Rejoicing over “God’s Sons of Liberty” Spiritual Feast
LIBERTY is a compelling desire of all men, irrespective of their race, religion or nationality. Yet satisfying fulfillment of this desire has eluded the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants. Nevertheless, liberty or freedom is achievable. And the “God’s Sons of Liberty” District Assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses held this summer throughout the United States, Canada and the British Isles, have proved beyond all doubt that there is Christian freedom in abundant measure among the people of God.
Jehovah’s witnesses are a liberated people, a free people, spiritually speaking. Their elaborate district assembly program was designed to safeguard and expand the freedom that is theirs. In every one of the twenty assembly cities, the program was, for the most part, identical. The theme permeating the five days of sessions echoed the delight and warning expressed by the apostle Paul to the Galatians (5:1): “For such freedom Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery.”
The assembled throngs, numbering hundreds of thousands, were called upon by the chairmen to ‘Listen! Listen! Listen! Jehovah God provided for and has called his people together. Being a God of purpose, he has something to say. So Listen!’ Listeners carried away with them a rich blessing. What did they hear?
Perhaps the first blessing was to hear music and songs from the new songbook, “Singing and Accompanying Yourselves with Music in Your Hearts.” The brilliant color of the songbook created an appearance of a sea of purple flickering flowers. At many conventions, expressions of delight and applause followed song after song!
THE BIBLE MADE ALIVE
“Electrifying,” “thrilling,” “spectacular,” were some of the expressions used by conventioners to describe their reaction to portions of the Bible enacted at the assemblies. Never was the account of the prophet Daniel made more real. As the sound of dramatic music echoed over the loudspeaker systems and the reproduced voices of the prophet Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach were heard, the words of the Bible came alive. One felt himself there with the three Hebrews. The threat to pure worship became real. There was a searching of the heart integrity-wise by conventioners. The need for greater spiritual strength and faith was keenly felt by most attentive listeners.
The unforgettable scenes demonstrating Jeremiah’s ministry and trials (with costume and sound effects) made the prophet’s ordeal come alive. Young and old alike experienced the truthfulness of the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Jeremiah standing alone, with a howling mob demanding his life, emphasized the trust worshipers must place in Jehovah and how they must endure even in the face of death. These lessons were driven home in a most brilliant way.
What adult or youth will forget that it is wrong to steal, after seeing the drama of Joshua and the thief Achan? What Christian will dismiss from mind the Bible principle that “bad associations spoil useful habits,” after watching the scene depicting Dinah’s unwise association with Canaanite Shechem? (1 Cor. 15:33) How could any young man or woman forget the scene enacted between Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, illustrating the need for morality, even when under extreme temptation? What beauty in virtue and wisdom in Joseph’s words: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9) Did you not appreciate more fully the need of keeping the congregation clean after seeing what happened at Corinth? Were you not moved by these demonstrations to be a better servant of God? That was their purpose. A stranger, attending the assembly at Blackpool, England, said: “I was particularly impressed with the colourful tableaus (demonstrations). I think it is a wonderful way of teaching the Bible.” Are these not your sentiments?
Those who came to the assemblies for only the weekend found that they missed some of the best portions of the program. The demonstrations put on early in the program were “spectacular,” “unforgettable,” fixing Bible principles indelibly in mind.
Think of building people! That is what Jehovah’s witnesses are doing. “Jehovah’s witnesses are making Christians out of people who already exist as humans,” conventioners in Toronto and other assembly cities heard President N. H. Knorr of the Watch Tower Society say in the keynote address, “Building on a Right Foundation with Fire-Resistant Materials.” (1 Cor. 3:9-15) “Jehovah’s witnesses are building on the right foundation, Jesus Christ,” Knorr said, “and they are making true Christians with fire-resistant materials,” which the Bible compares with gold, silver, corals and precious stones. This means that “the persons whom we are striving to make disciples of Christ we must educate, train, discipline in the godly qualities of heavenly wisdom, spiritual discernment, appreciation of integrity, devotion to Bible principles, respect for the laws, commandments, orders, reminders and judicial decisions of Jehovah God, faith in his written Word, sticking to the theocratic organization of God’s people, love of God’s ‘sheep’ that are in the care of the Fine Shepherd Jesus Christ, unbreakable attachment to God’s Messianic kingdom and a fearless willingness to bear witness to it.” This will result in our own everlasting life and that of others on whom we do building work, the speaker assured his listeners.
Only a liberated people can preach a release to captives, conventioners were told in the speech “Preach a Release to the Captives,” which thrilled them with its hopeful outlook. “Jehovah, the God of freedom and liberty, has freed his people from Babylonish bondage and has given them a work of liberation to do. That work of liberation and salvation must go on to the finish! To give aid today in this critical time to prospective sons of God,” announced President Knorr, “a new book in English, entitled ‘Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God,’ has been published.” At all assembly points where it was released, the book was received enthusiastically. Crowds gathered around stands and soon supplies of the book were depleted. Immediately its contents were examined. It did not take the brothers very long to find the chart beginning on page 31, showing that 6,000 years of man’s existence end in 1975. Discussion of 1975 overshadowed about everything else. “The new book compels us to realize that Armageddon is, in fact, very close indeed,” said a conventioner. Surely it was one of the outstanding blessings to be carried home!
“Liberty is to know Christian truth,” the eager audiences at a number of the assemblies heard F. W. Franz, the Watch Tower Society’s vice-president, say in his discourse “Liberty-giving Worship and Freedom of Worship.” “It is those who worship the one living and true God Jehovah through his Son Jesus Christ that are set free. Jehovah’s witnesses strive to keep the liberty that their practice of pure worship gives to them,” declared Franz.
Among the more thought-provoking talks at the 1966 “God’s Sons of Liberty” District Assemblies was the speech “Making Grateful Use of a Penny.” (Matt. 20:1-16) The assembled crowds learned that in the first century the symbolic “penny” was the privilege that went with the receiving of the holy spirit, namely, the privilege of being a member of spiritual Israel, authorized to prophesy in fulfillment of Joel 2:28, 29, anointed to preach the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom. The “penny” today is likewise the honor of serving as anointed ambassadors of God’s newborn Messianic kingdom from 1919 on till the coming “battle of the great day of God the Almighty” at Armageddon. The “penny” has been used in gathering the “great crowd” of sheeplike persons foretold in Revelation 7:9-17. What a reward this has already been to the anointed Kingdom ambassadors!
Human freedom or liberty is inseparably linked with the kingdom of God. The public address on Sunday, therefore, aroused great curiosity, for the subject was “What Has God’s Kingdom Been Doing Since 1914?” Over 386,600 present for this discourse in the twenty assembly cities heard proof that the kingdom of God is a reality. What has that kingdom done since 1914? It has gone into action against its enemies in heaven (Rev. 12:12); it has made its influence felt in the worldwide proclamation of the Kingdom in all the earth for a witness today; it has protected and preserved its anointed ambassadors through unspeakable trials; it has acquired subjects of whom about a million have dedicated themselves to God and his Messianic kingdom. ‘Let everybody become alive to the reality of 1914, as well as to the reality of the heavenly kingdom!’ appealed the speaker.
In addition to these informative and enlightening discourses, there were many excellent half-hour talks, such as one that gave practical illustrations on how to teach as Jesus did by the use of questions. “I don’t mean just the frequency with which he used questions,” said the speaker, “but I mean the way he taught by questions—when it might have seemed so much easier just to tell the person the point. Let me give you an example. . . . Let’s look at Matthew 17:24-27.” Questions make people think and remember too. People, by answering questions asked, are more ready to accept conclusions that they themselves have expressed than if someone else expresses them. By means of questions we can help people educate their consciences, to begin thinking seriously in terms of right and wrong so that they will come to love what is right and hate what is wrong.
Other discourses helped conventioners to see how they can fight indifference with endurance; how the full-time service has helped many freedom lovers to keep their eyes on the prize of life. For example, one speaker said that “full-time service demands your all. You can’t be speaking about the kingdom and everlasting life without having your own mind on those things.” Other talks caused listeners to do some deep soul-searching. The speech “My Responsibility Toward the House of My God” showed that attendance and active participation at meetings are responsibilities to be met by Christians, along with the providing of material support. Husbands and wives especially appreciated the admonition in the discourse, “Husbands, Assume Your Responsibilities of Headship.” It was pointed out that the husband’s voice must be the deciding one in the family, that he must give direction, and that this is to be given in love. When this happens, both the wife and the children enjoy security and the husband wins for himself self-respect.
For more than 4,900 who symbolized their dedication to Jehovah by being immersed in water, the talk “Responsibilities of a Baptized Witness” will no doubt live long in their memory. They heard speakers say that baptism shows faith in Jehovah and Christ, that it symbolizes full dedication to God made in prayer, that it is a necessary step to take and that dedication is to be fulfilled faithfully.
A question-and-answer session highlighted interesting points about modern-day modes of dress, hair styles and grooming in general. Conventioners were told not to follow the example of those whose way of dress is really a reflection of their immoral thoughts. About dating, the parents and young people assembled were reminded that dating is not a form of recreation. It is a course that naturally leads to marriage. “It is not up to the young person to decide at what age this [dating] is to be permitted or if a chaperon will be required,” the youths heard the speaker say. “That is the God-given responsibility of the father; and, if there is no living father in the home, the responsibility rests with the mother.” Parents were urged to shoulder their parental responsibility. Other vital questions were also asked and answered.
Especially enjoyable were the extemporaneous remarks of the president of the Society at the many assemblies where he was able to be personally present. For more than an hour his listeners clung to every word said. He touched on the high points of the assembly, the theme of liberty and building with the right materials on the right foundation. “Never slack the hand,” he pleaded. “Be on guard against internal dissension, materialism and persecution!”
He told of increasing opposition to the Kingdom work in various lands, such as in Cuba, where Kingdom Halls have been burned; in Burma, where the Society’s missionaries have been expelled; in Zambia, where the branch servant was told to leave the country; in Portugal, where forty-nine of Jehovah’s witnesses have stood trial. But he also had some encouraging figures. While in some of the larger countries there was little increase in numbers of Kingdom preachers this past April, still others have done very well: France saw a 12-percent increase; Italy, 15 percent; Brazil, 21 percent; Chile, 22 percent; the Dominican Republic, 40-percent increase.
He also told of the way the Swedish Parliament solved the problem of dealing with Jehovah’s witnesses who refused military service. Upon the recommendation of the defense minister himself, the government will not call for duty any who are Jehovah’s witnesses. However, yearly a check will be made to see whether they still are Jehovah’s witnesses or not.
THE YEAR 1975
At the Baltimore assembly Brother Franz in his closing remarks made some interesting comments regarding the year 1975. He began casually by saying, “Just before I got on the platform a young man came to me and said, ‘Say, what does this 1975 mean? Does it mean this, that or any other thing?’” In part, Brother Franz went on to say: ‘You have noticed the chart [on pages 31-35 in the book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God]. It shows that 6,000 years of human experience will end in 1975, about nine years from now. What does that mean? Does it mean that God’s rest day began 4026 B.C.E.? It could have. The Life Everlasting book does not say it did not. The book merely presents the chronology. You can accept it or reject it. If that is the case, what does that mean to us? [He went into some length showing the feasibility of the 4026 B.C.E. date as being the beginning of God’s rest day.]
‘What about the year 1975? What is it going to mean, dear friends?’ asked Brother Franz. ‘Does it mean that Armageddon is going to be finished, with Satan bound, by 1975? It could! It could! All things are possible with God. Does it mean that Babylon the Great is going to go down by 1975? It could. Does it mean that the attack of Gog of Magog is going to be made on Jehovah’s witnesses to wipe them out, then Gog himself will be put out of action? It could. But we are not saying. All things are possible with God. But we are not saying. And don’t any of you be specific in saying anything that is going to happen between now and 1975. But the big point of it all is this, dear friends: Time is short. Time is running out, no question about that.
‘When we were approaching the end of the Gentile Times in 1914, there was no sign that the Gentile Times were going to end. Conditions on earth gave us no hint of what was to come, even as late as June of that year. Then suddenly there was a murder. World War I broke out. You know the rest. Famines, earthquakes and pestilences followed, as Jesus foretold would happen.
‘But what do we have today as we approach 1975? Conditions have not been peaceful. We’ve been having world wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences and we have these conditions still as we approach 1975. Do these things mean something? These things mean that we’re in the “time of the end.” And the end has to come sometime. Jesus said: “As these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:28) So we know that as we come to 1975 our deliverance is that much nearer.’
“Let us make the most of the time and get in all the good hard work to Jehovah while the opportunity affords,” he urged.
In closing, at most assemblies, plans for the coming year were unfolded, to have a large number of district assemblies in the smaller cities throughout each country. Then the happy gatherings were dismissed as they had begun their five-day assemblies, with song and prayer to Jehovah God. Conventioners, though somewhat reluctant to leave assembly cities and relinquish the close association of their brothers, nevertheless felt enriched by the spiritual feast they had enjoyed. They were glad to be Jehovah’s witnesses. The convention was a most rewarding, prayerful experience for which they were most grateful to Jehovah their God. They were determined to remain on guard and to maintain the glorious spiritual freedom with which they have been blessed.