Hunting and Fishing for Men
“JEHOVAH knows those that belong to him.” And who belong to him? All lovers of righteousness who are of good will toward God. Because many such are still confused and scattered Jehovah God is having a gathering work done in our day, a work described by the prophet Jeremiah as ‘hunting’ and ‘fishing.’
Many are inclined to view disparagingly whatever Jeremiah had to say regarding the future and term him a “calamity howler.” In fact, anyone that foretells evil events is likely to be termed a “Jeremiah.” Such critics, however, overlook the fact that in foretelling Jerusalem’s desolation Jeremiah was not expressing his own opinions but the inspired sayings of Jehovah God, and therefore in finding fault with Jeremiah they are actually finding fault with Jehovah God. They also seemingly choose to overlook the fact that Jeremiah’s warning was timely and that his prophecies were fulfilled, in miniature, back there.
In miniature? Yes, because Jeremiah, being one of those men of old who “spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit,” wrote things “for our instruction, that we” might be “fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Pet. 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:17) Included in such things, therefore, are his words at Jeremiah 16:16 (AS): “Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith Jehovah, and they shall fish them up; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks.”
FISHING FOR MEN OF GOOD WILL
Time and again God’s Word likens men of good will to fish. Thus the prophet Ezekiel foretold that a life-giving stream of truth would come forth from God’s temple “and it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. And it shall come to pass, that fishers shall stand upon it . . . to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many.”—Ezek. 47:1-10.
Also, Jesus, when calling his first disciples, called them to leave their fishing business and to become fishers of men. And likewise in his illustration of “a dragnet let down into the sea and scooping up fish of every kind.” Once, when in obedience to Jesus’ instructions, Peter and his companions caught such a draught of fish that the net broke, and even their boat began to sink because of the large catch of fish, Jesus said to Peter: “From now on you will be catching men alive.”—Matt. 13:47; Luke 5:10, NW.
Now fishing for literal fish is hard work and it means getting out in all kinds of weather. To manage large nets requires co-operation with others. It also means being familiar with the habits of the fish and what kinds of bait to use for the various kinds of fish. It also requires knowledge of where schools of fish are most likely to be found, in what kind of weather or time of day, month or year.
The same is true of fishing for men. It means work, perseverance; it means getting out in all kinds of weather, and it means co-operating with others. It means being all things to all people; it means being able to present the message appealingly to all kinds of persons. As the apostle Paul expressed it: “For, though I am free from all persons, I have made myself the slave to all, that I might gain the most persons. And so to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, that I might gain those under law. To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, that I might gain those without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to people of all kinds, that I may by all means save some. But I do all things for the sake of the good news, that I may become a sharer of it with others.”—1 Cor. 9:19-23, NW.
And just as the apostles sometimes fished all night without catching any fish, so today Jehovah’s fishers of men may work long hours with seemingly little results. And yet it is worthwhile, as the following letter from some missionaries shows:
“Sure there are days when we hardly place a booklet or a tract, even though, because of the law, we cannot ask for contributions. But there are other quarters where we do have more success. It is not for us to say that in our assignment there are no more sheeplike ones and so we no longer need to go from house to house. There are still people who have never heard of us and still more who do not know what we are really here for and doing. After nine months we have six Bible studies in the homes of the people and within five months of studying one woman took her stand and was baptized. While it is hard to find interest because the people are so afraid of one another, still we must be positive. With a negative mind you cannot be persistent, you tire more easily. If you are not patient enough you soon lose sight of your purpose.” Yes, fishing for men takes perseverance.
HUNTING FOR MEN OF GOOD WILL
Because of the unfaithfulness of the professed shepherds of Christendom and their indifference to the spiritual needs of men of good will these are said to be scattered upon every mountain and every hill and to have hidden themselves in the clefts of the rocks. Now, before Armageddon breaks and it is too late to flee, these must be sought out and stirred up by the hunters to come forth and identify themselves as for Jehovah God and his kingdom.
Hunting requires courage, endurance, alertness, promptness to spring into action, constant keeping on the track and stalking the game; a diligent search of the isolated and scattered parts, leaving no place untouched or uninvestigated, and particularly the places where game are wont to come for food, drink or rest in security, and even to leave some choice desired food for the scent of the game and to invite and attract them to manifest themselves. It requires watching and waiting, with hope. Where many hunters work together, they surround a certain area, which they have divided off, and then move in steadily toward the center, beating the bushes or underbrush as they draw together in order to stir up their quarry. Thus they work together in unity, and jointly seek to let nothing escape, and they assist and help one another. They carry their equipment with them, keep their eyes and ears open, entertain no fear of creatures, and act with speed in the use of the provided equipment.
All the foregoing aspects of hunting find their likeness in the modern-day hunting for men of good will. It also takes courage to ignore the reproaches of men, the taunts and ridicule of acquaintances, relatives and professed friends and continue to hunt. It also means going to the most distant and well-nigh inaccessible parts of one’s territory; it means going to isolated territory, it means covering territory so thoroughly that no house remains that has not received the witness. It also means going forth as missionaries to territories never before witnessed to, just like the apostle Paul, and it also means preaching underground as Jehovah’s witnesses are doing today in such totalitarian lands as the Dominican Republic, Spain and the lands behind the iron curtain.
Today, according to the 1955 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are upward of 580,000 Christian witnesses of Jehovah having a share in hunting and fishing for men of good will. The eighty million hours that they devoted to this activity during the past year represented much hard work, but with it also went much happiness and a splendid increase. Because of the importance of this activity they make everything secondary thereto, even as Jehovah commanded Jeremiah and Christ Jesus commanded his disciples. And just as the lives of Jesus and of his apostles and other disciples were rich and full because of their service to God and on behalf of their fellow man, so to the extent that the servants of Jehovah today engage in the hunting and fishing work to that extent their lives will be rich and full. Soon Jehovah’s vengeance, which Jeremiah also foretold, will be expressed and then there will be no more hunting and fishing for men of good will. Are you doing all you can before it is too late?