Growing in Appreciation for the “Divine Purpose”
WELL has our day been described as “an age of doubt and uncertainty.” People are unsure of the future, not knowing how to plan or what course to take. As a result, their lives are so often without purpose, and many live simply for the moment, ‘doing their own thing,’ as the expression goes.
Would you be glad to know, however, that there is a major exception?
The Trenton, New Jersey, Sunday Times Advertiser said: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are very certain. Through the apathy of the 50’s, the chaos of the 60’s and the disillusion that has already accompanied the burgeoning 70’s, they have continued to be very certain and to spread . . . a way of life governed by a word-for-word adherence to the Bible.”—April 7, 1974.
But what effect really has their ‘way of life’ had?
THOSE WHO DESIRE GOD’S GUIDANCE
This past summer at remarkable gatherings called the “Divine Purpose” District Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses the effect of their way of life was especially manifest. A young man passing through Salt Lake City, Utah, decided to attend the assembly there. He was so impressed by what he saw and heard that he came to every session. By the last day he was determined to learn more of God’s purpose, and expressed a desire to live in accord with it.
In Portland, Oregon, a registered nurse lived just across the street from the Civic Stadium where the “Divine Purpose” assembly was in progress. From there, she was able to hear things that moved her to come over to the stadium. She was simply amazed. After attending the final two days of the assembly, her comment was: “I know this is the truth.”
What impressed so many visitors was that here were people that truly look to Almighty God for his guidance. In connection with the assembly in Toronto, Canada, newsman Jonathan Fear wrote: “For a Jehovah’s Witness, the Bible is a guide to living that is followed to the word.” The Camden, New Jersey, Courier-Post noted: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are basically Bible students.”
Was there a good reason for reporters to say this? Well, Hal Davee tells what he heard and saw at the San Diego Stadium, where over 30,000 delegates met daily: “Each speaker emphasized his remarks with constant reference to Bible scriptures . . . Probably for the first time in the stadium’s history, the entire audience was quietly reading Bible scriptures.” If you had been there you also probably would have concluded that here were people who desire God’s guidance.
From its first day, the assembly program emphasized the importance of relying on God’s Word, and not on personal viewpoints. The talk “On Whose Authority Do You Speak?” especially stressed this. “Regardless of our position in the congregation,” the speaker said, “all of us need to watch that our statements are Biblically sound.”
At each of the sixty-nine four-day “Divine Purpose” assemblies in the United States the same Bible-based program was presented. The total peak attendance was 891,819, an average of about 13,000 persons at each assembly! The crowds were accommodated in large stadiums, racetracks and auditoriums. The same program will eventually be enjoyed in almost every country of the world. Already reports from just 26 of these countries outside the United States show that 793,397 persons have attended.
But still you may wonder, what is it that causes hundreds of thousands of persons to flock to these huge assemblies? What is seen, heard and experienced there that is of such interest to them? A number of things are involved.
THE GRAND PURPOSE OF GOD
For one thing, the anticipation of receiving further insight concerning God’s purpose draws Jehovah’s witnesses. “God’s purpose? What do you mean by that?” you may ask.
Recall that we were taught to pray to God: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:10) Yes, it is God’s purpose to have a kingdom, or government, that will bring righteous conditions to earth. But how? The Bible explains: “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. . . . It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Dan. 2:44.
Jehovah’s witnesses really believe this. God’s purpose, as quoted above from the Bible, is to set up his government that will crush out of existence all human rulership. Correct, therefore, was the headline in the Milwaukee Journal, “THE END IS NEAR, WITNESSES SAY.” The article noted: “There is a feeling of urgency among the estimated 41,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses meeting at County Stadium through Sunday.”
Imagine, if you can, the excitement of knowing that God will soon destroy this wicked system of things, and in time have the earth transformed into a paradise. Jehovah’s witnesses are extremely confident that this will soon occur, because of what God’s Word teaches. (Ps. 37:9-11, 29; 1 John 2:17; Rev. 21:3, 4) And so a principal reason why they flock to these assemblies is that they have a keen desire to learn more regarding this grand purpose of God.
SURVIVAL—AT WHAT TIME?
“Survival and Life by Harmonizing with God’s Purpose. Does that arrest your attention? It was the title of the assembly’s keynote address.
A world ended, the speaker noted, when the Flood waters wiped out the wicked system in Noah’s day. “The end of today’s world of ungodly people,” he explained, is now imminent. (Matt. 24:37-39; 2 Pet. 3:5-7) Noah and his family survived in the ark because they harmonized their lives with God’s purpose. What, corresponding to the ark, will serve as a protection for humans through the end of this world?
It is the place of restored peaceful relations with God, the speaker explained. It is a condition where true spiritual beauty obtains, a state of affairs where love and the other fruits of God’s spirit dominate and where true Christian brotherhood exists. In short, it is a spiritual paradise into which God has brought his faithful worshipers in these “last days,” and it will serve as a protection clear through the end of the world. It is this spiritual paradise, therefore, that is pictured by the ark.
But where does this spiritual paradise exist? Where is there a people among whom true brotherhood and love exist? Writing in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, reporter Lenora Steadman observed:
“One thing stands out about the Jehovah’s Witnesses convention here in Fort Worth and it’s not the size, although an impressive 11,000 people from Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana are attending the gathering.
“‘And (He) hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth . . .’ (Acts 17:26.)
“This Bible verse comes alive in true brotherhood in the religious meetings at the Will Rogers Memorial Center.
“People include blacks, browns, whites and more.”—July 20, 1974.
Yes, among Jehovah’s witnesses this brotherhood and love is indeed observable. The Hollywood Sun-Tattler noted of the gathering at Gulfstream Park in Florida:
“Plainly dressed, smiling and friendly Jehovah’s Witnesses were everywhere, and the spirit of love did in fact seem to be in the air.
“As evidence, the crowd flowed smoothly—no jostling, no shoving. Not a single policeman could be seen watching over the throngs of people coursing amid laughter and gay conversation.”—July 12, 1974.
Could it not be that these are the people that God will preserve to form the nucleus of his promised new system? It is indeed the hope of Jehovah’s witnesses to survive when God soon brings an end to the present wicked system of things. But when will this end come?
The publications of Jehovah’s witnesses have shown that, according to Bible chronology, it appears that 6,000 years of man’s existence will be completed in the mid-1970’s. But these publications have never said that the world’s end would come then. Nevertheless, there has been considerable individual speculation on the matter. So the assembly presentation “Why We Have Not Been Told ‘That Day and Hour’” was very timely. It emphasized that we do not know the exact time when God will bring the end. All we know is that the end will come within the generation that sees fulfilled on it the sign that Jesus Christ said would then be in evidence. (See Matthew chapters 24, 25.) All indications are that the fulfillment of this sign began in 1914. So we can be confident that the end is near; we do not have the slightest doubt that God will bring it about, the speaker stressed. But we have to wait and see exactly when, in the meantime keeping busy in God’s service.
GOD’S ADMINISTRATION AND KINGDOM
An assembly highlight always is the talk to which the public is especially invited. Jehovah’s witnesses are delighted to see the thousands of visitors who respond to the invitation to consider God’s purpose. This year the striking subject was “Human Plans Failing as God’s Purpose Succeeds.” It focused attention on the Bible passage at Ephesians 1:10, which speaks of God’s “administration at the full limit of the appointed times” for the blessing of mankind. What is this “administration”?
“The term ‘administration’ does not mean the Messianic kingdom of His Son Jesus Christ,” the speaker emphasized. No, rather, it refers to God’s way of administering or managing things, his procedure in handling matters with a view to producing unity. The instrument God uses in his “administration” or management of things, it was shown, is the kingdom of his Son Jesus Christ.
God’s kingdom was also a dominant theme of another highly anticipated talk, “The King’s Marriage Feast in God’s Purpose.” This dealt with the illustration in Matthew chapter 22, which began with the words: “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man, a king, that made a marriage feast for his son.” What part in the Kingdom do the properly attired guests have? And when were the notifications to come to the feast given, as described in the parable?
The properly attired guests, it was shown, are those who will rule with Jesus Christ in God’s heavenly kingdom. The nation of Israel, as a result of being taken into a covenant with God in 1513 B.C.E., was then initially invited. (Ex. 19:1-6) However, when the time came in 29 C.E. to call individuals of this nation to come to the prepared feast, few responded. Thus a second call was extended beginning at Pentecost 33 C.E. When Israelites did not respond in sufficient numbers to fill the guest places, God called for replacements by the non-Jewish nations in 36 C.E.
Also, the speaker explained that the man at the feast without a wedding garment was, in fact, never invited. Thus he pictures, not those whom God anointed with his spirit and who proved unfaithful, but imitation Christians whom God never did recognize as Kingdom heirs. Further, when it says, “there are many invited, but few chosen,” the “many” does not refer to spirit-anointed ones who in large numbers prove unfaithful. Rather, these “many” are the Israelites, who were invited to fill all the places at the marriage feast, but only “few” responded favorably and were “chosen” as worthy. “So Jesus’ illustration nowhere pictures,” the speaker emphasized, “that an unknown number of anointed Christians would turn unfaithful and prove unworthy of the ‘kingdom of the heavens.’”
Jehovah’s witnesses really appreciate these in-depth discourses on God’s Word. But much more is involved in drawing them to these assemblies.
LONGED-FOR RIGHTEOUS CONDITIONS
Consider: If you could choose your surroundings, would you choose a place of peace where people were kind, considerate and helpful, and you knew everyone was honest and trustworthy? Would you desire to be a part of a clean society where people freely work and cooperate so that everything functions smoothly? What if, now, for a few days at least, you could enjoy such conditions on a large scale?
Jehovah’s witnesses know that they can—at their assemblies. And that is one reason why they make strenuous efforts to attend them. Here they know that they will be amid thousands of trusted brothers and sisters who really have one another’s interests at heart. Can you imagine the effect? Of the crowds at the Toronto assembly, the Globe and Mail noted: “Their apparent happiness is almost uncomfortable for an outsider.”—July 27, 1974.
Yet visitors are not treated as outsiders. And, as a result, many of them find that they really do enjoy these surroundings. But it is important to recognize what makes such pleasantness possible. The above Toronto paper pointed to the key to it all, perhaps unknowingly, when it observed: “If the Bible looks on something unfavorably you won’t find a Witness doing it.”
Visitors listening to the assembly talks were impressed by this fact. For example, the talk “Cultivating Hatred for What Is Bad” emphasized that loving what is good is vital, but it is not sufficient. We could still be in danger of carrying on some wrongdoing. But if we cultivate a genuine hatred for badness, the speaker explained, this will be a real protection in avoiding any wrong conduct.—Ps. 97:10.
A newsman reporting on the program and the effects of the education received, wrote: “On Sunday, there was instruction on ‘Improving the Effectiveness of Your Conscience.’ That was a bit excessive here. At the lost and found, people were turning in pennies and nickels.”—Norfolk Ledger-Star, July 22, 1974.
However, the benefits of such honesty are real. At the Los Angeles convention, a Witness was concerned as she came to the Lost and Found. She had lost a small card box, but it had been turned in. Her expression turned to one of relief as she checked behind the cards and found that the three one-hundred-dollar bills were still there.
Something else fine to behold was thousands of unpaid volunteers caring for the needs of conventioners, for example, providing food for the vast crowds. “Imagine feeding 4,000 people in just one hour, and giving each person the choice of a fish, chicken, knockwurst or salad meal. That’s what happened at noon yesterday in Agricultural Hall in the Allentown Fairgrounds, where the Jehovah’s Witnesses are holding a district assembly,” exclaimed the Allentown Morning Call.
Without doubt, you would enjoy the association of people who willingly give of themselves in such a generous way.
SPECIAL PROGRAM TREATS
A real assembly attraction enjoyed by all are the full-costume dramas set in early Bible times. These are not only entertaining, but instructive. As one presiding overseer of Jehovah’s witnesses noted: “They make the information live in my children’s minds. The contrast between reading the Bible account and seeing it is like the old saying, ‘one picture is worth a thousand words.’”
This year there were three such dramas. The longest portrayed prominent experiences in the life of the apostle Paul. What zeal, endurance and faith he manifested! After the gripping presentation, the speaker asked: ‘If the quality of your faith were tested to the degree that Paul’s was, would it endure?’ It gave something for each one to think about.
The medium-length drama depicted the Israelites’ Red Sea crossing, and their frequent complaining and lack of faith in the forty-year wilderness trek. The lesson, as stated at Hebrews 3:12, was powerfully driven home, namely: “Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God.” The short, half-hour drama emphasized that we should listen only to proper authority—Jehovah God and his duly appointed representatives. It was based upon the happenings related in 1 Kings chapter 13.
Awaited, too, with keen anticipation at large assemblies is the possible release of new publications. Anticipations were fully realized this year—two new 192-page books being received in English! The one entitled “God’s ‘Eternal Purpose’ Now Triumphing for Man’s Good” will be studied weekly, beginning in December, in congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses. And the book Is This Life All There Is? is sure to be a helpful instrument in making God’s purpose plain to thousands of truth seekers.
MORE NOW APPRECIATE GOD’S PURPOSE
At the assemblies this summer tens of thousands of such persons demonstrated publicly by water baptism that they really do love God and have dedicated their lives to serve him. In the United States alone, 22,760 were baptized!
Several of the persons baptized were in their nineties, showing that one is never too old to change. Former ministers of other religions were also baptized. Some candidates for immersion had been prostitutes. Many had been drug addicts, alcoholics, fornicators, adulterers, thieves, but these all had changed their lives prior to baptism.
A touching scene occurred at the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, assembly. Bible studies for months had been conducted by Jehovah’s witnesses with inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Many of these men progressed in Bible knowledge, and astounded prison officials with their radical change in conduct. Thus permission was granted for eight of them to be taken to Baton Rouge for the assembly. It was a heartwarming moment when these men, with their ankle chains and handcuffs, stepped from the cars and were led inside to take seats with the others to be baptized that day.
World wide, more and more persons are manifesting interest in the divine purpose. What about yourself? Attend the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses, and see if you do not feel the same as did Thomas P. Harris, Executive Director of the Springfield (Illinois) Convention and Tourism Commission, who wrote after accepting such an invitation:
“It was truly an inspirational occasion in many ways. . . . The cooperation, friendliness, consideration for others, detailed planning and self-control made it possible for all to derive a great deal from the session. . . . I would suggest to anyone that if they wish to experience a rewarding occasion that they attend an Assembly when one is held in their area.”
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40,163 were present at County Stadium in Milwaukee. A total of 891,819 persons attended the 69 assemblies in the United States
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A united family thank God for their meal between assembly sessions at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh
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Warm friendship and conversation enjoyed at Tiger Stadium in Detroit
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Among the 22,760 persons baptized at the 69 assemblies in the United States were persons, such as this former hippie, who made radical changes to conform to God’s purpose
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Deaf mutes join in singing with the use of their hands at Cincinnati, Ohio, assembly
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Often parents with their children, such as this mother and daughter, are among volunteers who care for the material needs of conventioners