Breaking the Yoke of the Oppressor
“He will deliver the poor one crying for help, also the afflicted one and whoever has no helper. He will feel sorry for the lowly one and the poor one, and the souls of the poor ones he will save. From oppression and from violence he will redeem their soul, and their blood will be precious in his eyes.”—Ps. 72:12-14.
1. What are people seeking today, but what do they not know?
FROM every corner of the earth today, the cry is for freedom. People everywhere want to be free. They want the freedom to choose their own government and their own way of life. They want the freedom to worship in the way they please, and if they please. They want to be free of the strict schedules of modern living, free of the enslaving demands of industry, free of the burdens of taxation and the high cost of living. They want to be free of military domination and dictation. They want to be free of science and technology that have dehumanized them into cards to punch through computers. They want to be free of religious superstitions and hierarchy control. People everywhere desperately want to be free of this system that has enslaved them, but they do not know what they must do to free themselves from their oppressors. What can they do?
2. What are some things those desirous of freedom can do now?
2 People desirous of freedom can begin by recognizing the cause of their enslavement. When they see the cause, the true remedy also will become obvious. They should also try to acquire God’s view of this matter of oppression by searching through his Word the Bible and by ordering their lives in harmony with his will. (Prov. 3:5-7) Too, they should endeavor to see that there can be no true freedom apart from God, that any course contrary to God’s law can lead only to oppression and enslavement. It is well that they observe also that doing anything and everything without restrictions or limitations does not result in freedom but chaos. For this is the lesson of history.
3. (a) Where was oppression first introduced, by whom and how? (b) What was the result of mankind’s dream of an unconfined earth?
3 In the garden of Eden man was first introduced to oppression and slavery by the one whom the Bible calls Satan the Devil. (Rev. 12:9) Rather than be yoked to God by remaining obedient to his laws and commandments, Adam and Eve chose to listen to the Devil and serve themselves, and thereby they became yoked to the Devil through disobedience. They became the slaves of selfishness, the servants of sin. (Rom. 6:16-18) Instead of continuing within the boundaries of the garden of Eden, they were turned loose into the broad, unlimited earth outside, with plenty of room to work their wills. But even though they were given the run of the earth, were they free? No; there is no freedom outside the household of God. The law of sin and death was now operating within their members. The works of the flesh became manifest in a hideous form when Cain murdered his brother Abel. Crime and violence soon filled the earth. (Gen. 4:8; 6:5; Gal. 5:19-21) Their youthful dream of a new, better and unconfined world apart from God did not materialize. In reality it became an oppressive world, a corrupt and dead world, a world doomed to destruction.—Gen. 6:7.
4. (a) What have men endeavored to do since the Flood, and why have they failed? (b) To abolish oppression what must be taken under consideration? What have human efforts accomplished?
4 Since the flood of Noah’s day, which destroyed that world, men have endeavored through governments and by other means apart from Jehovah God to regain freedoms lost in Eden. (2 Pet. 2:5) They have prayed, warred and died to free themselves, but the facts of history bear witness that to date the human family has not escaped the bitter fruitage of Adam’s rebellion against God’s law, and that this world has not come out from under Satan’s control. Jesus Christ called Satan “the ruler of this world.” (John 12:31; 14:30) The apostle Paul referred to him as “the god of this system of things [who] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” (2 Cor. 4:4) The apostle John warns: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) All nations are under Satan’s control, which fact Jesus Christ did not deny when Satan offered him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory if Jesus would do an act of worship to him. (Matt. 4:8-10) Therefore, no action on the part of nations can be viewed as abolishing oppression so long as they are under the influence of the god of oppression, Satan the Devil. Abolishing oppression means getting at the very root of the problem, namely, getting rid of Satan himself. It means the ransoming of mankind from the bondage of inherited sin, too. Since Satan is beyond the reach of men and nations, mankind must of necessity look elsewhere for help to break the yoke of their oppressor. And since all are descendants of the sinner Adam, all have inherited his disability of sin and its wage death. (Rom. 5:12; 6:23) Therefore, man must look elsewhere to save himself from the bondage of sin. (Job 14:4; Ps. 49:7) That is why nations have failed. They are unable to get at the root causes. Therefore, their efforts, for the most part, have never led to anything except the replacing of one oppressive system by another.
OPPRESSIVE SYSTEMS OF THE PAST
5. (a) What proves that Egypt was an oppressive system? (b) Who rescued the Israelites from the Egyptian bondage?
5 The first world power Egypt gravitated into an oppressive system. The children of Israel for generations served the ruthless pharaohs of that land. The Bible account faithfully describes their oppression in these words: “So they [the Egyptians] set over them [the Israelites] chiefs of forced labor for the purpose of oppressing them in their burden-bearing; and they went building cities as storage places for Pharaoh, namely, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they would oppress them, the more they would multiply and the more they kept spreading abroad, so that they felt a sickening dread as a result of the sons of Israel. Consequently the Egyptians made the sons of Israel slave under tyranny. And they kept making their life bitter with hard slavery at clay mortar and bricks and with every form of slavery in the field, yes, every form of slavery of theirs in which they used them as slaves under tyranny.” (Ex. 1:11-14) The yoke of the Egyptian oppressors was broken not by Israelite ingenuity, but by God Almighty himself. He reminded them of this fact in these words: “I am Jehovah your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt from acting as slaves to them, and I proceeded to break the bars of your yoke and make you walk erect.” (Lev. 26:13) It was Jehovah who shattered the yoke of their oppressor, which fact he wanted them to remember; a fact it is well for us not to forget either.
6. What did freedom and enslavement mean to the Israelites?
6 Obedience to God meant freedom. To disobey God meant to become enslaved in the yoke of bondage. Jehovah warned the Israelites: “If you will not listen to me nor do all these commandments, and if you will reject my statutes, and if your souls will abhor my judicial decisions so as not to do all my commandments, to the extent of your violating my covenant, then I, for my part, shall . . . indeed set my face against you.” (Lev. 26:14-17) For failing to listen to their God, for deliberately walking in opposition to him, for refusing to let themselves be corrected by him, ultimately their disobedient course would lead to their annihilation. “You will have to serve your enemies . . . and he will certainly put an iron yoke upon your neck until he has annihilated you.”—Deut. 28:15, 48; Lev. 26:18-41.
7. What are the various meanings attached to the yoke as a symbol and figure of speech, and why can we say the Israelites understood what God meant when he said that he would put an iron yoke upon their neck?
7 The Jews knew very well of what Jehovah was speaking, because they were an agricultural people and therefore very familiar with yokes of all kinds. An iron yoke was the symbol of severe bondage. (Jer. 28:14) It was also a symbol of calamity or suffering. The humiliation and oppression of one nation by another the Jews referred to as the yoke of bondage. (Jer. 27:8; 28:4) Breaking out of slavery or subjugation was described as ‘breaking the yoke.’ (Isa. 9:4; 14:25; Jer. 28:2) So when Jehovah said that he would “certainly put an iron yoke” upon their neck if they refused to listen to him, they knew that that meant slavery and annihilation.
8. When and how did Israel increase its burdens?
8 Ancient Israel as a nation was slow to learn, however. Time and again they refused to listen to the voice of Jehovah and were made to suffer the consequences. In the year 1117 B.C.E., the nation pleaded with the prophet Samuel to anoint for them a king. Samuel warned that an earthly king would mean adding to their burdens, for kings would be oppressive and demanding as rulers. “However, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel and said: ‘No, but a king is what will come to be over us.’” (1 Sam. 8:18, 19) Saul was anointed king. And soon thereafter the nation began to suffer the consequence of having a human king over them. That burden increased in time.
9. (a) When did oppression become a national issue, and with what result? (b) What fact is worth remembering?
9 One hundred and twenty years after Saul became king over Israel, oppression became a national issue. In the closing years of his life, King Solomon became a harsh ruler. When Rehoboam, his son, succeeded him to the throne, the people of Israel appealed to him to lighten their load, saying: “Your father, for his part, made our yoke hard, and, as for you, now make the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke that he put upon us lighter, and we shall serve you.” King Rehoboam’s reply was: “Now my father, for his part, loaded upon you a heavy yoke; but I, for my part, shall add to your yoke.” (1 Ki. 12:1-11) This act led to rebellion and a split in the kingdom of Israel that lasted for some 390 years, until the kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E. The Jews who remained alive were taken captive to Babylon to serve as slave labor. After sixty-eight years of such captivity, it was once again Jehovah God who came to their rescue and shattered the yoke of their oppressor and two years later gave them freedom to return home. This, also, is worthy of remembering.—Ezra 1:1, 2.
10. What do these facts of history teach?
10 There is no denying or escaping these facts by any member of the human family today, regardless of his nationality. The lesson is still the same. There is no freedom apart from God. There is none who can deliver mankind out from under Satanic control except God himself. Those denying what God’s Word has to say about this are blinded by the god of this system of things. They soon find that their efforts at yoke breaking are extremely feeble, or are thwarted, or they boomerang. At best they manage merely to replace one oppressive system with another.
MODERN OPPRESSIVE SYSTEMS
11. What did Karl Marx endeavor to do? What proves his idea an abysmal failure?
11 For example, Karl Marx, German socialist, thought he was able to demonstrate scientifically that things were different in our day. He set about to develop a system of government that he thought would lead to true freedom, not to a new oppression. This was the beginning of communism, the most oppressive of all systems to date. The people’s communes of Red China are proof enough of the severe yoke those people bear, for about 98 percent of China’s peasantry have been herded into a system of forced collectivization. All their personal rights, freedoms and belongings have been surrendered to the State. This is the fruit of a system that Marx believed would do away with oppression and bring true freedom to all mankind. Was Marx not duped by Satan into believing that freedom lay in a godless, materialistic society? Most certainly he was! Hundreds of millions of people have followed Marx’s teachings. They became godless and materialistic, but not free. (2 Cor. 11:14, 15) For there is no freedom apart from God.
12, 13. In what ways is oppression experienced under capitalism?
12 But what about the capitalistic world? Have the people fared any better? some one may ask. In many ways, yes. Nevertheless, the yokes of oppression can be seen almost everywhere in the capitalist realm as well. Huge industrial systems pin down hundreds of thousands of men to more or less servile jobs, govern their hours and, indirectly, their standard of living. For workers to press for better working conditions and a higher wage to meet the high cost of living often brings on more oppression. When employers are forced by strikes or by arbitration to pay higher wages, they frequently boost the price of their products to compensate for the additional overhead, prices are raised to absorb the higher costs, and the worker, who must buy the product, ends up paying for his own raise. Strikes and collective bargaining have not broken the yoke of the oppressor in the land of capitalism.
13 Oppression in the form of taxation has become especially severe in recent years. For defense outlays alone, the United States, from 1959 to 1969, spent more than $630,000,000,000. This gigantic sum of money represents thousands of dollars for every working taxpayer in the country! According to the annual report of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, a total of more than $1,000,000,000,000 was spent by all nations on military equipment during the past six years! What a burden to bear!
14. What questions might we ask ourselves?
14 Have these great outlays of money lessened humanity’s load any or at least brought a semblance of security in the world? Have these burdens caused men to turn to God and to seek his deliverance? Have modern systems at least given mankind a single cause for rejoicing? Consider briefly some of the awesome upheavals brought about by the systems of our time before proposing a solution.
FRUITS OF MODERN OPPRESSION
15, 16. (a) What is the fruitage of these oppressive systems? (b) What prophecies do they fulfill?
15 In the space of a few years men have seen the rise of wicked dictators, such as Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, who plunged the world into bloody chaos. They have witnessed the ruthless purges by Joseph Stalin and by the Red Guards of China. They have beheld the cold war of 1948, the Russian blockage of Berlin, the first takeover of Czechoslovakia and the construction of an Iron Curtain across Europe. In recent years they have witnessed almost constant fighting between Israel and the Arabs, Red China exploded its first hydrogen bomb, the Bolivians killed Che Guevara, the Nigerian civil war was fought, and they saw how blood flowed freely on an increasing scale in Vietnam and Cambodia. The world also watched rioters run wild in Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark, New York and elsewhere. It saw the British pound and French franc devalued and the gold crisis agitate the economic foundations of the world. It was introduced to its first human-heart transplant and it beheld men circling the moon in a satellite and landing on it.
16 The world also saw an unprecedented rise in crime and violence. It beheld faceless men seeking fame by the killing of some promising leader in the world. In April 1968 the murder of Martin Luther King ignited Negro riots in 125 cities in America that killed 46 people, injured 2,600, and required 55,000 National Guardsmen to restore order. In June 1968 came the second Kennedy assassination, a dramatic young leader cut down at the threshold of his powers. Assorted student protests have roiled over Belgium, Britain, Egypt, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Spain, West Germany and school campuses in the United States. True to the fulfillment of Bible prophecies, these are “critical times hard to deal with,” when the hearts of men are becoming “faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” (2 Tim. 3:1; Luke 21:26) But these are the fruits of systems that men struggle to perpetuate, not knowing the way out of their dilemma.
CAUSE AND EFFECT OF WORLD CHAOS
17. What has been the seeming reason behind the rush of events, and with what result?
17 The fearful rush and action of our times seem almost headlong and haphazard, yet there appears to be an objective behind it all. Time for August 30, 1968, stated: “Everywhere, a vast yearning for new freedoms and fulfillments is sweeping Communist, capitalist and excolonial nations alike.” Millions want more. They become frustrated when affluence, equality and education are too slowly achieved, said Time. “The global result is growing impatience with old political processes; a desire for direct action is inflaming minds and causing almost daily clashes that defy law and logic.” The result has been a disrespect for all forms of authority. Youths have seen how multi-billion-dollar programs have failed to cure poverty; how civil-rights legislation has left Negroes more frustrated than ever; how higher learning and financial “success” do not bring true fulfillment; how many youths have turned away from the old standards of morality; how political promises have only resulted in more crises and convulsions to a point where many young people are ready to give up on life altogether.
18. (a) What events of the day prove that youths find this world hopeless? (b) What are they doing, true to prophecy?
18 It is no longer a pleasure to be young. Youth today faces a precarious, frustrating and chaotic world. Often they react to it violently, destructively and criminally. Gang rumbles, student riots and orgies of drinking and sexual promiscuity are manifestations of blind revolt against the world’s inhumanities, its confusing moral values and its oppressive yoke. Many youths, trapped in this competitive, “intellectual rat race,” reach for tranquilizers, pep pills and other drugs. A recent survey at the University of Toronto revealed that 37 percent of the men and 36 percent of the women used the drugs to help them meet their schedules. Some commit suicide. Thirty percent of the men and 17 percent of the women in the university admitted that they had thoughts of suicide. At Yale University suicide is second only to accidents as the cause of student deaths. In Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, police uncovered what they believed to be a suicide club among young people. Youths draw lots to decide who shall die next. This is the sad oppressive state to which this world has finally come. The inspired proverb says: “When anyone wicked bears rule, the people sigh.” (Prov. 29:2) And the oppressed are ‘sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done in the midst of them.’ (Ezek. 9:4) But what can people do?
19. (a) Whom are youths prone to blame for the state of things, but who is responsible? (b) What proves this so? (c) What fact about the source of help does this highlight?
19 Consciously or unconsciously, most youths blame adults for the inhuman ordeals thrust upon them. In this such youths err. Today’s adults are just as much victims of the same social and economic systems as are the youths of the world. They bear the same burdens and long for a change. The true cause of oppression, the Bible says, is Satan, who “is misleading the entire inhabited earth. . . . Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Rev. 12:9, 12) Since oppression has its roots in the spirit realm, in Satan, and in the systems that he has devised, it is beyond the reach of man to free himself. He needs God’s help to do it. The oppressed ones are wise, therefore, to look to God to smash to pieces the yoke of the oppressor, which he has promised to do.—Ps. 37:34.
THE YOKE OF THE OPPRESSOR SHATTERED
20. (a) Why can we entertain a bright hope for the future? (b) How will God accomplish the removal of oppression from the universe?
20 In the Bible we have God’s promise that the future, which now looms ominously over all people, will change. This beautiful planet earth will be reclaimed for righteous mankind. Order will replace chaos; peace will replace war, and all will enjoy security and abundance in freedom. (Ps. 46:8, 9; Rev. 21:1-4) How will God accomplish this? By wiping out Satan and his demon hordes in the invisible realm and annihilating every vestige of his visible organization as well. Viewing the perplexing problems of our day, Time said: “The only solution is to uproot society and start afresh.” This is precisely what God purposes to do. Through his prophet Daniel, he declared: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these [oppressive] kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Dan. 2:44.
21. When will oppression be removed, and how will man be made free?
21 That kingdom is already functioning in the heavens with Christ as its king. (Rev. 11:15) At Armageddon, “the war of the great day of God the Almighty,” Jesus Christ, acting as God’s executioner, will rid the earth of all God’s enemies and establish righteousness. That is why we pray: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Rev. 16:14, 16; Matt. 6:10; 2 Pet. 3:13) Christ will also take care of Satan and his demons by crushing them to impotency. (Rom. 16:20) Under Kingdom rule, oppression will completely vanish from the earth. The reigning Christ will then apply the benefits of his ransom sacrifice in a most dynamic way and the effects of inherited sin will cease to exist. (Matt. 20:28; Rom. 5:17, 21) “Death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more.” (Rev. 21:4) Mankind will grow to perfection, to God’s glory.
22, 23. (a) With a strong hope in God’s promises, what prayer do servants of God pray? (b) What confidence can we rejoice in, and how will the righteous respond? (c) What about those seeking a release from subjugation to this world now, and what can they do?
22 Those who believe these promises of God now pray as did the psalmist: “Give the king thy justice, O God, and thy righteousness to the royal son! May he judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with justice! . . . May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor!” (Ps. 72:1-4, 11-14, Revised Standard Version) All oppressed ones of the earth in this hour of upheaval and crises, therefore, can hope in Jehovah. Will you trust in his deliverance and freedom? All who love righteousness will do so.—1 Ki. 8:56.
23 But even now before that grand consummation of God’s deliverance from all oppressors, there is a release from subjugation to this present evil world that is possible for men to enjoy. The following article tells us how this refreshment is attainable in our time. So please read it, if you are weary and desire refreshment for your soul.