Standing Untouched, as Thousands Fall Victims
“A thousand will fall at your very side and ten thousand at your right hand; to you it will not come near.”—Ps. 91:7.
1. In likening Jehovah to a mighty bird, how did the psalmist have God’s point of view as expressed through Moses?
WHEN the inspired writer of Psalm 91 likened Jehovah God to a bird mighty of wing, he had God’s own point of view. After God brought the people of Israel to Mount Sinai, he told Moses to say to them: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, that I might carry you on wings of eagles and bring you to myself.” (Ex. 19:4) Forty years later He inspired Moses to sing before Israel: “Just as an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its fledglings, spreads out its wings, takes them, carries them on its pinions, Jehovah alone kept leading him, and there was no foreign god along with him.”—Deut. 32:11, 12.
2 According to the prophetic picture of Revelation 12:6, 14, after God’s heavenly “woman” gave birth to the Messianic kingdom and had to flee into the “wilderness” for isolation, God gave her the means of swift flight: “The two wings of the great eagle were given the woman, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place; there is where she is fed for a time and times and half a time away from the face of the serpent.” What a fine comparison is thus drawn between Jehovah God and the “great eagle,” the king of the birds, the lord of the skies, the monarch of the air!
3 We can have this royal bird in mind, then, as we next read the inspired words of Psalm 91:4: “With his pinions he will block approach to you, and under his wings you will take refuge. His trueness will be a large shield and bulwark.”
4. (a) What are the pinions of a bird, and what can a parent bird do with them? (b) Whose approach to us is blocked by God’s outspread “pinions” over us?
4 The “pinions” are the terminal segments of a bird’s wings, and under them a bird can cover and protect its young close to its body. Thus the bird can keep away all predators from its young. We, too, like helpless fledglings, can take cover under the outspread pinions of the protective symbolic bird, Jehovah God, and there we can rejoice in our spiritual security. It is just as the psalmist David said to Jehovah: “All those taking refuge in you will rejoice; to time indefinite they will cry out joyfully. And you will block approach to them, and those loving your name will exult in you.” (Ps. 5: superscription, 1, 11) Being blocked from getting near us, those desiring to do us spiritual harm cannot do so. They cannot snatch us away from God’s organization. The great “birdcatcher,” Satan the Devil, is kept at a distance.
5. Where is the only safe refuge from Satan’s organization, and how was this beautifully illustrated in the case of Ruth?
5 Like endangered birdlings, we have no other place to flee to for safety but the Almighty God. “And under his wings you will take refuge.” (Ps. 91:4) Since there are just the two organizations, God’s and Satan’s, this finding safe refuge from Satan’s organization requires us to be brought into God’s organization of spiritual security. How beautifully this was illustrated in the case of the Moabitess Ruth, who forsook the false gods of Moab, and went with her widowed mother-in-law Naomi to Israel! In appreciation, Boaz, who later became Ruth’s husband, said to her: “May Jehovah reward the way you act, and may there come to be a perfect wage for you from Jehovah the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” (Ruth 2:12) As a reward to her, Jehovah chose Ruth as wife of Boaz, to contribute to the ancestry of Jesus Christ.—Matt. 1:5-25.
6. Besides under Jehovah’s “wings,” under the “wings” of whom do Jehovah’s worshipers find spiritual security at the same time?
6 Jesus Christ himself drew upon the resemblance of a bird and its young, when he said to Jerusalem that rejected him as the Messiah: “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it.” (Matt. 23:37) The book of Lamentations (4:20) speaks of Jehovah’s Anointed One or Messiah as “the very breath of our nostrils, the anointed one of Jehovah, . . . the one of whom we have said: ‘In his shade we shall live among the nations.’” So, today, the spiritual Israelites and their earthly companions who take refuge under the “wings” of Jehovah do, at the same time, take protective cover under Jehovah’s Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, like chicks under a hen’s wings. The refuge they seek there for spiritual security does not fail them.
THE REASON FOR FREEDOM FROM FEAR OF SPIRITUAL HARM
7, 8. What quality of Jehovah is like a large shield to us, and how does it characterize Him?
7 In giving a further description of protection for spiritual security, the psalmist now turns from the bird world to the world of warfare. Referring further to the Most High God, the psalmist adds: “His trueness will be a large shield and bulwark.”—Ps. 91:4.
8 God’s trueness is associated with his loving-kindness. (Ps. 40:10, 11; 57:3; 61:7; 86:15) He recognizes his obligation to be true to those who worship him and trust in him. This characterizes His throne. (Prov. 20:28) He always proves true to his promise to us. He proves true to his name Jehovah and becomes what he needs to become in our behalf. This quality of His serves for our spiritual protection. It is like a large shield to us, and He becomes like a shield bearer to us. His trueness is demonstrated in faithful, loyal action in our behalf. Thus it shields us.
9. How does Jehovah’s trueness serve as a “large shield,” and what, on our part, must go along with it?
9 This shield of divine trueness stops the fiery darts or burning missiles of the Great Adversary and also wards off the blows or absorbs the thrust of the enemy sword. We can depend upon God’s protective trueness. We must depend upon it, have faith in it. It goes along with our faith, which also should be like the “large shield” in the “complete suit of armor” that God supplies to us. (Eph. 6:11-16) Our faith in “his” (God’s) shieldlike trueness will free us of fear.—Gen. 15:1; Ps. 84:11.
10. What kind of wartime utility is a bulwark, and how is God’s trueness like one to us?
10 A bulwark is a much larger protection than a shield. In warfare it is a defensive mound that is thrown up around a position that is to be held. To the enemy advancing over the ground, it says: “So far you may come but no farther!” Jehovah’s trueness is like that. His trueness is very necessary in this time, which is described in Revelation as the time when the great Serpent, Satan the Devil, wages war against the remnant of the “seed” of God’s heavenly “woman.” Behind the bulwark of God’s trueness we can stand firm and beat back the onrush and assault of our spiritual enemies. This divine bulwark is untakable, insurmountable; so let us stay behind it. According to God’s trueness, loyalty and faithfulness, he will never desert us in this day of spiritual battle. His “bulwark” assures us of Victory!
11. The spirit of what command is the motivation for what the psalmist now logically says in Psalm 91:5, 6?
11 The spirit of the divine command, “Fear not!” is the motivation of the psalmist as he logically goes on to say: “You will not be afraid of anything dreadful by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in the gloom, nor of the destruction that despoils at midday.”—Ps. 91:5, 6.
12. What adds terror to the blackness of the night, and what about Jehovah at night removes fear of nighttime dreadful things?
12 The blackness of night tends to add to the dread one feels in a dangerous neighborhood or in a time of danger, for in the darkness we cannot see any lurking enemy or harmful objects. But though we are in the period of moral darkness and spiritual thick gloom of the earthly national groups, Jehovah never gets drowsy and falls asleep as a guardian of his people. (Isa. 60:2; Ps. 121:4) So he is never unaware of wicked things that His enemies try to do secretly as under cover of darkness. The covert dreadful or dread-inspiring things by which the enemy tries to damage and destroy our spirituality are not to be feared. With strong confidence we can take up David’s words in Psalm 64:1, 2: “Hear, O God, my voice in my concern. From the dreadfulness of the enemy may you safeguard my life. May you conceal me from the confidential talk of evildoers, from the tumult of practicers of hurtfulness.”—Ps. 64:1, 2.
13. Though we feel no dread, what must we do while trusting in God?
13 We can be sure that the dreadful things schemed by the enemies under cover in confidential talk of theirs will fail of their objective when suddenly launched. Though we do not fear such things from concealed sources, never should we be off our guard as we keep continually trusting in the God of trueness.
14. Why is it that we do not fear the “arrow that flies by day”?
14 However, there are also dangers by day when we can see menacing things. Though we expect and are aware of such things, we should not be paralyzed with fear. In this time of spiritual warfare, “you will not be afraid of anything dreadful by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day.” (Ps. 91:5) Why is this? It is because we are behind the “large shield” of Jehovah’s trueness, loyalty, faithfulness, that can make of no effect the flying enemy arrows. Daytime is the period for the aiming of arrows accurately.
15. What are the ‘arrows’ that fly by day, and who are the bowmen?
15 In the spiritual warfare waged against us, these ‘arrows’ are unwarranted verbal attacks, false accusations, lying propaganda, malicious slanders, gross misrepresentations, violent intimidating threats, misapplications of law in legal courts, yes, the framing of mischief by law, the ‘framing of trouble by decree’ against the innocent! (Ps. 94:20) The anointed David, in Psalm 64:3-5, describes the enemy bowmen as those “who have sharpened their tongue just like a sword, who have aimed their arrow, bitter speech, to shoot from concealed places at someone blameless. All of a sudden they shoot at him and do not fear. They hold themselves down to bad speech; they make statements about hiding traps. They have said: ‘Who sees them [the traps]?’”
16. Despite such enemy ‘arrows,’ how have Jehovah’s witnesses fared behind His “large shield”?
16 Despite all such figurative ‘arrows’ that have flown by day since the year 1919 against Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, they have not ceased in their worship of the one living and true God or in the proclaiming of the good news of his Messianic kingdom world wide. It has been as Jehovah has said to those now belonging to his organization: “Any weapon whatever that will be formed against you will have no success, and any tongue at all that will rise up against you in the judgment you will condemn.” (Isa. 54:17) Fearless of the enemy ‘arrows,’ Jehovah’s witnesses have carried on behind Jehovah’s “large shield,” and the enemy bowmen have proved to be falsifiers, whereas Jehovah’s worshipers have been vindicated and keep spiritually alive.
17, 18. The “pestilence that walks in the gloom” has what source, is meant particularly for whom, and is not permitted to be cured among whom by what means?
17 Again the psalmist contrasts the darkness and the light and the dangers associated with each, for he says: “You will not be afraid . . . of the pestilence that walks in the gloom, nor of the destruction that despoils at midday.”—Ps. 91:5, 6.
18 The “pestilence” here mentioned, like that of Ps 91 verse three, is not a pestilence that is sent by Jehovah upon his earthly enemies, or upon those disobedient to Him. It is a worldly pestilence that is bred in the morally, religiously diseased world amid its gloom. It is meant to infect and lay low not only worldlings, but particularly Jehovah’s worshipers. It haunts the moral, social, political, religious “gloom” of this world in its nighttime of impending doom, and the people of the world do not let the pestilence-laden gloom be dispelled by the “sun of righteousness” that has “healing in its wings,” its curative beams. (Mal. 4:2) Moreover, we are told in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that “the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.”
19, 20. What is the “pestilence” here mentioned, and what conduces to its spread?
19 The resulting gloom conduces to the spread of the figurative “pestilence.” Adding to the terrors of the gloom, this pestilence strikes in the dark, that is, during the state of affairs when the minds and hearts of the people are bedarkened as regards the true God and his personality, his purpose and his loving provisions. So under these circumstances the pestilence produces a deadly diseased condition of mind and heart in those infected. (1 Tim. 6:4) It is apparent, then, that the figurative “pestilence” consists of the demon-inspired moral and religious doctrines that come through human agencies from what Ephesians 6:12 calls “the world rulers of this darkness, . . . the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.”
20 That these spiritually diseased demon angels would insinuate their unhealthful teachings among professed Christians, the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “In later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies.”—1 Tim. 4:1, 2.
21. How far has this gloom-infesting “pestilence” spread?
21 True to prophecy, this pestilence of demon-inspired moral and religious teachings, including man-made traditions contrary to the Bible, has spread beyond pagandom all through Christendom. Thus the churchgoing people of Christendom have been infected and reduced to their sick religious condition, endangering their salvation. But God has enlightened us against pestilence-breeding “gloom.”
22. As regards “the destruction that despoils at midday,” what may we reasonably understand it to be like?
22 What, though, about “the destruction that despoils at midday,” of which the true Christians behind the “large shield” of God’s “trueness” are not afraid? Midday, the brightest part of a sunny day, is directly opposite to the gloom of night. (Job 11:17) Yet there is a ‘despoiling,’ a “destruction,” that accompanies the brightness and heat of this “midday.” It runs parallel with the “arrow that flies by day.” The “destruction” here is not described as anything visible or tangible, yet it despoils like despoilers who make an attack at midday. (Jer. 6:4; 15:8; 20:16) It may reasonably be understood to be a highly contagious, epidemical scourge that lays low many victims, despoiling them of life.
23. What is the “midday” here meant, and what is the “destruction that despoils” during it?
23 The “midday” here is meant in a worldly sense. The brilliant light is the so-called “enlightenment” of the world’s Brain Age, its nuclear age, its space age. Its doctrines and propaganda boast of human intellectualism and are materialistic. Those yielding to such indoctrination suffer destruction spiritually, because it is against God’s Word, his worship, his Messianic kingdom. So it is pestilential, and many become confused and lose faith because of the “contradictions of the falsely called ‘knowledge.’” (1 Tim. 6:20, 21) In the end the victims suffer the bitterness of disappointment, frustration. The world today is eating the bitter fruitage of its falling for human intellectualism. The brightly shining scientists and political, educational, social philosophers have only increased the ‘heat’ upon worldly society. With their godless doctrine they have polluted the mental and moral atmosphere in which modern society lives.
24. When was that “destruction that despoils at midday” especially exposed, and what spiritual enlightenment was set in contrast with it?
24 The spiritually deadly “destruction that despoils at midday” was especially exposed by the “fourth plague” described in Revelation 16:8, 9. The bowlful of this “plague” began to be emptied out upon the “sun” of human intellectualism in 1925, at the Indianapolis (Indiana) convention of Jehovah’s witnesses that summer. That same year the birth of God’s Messianic kingdom and the ousting of Satan and his demons from heaven were explained from the prophetic description given in Revelation 12:1-13. Thus the life-giving spiritual enlightenment of Jehovah’s worshipers was set in contrast with the modernistic worldly-wise enlightenment of those despoiled of spiritual life by the “destruction” at their midday.
SPIRITUAL SURVIVAL AMID THREATENING DANGERS
25, 26. Who are the “thousand” that “fall at your very side,” and in what sense do they fall, and why?
25 The afore-described threats to spiritual life are things of which those who are “in the secret place of the Most High” and “under the very shadow of the Almighty One” are not afraid. Faith-inspiring assurance is now given by the psalmist in his next words addressed to these as a class: “A thousand will fall at your very side and ten thousand at your right hand; to you it will not come near.”—Ps. 91:7.
26 Those spoken of as being at the “very side” of these dedicated worshipers of Jehovah God would be the people of Christendom and Jewry who profess to worship the God of the Holy Bible. They “fall” in spiritual death because they are not in Jehovah’s place of spiritual security. Hence, they are exposed to the spiritually death-dealing things described by the psalmist, the dreadful thing of earth’s night, the flying arrow of the day, the gloom-infesting pestilence, the “destruction that despoils at midday.” They have not really made God their strong “refuge.”
27. Who are the “ten thousand” that fall “at your right hand”?
27 As if a thousand to one were not a big enough contrast, the psalmist says that those falling will be “ten thousand at your right hand.” As in the case of the Almighty God, the “right hand” is pictorial of the hand and side that is the stronger. (Ps. 98:1) So those to whom we have had to offer the stronger spiritual resistance because of their greater religious strength fall victim because they are not proof against worldliness, modernism, antireligious propaganda, popular theology and demon-inspired religious doctrines and practices. They are not immunized by the help of God’s spirit.
28. How has it literally become true that ten thousand have fallen at the right side of the anointed remnant, and whom has God raised up to be companions to the remnant?
28 Today, when we contrast the reported number of the anointed remnant of spiritual Israel, around ten thousand, with the thousands of millions of members of religious Babylon the Great, we can see it to be literally true that ten thousand have fallen at the right hand of this remnant of the “seed” of God’s “woman.” (Rev. 12:17) But in place of those tens of thousands that have fallen in spiritual death at the right hand of this remnant, Jehovah God has raised up a “great crowd” of sheeplike believers who have dedicated their lives to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ the Fine Shepherd. (Rev. 7:9-17; John 10:16; Matt. 25:31-46) Jehovah has been raising these up as companions of the remnant notably since the year 1935. Today they number into the hundreds of thousands, so that Jehovah’s Christian witnesses now number close onto two million who proclaim God’s kingdom.
29. To whom has the destructive, faith-ruining agency from worldly sources not come near, but to whom has it done so?
29 To those who have fallen spiritually the destructive, faith-ruining agency from worldly sources has come near. But to those standing in God’s place of spiritual security, “to you it will not come near.” Since the postwar year of 1919 C.E., the remnant have accepted the spiritual healing provided by the Great Physician, Jehovah God. (Ps. 103:1-3) But not so Christendom, as foretold in Isaiah 6:9-12; Matthew 13:14, 15. Consequently, Christendom’s more than a thousand million members succumb to the spiritually ruinous influences and pressures of this disease-ridden world. But God has immunized his remnant and the “great crowd” of their Christian companions. To their place of spiritual immunity God does not let the worldly contagion draw near. Their obediently staying in God’s “secret place” keeps them safe, well.
30, 31. (a) Those “in the secret place of the Most High” are looking on and seeing the timely retribution of whom? (b) How and why has retribution come upon such ones?
30 After many years now of trustfully dwelling “in the secret place of the Most High,” the anointed remnant of spiritual Israel and, latterly, the “great crowd” of their fellow witnesses have observed the truthfulness of what the inspired psalmist next says: “Only with your eyes will you look on and see the retribution itself of the wicked ones.”—Ps. 91:8.
31 It is evident that here the Most High God does not class those in His “secret place” with the “wicked,” who are outside and who are part of this wicked world. Now especially, toward the end of this doomed system of things, those who have been indulging in the ways of this wicked world are eating the fruitage of their course as a retribution. Due requital is coming upon the worldlings as their problems multiply in political, commercial, moral, social and religious affairs. As they sowed, they are reaping. Modern society, which has become very permissive of the so-called “new morality,” the “sex revolution,” cannot immunize the sex perverts from “receiving in themselves the full recompense, which was due for their error.”—Rom. 1:27; Luke 21:25, 26.
32. Already before the “great tribulation,” those in the “secret place” are seeing the difference, as regards consequences, between whom?
32 The worldly-wise are falling victims to their own schemes. Those who have rejected the wisdom of God’s Word and left themselves open to Satan’s machinations have become the dupes of “every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved.” (2 Thess. 2:9, 10) Already, before the approaching “great tribulation,” Jehovah’s safeguarded ones are looking on and seeing with their eyes the difference, as regards consequences, “between a righteous one and a wicked one, between one serving God and one who has not served him.”—Mal. 3:18.
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“His trueness will be a large shield”
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WORSHIP of SCIENCE
“NEW” SEX MORALITY
“HIGHER CRITICISM” of the BIBLE