Cautious as Serpents Among Wolves
1. Upon whom must a sheep endangered by wolves rely, and why?
A SHEEP among wolves has little power of its own to protect itself against being devoured. A sheep, therefore, must rely upon its shepherd to protect it against wolves. It wants to serve the good purposes of its shepherd and not be devoured by ravenous wolves. So it obeys its shepherd’s voice.
2. To what animal did Jesus liken his true followers, and against whom did he warn them?
2 Wolfishness is displayed by many leading men who ought to be sheeplike because they claim to be Christians. If a man claims to be a Christian he is a hypocrite if he is really a wolf in sheep’s covering, disguised to take advantage of sheeplike persons. Jesus Christ likened his true followers to sheep and himself to a shepherd that protects them against voracious wolves. He preserves them to serve his good purposes, and they must obey his voice in order to enjoy his protection, provision and service. To his twelve special representatives, his twelve apostles, he said: “Look! I am sending you forth as sheep amidst wolves.” And to seventy others besides those apostles he said similarly: “Look! I am sending you forth as lambs in among wolves.”—Matt. 10:16 and Luke 10:3, NW.
3. What message were they sent forth to preach, and yet at whose cruel mercy would it seemingly put them?
3 Jesus was sending them forth to preach good news, which should have been grabbed at by people that had became disgusted with human governments: “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” “Also, wherever you enter into a city and they receive you, eat the things set before you, and cure the sick ones in it, and go on telling them: ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Matt. 10:7 and Luke 10:8, 9, NW) And yet sending them out to preach such a winsome message would be putting them seemingly at the cruel mercy of wolves. Who, then, were the wolves?
4. Who were the “wolves” then referred to?
4 A wolf or wolfish person is an enemy not only of the sheep but also of their Right Shepherd. The wolf does not gather the sheep with the shepherd but scatters them; he is not for the Right Shepherd Jesus but against him. (Luke 11:23) The wolf does not believe in the unity of the Christian flock but scatters them to pick them off one by one and devour them to satisfy his greed. Inasmuch as Jesus was then sending forth the Kingdom preachers among the Jewish people exclusively, these wolves were to be found among the Jews who claimed to be God’s people, the most religious people then on earth. They were religious wolves, who preyed upon the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.”—Matt. 10:6.
5. With what warnings did Jesus show the wolves included religious persons, and what did these do before A.D. 70 to the sheep?
5 That the wolves in his day included religious persons opposed to the preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom and persecuting his sheeplike followers for preaching it, Jesus showed in his further words to those whom he sent forth: “Be on your guard against men; for they will deliver you up to local courts and they will scourge you in their synagogues. Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake for the purpose of a witness to them and the nations. When they persecute you in one city, flee to another; . . . And do not become fearful of those who kill the body but can not kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matt. 10:17, 18, 23, 28, NW) When told that King Herod Antipas wanted to kill him, Jesus called him a “fox.” (Luke 13:31, 32) Before Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 (A.D.) the wolves attacked Jesus’ sheep, killed many of them and scattered them with great persecution. But wherever the sheep were scattered they preached God’s message. Thus the persecution helped to spread the good news instead of stamping it out. The sheep knew how to meet the attacks of the wolf packs.—Acts 8:1-5.
6. Why do Jesus’ words at Matthew 10:16 take in all the earth today?
6 Today Jesus’ words, “Look! I am sending you forth as sheep amidst wolves,” take in also all the earth outside of the land of Israel. Since A.D. 1914, when World War I broke out, Jesus’ command to his sheeplike followers applies: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.” (Matt. 24:14, NW) The kingdom of God, the kingdom of the heavens, has drawn near more fully now than when Jesus sent out the twelve apostles to preach, for in 1914 Jehovah God took to himself his great power and seated his Son Jesus Christ upon the throne to rule as king in the midst of his enemies and thus the kingdom of God came into power in the heavens. On earth war raged among the nations over the issue of world domination and in the invisible heavens also war raged but the newborn kingdom triumphed and Satan the Devil and his demons were hurled down to the earth, to await the full end of their world at the battle of Armageddon. Particularly after the close of World War I in 1918 it became the due time for this good news of the newborn kingdom to be preached wherever the earth is inhabited. It became necessary for Jesus Christ, now enthroned in power, to act upon his very own prophecy and send out preachers of this good news of the Kingdom. Once again he has to send out his faithful followers as sheep amidst wolves. The worst wolves and the most wolves have proved to be in the religious land of Christendom. It has proved to be a den of wolves to the sheeplike preachers of God’s kingdom. Ask the only ones that are preaching this good news of the newborn kingdom, Jehovah’s witnesses. They know. You, too, know about their experiences with the wolves.
HOW LIKE SERPENTS
7. How are the Kingdom preachers to survive amidst wolves and still stay sheeplike?
7 How are the Kingdom preachers to survive amidst wolves and still stay sheeplike, harmless, obedient to their Shepherd’s voice? Our Shepherd has told us how. After forewarning his disciples of the wolves all around he said: “Therefore prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves. Be on your guard against men.” (Matt. 10:16, 17, NW) “You must be wary, then, as serpents.” (R. Knox) “Show yourselves therefore as sly [sharp] as serpents.”—L’École Biblique de Jérusalem, French.
8. (a) How did the serpent act in Eden, and why? (b) What question, therefore, raises itself?
8 Six thousand years ago the serpent mentioned as being in Eden did not have to fight against a ravenous wolf. It found itself watched by an innocent, unsuspecting woman. The account reads: “Now the serpent proved to be the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it began to say to the woman: ‘Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?’” (Gen. 3:1, NW) The serpent did not have to protect itself against a wolf. Hence it did not withdraw cautiously but thrust its attentions upon the woman Eve. Why? To deceive. The apostle Paul says: “The serpent seduced Eve by its craftiness.” “The woman was thoroughly deceived and came to be in transgression.” (2 Cor. 11:3 and; 1 Tim. 2:14, NW) Behind the scenes the Devil maneuvered the serpent into its deceptive actions and words, making it act craftily, with the intent of injuring. Its lie induced human disobedience. Death followed to mankind. In being cautious as serpents may we use such craftiness against wolves?
DOES CAUTION ALLOW FOR DISGUISE?
9. In the Hebrew Scriptures among whom do we find examples of caution, and what question do we ask concerning them?
9 In the ancient Hebrew Scriptures we find many examples of where Jehovah’s servants used caution—among them Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, David and Jonathan. Did they disgrace themselves as liars in doing so? Let us examine the background of their actions.
10. What experience did Abraham have with Pharaoh of Egypt on account of Sarai?
10 To escape a severe famine in Palestine Abraham did not return to Ur of the Chaldeans—he had left Ur forever at God’s command—but went down to Egypt. Abraham may have heard of the incident, now found recorded on a papyrus, of where an Egyptian Pharaoh, influenced by his princes, sent armed troops and took another man’s beautiful wife away for his own harem. Near Egypt Abraham told Sarai to hide the fact that she was his wife: “They will certainly kill me, but you they will preserve alive. Please say you are my sister, in order that it may go well with me on your account, and my soul will be certain to live due to you.” Pharaoh took Sarai to make her his wife, but Jehovah plagued Pharaoh and his house, calling to his notice that Sarai was Abraham’s wife. So Pharaoh returned her, but complained to Abraham for not having been told the full facts that might have prevented this.—Gen. 12:10-20, NW.
11, 12. What experience did Abraham have with Abimelech king of Gerar on account of Sarah?
11 Years later Abraham was in Philistine country at Gerar. “And Abraham repeated concerning Sarah his wife: ‘She is my sister.’” Why? As Abraham later explained to Abimelech king of Gerar who had taken Sarah: “It was because I said to myself, ‘Doubtless there is no fear of God in this place and they will certainly kill me because of my wife.’ And, besides, she is truly my sister, the daughter of my father, only not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. And it came about that, when God caused me to wander from the house of my father, then I said to her: ‘This is your loving-kindness which you may exercise toward me: At every place where we shall come say of me, “He is my brother.”’” Very likely Sarah was pregnant with her only son Isaac at this time. Almighty God acted to prevent Abimelech from defiling Sarah by warning him in a dream, saying: “But now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will make supplication for you. So keep living.” When returning Sarah King Abimelech gave Abraham a thousand silver shekels and said to Sarah: “Here it is for you a covering of the eyes to all who are with you, and before everybody, and you are cleared of reproach.” At Abraham’s supplication God healed Abimelech and his wife and slave girls so that their wombs were opened again to bear children.—Gen. 20:1-18, NW.
12 If we call Abraham on the above two occasions a liar and prevaricator, we are obliged to ask, Did Jehovah God use a liar and a faithless coward to supplicate him to heal Abimelech who had acted in his innocence? To understand God’s action toward his prophet Abraham we should think not merely of God’s faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham but of the circumstances back there.
13. In what territory did Abraham find himself, and what relations was he minded to maintain with the inhabitants thereof?
13 Whether in Egypt or in Palestine, Abraham was in enemy territory and needed to exercise caution. He wanted to live to carry out God’s purpose toward him. He saw good to use strategy toward those who might be provoked to injure or kill him in Jehovah’s service. He could have gone to war with them; with 318 of his household slaves he had once put to rout the armies of four kings from Mesopotamia who invaded Palestine and carried off his nephew Lot and his household. But Abraham chose to maintain peaceful relations with the inhabitants of lands where he sojourned. He was not disposed to go to war with them over his wife.
14. What two instances show that women were expendable in those ancient days, and so what was Sarah willing to do toward preserving the life of Abraham?
14 In those days before Jehovah made his law covenant with Abraham’s descendants through the mediator Moses, women were expendable. Remember how Lot offered to let the howling mob of Sodomites have his two marriageable or espoused daughters for their lust in order to protect the lives of the two men whom he had as guests in his house. (Gen. 19:1-8) Remember how the old man of Gibeah offered his virgin daughter and his guest’s concubine to a like mob of Benjaminites in order to protect the religious Levite whom he was entertaining. Finally the Levite himself took his concubine wife, whom he was taking back home, and put her outside the house at the mercy of the mob, to her death. (Judg. 19:1-3, 10-28) So Abraham represented Sarah as his sister to prevent violent controversy over his wife. Sarah recognized Abraham as her lord and agreed to the arrangement, willing to take the consequences of the arrangement. She was willing to do her part to preserve the life of Jehovah’s prophet, with whom He had made his covenant. Abraham looked upon this as an expression of her loving-kindness to him, and Sarah viewed it in the same way.—1 Pet. 3:5, 6.
15. What picture may we see in Abraham’s line of strategy, and why?
15 But critics do not view it that way. They view Abraham wholly as a lying, prevaricating, weakling coward, and not a cautious strategist in an enemy land filled with wolves. Since God saw good to keep Abraham in his covenant and to protect Sarah undefiled for her husband, may we see in this line of strategy a picture? Abraham is elsewhere used to picture Jehovah God and Sarah is used to picture Jehovah’s heavenly womanly organization that produces the promised Seed the Christ. So we may see in Abraham’s conduct how, over the centuries, Jehovah has seemed to repudiate his organizational wife or hide her wifely relationship to him. He withheld from her the promised Seed so long and he also lets those on earth who are her spiritual children suffer at the hands of men and devils, seemingly without divine protection. All this has given the enemy the wrong impression and they have felt free to try to defile the representatives of Jehovah’s wifely organization. But in fulfillment of his covenant respecting Christ Jehovah has protected them amid their trying situation and has delivered them in their integrity.—Gal. 4:21-31; Isa. 54:5-8.
16. How did Isaac copy his father in this, and what expression did Jehovah God make after this?
16 Following his father Abraham’s example, Isaac likewise spoke of his wife Rebekah as his sister to the men of the same city of Gerar. Her true connection with Isaac was discovered by King Abimelech, who then said to Isaac: “A little more and certainly one of the people would have cohabited with your wife and you would have brought guilt upon us!” King Abimelech should have added: “If Jehovah had permitted it!” Peaceable Isaac explained his strategy, saying: “I said it [that she is my sister] for fear I should die on her account.” After that brush with King Abimelech over Rebekah Jehovah continued to bless Isaac to the extent that the Philistines became envious of him.—Gen. 26:1-11, NW.
17. Though having a fear, what did Abraham and Isaac not do, and so how did Jehovah act toward them?
17 We may view Isaac’s handling of matters with his wife Rebekah from the same standpoint as that of Abraham with Sarah. Abraham and Isaac may have had a fear, but they did not in fear make an ungodly alliance with pagan kings for self-protection. Hence we may not apply to them the stinging rebuke of Isaiah 57:11-13 (RS): “Whom did you dread and fear, so that you lied [played the traitor, AT], and did not remember me, did not give me a thought? Have I not held my peace, even for a long time, and so you do not fear me? I will tell of your [self-] righteousness and your doings, but they will not help you. When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you!” Jehovah always delivered Abraham and Isaac because they shunned the world.
18. Why does Rahab generally come in for condemnation as a deceiver?
18 Rahab the harlot innkeeper of Jericho generally comes in for condemnation as a deceiver. She took the two spies from the nearby camp of Israel into her house, because she feared their God Jehovah. When the king of Jericho sent men and demanded that she bring out the two spies, should she have led the king’s officers up to the rooftop and brushed away the stalks of flax laid in rows over the men, thus exposing their concealment and thus handing them over to suffer the fate of spies? Would that have been trusting in their God to protect them? Would that have pleased Jehovah and shown she had faith in him and had adopted his cause? Did it not require strength of faith in Jehovah to refuse the king’s demand and to turn his officers away with a misdirection? She said: “Yes, the men did come to me and I did not know from where they were. And it came about at the closing of the gate by dark that the men went out. I just do not know where the men have gone. Chase after them quickly, for you will overtake them.” Was she immorally lying there?
19. How do we know whether Rahab was immorally lying there?
19 Remember that there was war then. The enemies did not deserve to learn the truth to the hurt or endangerment of Jehovah’s servants. In wartime it is proper to misdirect the wolfish enemy. While the king’s misdirected men were gone in a vain pursuit, Rahab helped the two spies to escape over the city wall. God’s Word commends her action as the practical proof of her faith: “In the same manner was not also Rahab the harlot declared righteous by works, after she had received the messengers hospitably and sent them out by another way?” So the lives of Rahab and her relatives were spared when Jericho’s walls were tumbled down and all the other cityfolk were wiped out.—Josh. 2:1-24; 6:17-23 and Jas. 2:25, NW.
20. How did David and his wife Michal and his brother-in-law Jonathan use caution toward King Saul, and why?
20 David, the killer of the Philistine giant Goliath, was cautious as a serpent toward the wolfish King Saul and others. David withdrew from the jealous, murder-minded King Saul in time of danger, never once trying to strike back to Saul’s injury. Seeing that Saul had declared war on innocent David, David’s friends used war strategy to protect him. Saul’s daughter Michal helped her husband David escape through a window. She held back Saul’s officers with the announcement, “He is sick.” She substituted an image for David in his bed and, when the bed with the image was carried to King Saul and Michal’s work for David’s escape was exposed, she said to her indignant father: “He himself said to me, ‘Send me away! Why should I put you to death?’” King Saul called it deceptive trickery. It was in effect war strategy for protecting the innocent. Michal’s brother Jonathan, who loved David, also used strategy to throw his insanely jealous father off David’s track.—1 Sam. 19:9-17; 20:17-42, NW.
21. How did David protect high priest Ahimelech from feeling under obligation toward King Saul, and how was Doeg rewarded for acting as informer against David?
21 David, in flight, came to the high priest Ahimelech at Nob. When asked why he came alone, David concealed his movements, saying: “The king himself commanded me as to a matter, and he went on to say to me, ‘Let no one know anything at all of the matter concerning which I am sending you and concerning which I have commanded you.’” (1 Sam. 21:1, 2, NW) This protected the high priest from feeling under any pressure to betray David’s whereabouts to King Saul. Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s chief shepherd, was there at the time. When he reported it to Saul, Doeg was rewarded by Saul with the order to kill the high priest and eighty-four of his underpriests. God rewarded Doeg differently. He inspired David to compose Psalm 52 against the malicious Edomite informer, as the psalm’s superscription shows.—1 Sam. 21:1-7; 22:6-19, NW.
22. How did David use caution toward King Achish of Gath, and was it with any sense of self-condemnation?
22 David took refuge in the land of Philistia with Achish the king of Gath. When the Philistines discovered who he was and suggested to the king that David was a security risk, David became afraid of wolves. “So he disguised his sanity under their eyes and began acting insane in their hand and kept making cross marks on the doors of the gate and let his saliva run down upon his beard.” 1 Sa 21:13 King Achish refused to have him around and let him go with his life like a harmless idiot. Thus David was able to get out alive and to the cave of Adullam. However much his pretended insanity before King Achish worked toward his escape, yet David was inspired to write Psalm 34 and thank Jehovah for blessing his strategy and giving him deliverance from King Achish. In Ps 34 verses 12, 13 David says: “What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.” Thus Psalm 34 expresses no sense of sin and wrongdoing by David for having given King Achish the wrong impression in order to effect his escape. (1 Sam. 21:8 to 22:1, NW) Later David returned under different conditions and was assigned by King Achish to live at Ziklag. Again David used war strategy toward this enemy of David’s people Israel and concealed his true movements from him. So Achish did not molest David and his men.—1 Sam. 27:2 to 28:2; 29:3-11.
23, 24. (a) When in night from Absalom how did David instruct Hushai, and how did Jehovah react toward this? (b) How did a woman prove herself like Rahab toward David’s two informants?
23 In time David became king over Israel at Jerusalem. When his son Absalom conspired against him to seize the throne, David’s most trusted counselor Ahithophel turned traitor against him and joined the conspiracy. While in flight from Jerusalem David learned of Ahithophel’s traitorousness. “At this David said: ‘Turn, please, the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness, O Jehovah!’” How did David act in harmony with this prayer? When Hushai the Archite wanted to join him in his flight, David sent him back to Jerusalem, saying: “If you return to the city and you actually say to Absalom, ‘I am your servant, O King. I used to prove myself the servant of your father, even I at that time, but now even I am your servant,’ then you will certainly frustrate the counsel of Ahithophel for me.” Was David teaching Hushai to lie? Hushai returned and professed to become the servant of Absalom. In a choice between Ahithophel’s counsel and Hushai’s Absalom and his men preferred Hushai’s. Frustrated, Ahithophel went home and strangled himself, Judaslike. Hushai’s counsel allowed for David to escape to safety and to prepare for the battle to regain his throne. Jehovah blessed Hushai’s strategy according to David’s own instructions and frustrated Ahithophel’s counsel in answer to David’s prayer.
24 When two men were detected bearing word from Hushai to David in the wilderness, a woman like Rahab proved at hand. The two men hid in the courtyard well of her husband. The woman spread a covering over the well top and heaped up cracked grain upon it. When Absalom’s servants came and asked about the two message bearers, “the woman said to them: ‘They passed on from here to the waters.’” After Absalom’s servants were off on a vain hunt, the two men came out of the well and made their way to David. All this war strategy baffled the enemy, but it worked toward David’s success in battle against Absalom and for his restoration to Israel’s throne.—2 Sam. 15:31-34; 16:16-19; 17:18-23, NW.
THE STRATEGY OF JEHOVAH’S PROPHETS
25, 26. (a) What question arises concerning the prophets of the “God of truth”? (b) How did Jehovah vindicate Elisha from the charge of being a liar and a cursed misleader of the blind?
25 In a true confession David prayed: “Thou hast redeemed me, O Jehovah, thou God of truth.” (Ps. 31:5, AS) Since Jehovah is the God of truth, can we find lies in the mouths of his prophets? Take the case of his approved prophet Elisha. Because Elisha repeatedly exposed to the king of Israel the lyings in wait of the Syrian armies, the enraged king of Syria sent a big military force and surrounded the city of Dothan to capture Elisha. When it began its assault on the city, Elisha prayed to Jehovah: “Please, strike this nation with blindness.” Jehovah answered. “So he struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.”
26 Did Elisha now turn liar to these blind Syrians and bring himself under the curse: “Cursed is the one who causes the blind to go astray in the way”? (Deut. 27:18, NW) For we read: “Elisha now said to them: ‘This is not the way and this is not the city. Follow me and let me conduct you to the man you look for.’ However, he conducted them to Samaria.” Instead of surrendering himself to them as the man they were looking for at Dothan, he led them away from Dothan to Samaria to the king of Israel. But he did not do this for their injury; he did it to magnify Jehovah’s power, superiority and mercy before all the Syrians. We read: “And it came about that as soon as they arrived at Samaria Elisha then said: ‘O Jehovah, open the eyes of these that they may see.’ Immediately Jehovah opened their eyes and they got to see, and here they were in the middle of Samaria.” They saw that they had been misled with their eyes wide open and by the very man they had looked for. They must have been very frightened as well as amazed. But Elisha showed he intended them no harm. He prevented the king of Israel from striking them and had him spread a feast for them, thus heaping coals of fire upon their heads. Then he sent them back unharmed to Syria. In place of making himself a moral liar here, Elisha used war strategy to divert the Syrians from their wrong purpose and Jehovah God cooperated with Elisha in this maneuver. Thus Jehovah vindicates Elisha against the cry of “Liar!”—2 Ki. 6:8-23, NW.
27. How did an earlier prophet put himself under an appearance of deceiving and lying to King Ahab after he let Benhadad go?
27 The case of an earlier prophet also presents itself. For his own name’s sake Jehovah had enabled King Ahab of Israel to gain a second victory over the Syrians, yes, and to capture King Benhadad himself. Displeasingly to Jehovah, who had delivered the enemy Benhadad into his hand for death, King Ahab let him go, with a covenant or treaty between them at that. So Jehovah’s prophet had a man strike him and wound him. Now how did this prophet notify Ahab of his sin and its consequences? We read: “Then the prophet went and stood still for the king by the road and he kept himself disguised with a bandage over his eyes.” Was this disguise a misleading imposition upon an innocent, unsuspecting man? But this disguise was not all. For as the king was passing by the prophet cried out and said to the king: “Your servant himself went out into the thick of the battle and, look! a man was leaving the line and he came bringing a man to me and then said, ‘Guard this man. If he should in any way be missing, then your soul will have to take the place of his soul or else a talent of silver you will weigh out.’ And it came about that as your servant was active here and there, why, he himself was gone.”
28. Why does this son of the prophets go down in Bible history as a strategist and not as a liar?
28 Was there any truth in that? You will call it a lie. Why, then, did Jehovah’s prophet tell it? It was really an illustration of what King Ahab had done, or took in the same principle; only the prophet did not make Ahab the offender in the illustration, but made himself the offender. Thus Ahab could feel free to pronounce an impartial judgment according to the principle of this type of conduct, because his judgment was against another man not recognized as a prophet. That was why the prophet told what the critics would call a lie. But it drew wicked King Ahab to an impartial expression of judgment: “At this the king of Israel said to him: ‘Thus your own judgment is. You yourself have decided.’” But the king of Israel had in fact uttered judgment upon his own self; he had decided against himself, for the prophet now undisguised himself and said to Ahab: “This is what Jehovah has said, ‘For the reason that you have let go out of your hand the man devoted to me for destruction, your soul must take the place of his soul and your people the place of his people.’” (1 Ki. 20:35-42, NW) This son of the prophets goes down in Bible history, not as a liar, but as a strategist, and to his vindication his prophecy against Ahab came true.
29, 30. (a) How did King Ahab bring upon himself further pronouncement of death, with added features, and how did lies lead to his death march and implicate Jehovah? (b) By what vision did Micaiah show up Ahab’s prophets as liars?
29 King Ahab went home judged worthy of death according to his own judgment. Later he seized Naboth’s vineyard after the murder of this man by false witnesses under Queen Jezebel’s orders. This brought Jehovah’s further pronouncement of death sentence upon Ahab. Moreover, the despised dogs were to lick up his royal blood, his queen was to be eaten up by dogs and all his household were to fall to be eaten up by dogs and birds like so much carrion. (1 Ki. 21:20-24, NW) Time came for Ahab to go to his execution, and lies played an important part in the death march and even implicated God. How? Ahab got King Jehoshaphat of Judah to ally himself with him in war against Ramoth-gilead then held by the Syrians. To pry into the future King Ahab religiously consulted his false prophets, about four hundred of them. They prophesied favorably, saying: “Go up, and Jehovah will give it into the king’s hand.” Thus they tied in Jehovah with their lying. At King Jehoshaphat’s request for a recognized prophet of Jehovah King Ahab had the hated Micaiah brought before them. When Micaiah sarcastically mimicked Ahab’s lying prophets, Ahab put Micaiah under oath to tell the truth. Micaiah did so, foreseeing that Ahab’s armies would be scattered like shepherdless sheep. Then, to show up the liars, Micaiah added:
30 “Hear the word of Jehovah: I certainly see Jehovah sitting upon his throne and all the army of the heavens standing by him, to his right and to his left. And Jehovah proceeded to say: ‘Who will fool Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And this one began to say something like this, while that one was saying something like that. Finally a spirit came out and stood before Jehovah and said: ‘I myself shall fool him.’ At that Jehovah said to him: ‘By what means?’ To this he said: ‘I shall go forth and I shall certainly become a deceptive spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ So [Jehovah] said: ‘You will fool him and, what is more, you will come off the winner. Go out and do that way.’ And now here Jehovah has put a deceptive spirit into the mouth of all these prophets of yours, but Jehovah himself has spoken calamity concerning you.”
31. How was it shown that Zedekiah was false and that Jehovah had spoken by Micaiah?
31 For this the false prophet Zedekiah struck Micaiah on the cheek with a remark meaning that he, and not Micaiah, had Jehovah’s spirit or that Jehovah’s spirit had spoken true by him but the lying spirit had passed to Micaiah. To keep the court record straight, Micaiah said that Zedekiah would one day see whether that was true. When King Ahab sent Micaiah off to prison to a bread-and-water diet till his return in victory, Micaiah said: “If you return at all in peace, Jehovah has not spoken with me.” (1 Ki. 22:1-28, NW) Ahab’s death in battle despite his disguise at Ramoth-gilead, followed by the dogs’ licking his blood off his chariot, proves that Jehovah, not a deceptive spirit, had spoken by Micaiah.
32. Why did one of Jehovah’s spirit creatures volunteer to fool King Ahab, and did he become responsible for the lying by Ahab’s prophets?
32 But how had one of Jehovah’s spirit creatures become a lying or deceptive spirit and how could the God of truth authorize him to become a “deceptive spirit in the mouth of all of [Ahab’s] prophets”? In this way: Ahab wanted to be encouraged in a suicidal plan of action by lying prophets. He showed this when he imprisoned Micaiah for telling the unpleasant truth. Lies were what Ahab wanted to hear to his own death; so Jehovah was agreeable to Ahab’s hearing lies then because Ahab was sentenced to death and the time for his execution was at hand. Jehovah did not interfere by exercising his spirit upon Ahab’s prophets to make them tell the truth, as when one of his angels turned the prophet Balaam’s curse into a blessing upon Israel. One of Jehovah’s spirit creatures saw the need of the lie to prevail to induce Ahab on to his own execution, by having the liars outnumber the truthtelling Micaiah. A spirit creature from Jehovah God has power to make a creature talk, even a dumb brute like Balaam’s ass. So he offered to exercise his power upon Ahab’s prophets to speak, just to speak, letting them speak out of their own hearts what they wanted to speak to please the one supporting them, their king. Thus the spirit creature or angel was responsible, not for their lies, but merely for their speaking.
33. Why did Jehovah authorize the spirit creature to fool Ahab, and how did he exonerate himself of lies?
33 Jehovah was agreeable to the angel’s doing this, because He wanted to show that it is disastrous to rely on lying prophets and also because it was time for his sentence of death to be executed upon Ahab. He knew that Ahab desired to be fooled by the lie, especially when the liars were so many. Hence Jehovah told the spirit creature that the operation of his power upon Ahab’s prophets would open the way for them to utter the death-dealing lie, and it would win out over the faithful warning of Jehovah’s prophet Micaiah. It did and Ahab shed his blood like an executed criminal for canines to lick, and Jehovah the God of truth stood exonerated of lies.—1 Ki. 22:29-38; 2 Chron. 18:1-34.
34. Why do we not have to look to the ancient past to see this manner of divine operation at work, and why are the peoples about to perish in horrifying numbers?
34 Do we have to turn to the ancient past to see this manner of divine operation at work? No! We see Jehovah acting according to this same rule of action today in this twentieth century, to fulfill his own warning prophecy. His prophecy written by means of the apostle Paul reads: “The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thess. 2:9-12, RS) The peoples of this world now face Armageddon and are about to perish there in horrifying numbers. Why? Because the truth is not available for them? No; for Jehovah’s witnesses are preaching the good news of his triumphant kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all nations. It is really because the people, as the years of this Kingdom proclamation by Jehovah’s witnesses in more and more countries have proved, refuse to love the truth and so be saved from destruction at Armageddon. They prefer the wicked deception that accompanies the activity of Satan since he was ousted from heaven, and they prefer the deception because they have “pleasure in unrighteousness.”
35. Why is Jehovah not the source of the “strong delusion” or “operation of error”?
35 The Bible translation we quoted says, “God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false.” Are we to understand, then, that God originates the strong delusion to make them believe falsehood? No; he is not the source of any lie. Referring to his prophecy and his covenant, his Word says: “God is not a man that he should tell lies, neither a son of mankind that he should feel sorry. Has he himself said it and will he not do it, and has he spoken and will he not carry it out?” “The Eminence of Israel will not deceive.” (Num. 23:19 and; 1 Sam. 15:29, NW) So Jehovah is not the source of the “strong delusion” or “operation of error.”
36. How, then, does Jehovah send it upon them without becoming responsible for their perishing?
36 How, then, does he “send” it upon them? In that he does not prevent it but permits it to go to them, just as he did in the case of King Ahab. In the Scriptures the Hebrew verb meaning “send” is many times translated “let go,” as when Jehovah said to Pharaoh: “Send my people away” (NW; Yg); or, “Let my people go.” (AV; AS; RS; at Ex. 5:1; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3) Therefore the New World Translation vindicates Jehovah God in rendering 2 Thessalonians 2:11: “So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them that they may get to believing the lie.” God does not make them believe the lie any more than he originates the lie, but he lets it go to them because they prefer the error in operation. So he lets them use their own free will and become responsible for their own destruction at Armageddon. But first in mercy he gives them full warning by his witnesses. The warning is heeded by those who “accept the love of the truth that they might be saved.”—NW.
NOT “LYING AGAINST THE TRUTH”
37. Why was Jesus in harmony with Jehovah’s spirit in instructing his disciples to be cautious as serpents among the wolves?
37 In view of the above-given Scriptural examples Jesus was in harmony with the spirit of Jehovah God in instructing his apostles when he sent them out as sheep among wolves: “Prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.” Since the unchristian wolves declare war upon the sheep and choose to make themselves “fighters actually against God,” it is proper for the inoffensive “sheep” to use war strategy toward the wolves in the interests of God’s work. No one against whom this strategy is used is unrighteously hurt because of it, whereas the “sheep” or those interests that deserve to be protected are safeguarded. God does not oblige us to show the stupidity of sheep and play into the hands of our fighting enemy. We should meet the seed of the Serpent, the “offspring of vipers,” with the cautiousness of serpents. Foreseeing danger, we should cover ourselves against the wolves that prey upon Jehovah’s flock. “Oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, . . . Therefore keep awake,” says Paul. (Acts 20:28-31, NW) “A prudent man seeth the evil, and hideth himself.”—Prov. 22:3, AS.
38. If the wolfish foes draw wrong conclusions from our maneuvers, why are the sheep still innocent and harmless?
38 It is proper to cover over our arrangements for the work that God commands us to do. If the wolfish foes draw wrong conclusions from our maneuvers to outwit them, no harm has been done to them by the harmless sheep, innocent in their motives as doves. The action is not out of a liar’s hatred. “He that hideth hatred is of lying lips; and he that uttereth a slander is a fool. A lying tongue hateth those whom it hath wounded.”—Prov. 10:18; 26:28, AS.
39. What cases are briefly described that may not be called those of a liar and deceiver?
39 We cannot condemn as a liar and deceiver the witness of Jehovah that was about to cross the border line back into Nazi Germany and who took Bible literature with her at the risk of her freedom. She put the literature in the baby carriage at the feet of her baby and covered it over with unwashed baby diapers. When the Nazi officer inspected her carriage, dug down into it and got his hand in touch with the wet, dirty diapers, he quickly withdrew his hand in disgust. He let her cross the border, and with her the literature went in to feed many of the oppressed, brutally treated sheep under Hitler’s regime. Then there is the witness who was working from house to house with a basket of literature. Enemies reported her to the police as a woman with a shirtwaist of a certain color. So around the corner she took out a shirtwaist of another color and made a change, then walked back down the same street and past the officer on her trail, and escaped being identified. There is the brother, too, who was sentenced to the quarries from which no one was known to come out alive. As a musician he was spared the killing quarry work, but he was not mindful of only his own life. At risk of his own privilege as the musical entertainer of the camp officer, he smuggled portions of food to his underfed brothers sentenced to backbreaking quarry work and was able to keep them alive. When at last deliverance came, not only he but those whom he had fed contrary to Nazi regulations emerged with him from the place of doom.
40. Why is the outwitting of the oppressors of the sheep not a failure to render Caesar’s things to Caesar?
40 To this day the history of Jehovah’s witnesses is ever-new with like cases of their outwitting the wolves by exercising due caution in the face of danger while they are engaged in a good, loving work according to God’s will and command. Such outwitting of oppressors of the sheep is not a failure to “render therefore unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s”; it is a courageous, sensible way of rendering first “unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22:21, AS) If the wolfish enemy drives Jehovah’s people underground like David who was driven by Saul into the cave of Adullam and other caves, then their underground worship is not a work of deceit and lies because it is not done above ground under greedy eyes of the wolves. (2 Sam. 23:13;1 Sam. 22:1; 24:3-10;1 Ki. 18:4, 13) The hypocrisy and deceit lie with the wolves who openly make of God’s house a “cave of robbers.”—Mark 11:15-17, NW.
41. Among whom is such serpentlike caution not to be exercised, and how does Paul show this?
41 Serpentlike caution is to be exercised only while the sheep are among wolves or in contact with them. Jesus did not advise this among the congregation of Jehovah’s people, for all of these are sheep. So it is as much a rule for spiritual Israel of today as it was for natural Israel of old: “You people must not steal and you must not deceive and you must not lie any one to his associate. And you must not swear in my name to a lie, so that you do profane the name of your God. I am Jehovah.” (Lev. 19:11, 12, NW) In these days since A.D. 1919 when Jehovah has restored the remnant of spiritual Israel and their dedicated companions to his pure worship, his prophetic instructions are: “These are the things that ye shall do: Speak ye every man the truth with his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates; and let none of you devise evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith Jehovah.” (Zech. 8:3, 16, 17, AS) The apostle Paul himself applies these words to sanctified Christians, the “Israel of God.”—Eph. 4:25; Gal. 6:16.
42. Do we need to put on a pretense before our brothers to cover over proper conduct, and how did Paul show whether?
42 Being under no necessity to outwit or use strategy toward our sheeplike brothers to lead them off the track, we need not put on a pretense to cover over proper conduct. Peter (Cephas) once put on a pretense before the brothers at Antioch, Syria. Privately he lived the same as any non-Jewish Christian but publicly he acted like a Christian “according to Jewish practice” for fear of being criticized by Christian visitors from Jerusalem. The apostle Paul rebuked him for not acting truthfully but acting outwardly in support of wrong doctrine and practice.—Gal. 2:11-14, NW.
43. Against whom do we not dare to lie, and how did this show itself in the case of Ananias and Sapphira?
43 We do not have anything wrong to cover over from wolfish enemies, but if there is anything wrong we cannot cover it over from Jehovah. We dare not lie against him. Ananias and his wife Sapphira tried to lie to God for the sake of putting on an all-out generous appearance before the apostles and the rest of the Jerusalem congregation. Peter asked Ananias: “To what end has Satan emboldened you to play false to the holy spirit. . . ? . . . You have played false, not to men, but to God.” The holy spirit in Peter sharpened his perceptions to see that Ananias was trying to lie to God, and the spirit immediately killed Ananias. After he dropped dead and was carried away, his wife came in and put the spirit in Peter to the test, by trying to keep up the pretense. Peter asked: “Why was it agreed upon between you two to make a test of the spirit of Jehovah?” Instantly she dropped dead.—Acts 5:1-10, NW.
44. How did Achan try to act out a lie? and how was King Saul’s attempt to lie to God exposed?
44 Similarly, at Jericho’s fall Achan tried to act out a lie before his brother Israelites and test the detective power of God’s spirit. Contrary to strict orders from God he seized some of the tabooed spoil of the cursed city of Jericho and hid it under the ground of his tent. The deceptive work did not escape Jehovah’s notice, and his spirit caused the exposure of Achan as the greedy troublemaker for Israel. He and his household were stoned to death in due punishment. (Josh. 7:1, 10-26) Later King Saul tried to lie to God and to his spirit in the prophet Samuel. Before ever Saul made report to Samuel, Jehovah informed him of Saul’s disobedience in not devoting everything of the Amalekites to destruction. Saul tried to give a religious flavor to his keeping the best of the plunder and King Agag himself alive, but Samuel exposed the rebellious, presumptuous hypocrisy, saying: “To obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams.” (1 Sam. 15:22, NW) Lying to God never succeeds.
45. How may we lie against God’s Word and put him in the light of a liar, and with what end to ourselves?
45 We dare not lie against God’s Word, adding to it or taking away from it, reading into it what it does not say and denying, passing over or explaining away what it does truthfully say. “Every word of God is tried: . . . Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Prov. 30:5, 6, AS) We may not tell untruths in his name, for that puts God in the light of a liar. “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.” (Rom. 3:4, NW) In Jeremiah’s day the false prophets prophesied lies in Jehovah’s name and lied against his purpose, foretelling in his name what he had not foretold. Therefore Jehovah was against them. He executed judgment against them at Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 B.C. (Jer. 23:25; 27:15) Religious liars like them today cannot escape a like judgment but will meet a like end at Armageddon.
46. Why must we not swear falsely in Jehovah’s name, and how do we show we do not love a false oath?
46 Never swear falsely in Jehovah’s name. Jehovah declares that at his temple he will be a “swift witness against . . . the false swearers.” (Mal. 3:5, AS) Never take an oath in his name and then tell lies as a sworn witness. Rahab of Jericho was under no oath in Jehovah’s name to tell the facts to the king’s officers and hence was not a false swearer or a false witness. “A faithful witness will not lie; but a false witness uttereth lies.” (Prov. 14:5, AS) A faithful witness does not love a false oath. So he tells the truth as he swore to do. What he does speak will be the truth. If he speaks at all he will tell the truth. To the extent that he chooses to talk he will state the truth. If for conscientious reasons he refuses to tell everything he will be willing to suffer the consequences if he be judged deserving of a penalty. He refuses to tell everything, not to escape punishment, but facing punishment for conscientious reasons. Even Jesus kept silent before Pilate, refusing to answer though knowing Pilate’s power.—John 19:8-11.
47. What does taking an oath to do something and then not doing it mean, and how did Shimei who once cursed David illustrate the consequences of this?
47 Never take an oath to do a thing and then prove false to it by failing to do what you swore to do. That means to prove false to the “oath of Jehovah.” It means “swearing falsely in making covenants.” (Hos. 10:4, AS; RS) Shimei, who cursed the fleeing King David, swore in Jehovah’s name to Solomon not to budge outside Jerusalem the rest of his days. When he proved false to his oath by leaving Jerusalem to recover two escaped slaves, King Solomon said to him on his return: “Why, then, did you not keep the oath of Jehovah and the commandment that I solemnly laid upon you?” For proving false to Jehovah’s oath Shimei died with his blood upon his own head. (1 Ki. 2:36-46, NW) Likewise Zedekiah, Jerusalem’s last king of David’s line, acted a lie against the oath of Jehovah.
48. How did Ring Zedekiah act a lie against the oath of Jehovah, and how did he feel Jehovah’s hatred of false oaths and swearers?
48 This oath in Jehovah’s name King Zedekiah made before King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to guarantee that he would be obediently subject to his Babylonian overlord. After eight years of keeping this covenant he looked to Egypt for help and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, thus despising the “oath of Jehovah” and suggesting that nothing could be guaranteed by Jehovah’s name. “Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah: As I live, surely mine oath that he hath despised, and my covenant that he hath broken, I will even bring it upon his own head.” (Ezek. 17:13, 16-21, AS; 2 Chron. 36:13) Zedekiah felt how Jehovah hated false oaths and false swearers, when his city fell, his sons were killed before his eyes, his own eyes were then blinded and he was carried off captive to die in Babylon.
49. How is the nation of Israel as well as Shimei and Zedekiah a warning example to us, and what two commands from God and King are we sworn to obey?
49 The nation of Israel (excepting a faithful remnant) was a large-scale example of proving false to the “oath of Jehovah,” entering into a covenant with him by an oath and rebelliously failing to carry out that covenant. (Dan. 9:11; Ezek. 16:59; Deut. 29:12-14, NW) The nation of Israel and Shimei and Zedekiah are examples of warning to us not to treat lightly our own “oath of Jehovah” in dedicating ourselves to him through Christ and then not carrying out that dedication faithfully in full obedience to his will. His command to us is: “Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah.” (Isa. 43:10, 12, AS) His King Jesus Christ reigns since A.D. 1914 and the King’s command to us is: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations.” (Matt. 24:14, NW) In Jehovah’s name we are sworn to obey these commands. The word of the inspired wise man to us is: “Keep the king’s commandment, and [that] on account of the oath of God.” (Eccl. 8:2, Da) This we will determinedly do.
50. So what will we do as respects the wolves and as respects God and his sheep?
50 In carrying out our King’s instructions for preaching in the field we will follow his counsel to be “cautious as serpents and innocent as doves” among the wolves. We will be true to God’s purpose, proclaiming it and working in harmony with it. We will be true to his Word, publishing it in its purity and preaching no falsehoods in his name. We will be true to his spirit, never putting it to the test with false, hypocritical conduct within his organization but letting his spirit move us to a truthful course of conduct before all his sheep. To them we will speak the truth for their edification and protection, never betraying them to the fangs of the wolves. As sheep among wolves we will keep preaching under our Shepherd’s care until all wolves are destroyed and all his sheep are safe upon the green pastures and beside the still waters of his new world.