“You have carefully hidden these things from wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to young children.”—LUKE 10:21.
1. What moved Jesus to become “overjoyed in the holy spirit”? (See opening image.)
CAN you imagine what it was like to see Jesus Christ become “overjoyed in the holy spirit”? Perhaps you picture his features lit up by a broad smile, his eyes twinkling with pleasure. What was it that moved him so? He had recently sent out 70 of his disciples to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom. He was keenly interested in how they would handle their assignment. There were many powerful enemies of the good news, such as the clever and highly educated scribes and Pharisees. They influenced many to look down on Jesus as a mere carpenter and on his disciples as “uneducated and ordinary men.” (Acts 4:13; Mark 6:3) Nonetheless, the disciples returned from their mission aglow with excitement. They had preached despite opposition, even from demons! What accounted for their joy and courage?—Read Luke 10:1, 17-21.
2. (a) How were Jesus’ disciples like children? (b) What enabled Christ’s followers to grasp vital spiritual truths?
2 Note what Jesus said to Jehovah: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to young children. Yes, O Father, because this is the way you approved.” (Matt. 11:25, 26) Of course, Jesus did not mean that his disciples were children in a literal sense. Rather, he knew that they seemed to be children compared to the intellectual and highly educated ones in the land, who were wise in their own eyes. More important, Jesus taught his followers to be like children, remaining humble and teachable. (Matt. 18:1-4) How did they benefit from being humble? By means of holy spirit, Jehovah helped them to grasp vital spiritual truths while the wise and intellectual ones, who scorned them, remained blinded by Satan and by their own pride.
3. What will we discuss in this article?
3 No wonder Jesus was so pleased! It made him happy to see the way Jehovah revealed deep spiritual truths to humble people of all sorts, regardless of their education or intellectual gifts. He was delighted that his Father approved of this way of teaching. Has Jehovah changed, and how does he show that he still approves of this kind of teaching? As we examine the answer, we may find that it brings us keen delight, just as it did Jesus.
MAKING DEEP TRUTHS ACCESSIBLE TO ALL
4. In what ways has the simplified edition of The Watchtower proved to be a loving gift?
4 In recent years, the spiritual instruction provided by Jehovah’s organization has reflected an increased emphasis on simplicity and clarity. Consider three examples. First, there is the simplified edition of The Watchtower.a This edition has proved to be, in effect, a loving gift to those who struggle with language or find reading a challenge. Family heads are finding that their children are now more involved in the study of this journal, the main channel of our spiritual feeding program. Many have written touching expressions of heartfelt appreciation. A sister wrote that she had held back from commenting at the Watchtower Study. “I was a wallflower,” she said. Not anymore! After making use of the simplified edition, she wrote: “I now comment more than once, and the fear is gone! I thank Jehovah and you.”
5. What are some benefits of the revised edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures?
5 Second, there is the revised edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, released in English at the annual meeting on October 5, 2013.b Many Scriptures now use fewer words, yet their meaning is intact or even clearer. For example, Job 10:1 went from 27 words to 19; Proverbs 8:6 went from 20 words to 13. Both verses are clearer in the new edition. In fact, one faithful anointed brother with a record of decades of loyal service commented: “I just read the book of Job in the new edition, and I feel as if I understand it for the first time!” Many have made similar comments.
6. How do you feel about the refined understanding of Matthew 24:45-47?
6 Third, consider some of our recent refinements in understanding. For example, our clarified understanding of “the faithful and discreet slave,” published in the July 15, 2013, Watchtower, thrilled us. (Matt. 24:45-47) It was explained that the faithful slave is the Governing Body, while the “domestics” are all those who are fed spiritually, whether of the anointed or of the “other sheep.” (John 10:16) What a delight it is to learn such truths and to teach them to new ones! In what other ways has Jehovah shown that he approves of teaching in a simple, clear way?
A SIMPLER, CLEARER APPROACH TO BIBLE NARRATIVES
7, 8. What are some examples of inspired prophetic pictures in the Bible?
7 If you have been serving Jehovah for decades, you may have noticed a gradual shift in the way our literature explains many of the narratives recorded in the Bible. How so? In times past, it was more common for our literature to take what might be called a type-antitype approach to Scriptural accounts. The Bible narrative was considered the type, and any prophetic fulfillment of the story was the antitype. Is there a Scriptural basis for prophetic pictures? Yes. For instance, Jesus spoke of “the sign of Jonah the prophet.” (Read Matthew 12:39, 40.) Jesus explained that Jonah’s sojourn in the belly of the fish—which would have been Jonah’s grave had Jehovah not preserved him alive—was prophetic of Jesus’ own time in the grave.
8 The Bible contains other inspired prophetic pictures. The apostle Paul discussed a number of them. For example, Abraham’s relationship with Hagar and Sarah provided a prophetic picture of Jehovah’s relationship with the nation of Israel and the heavenly part of God’s organization. (Gal. 4:22-26) Similarly, the tabernacle and the temple, Atonement Day, the high priest, and other facets of the Mosaic Law contained “a shadow of the good things to come.” (Heb. 9:23-25; 10:1) It is fascinating and faith-strengthening to study such prophetic pictures. Can we conclude, though, that every character, event, and object described in the Bible foreshadows someone or something?
9. How was the Bible account about Naboth explained in the past?
9 In the past, such an approach was often taken. Consider, for example, the account about Naboth, whose unjust trial and execution were arranged by wicked Queen Jezebel so that her husband, Ahab, could seize Naboth’s vineyard. (1 Ki. 21:1-16) Back in 1932, that account was explained as a prophetic drama. Ahab and Jezebel were said to picture Satan and his organization; Naboth pictured Jesus; Naboth’s death, then, was prophetic of Jesus’ execution. Decades later, though, in the book “Let Your Name Be Sanctified,” published in 1961, Naboth was said to picture the anointed, and Jezebel was Christendom. Hence, Naboth’s persecution at Jezebel’s hands pictured the persecution of the anointed during the last days. For many years, God’s people found this approach to Bible accounts faith strengthening. Why, then, have things changed?
10. (a) How has discretion led to greater caution when explaining certain Bible accounts? (b) Our literature focuses more on what today?
10 As we might expect, over the years Jehovah has helped “the faithful and discreet slave” to become steadily more discreet. Discretion has led to greater caution when it comes to calling a Bible account a prophetic drama unless there is a clear Scriptural basis for doing so. Additionally, it has been found that some of the older explanations about types and antitypes are unduly difficult for many to grasp. The details of such teachings—who pictures whom and why—can be hard to keep straight, to remember, and to apply. Of even greater concern, though, is that the moral and practical lessons of the Bible accounts under examination may be obscured or lost in all the scrutiny of possible antitypical fulfillments. Thus, we find that our literature today focuses more on the simple, practical lessons about faith, endurance, godly devotion, and other vital qualities that we learn about from Bible accounts.c
11. (a) How do we now understand the account about Naboth, and why does that man’s example speak to us all? (b) Why have our publications in recent years seldom mentioned types and antitypes? (See “Questions From Readers” in this issue.)
11 How, then, do we now understand the account about Naboth? In much clearer, simpler terms. That righteous man died, not because he was a prophetic type of Jesus or of the anointed, but because he was an integrity keeper. He held to Jehovah’s Law in the face of horrific abuse of power. (Num. 36:7; 1 Ki. 21:3) His example thus speaks to us because any one of us may face persecution for similar reasons. (Read 2 Timothy 3:12.) People of all backgrounds can readily understand, remember, and apply such a faith-strengthening lesson.
12. (a) What conclusion should we not draw regarding narratives recorded in the Bible? (b) Why are we able to have clear explanations of even deep things? (See footnote.)
12 Should we conclude that Bible narratives have only a practical application and no other meaning? No. Today our publications are more likely to teach that one thing reminds us of or serves to illustrate another. They are less likely to present many Bible accounts in a rigid framework of prophetic types and antitypes. For example, we can rightly say that Naboth’s integrity in the face of persecution and death reminds us of the integrity of Christ and his anointed. However, we can also be reminded of the faithful stand of many of the Lord’s “other sheep.” Such a clear and simple comparison has the hallmark of divine teaching.d
A SIMPLER APPROACH TO JESUS’ ILLUSTRATIONS
13. What examples show that we now explain some of Jesus’ illustrations in a simpler, clearer way?
13 Jesus Christ was the greatest Teacher ever to walk this earth. One of his favorite teaching methods involved the use of illustrations. (Matt. 13:34) Illustrations paint vivid word pictures that stimulate the mind and reach the heart. Has our literature also come to explain Jesus’ illustrations in a simpler, clearer way over the years? The answer is unmistakably yes! Were we not thrilled to gain a clarified understanding of Jesus’ illustrations regarding the leaven, the mustard seed, and the dragnet in The Watchtower of July 15, 2008? We now see clearly that these illustrations apply to God’s Kingdom and its phenomenal success in gathering true followers of Christ out of this wicked world.
14. (a) How have we explained the parable of the neighborly Samaritan? (b) How do we understand Jesus’ parable now?
14 What, though, about the more detailed stories, or parables, that Jesus related? Some, of course, are symbolic and prophetic; others emphasize practical lessons. But which is which? Through the years, the answer has gradually become clearer. For instance, consider the way we have explained Jesus’ parable of the neighborly Samaritan. (Luke 10:30-37) In 1924, The Watch Tower said that the Samaritan pictured Jesus; the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, which ran downhill, pictured mankind’s downward course since the rebellion in Eden; the thieves on the road pictured giant corporations and profiteers; and the priest and the Levite typified ecclesiastical systems. Today, our literature uses that illustration to remind all Christians that we must be impartial in rendering aid to those in need, especially in a spiritual sense. Does it not make us happy to see that Jehovah makes his teachings clear to us?
15. What will we consider in the following article?
15 In our next article, we will examine another of Jesus’ parables—that of the ten virgins. (Matt. 25:1-13) How did Jesus intend his followers in the last days to understand that powerful word picture? As a detailed prophetic allegory, with a symbolic meaning applied to every person, object, and event? Or, rather, did he mean for his followers to use it as a practical lesson to guide them during the last days? Let us see.
a The simplified edition was first made available in the English language in July 2011. Since then, a simplified edition has been made available in a few additional languages.
b Preparations are under way to make the revised edition available in other languages as well.
c For example, the book Imitate Their Faith discusses at length the lives of 14 different Bible characters. The material focuses on practical application, not on symbolic or prophetic meanings.
d Granted, God’s Word also contains things that may seem “hard to understand,” including some parts of Paul’s writings. However, all Bible writers were inspired by holy spirit. That same force helps true Christians today to grasp divine truths, making “even the deep things of God” more accessible and clearer to our limited minds.—2 Pet. 3:16, 17; 1 Cor. 2:10.