Stay Close to the Theocracy
“Jehovah is our Judge, Jehovah is our Statute-giver, Jehovah is our King.”—ISAIAH 33:22.
1. Why is government a matter of concern to most people?
THE subject of government is of great concern to all. Good government brings peace and prosperity. The Bible says: “By justice a king makes a land keep standing.” (Proverbs 29:4) On the other hand, bad government leads to injustice, corruption, and oppression. “When anyone wicked bears rule, the people sigh.” (Proverbs 29:2) Throughout history, humans have tried many kinds of government, and sadly, they have often ‘sighed’ because of oppression by their rulers. (Ecclesiastes 8:9) Will any form of government succeed in bringing lasting contentment to its subjects?
2. Why is “theocracy” a good description of the government of ancient Israel?
2 The historian Josephus mentioned a unique kind of government when he wrote: “Some peoples have entrusted the supreme political power to monarchies, others to oligarchies, yet others to the masses. Our lawgiver [Moses], however, was attracted by none of these forms of polity, but gave to his constitution the form of what—if a forced expression be permitted—may be termed a ‘theocracy,’ placing all sovereignty and authority in the hands of God.” (Against Apion, II, 164-5) According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, theocracy means “a form of government by God.” The word does not appear in the Bible, but it well describes the government of ancient Israel. Although the Israelites came to have a visible king, their real ruler was Jehovah. The Israelite prophet Isaiah said: “Jehovah is our Judge, Jehovah is our Statute-giver, Jehovah is our King.”—Isaiah 33:22.
What Is True Theocracy?
3, 4. (a) What is a true theocracy? (b) One day soon, what blessings will theocracy bring to all mankind?
3 Ever since Josephus coined the word, many societies have been described as theocracies. Some of them appeared intolerant, fanatic, and cruelly oppressive. Were they true theocracies? Not in the sense that Josephus used the word. The problem is that the meaning of “theocracy” has been extended. The World Book Encyclopedia defines it as “a form of government in which the state is ruled by a priest or priests, and in which members of the priesthood have authority in civil and religious matters.” True theocracy, however, is not government by priests. It really is God rule, government by the Creator of the universe, Jehovah God.
4 One day soon, the whole earth will be under theocracy, and what a blessing that will be! “God himself will be with [mankind]. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3, 4) No priestly rule by imperfect humans could bring such happiness. Only God rule can. Hence, true Christians do not try to introduce theocracy by political action. They patiently wait for God to establish a worldwide theocracy in his own time and in his own way.—Daniel 2:44.
5. Where does true theocracy operate today, and what questions are raised about it?
5 In the meantime, however, a true theocracy does operate. Where? Among those who voluntarily submit to God’s rule and cooperate together to do his will. Such faithful ones have been gathered as a worldwide spiritual “nation” on its spiritual “land.” They are the remaining ones of “the Israel of God” and their more than five and a half million Christian companions. (Isaiah 66:8; Galatians 6:16) These are subject to Jesus Christ, the heavenly King enthroned by Jehovah God, “the King of eternity.” (1 Timothy 1:17; Revelation 11:15) In what way is this organization theocratic? How do its members view the authority of secular governments? And how is the principle of theocracy maintained by the humans who exercise authority within their spiritual community?
A Theocratic Organization
6. How can a visible, human organization be ruled by God?
6 How can a human organization be ruled by Jehovah, who dwells in the invisible heavens? (Psalm 103:19) In that those associated with it follow the inspired counsel: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6; 3:5) They allow God to rule them as they observe “the law of the Christ” and apply inspired Bible principles in their day-to-day lives. (Galatians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 9:21; 2 Timothy 3:16; see Matthew 5:22, 28, 39; 6:24, 33; 7:12, 21.) To do this, they have to be Bible students. (Psalm 1:1-3) Like the “noble-minded” Beroeans of old, they do not follow humans but constantly verify in the Bible the things that they are learning. (Acts 17:10, 11; Psalm 119:33-36) They pray like the psalmist: “Teach me goodness, sensibleness and knowledge themselves, for in your commandments I have exercised faith.”—Psalm 119:66.
7. What is the order of oversight in the theocracy?
7 In every organization, there must be some who exercise authority or provide direction. Jehovah’s Witnesses are no exception, and they observe the authority structure outlined by the apostle Paul: “The head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) In harmony with this, only qualified men serve as elders in the congregations. And although Jesus—“the head of every man”—is in heaven, there are still on earth “the remaining ones” of his anointed brothers, who have the hope of ruling with him in the heavens. (Revelation 12:17; 20:6) These make up the composite “faithful and discreet slave.” Christians show their submission to Jesus, and therefore to Jesus’ head, Jehovah, by accepting the oversight of that “slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47; 25:40) In this way, the theocracy is orderly. “God is a God, not of disorder, but of peace.”—1 Corinthians 14:33.
8. How do Christian elders support the principle of theocracy?
8 Christian elders support the principle of theocracy because they recognize that they are responsible to Jehovah for how they exercise their limited degree of authority. (Hebrews 13:17) And in making decisions, they rely on God’s wisdom, not their own. In this, they follow the example of Jesus. He was the wisest man who ever lived. (Matthew 12:42) Nevertheless, he told the Jews: “The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing.” (John 5:19) Elders also have the same attitude as King David. He exercised weighty authority in a theocracy. Yet, he wanted to follow Jehovah’s way, not his own. He prayed: “Instruct me, O Jehovah, in your way, and lead me in the path of uprightness.”—Psalm 27:11.
9. Regarding the different hopes and different privileges of service in the theocracy, what balanced view do dedicated Christians have?
9 Some have questioned whether it is fair that authority in the congregation is exercised only by qualified men or that some have a heavenly hope while others have an earthly hope. (Psalm 37:29; Philippians 3:20) Dedicated Christians, however, appreciate that these arrangements are outlined in the Word of God. They are theocratic. If they are questioned, it is usually by those who do not recognize Bible principles. Besides, Christians know that men and women are equal in Jehovah’s eyes as far as salvation is concerned. (Galatians 3:28) For true Christians, to be worshipers of the Sovereign of the universe is the highest possible privilege, and they are happy to occupy whatever role Jehovah outlines for them. (Psalm 31:23; 84:10; 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13, 18) Moreover, everlasting life, whether it be in heaven or on a paradise earth, is a truly wonderful hope.
10. (a) What fine attitude did Jonathan display? (b) How do Christians today show an attitude similar to that of Jonathan?
10 Thus, Jehovah’s Witnesses resemble Jonathan, the God-fearing son of King Saul. Jonathan would likely have made an excellent king. However, because of Saul’s unfaithfulness, Jehovah chose David to be the second king of Israel. Was Jonathan embittered by this? No. He became a good friend of David and even protected him from Saul. (1 Samuel 18:1; 20:1-42) In a similar way, those with an earthly hope are not jealous of those with a heavenly hope. And true Christians are not jealous of those exercising theocratic authority in the congregation. Rather, they “give them more than extraordinary consideration in love,” recognizing their hard work in behalf of their spiritual brothers and sisters.—1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13.
The Theocratic View of Secular Rule
11. How do Christians submitting to theocratic rule view secular authorities?
11 If Jehovah’s Witnesses are under theocracy, God rule, how do they view national rulers? Jesus said that his followers would be “no part of the world.” (John 17:16) However, Christians recognize their debt to “Caesar,” secular governments. Jesus said that they should “pay back . . . Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matthew 22:21) According to the Bible, human governments “stand placed in their relative positions by God.” Jehovah, the Source of all authority, permits governments to exist, and he expects them to do good to those under their jurisdiction. When they do so, they are “God’s minister.” Christians are subject to the government of the land in which they live “on account of [their] conscience.” (Romans 13:1-7) Of course, if the state should demand something contrary to God’s law, the Christian would “obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
12. When Christians are persecuted by the authorities, whose example do they follow?
12 What about when true Christians are persecuted by governmental authorities? Then they follow the example of the early Christians, who endured periods of great persecution. (Acts 8:1; 13:50) These tests of faith were not unexpected, since Jesus had warned that they would come. (Matthew 5:10-12; Mark 4:17) Yet, those early Christians did not retaliate against their persecutors; neither did their faith weaken under the pressure. Rather, they followed the example of Jesus: “When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:21-23) Yes, Christian principles won out over the provocations of Satan.—Romans 12:21.
13. How have Jehovah’s Witnesses responded to persecution and slanderous campaigns against them?
13 The same is true today. During this century, Jehovah’s Witnesses have suffered greatly at the hands of despotic rulers—just as Jesus foretold. (Matthew 24:9, 13) In some lands, lies and misrepresentations are circulated by those trying to pressure the authorities to act against these sincere Christians. Still, despite such “bad report,” the Witnesses by their fine conduct recommend themselves as God’s ministers. (2 Corinthians 6:4, 8) When possible, they present their case to officials and before the courts of the land so as to demonstrate their innocence of wrongdoing. They use whatever avenues are open to them to make a public defense of the good news. (Philippians 1:7) But after they have done all they can within the law, they leave matters in Jehovah’s hands. (Psalm 5:8-12; Proverbs 20:22) If need be, they, like the early Christians, are not afraid to suffer for the sake of righteousness.—1 Peter 3:14-17; 4:12-14, 16.
Put God’s Glory First
14, 15. (a) What is foremost for those supporting the principle of theocracy? (b) On what occasion did Solomon set a fine example of humility in his position of oversight?
14 When Jesus taught his followers to pray, the first thing he mentioned was the sanctification of Jehovah’s name. (Matthew 6:9) In harmony with this, those living under theocracy seek God’s glory, not their own. (Psalm 29:1, 2) The Bible reports that in the first century, this was a stumbling block for some who refused to follow Jesus because “they loved the glory of men,” they loved to be glorified by men. (John 12:42, 43) Indeed, it takes humility to put Jehovah ahead of one’s own self-importance.
15 Solomon showed a fine spirit in this regard. Compare his words at the dedication of the glorious temple that he had built with those of Nebuchadnezzar concerning his building exploits. With overweening pride, Nebuchadnezzar boasted: “Is not this Babylon the Great, that I myself have built for the royal house with the strength of my might and for the dignity of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30) In contrast, Solomon modestly downplayed his accomplishment, saying: “Will God truly dwell with mankind upon the earth? Look! Heaven, yes, the heaven of the heavens themselves, cannot contain you; how much less, then, this house that I have built?” (2 Chronicles 6:14, 15, 18; Psalm 127:1) Solomon did not exalt himself. He knew that he was merely a representative of Jehovah and wrote: “Has presumptuousness come? Then dishonor will come; but wisdom is with the modest ones.”—Proverbs 11:2.
16. How have elders proved to be a real blessing by not glorifying themselves?
16 Christian elders similarly exalt Jehovah, not themselves. They follow Peter’s counsel: “If anyone ministers, let him minister as dependent on the strength that God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:11) The apostle Paul described the “office of overseer,” not as an important position of prominence, but as “a fine work.” (1 Timothy 3:1) Elders are appointed to serve, not to rule. They are teachers and shepherds of God’s flock. (Acts 20:28; James 3:1) Humble, self-sacrificing elders are a true blessing to a congregation. (1 Peter 5:2, 3) “Keep holding men of that sort dear,” and thank Jehovah that he has provided so many qualified elders to uphold theocracy in these “last days.”—Philippians 2:29; 2 Timothy 3:1.
“Become Imitators of God”
17. In what ways do those under theocracy imitate God?
17 The apostle Paul urged: “Become imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1) Those subjecting themselves to theocracy try to be as much like God as is possible for imperfect humans. For example, the Bible says of Jehovah: “The Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:3, 4) To imitate God in this regard, Christians seek faithfulness, righteousness, and a balanced sense of justice. (Micah 6:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 John 3:7) They avoid many things that have become acceptable in the world, such as immorality, covetousness, and greed. (Ephesians 5:5) Because Jehovah’s servants follow divine, not human, standards, his organization is theocratic, clean, and wholesome.
18. What is God’s preeminent quality, and how do Christians reflect this quality?
18 The preeminent quality of Jehovah God is love. “God is love,” the apostle John says. (1 John 4:8) Since theocracy means rule by God, it amounts to rule by love. Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) The theocratic organization has shown outstanding love in these difficult last days. During the genocidal strife in Africa, Jehovah’s Witnesses displayed love toward all, no matter to which ethnic group they belonged. During the war in the former Yugoslavia, Jehovah’s Witnesses of all areas helped one another, while other religious groups shared in the so-called ethnic cleansing. On a personal level, Jehovah’s Witnesses strive to observe Paul’s counsel: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all badness. But become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.”—Ephesians 4:31, 32.
19. What blessings come both now and in the future to those submitting themselves to theocracy?
19 Those who submit to theocracy enjoy great blessings. They have peace with God and with fellow Christians. (Hebrews 12:14; James 3:17) They have a purpose in life. (Ecclesiastes 12:13) They have spiritual security and a sure hope for the future. (Psalm 59:9) Indeed, they enjoy a foretaste of what it will be like when all mankind is under theocratic rule. Then, the Bible says, “they will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.” (Isaiah 11:9) What a glorious time that will be! May we all make our place in that future Paradise sure by staying close now to the theocracy.
Can You Explain?
□ What is real theocracy and where is it found today?
□ How do humans submit to theocratic rule in their lives?
□ In what ways do all under theocracy seek God’s glory ahead of their own?
□ What are some godly qualities imitated by those who support theocracy?
[Picture on page 17]
Solomon put God’s glory ahead of his own