants of Gibeon and allied cities. To be such a slave, because of being descended from the cursed Canaan, would indeed be a humiliation.
3. Why was it honorable to be one of Abraham’s slaves?
3 But comparing slaves with slaves, what God-fearing man or woman would not count it an honor to have been a slave of Abraham the descendant of Noah’s son Shem? Why? Because Abraham was a man of faith in the true God Jehovah, and for his obedient faith he was the “friend of God”. Jehovah God did not forbid Abraham to have slaves according to the custom of that ancient time. Noah had blessed Abraham’s great-grandfather Shem, and in harmony with that Jehovah would approve of Abraham’s having slaves. While residing as an immigrant in the land of Canaan Abraham had hundreds of them. They fought with him to a theocratic victory when aggressor kings from Babylon’s neighborhood invaded Canaanland and carried off his kinsman Lot and his household. We read: “When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken prisoner, he called out his retainers, his household slaves, to the number of three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. With his slaves he fell upon them at night, and defeated them.” So those slaves were God’s instruments and they were with Abraham on his return when King Melchizedek of Salem met him and ascribed his victory to Jehovah, saying: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of the heavens and the earth! And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your foes into your power!”—Gen. 14:1-20, AT.
4. (a) How was Abraham’s oldest slave dignified? (b) Why was Abraham never guilty of degrading slavery by abusing it?
4 As long as Abraham was childless a slave who managed the household for him after Lot’s departure was logically his heir, namely, Eliezer of Damascus. When Abraham got his son Isaac and it came time to have him marry, it was again a servant, “the oldest slave of his household, who had charge of everything that belonged to him,” likely this Eliezer, whom Abraham sent to procure the wife for Isaac. In this prophetic drama this old slave is dignified by representing God’s holy spirit, the active force which Jehovah used in drawing and preparing for his only-begotten Son Jesus a bride, a company of 144,000 faithful followers adopted by Jehovah God as his children. (Gen. 15:1-3; 24:1-10, 61-66, AT) Abraham did not degrade the practice of slavery in his household by taking advantage of it for immoral purposes. This would have resulted in debasing the position of his true wife Sarah, a free woman. Also, it was by this one wife that God promised that Abraham would have a purely born heir in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed. Hence when Abraham did have his first son Ishmael by a slave girl, it was not by an immoral act. His wife Sarah, then so old as to despair of giving Abraham a son from her own body, asked him to take her Egyptian slave girl Hagar that she might adopt her son as her own. After Hagar’s conception of Ishmael Abraham had no further relations with her. (Gen. 16:1-15; Gal. 4:21-25, NW; AT) Later Jehovah blessed Sarah miraculously with a son of her own.
5. What position did Abraham take toward the religion of his slaves, and how is this shown?
5 Abraham was theocratic. He had faith in the Most High God and obeyed him as his Creator, Guide and Ruler. He ruled his big household as Jehovah would have it ruled. As a slave owner Abraham determined and controlled the religion or form of worship of his slaves, whom he had gotten either by purchase or by having his slaves marry among themselves. In that way he permitted no ungodliness, nor idolatry, but built up only the true faith in his household. At God’s command he got himself circumcised and had all males in his household circumcised. “Abraham took his son Ishmael and all the slaves born in his house and all those purchased by him—every male in Abraham’s household—and circumcised them in the foreskin that very same day, as God had commanded him.” Any male refusing the circumcision was ordered cut off from Abraham’s household. Abraham taught his slaves about God. To this fact God testified, saying: “I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Jehovah.” Further testifying to Abraham’s education of his slaves in God’s worship is the prayer of his oldest slave when sent to get a wife for Isaac: “O Jehovah, the God of my master Abraham, send me, I pray thee, good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham.” All through the arranging for the marriage this old slave acknowledged Abraham’s God and openly worshiped him.—Gen. 17:9-14, 22-27, AT; Ge 18:19; 24:2-56, AS.
6. What was the position of Moses and the Israelites toward God? Why?
6 Abraham as a slaveholder pictured how the Most High God whom Abraham adored has slaves also on the earth. We do not refer just to the ancient past when the prophet Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and through the Red sea to a free national existence. Moses and the Israelites sang after the pursuing Egyptians were engulfed in the Red sea. With fitting reference back to their song Revelation 15:3 describes the true Christians of our day in these words: “They are singing the song of Moses the slave of God and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and wonderful are your works, Jehovah God, the Almighty.’” (NW) Yes, outstandingly Moses was God’s slave then. But all of Moses’ nation, the children of Israel, were God’s slaves with him. How so? Because for many years they had been unwilling slaves in Egypt and their destruction was aimed at by their merciless taskmasters, and by superhuman means the God of their forefather Abraham had saved them and set them free. Said Jehovah when giving the Israelites the Jubilee law: “It is to me that the Israelites are slaves, being my slaves whom I brought out of the land of Egypt, I, the LORD your God. . . . they must not be sold as slaves.”—Lev. 25:55, 42, AT; Mo.
7. So what claim and right did God have toward Israel, and what did he have them do toward their own slaves?
7 As their Savior and absolute Owner Jehovah had every claim on their services. He had every right to dictate that their worship should be of Him, the One who had executed judgments against all the ridiculous false gods of Egypt. In the first two of his Ten Commandments to Israel he asserted his right and acted on it, saying: “I am the Eternal, your God, who brought you from the land of Egypt, that slave-pen. You shall have no gods but me. You shall not carve any idols for yourselves, the shape of anything in heaven above or on the earth below or in the sea; you shall not bow down to them nor worship them, for I the Eternal, your God, am a jealous God.” (Ex. 20:2-5, Mo; AT) He had them celebrate yearly that deliverance from Egyptian bondage. (Ex. 13:3, 14, Mo; AT) They had every obligation to worship and obey their Owner and Master undividedly, with no complaint but with gratitude. He let the Israelites hold slaves, doubtless the descendants of the slaves of their forefather Jacob or Israel and who had moved into Egypt with them for the time. (Gen. 30:42, 43, Mo; AT) But Jehovah had his liberated people apply His laws to such servants. As an illustration, his Fourth Commandment ordered the Israelites: “On the seventh day, a sabbath to the LORD your God, you must not do any work at all, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male or female slave.” (Ex. 20:10, AT; Mo) As theocratic slaves of the Lord God, the Israelites were bound to see that their own slaves conformed to God’s law and covenant.
8. Why are spiritual Israelites slaves, without need for shame?
8 For nineteen centuries the natural Israelites have ceased to be Jehovah’s chosen people. Now he deals with the spiritual Israelites, those who are Jews inwardly. Are YOU one? Have you dedicated yourself entirely to him through his Son Jesus Christ and do you have the evidence of being begotten by his spirit to a heavenly life? You are? Then, do you know that you are a slave? According to your own admission, you must be Jehovah’s slave. Do not feel embarrassed at the term. Let the world scoff all they want to at the idea that God has slaves and imagine that, because they refuse to be His, they are the slaves to no one. Every man, woman and child on earth is and has to be the lowly servant of one of two opposing masters. If you refuse to be Jehovah’s slave, do not sneer at His slaves. You are then the low-down slave of his opposer, Satan the Devil. What Jesus stated in the sermon on the mount makes it sure you cannot serve both masters. If you hate and despise the one, then it is inescapable that you must love and stick to the other. The only other is the Devil, the god of Mammon, selfish worldly riches. (Matt. 6:24, NW) You can have him, if you want to. But, as for us, we choose Jehovah. It is a blessed state to be his lowly servants, theocratic slaves. Greater men than you have counted it a high honor to be such, even Jesus Christ himself. We cannot avoid it: we are the slaves of the god whom we worship.
9. How does it come that Jesus has had slaves down to this world’s end?
9 Jesus Christ the Son of God also has those whom he owns and controls and who are obligated to serve him. In this he matches Abraham’s son and heir, Isaac, who inherited all the slaves of his father. (Gen. 26:19-32; 25:5, AT) All the 144,000 members of Christ’s body are in servitude to Jesus, for he is the rightful Head of this body. This does not leave out the “twelve apostles of the Lamb”. They and other prominent disciples of Jesus felt honored to declare themselves as his slaves, calling attention to their subservience to him at the beginning of their letters to the Christian congregation. (Rev. 7:3-8; Rom. 1:1 and Titus 1:1 and; 2 Pet. 1:1 and James 1:1 and Jude 1 and Phil. 1:1, NW) Today the remnant of the members of his body on earth find themselves in no higher status than the apostles. Jesus placed this obedient remnant in that same status when he asked in his prophecy on the world’s end: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”—Matt. 24:45-47, NW; Luke 12:42, 44.
10. On persons in what station, too, does Joel 2:28, 29 have fulfillment?
10 It is upon the members of this faithful and discreet class, after they have repented of their failings and shortcomings during World War I, that God’s prophecy through Joel applies: “It shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Furthermore, upon the male and female slaves, in those days I will pour out my spirit.” The apostle Peter first applied this prophecy in his day, from Pentecost forward, and it has its final and complete application upon the remnant since the close of World War I in 1918.—Joel 2:28, 29, AT; Mo; Acts 2:16-18, NW; AT; Mo.
11. How did Jesus make us his property, and why need we not fear?
11 It was not by any cheap payment of a few gold or silver coins that Jesus made us his property, to have control over our very life and death. He shed his own precious blood when he hung on a torture stake like a despicable criminal slave and by this he bought us. (1 Pet. 1:18, 19) What, then, do we have to fear from having such an unselfish, self-sacrificing, godly Master as he is? How could he ever oppress us, harm us or do anything but good to us?
12. In view of the cost to him, how do we feel toward our Owner?
12 Appreciating at what a personal cost he bought us, how could we willingly yield ourselves to any other master, to sin, to our bellies, to this corrupt world, to the Devil? “For anyone in the Lord that was called a slave is the Lord’s freedman: likewise he that was called a free man is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; stop becoming slaves of men. . . . Also, you do not belong to yourselves, for you were bought with a price. By all means, glorify God in the body of you people.” (1 Cor. 7:22, 23; 6:19, 20, NW) Never do we want to deny his ownership of us. We are determined therefore to resist false prophets who Jesus said would rise up at the world’s end; and Peter warned: “These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves.” (Matt. 24:11, 24, 3; 2 Pet. 2:1, 2, NW) Never will we raise up a slave’s revolt, like that of the Roman gladiator Spartacus A.D. 73, against our rightful Owner! Never will we desert his service and become runaways. We are in love with our Master. Rather than traitorously forsake his service we prefer to be like the Hebrew slave who refused to quit his master’s service and had his ear bored through with an awl to the doorpost to signify that he was now his slave to time indefinite.—Ex. 21:1-5, AT; Deut. 15:17.
EGYPTIAN FAMINE SUFFERERS, GIBEONITES
13. Who also today have become slaves like the Egyptians in Joseph’s day, and why?
13 The spirit-begotten remnant, the faithful and discreet slave class, are not alone now in preferring this proper servitude to God through his Son Jesus Christ. A fast-growing crowd, already hundreds of thousands, have yielded themselves over to God through Christ. In this day when death-dealing spiritual famine has hit Christendom and all the rest of this world but when there is spiritual plenty at the disposal of the remnant of Christ’s body, these other sheep have imitated the Egyptians during the seven-year famine for which Pharaoh’s prime minister Joseph had made ample provision. These good-will people have come to the Greater Joseph, Jesus Christ, who represents the Greater Pharaoh, Jehovah God, and have said in the language of the Egyptians: “There is nothing left for my lord but our bodies and our land. Why should we and our land perish before your eyes? Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we and our land will be the property of Pharao. Give us seed that we may live and not perish, and the land may not become a waste.” Christ Jesus has acted now just as Joseph did: “Joseph therefore bought all the land of Egypt for Pharao, for every one of the Egyptians sold his field because the famine was unbearable for them. Thus the land became Pharao’s and from one end of Egypt to the other, Joseph made the people slaves.” In response to Christ’s rescue of them from a death by spiritual famine they respond like those famine-stricken Egyptians: “You have kept us alive; let us win the favor of my lord, and we will be slaves of Pharao.” (Gen. 47:15-26, CB; AT) So these other sheep have become State slaves, Kingdom slaves.
14. Why may these recent slaves not be taken from temple service or be killed off?
14 These earthly-destined other sheep of the Right Shepherd must follow him obediently wherever he leads. No one may pluck them out of his care without due punishment. They must serve God at his temple day and night. Their lives are to be spared like those of the Gibeonites, who were the descendants of the accursed Canaan and who were meant to be destroyed with the rest of the Canaanites by Joshua and the Israelites. But like the ancient Gibeonites they have sought and gained peace with the Greater Joshua, Jesus Christ, and his God Jehovah. As they keep coming out from among the modern condemned Canaanites, the Greater Joshua says to them: “Cursed then shall you be; never shall you cease providing slaves, hewers of wood and drawers of water, for the temple of my God!” To this they reply: “Here we are, then, in your power; do whatever you think it right and proper to do to us.” They are cursed, not like Canaan, but because a ban, a taboo, has been put upon them. They have become the property of Jehovah God and his Christ, and no one may execute them or take them away from their temple service with impunity. God has absolute power over their life and death and only He can execute them for failing to be faithful slaves. Woe to anyone violating this divine prohibition over them! Five kings of the Amorites immediately tried to do so and their attacking forces were wiped out, Jehovah himself tossing down large deadly hailstones from heaven and causing the sun and moon to stand still at Joshua’s prayer in order to complete the slaughter. In fanatical nationalism King Saul once tried to destroy the tabooed Gibeonites, and the whole nation of Israel suffered a three-year famine for it until the death of those Gibeonites was expiated. Jehovah God will do similarly to Christendom for laying violent hands on the modern Gibeonites to prevent their doing temple service to God and gaining life in the new world.—Josh. 9:3-27, AT; Jos 10:1-27; 2 Sam. 21:1-14.
15. In what work do all his slaves join the Greater Gideon?
15 The faithful and discreet slave class welcome these fellow servants to their midst and try to protect the rights of these. Together with the Greater Gideon, Christ Jesus, they join in the iconoclastic work of tearing down the altar of the false god Baal and his sacred pole of false worship, and devote their sacrifices of praise to Jehovah God, in obedience to his command. As it is written: “So Gideon took ten of his slaves, and did as the LORD told him; . . . So Gideon was named Jerubbaal that day, meaning, ‘Let the Baal take his own part against him; for he tore down his altar.’” (Judg. 6:27, 32, AT) Baal means “owner”.
16. In view of God’s ownership, what do we acknowledge and what do we determine to do?
16 Jehovah is our Owner and our God. Gladly we all, both the remnant and the other sheep, confess ourselves to be his living property whom he has bought by the blood of his Son Jesus Christ. We bear the marks of it, like the apostle Paul, who said: “Henceforth let no one be bothering me, for I am bearing on my body the brand-marks of a slave of Jesus.” (Gal. 6:17, NW) Hence we acknowledge God’s right to dictate what must be our religion, our form of worship, and we will worship only Him as the true God. As against Him we have no rights. His commandments we are obligated to keep and we will lovingly render our sacred service to him, choosing to obey him as Ruler rather than men. We are his theocratic slaves now and forever.