Freedom from Fear of Spiritual Dangers
1. To procure such freedom from fear, what course must one pursue?
TO GAIN the freedom from fear of spiritual dangers that is described in Psalm 91, we have to pursue the course it prescribes. With reference to part of this course, the psalmist goes on to say: “I will say to Jehovah: ‘You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God, in whom I will trust.’”—Ps. 91:2.
2. Who is thus identified by that unique name, in agreement with Exodus 6:2, 3?
2 Let us all take note that it is to Jehovah that the psalmist (or the one whom he represents) says: “You are my refuge and my stronghold.” In this way he identifies the Most High and the Almighty One as the One bearing the unique name Jehovah. This agrees with what the Most High said to Moses after his return to Egypt: “I am Jehovah. And I used to appear to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God Almighty, but as respects my name Jehovah I did not make myself known to them.”—Ex. 6:2, 3.
3. When enlarging upon the import of his name, what Hebrew expression did the Almighty One use, and what did this, as rendered by some English translations, mean and imply?
3 When enlarging upon the import of His name, the Almighty One said to Moses: “Eh·yehʹ a·sherʹ eh·yehʹ.” That expression, found in the Hebrew text of Exodus 3:14, means: “I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE” (Rabbi Leeser’s translation); or, “I Will Become whatsoever I please” (Rotherham’s translation); or, “I SHALL PROVE TO BE WHAT I SHALL PROVE TO BE.” (New World Translation) This meant that this Almighty One could adapt himself to the circumstances of his people, and that, whatever he needed to become or prove to be for the sake of his people and in line with his purpose, he could and would become or prove to be that. He could and would meet any situation successfully. So, by this Hebrew expression, He was not talking about his self-existence, his being eternal.
4. (a) According to its Hebrew root, what does the name Jehovah mean, and with reference to whom or what? (b) What about the application of this name to Christ, God’s Son?
4 The divine name is related to that expression. The name Jehovah was made his “memorial” name, “the memorial of me to generation after generation.” (Ex. 3:15) According to the root of the name Jehovah in the Hebrew language, it appears to mean “He Causes To Become (or, Prove To Be),” that is, as regards Himself and as regards what He will become or prove to be, and not with respect to creating things. Who else in all the realm of intelligent life could rightly give himself a name like that, except the Most High and Almighty One? Not even God’s Son, Jesus Christ, assumed a name like that. He could be given the name that combined God’s name with it, such as Jeshua or Jesus, which means “Jehovah Is Salvation,” but never the name Jehovah strictly by itself.—Jer. 23:6; 33:16.
5. Why is it fitting to say to Jehovah that He is one’s “refuge” and “stronghold,” and what does Proverbs 18:10 wisely say?
5 Correctly, then, those who are represented by the psalmist speaking in Psalm 91:2 can say to Jehovah: “You are my refuge and my stronghold.” He has, especially since the postwar year of 1919 C.E., become those things to them, in a spiritual sense, of course. Inasmuch as Jehovah is invisible, it takes strong faith for one to say that to Him, and really mean it and act in harmony with it. However, who else is there to flee to for safety as in a refuge but Jehovah the Most High? What stronghold could be stronger or harder to assail and overcome than the Almighty One himself? It was with inspired wisdom indeed that ancient King Solomon wrote: “The name of Jehovah is a strong tower. Into it the righteous runs and is given protection.”—Prov. 18:10.
6. Though Christ is now involved, yet whose name is called upon for salvation, and who is the one that is the “refuge” and “stronghold” for Christians?
6 In the final analysis, even though it is now done through Jesus Christ the Son of God, yet it is upon the name of Jehovah that fallen, sinful human creatures must call for everlasting salvation. It was not just the pre-Christian prophet Joel who said that. (Joel 2:32) It was the apostle Peter also who said that on the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E., when the Christian congregation was founded. (Acts 2:21) Years later, the apostle Paul also wrote it, in Romans 10:13. Though access to the Most High and Almighty One is now gained only through his Mediator Jesus Christ, yet it is still Jehovah in whom we must find our refuge and who is our unconquerable stronghold.—Zeph. 3:12.
THE GOD IN WHOM TO TRUST
7-9. (a) Why does use of the expression “my God” in Psalm 91 not bar it from being applied to Jesus Christ? (b) What was doubting Thomas’ exclamation before the resurrected Jesus, and what did John prove by inserting that incident in his Gospel?
7 This Jehovah was more to the psalmist than a refuge and stronghold. His full statement to Jehovah is: “You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God, in whom I will trust.”—Ps. 91:2.
8 The psalmist’s calling him “my God” meant that Jehovah was the One for him to worship as the Divine Being. This would be a proper expression for Jesus Christ himself to use toward Jehovah, and the use of the expression “my God” does not bar Psalm 91 from being applicable to Jesus Christ. When near death on the execution stake outside Jerusalem, he quoted Psalm 22:1 and cried out to his heavenly Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34) True, after his resurrection from the dead, Jesus did let the apostle Thomas examine the nail prints in his hands and feet, and Thomas said in amazement: “My Lord and my God!” But Jesus understood Thomas’ exclamation in the right way, and so did the apostle John. In recording this incident in his Gospel account, John was not trying to convey the idea that Jesus was Jehovah God or that Jesus was a trinitarian “God the Son”; but John states the purpose of recording Thomas’ exclamation by saying right after Jesus’ reaction to Thomas:
9 “Jesus performed many other signs also before the disciples, which are not written down in this scroll. But these have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God [not, God the Son].”—John 20:26-31; Matt. 16:16.
10. (a) According to his message to his brothers by means of Mary Magdalene, the resurrected Jesus was ascending to whom? (b) By worshiping Jehovah as the one living and true God, from what doctrines are we safeguarded?
10 A week before this occurrence with Thomas, the resurrected Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, near the tomb where his body had been buried: “Be on your way to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17) The heavenly Father was as much a God to Jesus as He was to the disciples of Jesus. Many times the inspired Scriptures speak of Jesus Christ as “the Son of God,” but never as “God the Son.” (Matt. 14:33; 27:40, 43, 54; Mark 1:11; 5:7; 15:39; Luke 1:35; John 1:34, 49; 5:25; 10:36; 11:4, 27; Acts 9:20; Rev. 2:18; etc.) Thus by worshiping the Most High and Almighty One, Jehovah, as the one living and true God (John 17:3) we are safeguarded from the false trinitarian worship and other forms of pagan worship. Jehovah is the God in whom to put our trust.
11. In whom were Paul’s trust, that of Jesus, that of the psalmist and that of the proverbialist?
11 Said the apostle Paul: “This was that we might have our trust, not in ourselves, but in the God who raises up the dead. From such a great thing as death he did rescue us and will rescue us.” (2 Cor. 1:9, 10) Also, Hebrews 2:13 puts the words of Isaiah 8:17, 18 into the mouth of Jesus Christ, and reads: “And again: ‘I will have my trust in him.’ And again: ‘Look! I and the young children, whom Jehovah gave me.’” We dare not put our trust either in ourselves or in other mortal men: “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs. . . . Happy is the one who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Jehovah his God.” (Ps. 146:3-5) The wise man Solomon expressed the same safe rule of conduct, saying: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding.”—Prov. 3:5.
12. What does trusting in Jehovah as God mean for us as respects his Word, his commandments and his worship?
12 Consequently, our trust in this God whose name is Jehovah means sticking inseparably to his worship, not compromising with Babylon the Great, which is the world empire of false religion. (Rev. 17:1 through 18:24) ‘Trust in Jehovah as God’ means believing wholly in the Sacred Scriptures that He has inspired by his holy spirit and keeping his commandments, as his Son Jesus Christ did. It means jealously guarding the worship of Jehovah God, keeping it clean from human traditions and worldly practices.
13. (a) In those opening two verses of Psalm 91, we note what four factors operating together for our security? (b) During what particular time have those four qualities operated for us, and where do we find illustrations of the dangers from which we are safeguarded?
13 Here let us pause and take note that, in just those opening two verses of Psalm 91, we have the four important designations of the One whom we worship, also the four vital things that attach to those designations. Consider these: (1) The Most High with his “secret place” in which to dwell; (2) The Almighty One with his “very shadow” under which to lodge; (3) Jehovah with his refuge and stronghold; and (4) God with his trustworthiness. Truly this is an unbeatable combination of factors operating together for the security and preservation of the true worshipers who meet the requirements for enjoying those benefits! This matchless combination of divine qualities has now been in operation during all these past decades of this “time of the end” of this system of things, as a consequence of which we have enjoyed marvelous spiritual security till now. Just how this has served for our spiritual security the psalmist now proceeds to show, making us more aware and appreciative of the dangers from which we have been safeguarded.
THE MENACING “TRAP” OF THE “BIRDCATCHER”
14 “For,” says the psalmist in detailing just how the things mentioned in the first two verses are true and realistic, “he himself will deliver you from the trap of the birdcatcher, from the pestilence causing adversities.”—Ps. 91:3.
15 The language here is figurative, pictorial, for we are not literal birds in danger of the trap of a literal “birdcatcher.” But the likening of us to birds “under the very shadow of the Almighty One” is carried forward here. The psalmist David likens himself and his companions to birds that have actually been caught in the trap, but from which they have been delivered. In Psalm 124:1-8 he says: “Let Israel now say, ‘Had it not been that Jehovah proved to be for us when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up even alive, . . . Blessed be Jehovah, who has not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is like a bird that is escaped from the trap of baiters. The trap is broken, and we ourselves have escaped. Our help is in the name of Jehovah, the Maker of heaven and earth.’” In this case the “baiters” were not literal “birdcatchers,” and the “bird” that escaped from their broken trap was not a literal bird, but refers to “our soul,” the soul or life of the nation of Israel.
16. How was there a modern fulfillment of Psalm 124, and is there danger of another “trap”?
16 In fulfillment of that prophetic psalm, Jehovah God did break the trap in which the anointed remnant of spiritual Israel was caught. It was the trap sprung by Babylon the Great and her political, judicial, military accomplices. In the spring of the postwar year of 1919 Jehovah broke that trap for his repentant remnant and did not let the “baiters,” the symbolic birdcatchers, sink their teeth into the flesh of the trapped “bird.” Thereafter the escaped remnant of spiritual Israel were taken into the “secret place of the Most High,” and “under the very shadow of the Almighty One.” Yet a “trap” is still set for them by a “birdcatcher,” and Jehovah must deliver them from being caught in it.
17. Who is the symbolic “fowler” or “birdcatcher” as pointed out in Watch Tower issues of 1904 and 1927?
17 Who, then, is that “birdcatcher,” and what is his “trap”? It has long been discerned and agreed to that the symbolic “birdcatcher” is Satan the Devil. Away back in the issue of March 1, 1904, of the Watch Tower, the article entitled “Under His Wings!” commented on Psalm 91:3 and said regarding “the snare of the fowler,” that this was “the deceptions of Satan, in which all those not protected shall stumble.” (Page 74, column 2) A much later issue of The Watch Tower agreed with that and said: “It seems certain that ‘the fowler’ here named by the prophet is the Devil, and that his snare consists of his methods employed, and by his organization, working in divers and numerous deceptive ways to entrap those who claim to be servants of the Most High God.” (Page 231, paragraph 37, of the Watch Tower issue of August 1, 1927, presenting the first of a series of three articles on Psalm 91, Authorized Version) Of all the symbolic “fowlers” or “birdcatchers” referred to in the Bible, Satan the Devil is the outstanding one.
18. Who are likened to birdcatchers by Jeremiah and Hosea, and what are their methods?
18 Describing the method of the symbolic birdcatcher, Jeremiah 5:26 says: “For among my people there have been found wicked men. They keep peering, as when birdcatchers crouch down. They have set a ruinous trap. It is men that they catch.” How false prophets acted like birdcatchers in the apostate nation of Ephraim (the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel), Hosea 9:8 said: “As regards a prophet, there is the trap of a birdcatcher on all his ways.” The great “fowler” or “birdcatcher,” Satan the Devil, is out to catch men, those who are lodging “under the very shadow of the Almighty One.”
19. What is the symbolic “trap” of the great “birdcatcher”?
19 What is his symbolic “trap,” from which Jehovah God delivers and keeps safe those who continue abiding “in the secret place of the Most High”? The symbolic “trap” that Satan the Devil has set for those who trust in Jehovah God as their “refuge” and “stronghold” is the earthly organization that is opposed to God’s organization, namely, Satan’s visible organization. In it God’s great Adversary tries to catch Jehovah’s worshipers and to hold them as victims, to their spiritual ruin and ultimate destruction.
20. (a) From when onward notably was it pointed out that God has an organization and that, if not belonging to it, one belongs to what? (b) According to direct statement, to which organization did Jesus and his disciples belong?
20 Notably from the year 1922 onward it was pointed out from the inspired Scriptures that Jehovah God has an organization, including his organized “remnant” on earth, and that there is an enemy organization, Satan’s organization, with an invisible demonic part and a visible earthly part. It was pointed out that, if one does not belong to Jehovah’s visible organization, then one belongs to the Adversary’s organization. Jesus Christ, to whom Psalm 91 applies in the first instance, belonged to the organization of Jehovah God. His faithful disciples also belonged to that same divine organization. That was why, when leading his eleven faithful apostles in prayer, he said to God: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:14, 16) This, he said, was why the world hated them.—John 15:18-20.
21, 22. (a) What is generally used as a lure into a trap, and what is the lure used by the Great Birdcatcher? (b) What did God inspire John to write against the deceptive bait?
21 Usually a person or creature walks into a trap without knowing it. Generally, the trapper sets out some bait to lure the unsuspecting creature within range of the trap and to trigger the trap by nibbling at the bait. The “birdcatcher” Satan the Devil is a great Baiter. What bait does he use to lure people into his visible worldly organization, to become victimized in it as in a trap? The bait is the selfish attractions of this world, its promising opportunities for selfishly gaining wealth, fame, position and power. Warning against such deceptive bait, Jehovah God inspired the Christian apostle John to write to those lodging “under the very shadow of the Almighty One”:
22 “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:15-17.
23. (a) Why do we not want to become like Demas, mentioned in association with Paul? (b) Obedience to Revelation 18:4 has brought us out of what “trap,” and into what place?
23 Now, nineteen hundred years after those words were penned by John, the traplike organization of Satan the Devil is very close to passing away forever. Those of us who have come out of Satan’s visible organization into the “secret place of the Most High,” why should we desire to be lured back into that doomed organization? We do not care to be like the onetime Christian Demas, concerning whom the apostle Paul in a final letter before his death said: “Demas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things, and he has gone to Thessalonica.” (2 Tim. 4:10) Religious Babylon the Great, including Christendom, has been caught and is held fast in the trap of Satan’s visible organization and will suffer early destruction with it. In obedience to God’s command in Revelation 18:4 we have come out of Babylon the Great and out of Satan’s trap in which she is caught. By not going back to her, we can keep on enjoying the benefits of our deliverance from the “trap of the birdcatcher.” Under the “very shadow of the Almighty One” we have spiritual security.
“THE PESTILENCE CAUSING ADVERSITIES”
24, 25. (a) What does the psalmist associate with the birdcatcher’s trap, in the same verse? (b) What does this symbolize, and why appropriately so?
24 In the same verse, along with the “trap of the birdcatcher,” the psalmist mentions another potential threat to spiritual security, namely, a deadly epidemic disease that is very contagious, infectious. He says: “For he himself will deliver you from the trap of the birdcatcher, from the pestilence causing adversities.”—Ps. 91:3.
25 Like the birdcatcher’s “trap,” this adversity-causing “pestilence” is symbolic. Since the psalmist under inspiration associates the two together, the symbolic pestilence of today is something that goes along with the birdcatcher’s trap, that is to say, with Satan’s visible, earthly organization. This figurative “pestilence” is, in fact, bred, cultured, within that selfish, worldly organization. This infectious “pestilence” that rages like a tempest throughout the earth is nationalism.
26. Since when has nationalism seized upon peoples, and what did historian Toynbee say recently about nationalism?
26 Secular historians have noted the fact that, since World War I of 1914-1918 C.E., the spirit of nationalism has seized upon the peoples of the world. Quite naturally, this, because that war was fought by the Allies “for self-determination of peoples.” Said British historian Arnold Toynbee as recently as November 21, 1972:
“Since the end of World War II nationalism has doubled the number of local sovereign independent states and has halved their average size. . . . Mankind’s strategic and hygienic problems are global and they are pressing; they cannot be solved by the governments of local states. They call for the establishment of a global authority endowed with overriding power. Mankind’s survival demands political unity, yet mankind’s present mood is increasingly divisive. Have we gone mad?”
27. How has nationalism been like a “pestilence causing adversities”?
27 Satan the Devil, whom Jesus Christ called “the ruler of this world,” is responsible for this wave of nationalism by means of which he has hoped to destroy those who have said to Jehovah: “You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God, in whom I will trust.” (Ps. 91:2) This political “pestilence” of nationalism has caused many and great “adversities.” Despite the establishment of the League of Nations in 1920, intensely nationalistic dictators have come forth, like Mussolini of Italy, Stalin of Russia, Hitler of Germany, the empire-minded political party of Japan, and so forth. So it furnished the driving force for World War II. It has fanned up fanatical patriotism, religiously fervent gestures to national symbols and emblems, military preparedness accompanied by burdensome taxation, international rivalries, insistence on national sovereignty rather than submission to Jehovah’s universal sovereignty and Messianic kingdom.
28. for whom has this “pestilence” caused special hardship, but on what issue have these not compromised?
28 Not to speak of the adversities that all of this has caused for the human race in general, it has resulted in special hardships for Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. But the Almighty One has not let them become infected with the “pestilence” of nationalism and fall victim to its deadly effect upon Christian spirituality. They have not been lured nor pressured into worshiping the political “wild beast” bearing the number 666, nor its political “image,” the United Nations, the successor to the League of Nations. (Revelation, chapter 13; Re 15:2-4; 20:4) They have not compromised on giving exclusive devotion to God and upholding his universal sovereignty.
29. Despite World War II, what did these come out in favor of in 1939, and with what effect upon their spirituality?
29 In 1939, despite the raging of World War II, they unitedly came out world wide in favor of absolute Christian neutrality toward worldly political and military conflicts. (See the article “Neutrality” in the Watchtower issue of November 1, 1939.) Although they have suffered, some even to the death, for their faithfulness, Jehovah God has kept them spiritually secure “in the secret place of the Most High” and “under the very shadow of the Almighty One.”
(To be continued)