Fighters Against God Will Not Prevail!
“They will be certain to fight against you, but they will not prevail against you.”—JEREMIAH 1:19.
1. What commission did Jeremiah receive, and how long did his work continue?
JEHOVAH commissioned young Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5) This occurred during the reign of good King Josiah of Judah. Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry continued through the turbulent period prior to Babylon’s conquest of Jerusalem and into the taking of God’s people into exile.—Jeremiah 1:1-3.
2. How did Jehovah bolster Jeremiah, and fighting against that prophet meant what?
2 The judgment messages that Jeremiah was to declare were bound to stir up opposition. Therefore, God fortified him for what lay ahead. (Jeremiah 1:8-10) For instance, the prophet’s spirit was bolstered by the words: “They will be certain to fight against you, but they will not prevail against you, for ‘I am with you,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘to deliver you.’” (Jeremiah 1:19) Fighting against Jeremiah would mean fighting against God. Today, Jehovah has a prophetlike group of servants whose work is similar to that of Jeremiah. Like him, they boldly declare God’s prophetic word. And this message affects all individuals and nations for good or for bad, depending on their reaction to it. As in Jeremiah’s time, there are those who fight against God by opposing his servants and their divinely assigned activities.
Jehovah’s Servants Under Attack
3. Why have Jehovah’s servants been under attack?
3 Jehovah’s people have been under attack since early in the 20th century. In many lands, men of wicked intent have sought to hinder—yes, silence—the proclamation of the good news of God’s Kingdom. They have been goaded on by our chief Adversary, the Devil, who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” (1 Peter 5:8) After “the appointed times of the nations” ended in 1914, God installed his Son as earth’s new King, with the command: “Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.” (Luke 21:24; Psalm 110:2) Exercising his power, Christ ousted Satan from heaven and confined him to the vicinity of the earth. Knowing that his time is short, the Devil vents his wrath upon anointed Christians and their companions. (Revelation 12:9, 17) What have been the results of the repeated attacks by these fighters against God?
4. What trials did Jehovah’s people experience during the World War I era, but what happened in 1919 and 1922?
4 Anointed servants of Jehovah faced many tests of faith during World War I. They were ridiculed and slandered, chased by mobs, and subjected to beatings. As Jesus had foretold, they became “objects of hatred by all the nations.” (Matthew 24:9) Amid war hysteria, enemies of God’s Kingdom made use of a tactic that had been used against Jesus Christ. They falsely branded Jehovah’s people seditious, and they struck at the very heart of God’s visible organization. In May 1918, federal warrants were issued for the arrest of the Watch Tower Society’s president, J. F. Rutherford, and seven of his closest associates. These eight men were given heavy prison sentences and were sent to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. Nine months later they were released. In May 1919 the circuit court of appeals ruled that the defendants had not had an impartial trial, and the judgment was therefore reversed. The case was remanded for a new trial, but later the government withdrew the prosecution, with Brother Rutherford and his associates being completely exonerated. They resumed their activities, and conventions held at Cedar Point, Ohio, in 1919 and in 1922 gave the Kingdom-preaching work renewed impetus.
5. How did Jehovah’s Witnesses fare in Nazi Germany?
5 Dictatorships emerged in the 1930’s, and Germany, Italy, and Japan united to form the Axis powers. Early in that decade, barbaric persecution was unleashed against God’s people, notably in Nazi Germany. Bans were imposed. Homes were searched, and their occupants were arrested. Thousands were thrown into concentration camps because they refused to renounce their faith. The fight against God and his people was aimed at wiping out Jehovah’s Witnesses in that totalitarian domain.* When the Witnesses went to the courts in Germany to fight for their rights, the Reich’s Ministry of Justice prepared a lengthy opinion to ensure that they would not succeed. It said: “The courts must not fail on account of merely apparent legal formalities; but must seek and find ways in spite of the formal difficulties, to fulfill their high duties.” This meant that justice could not be had. The Nazis maintained that the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses were inimical, or hostile, and ‘disturbed the National Socialistic construction.’
6. What efforts were made to stop our work during World War II and thereafter?
6 During World War II, bans and restrictions were imposed on God’s people in Australia, Canada, and other lands identified with the British Commonwealth—in Africa, Asia, and islands of the Caribbean and of the Pacific. In the United States, influential enemies and misinformed people brought ‘trouble framed by decree.’ (Psalm 94:20) But flag-salute issues and community ordinances forbidding house-to-house preaching were fought in the courts, and favorable decisions in the United States built up a bulwark of support for freedom of worship. Thanks to Jehovah, enemy efforts did not prevail. When the war came to a close in Europe, the bans were removed. The thousands of Witnesses held captive in concentration camps were freed, but the fight was not over. Immediately after World War II, the Cold War set in. Eastern European nations brought further pressure on Jehovah’s people. Official action was taken to interfere with and stop our witnessing activities, halt the flow of Bible literature, stamp out our public assemblies. Many were imprisoned or sent to labor camps.
On With the Preaching Work!
7. What have Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced in Poland, Russia, and other lands in recent years?
7 As the decades passed, the Kingdom-preaching work opened up. Poland, though still under Communist rule, allowed the holding of one-day conventions in 1982. International conventions were held there in 1985. Huge international conventions followed in 1989, with thousands from Russia and Ukraine attending. That year Hungary and Poland granted Jehovah’s Witnesses legal recognition. In the autumn of 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. A few months later, we received legal recognition in East Germany, and shortly thereafter an international convention was held in Berlin. And at the start of the final decade of the 20th century, efforts were under way to make personal contact with the brothers in Russia. Some of the officials in Moscow were approached, and in 1991, Jehovah’s Witnesses were granted legal registration. Since then the work has grown tremendously in Russia and in the republics that were part of the former Soviet Union.
8. What happened to Jehovah’s people in the 45 years following the close of World War II?
8 While persecution let up in some areas, it increased in others. In the 45 years following the close of the second world war, many lands refused to grant legal recognition to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Additionally, bans were imposed on us or on our activities in 23 lands in Africa, 9 in Asia, 8 in Europe, 3 in Latin America, and 4 in certain island nations.
9. What have Jehovah’s servants undergone in Malawi?
9 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Malawi experienced savage persecution beginning in 1967. Because of their neutral stand as true Christians, our fellow believers there would not purchase political party cards. (John 17:16) Following a meeting of the Malawi Congress Party in 1972, there was a renewal of brutality. The brothers were driven from their homes and denied employment. Thousands fled the country to avoid being killed. But did the fighters against God and his people prevail? Not at all! After a reversal of circumstances, a peak of 43,767 Kingdom publishers reported in Malawi in 1999, and over 120,000 attended district conventions there. A new branch office has been built in the capital city.
They Look for a Pretext
10. As in Daniel’s case, what have present-day opposers of God’s people done?
10 Apostates, clergymen, and others cannot put up with our message from God’s Word. Under pressure from religious quarters of Christendom, opposers look for a so-called legal way to justify their fight against us. What tactics are sometimes used? Well, what did conspirators do in attacking the prophet Daniel? At Daniel 6:4, 5, we read: “The high officials and the satraps themselves were constantly seeking to find some pretext against Daniel respecting the kingdom; but there was no pretext or corrupt thing at all that they were able to find, forasmuch as he was trustworthy and no negligence or corrupt thing at all was found in him. Consequently these able-bodied men were saying: ‘We shall find in this Daniel no pretext at all, except we have to find it against him in the law of his God.’” Today, opposers likewise look for a pretext. They clamor about “dangerous cults” and try to pin this label on Jehovah’s Witnesses. By misrepresentation, innuendo, and falsehood, they attack our worship and our adherence to godly principles.
11. What false claims have been made by some opposers of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
11 In some lands, religious and political elements refuse to acknowledge that we practice “the form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God.” (James 1:27) Though our Christian activities are carried on in 234 lands, opposers claim that we are not a “known religion.” Shortly before an international convention in 1998, an Athens newspaper quoted the Greek Orthodox clergy as claiming that “[Jehovah’s Witnesses] are not a ‘known religion,’” despite the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights to the contrary. A few days later, another newspaper in the same city quoted a church spokesman as saying: “[Jehovah’s Witnesses] cannot be ‘a Christian congregation,’ since they have nothing in common with the Christian faith in the person of Jesus Christ.” This is amazing, for no other religious group puts more emphasis on imitating Jesus than do Jehovah’s Witnesses!
12. In waging our spiritual warfare, what must we do?
12 We seek to defend and establish the good news by legal means. (Philippians 1:7) Moreover, we will not compromise or water down our firm adherence to God’s standards of righteousness. (Titus 2:10, 12) Like Jeremiah, we ‘gird up our hips and speak everything that Jehovah commands us,’ not allowing fighters against God to strike us with any terror. (Jeremiah 1:17, 18) Jehovah’s Holy Word has clearly marked out the right course for us to take. Never do we want to lean on the frail “arm of flesh” or seek “refuge in the shadow of Egypt,” that is, this world. (2 Chronicles 32:8; Isaiah 30:3; 31:1-3) In waging spiritual warfare, we must continue to trust in Jehovah with all our heart, let him direct our steps, and not lean on our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5-7) Unless we have Jehovah’s support and he himself is guarding us, all our work will be “to no avail.”—Psalm 127:1.
Persecuted but Uncompromising
13. Why can it be said that the satanic attack on Jesus failed?
13 The foremost example in uncompromising devotion to Jehovah is Jesus, who was falsely accused of sedition and of disturbing the established order. After examining the case of Jesus, Pilate was willing to release him. But the crowd, goaded on by the religious leaders, cried for Jesus to be impaled, although he was innocent. In place of him, they called for the release of Barabbas—a man imprisoned for sedition and murder! Pilate again tried to dissuade the unreasonable opposers, but he finally gave way to the public clamor. (Luke 23:2, 5, 14, 18-25) Though Jesus died on a stake, the heinous satanic attack on the innocent Son of God failed completely, for Jehovah resurrected Jesus and exalted him to His own right hand. And on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., through the glorified Jesus, holy spirit was poured out, establishing the Christian congregation—“a new creation.”—2 Corinthians 5:17; Acts 2:1-4.
14. What resulted when the Jewish religious element acted against Jesus’ followers?
14 Shortly thereafter the religious element threatened the apostles, but those followers of Christ did not stop speaking about the things that they had seen and heard. Jesus’ disciples prayed: “Jehovah, give attention to their threats, and grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness.” (Acts 4:29) Jehovah answered their supplication by filling them with holy spirit and strengthening them to continue their fearless proclamation. Soon the apostles were again ordered to stop preaching, but Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) Threats, arrests, and floggings could not deter them from expanding their Kingdom activity.
15. Who was Gamaliel, and what advice did he give religious opposers of Jesus’ followers?
15 How did the religious rulers react? “They felt deeply cut and were wanting to do away with [the apostles].” However, a Law teacher by the name of Gamaliel, a Pharisee, was present, and he was esteemed by all the people. Putting the apostles outside the Sanhedrin hall for a short time, he advised those religious opposers: “Men of Israel, pay attention to yourselves as to what you intend to do respecting these men. . . . I say to you, Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone; (because, if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them;) otherwise, you may perhaps be found fighters actually against God.”—Acts 5:33-39.
No Weapon Formed Against Us Will Succeed
16. In your own words, how would you express the assurance that Jehovah gives his people?
16 Gamaliel’s advice was sound, and we appreciate it when some speak out in our behalf. We also acknowledge that freedom of worship has been upheld through court decisions by fair-minded judges. Of course, our adherence to God’s Word displeases Christendom’s clergy and other leaders of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. (Revelation 18:1-3) Though they and those influenced by them fight against us, we have this assurance: “‘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. This is the hereditary possession of the servants of Jehovah, and their righteousness is from me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Isaiah 54:17.
17. Though opposers fight against us, why are we courageous?
17 Our enemies fight against us without cause, but we do not lose courage. (Psalm 109:1-3) Never will we allow those who hate our Bible message to intimidate us into compromising our faith. Though we expect our spiritual fight to intensify, we know the outcome. Like Jeremiah, we will experience the fulfillment of the prophetic words: “They will be certain to fight against you, but they will not prevail against you, for ‘I am with you,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘to deliver you.’” (Jeremiah 1:19) Yes, we know that fighters against God will not prevail!
See the article “Faithful and Fearless in the Face of Nazi Oppression,” pages 24-8.
How Would You Respond?
• Why have Jehovah’s servants been under attack?
• In what ways have opposers fought against Jehovah’s people?
• Why can we be sure that fighters against God will not prevail?
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Jeremiah was assured that Jehovah would be with him
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Concentration camp survivors
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Mob violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses
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J. F. Rutherford and associates
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In Jesus’ case, fighters against God did not prevail