“Who Really Is the Faithful Steward, the Discreet One?”
“Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants?”—Luke 12:42.
1. How old is the question that is before us, and what do those not finding the answer fail to get?
THE question is now more than 1,900 years old. Many hundreds of thousands today believe they have found the answer. Those not finding the answer are failing to get benefits that affect their eternal future. The question is this: “Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time?”—Luke 12:42.
2. (a) When was the question first raised, and by whom? (b) To whom should the question appeal, and why?
2 The question was first raised in the Middle Eastern land of Israel. The time was in the year 32 of our Common Era, between the Israelite celebration of tabernacles in the autumn and the festival of the dedication of their rebuilt temple at Jerusalem in the early winter. The man raising the question has become a controversial figure worldwide. His name is Jesus Christ. His question ought therefore to have special appeal to Christendom, as she speaks of him as “Lord” and claims to be full of his disciples.
3, 4. (a) Jesus’ listeners were interested in what, and so over what did he tell them not to have fear? (b) What two illustrations did Jesus give respecting the need for them to keep on the watch?
3 According to the Bible account, the searching question was raised in answer to another question and was directed to persons who were interested in the greatest government ever to be established over the earth, the kingdom of the Creator of heaven and earth, “the kingdom of God.” That is why Jesus Christ said beforehand to his Israelite listeners: “Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom. Sell the things belonging to you and give gifts of mercy. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, a never-failing treasure in the heavens, where a thief does not get near nor moth consumes. For where your treasure is, there your hearts will be also.
4 “Let your loins be girded and your lamps be burning, and you yourselves be like men waiting for their master when he returns from the marriage, so that at his arriving and knocking they may at once open to him. Happy are those slaves whom the master on arriving finds watching! Truly I say to you, He will gird himself and make them recline at the table and will come alongside and minister to them. And if he arrives in the second watch, even if in the third, and finds them thus, happy are they! But know this, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief would come, he would have kept watching and not have let his house be broken into. You also, keep ready, because at an hour that you do not think likely the Son of man is coming.”—Luke 12:32-40.
5. (a) What did Peter call Jesus’ words of exhortation, and so how would Jesus reply be classified? (b) Peter’s question as to the application of Jesus’ words raises what question as to how Jesus’ words in reply apply?
5 What the Lord Jesus Christ there said the apostle Peter called a “parable,” for Luke’s account goes on to say: “Peter said, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable [parabolé] for us or for all?’” (Luke 12:41, Revised Standard Version and other translations) So, logically, what Jesus said in reply would be considered a parable, which would picture or illustrate certain realities to come in the future. That is, Jesus’ reply in Luke 12:42-44 would form part of the parable of the “faithful and wise steward.” (RSV) As we now examine the parable, we should keep in mind Peter’s question, which carries over in its application to this follow-up parable, namely, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” (Luke 12:41, New International Version; The Living Bible) We ask, therefore, Does this parable of the “steward” apply to a class, an “us” class, the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, or to everyone then listening to Jesus and, today, to every individual reading Jesus’ parable, regardless of his religious connections inside or outside Christendom? Is the parable a class affair or an individual one?
6. With what parable did Jesus reply to Peter’s question?
6 Jesus did not directly answer Peter’s question concerning the preceding “parable,” but offered another parable in reply, saying: “Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time? Happy is that slave, if his master on arriving finds him doing so! I tell you truthfully, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”—Luke 12:42-44, New World Translation.
7. Whom does the steward’s “master” picture, and so what attitude should those involved with that “master” maintain during “the conclusion of the system of things”?
7 No one will question that the “master” of the faithful steward pictures the teller of the parable himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the parable that raised Peter’s question Jesus pictured himself as being a bridegroom, who, because of the marriage festivities, returns home at an uncertain hour of the night or early morning. (Luke 12:35-40) Certainly, then, those involved in the fulfillment of Jesus’ parable should keep on the watch, especially during the “conclusion of the system of things.”—Matt. 24:3.
8. Since when has Jesus Christ been “master” over a “body of attendants,” and how does Revelation 7:1-8 describe them?
8 In the case of the parable of the steward, the master has a “body of attendants,” of which the steward himself is one. This matches the fact that the teller of the parable, the Lord Jesus Christ, has a household in a spiritual sense. To that effect it is written, in Hebrews 3:4-6: “He that constructed all things is God. And Moses as an attendant was faithful in all the house of that One as a testimony of the things that were to be spoken afterwards, but Christ was faithful as a Son over the house of that One.” The prophet Moses was over the house of the 12 tribes of Israel at the start of that nation. Jesus Christ, as the Greater Moses, has been over the house of spiritual Israel from the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E. down till now. Revelation 7:1-8 reveals that the “house” is made up of 144,000 spiritual Israelites, divided into 12 tribes of 12,000 each. This is a “house” made up of spiritual sons of God, like their Head Jesus Christ himself. These collectively compose the “little flock,” to whom, as Jesus said, Jehovah God the heavenly Father has approved of giving the celestial kingdom.—Deut. 18:15-18; Luke 12:32; Acts 3:19-23.
9. If it is argued that the “steward” pictures an individual Christian man, one appointed in the first century C.E., what difficulty is encountered as to fixing a definite time of the master’s arrival?
9 So the 144,000 spiritual sons of God make up the “body of attendants” over which the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, appoints the “steward” of the parable. The identity of that parabolic “steward” (oikonómos, Greek; so·khenʹ, Hebrew—Delitsch translation) is still a matter of controversy among many professed Christians. If we say that the “steward” pictures an individual Christian man, we run into insurmountable difficulties. For example, the parable indicates that the steward’s master goes away on some journey and, after an indefinite absence, comes back home at an unspecified hour. In the first century C.E. a definite hour could not be fixed, for then mankind did not have modern conveniences such as telephones, radio communication and the means of speedy travel with fixed time schedules.
10. What difficulty arises as to the age length of any individual Christian man at the time of the ‘master’s’ arrival?
10 According to Jesus’ words, the “steward” was appointed over the “body of attendants” before his master left on his journey. Accordingly, since the steward’s master pictured the Lord Jesus Christ, his “steward” was appointed before his departure by his ascension back to heaven 10 days before the Jewish festival of Pentecost, 33 C.E. The “steward” was to be alive and faithful at his appointed responsibility at the time of his master’s return. It has now been 19 centuries since the Lord Jesus Christ departed for his heavenly Father’s home. Hence, if anyone argues that the parabolic “steward” pictures an individual Christian man in the true Christian congregation, how could he still be alive today after having been appointed by Jesus Christ in 33 of our first century C.E.? No man has ever lived for that long, not even the famous Methuselah.—Gen. 5:27.
11. So, instead of an individual Christian man, the “steward” pictures what, and what Scriptural support is there for this view?
11 Reason, backed up by similar Scriptural examples, makes it clear that the “steward” (oikonómos) pictures a class, a collective body, corresponding to a juristic person, a legal person like a corporation that is recognized by the law of the land. For instance, Jehovah God called the entire nation of ancient Israel “my servant whom I have chosen.” (Isa. 43:10) In like manner, the “steward” pictures the “little flock” of spiritual Israelites, the full body of dedicated, baptized disciples of the “master,” Jesus Christ, who have been begotten by God’s spirit to the heavenly inheritance with their “master,” the glorified Jesus. This composite “steward” was alive and available for being appointed by the departing Master, and a remnant of that “steward” class is on earth today and proving faithful to the Master Jesus Christ. Since each member is faithful and discreet, the whole class is also.
12. What was the purpose in appointing the “steward” over the “body of attendants,” and do the facts show whether this purpose has been carried out by the “steward” class?
12 In the parable the “steward” was appointed over his master’s “body of attendants” in order “to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time.” (Luke 12:42) Through the composite “steward” class this purpose has been fulfilled down till now. During the first century C.E. that was the case, during the days of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ down to the death of the last surviving apostle, John, who made his final contributions to the Holy Scriptures about the year 98 C.E. (John 21:20-23) Now, during this “conclusion of the system of things” that began in the catastrophic year of 1914, it would especially be “the proper time” for the due “measure of food supplies” to be distributed to the “body of attendants,” and it has proved to be so. The remnant of the “steward” class has proved faithful in that respect.—Matt. 24:3-14.
13. The Lord Jesus Christ returned with what in view respecting the “steward” class, and what had this class been doing till then?
13 This coincides with the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ entered into the Kingdom power with his heavenly Father at the end of the Gentile Times in 1914 and thus finally got what he went away for. (Luke 19:12) He could thus return invisibly in spiritual form, with the holding of an accounting with his “steward” in view. Till this accounting the distributing of the “measure of food supplies at the proper time” had been no small task. But the members of the “steward” class have worked together in distributing the spiritual “food supplies” to one another progressively as Jehovah God called others to become heirs of the Kingdom, members of the “little flock.”
APPOINTED “OVER ALL HIS BELONGINGS”
14. Why was it to be a happy time for the “steward” when his master returned and found him doing his duty as a slave?
14 In his parable of the faithful and discreet “steward,” the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, spoke of him as a “slave” and said: “Happy is that slave, if his master on arriving finds him doing so!” Why? Says Jesus: “I tell you truthfully, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”—Luke 12:43, 44.
15. Why would the ‘steward’s’ being appointed over all his master’s “belongings” be a happifying experience for him?
15 This means that, as a reward for showing himself faithful and discreet and keeping constantly awake in expectation of his master’s return, the “slave” is given greater responsibility as a “steward.” This was possible. Why so? Because the master had successfully gained something by his journey and came back with more than what he had when he departed. His “belongings” had been enhanced, and thus there was more over which to appoint his faithful “steward.” His being continued in the office of “steward” would signify serving in a larger capacity. His master himself had returned in a larger capacity than that in which he had found himself when he went away on his certain mission. In this modern-day fulfillment of the parable this has been true with respect to the remnant of the “steward” class and his Master, the glorified Jesus Christ.
16. What words of Jesus, spoken shortly after the parable, indicate that he was giving the parable of the “steward” in a fiery time?
16 How, though, can we confirm that this has been the proper time for the remnant of the “steward” class to be appointed over the enlarged “belongings,” or interests, of the Master? Well, several verses after the parable, Jesus said: “I came to start a fire on the earth, and what more is there for me to wish if it has already been lighted?” (Luke 12:49) This figurative language was in line with what John the Baptizer had foretold concerning Jesus just a few months beforehand. Among other things, John said: “That one will baptize you people with holy spirit and with fire. His winnowing shovel [for separating the grain from the chaff] is in his hand, and he will completely clean up his threshing floor, and will gather his wheat into the storehouse, but the chaff he will burn up with fire that cannot be put out.”—Matt. 3:11, 12.
17. Who of Jesus’ day were to go through a fiery experience, with what catastrophe as a climax?
17 Those prophetic words indicate that the fiery end of the Jewish system of things was due. Like chaff, the non-Christianized Jews would go through a fiery experience. This would end up with the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews from Palestine worldwide. The Roman legions saw to this in 70 C.E.
18, 19. (a) In Jesus’ prophecy on the “sign” of the “conclusion of the system of things,” what illustration did he give that corresponds with the parable of the “steward”? (b) Did the members of that class prove faithful and discreet during the conclusion of the Jewish system in Palestine, and how has the remnant of that class been doing during this “conclusion of the system of things”?
18 Thirty-seven years before burning up the symbolic “chaff” with unquenchable “fire” in 70 C.E., Jesus Christ gave his prophecy setting out the “sign” of the fiery “conclusion of the system of things” worldwide as well as the sign of his invisible “presence” in the spirit. Well along in the body of that prophecy he referred to a “faithful and discreet slave” who would be at work on the earth when the world system of things neared its end. Jesus’ remarks concerning this “slave” are very much like those concerning the “faithful steward, the discreet one.” Plainly they apply to the same class, but the term “steward” is specific as to the type of work that the “slave” does.
19 Note Jesus’ description: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” (Matt. 24:45-47) Members of the “faithful and discreet slave” class, the “steward” class, served diligently up to the end of the Jewish system of things in 70 C.E. The remaining members of the “slave” class, the “steward” class, have been proving themselves faithful and discreet during the modern-day “conclusion of the system of things” since the year 1914 C.E.
20. Those making up the remnant of the “steward” class today are identifiable because of lining up with what words of Jesus before he ascended from the Mount of Olives back to heaven?
20 The remnant of the “steward” class is easily identifiable today, for they line up with what Jesus, the Master, said to those who would form the original part of the “steward” class. Just before ascending from the Mount of Olives back to heaven, Jesus said to them: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) In being witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ those Jewish disciples had to be at the same time witnesses of his God and Father, Jehovah. They never ceased to be Jehovah’s witnesses!
21. By natural birth those Jewish disciples were whose witnesses, and when did they become the original members of the composite “steward”?
21 Those Jewish disciples had to be witnesses of Jehovah, for by birth they belonged to the nation to whose forefathers God had said: “‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen, . . . So you are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I am God.’” (Isa. 43:10-12) Thus those Jewish witnesses of Jehovah were now to become witnesses also of his Son Jesus Christ. On the day of Pentecost, 10 days after his ascension back to heaven, they were baptized with the holy spirit and were in this way appointed by their glorified Master Jesus Christ to be over his “body of attendants,” to give them spiritual food. That is how they became the first or original members of the composite “steward.” They gave a fine start to this class.
22. The “steward” class is specially a people for whose name, and how was this fact emphasized at a special meeting in Jerusalem sometime after 36 C.E.?
22 This “steward” class is a people for Jehovah’s name. This fact was emphasized some time after the year 36 C.E., at a special meeting of the apostles and the elders of the Jerusalem congregation. There James, the half brother of Jesus Christ, said: “Symeon [that is, the apostle Simon Peter] has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations [the uncircumcised Gentiles] to take out of them a people for his name.”—Acts 15:1-14.
23. In this “conclusion of the system of things” the remnant of the “steward” class cannot dodge being witnesses of whom and having called upon them whose name?
23 Such non-Jews became part of the first-century “steward” class. As a result, this class was the anointed people for God’s name, which name is Jehovah. God’s name, Jehovah, was called upon them. They could not dodge being his witnesses. This also must be true of the anointed remnant of the “steward” class today, when the “sign” visible since 1914 indicates that the returned master of the “steward” class is present and that “the conclusion of the system of things” is about to reach its climax at Har–Magedon.—Matt. 24:3.
The “Steward” as He Faces Har–Magedon
1. What is to take place at Har–Magedon that the “steward” class faces, and by whom was this “steward” foreshadowed in the day of King Hezekiah of Jerusalem?
HAR–MAGEDON is the Hebrew name of the place where the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” will shortly be fought. The remnant of the “steward” class now faces that “war” with which this worldly system of things will end forever. So the “steward” class keeps spiritually awake to see how the returned master, the glorified Jesus Christ, will destroy the visible enemies of the Kingdom for which they pray to Jehovah God: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:9, 10; Rev. 16:14-16) This worldwide state of affairs was illustrated or foretold by what took place during the stewardship of the Israelite whom King Hezekiah of Jerusalem made his royal steward during a most critical time.
2. Who was that Jew, and whom had he replaced in the royal stewardship, according to Isaiah 22:15-25?
2 The “steward” was the Jew named Eliakim the son of Hilkiah. Three times he is mentioned as the man who was “over the household” of King Hezekiah. (Isa. 36:3, 22; 37:2) He had replaced the man named Shebna in this royal position. God’s decree with respect to Eliakim and Shebna is recorded in Isaiah 22:15-25. There we read:
“This is what the Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies, has said: ‘Go, enter in to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the house, “What is there of interest to you here, and who is there of interest to you here, that you have hewed out for yourself here a burial place?” On a height he is hewing out his burial place; in a crag he is cutting out a residence for himself. “Look! Jehovah is hurling you down with violent hurling, O able-bodied man, and grasping you forcibly. Without fail he will wrap you up tightly, like a ball for a wide land. There you will die, and there the chariots of your glory will be the dishonor of the house of your master. And I will push you away from your position; and from your official standing one will tear you down.*
“‘“And it must occur in that day that I will call my servant, namely, Eliakim the son of Hilkiah. And I will clothe him with your robe, and your sash I shall firmly bind about him, and your dominion I shall give into his hand; and he must become a father to the inhabitant of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will put the key of the house of David upon his shoulder, and he must open without anyone’s shutting, and he must shut without anyone’s opening. And I will drive him in as a peg in a lasting place, and he must become as a throne of glory to the house of his father. And they must hang upon him all the glory of the house of his father, the descendants and the offshoots, all the vessels of the small sort, the vessels of the bowl sort as well as all the vessels of the large jars.
“‘“In that day,” is the utterance of Jehovah of armies, “the peg that is driven in a lasting place will be removed, and it must be hewn down and fall, and the load that is upon it must be cut off, for Jehovah himself has spoken it.”’”
3. (a) What does the name Eliakim mean, and how was its meaning realized in the case of the bearer of the name? (b) Who were the ones sent to listen to the blasphemous tirade before the walls of Jerusalem, and to whom was an appeal for help finally referred?
3 True to the meaning of his name, “God raises up,” Jehovah elevated Eliakim to the stewardship of King Hezekiah’s palace. This took place before the Assyrian emperor, Sennacherib, invaded the land of Judah in 732 B.C.E. Sennacherib encamped his army some distance away from Jerusalem and then sent his spokesman, Rabshakeh, along with a bodyguard, to stand before Jerusalem and demand its surrender. While doing so, Rabshakeh belittled Jehovah as God and magnified Assyria and its emperor. Jerusalem’s king, Hezekiah, sent his representatives to listen to this God-defying tirade, including Eliakim, now steward, and also Shebna, who had been demoted to being a secretary, and Joah, the recorder. Deeply grieved at what they had heard, they reported back to King Hezekiah. Feeling utterly helpless, the king appealed to the prophet Isaiah, the representative of Jehovah.—Isa. 36:1–37:7.
4. In the present fulfillment of that ancient drama, whom does Sennacherib picture, whom does Hezekiah typify, and whom Eliakim?
4 There we see the same typical features that enter into the critical situation of today. Correspondingly Sennacherib the king of Assyria typifies the foe of God’s kingdom, namely, Satan the Devil,* who demands the surrender of Jehovah’s organized people under pain of enslavement or destruction. The anointed king Hezekiah, whose name means “Jah has strengthened,” typifies the now-reigning King, Jesus Christ, who feels very keenly the distress of his loyal disciples on earth as these suffer reproaches and face the threat of destruction at the hand of the Devil’s organization. Eliakim, the “steward” over the household of King Hezekiah, typifies the remnant of the “steward” class yet on earth during this “conclusion of the system of things” since 1914 C.E. Just as the typical steward Eliakim was a Jew or an Israelite, today’s remnant is made up of spiritual Israelites under the reigning King Jesus Christ.
5. By still circulating the Watchtower magazine world-wide, with whom did those of the anointed remnant associate themselves, and when did they disclaim all the reproachful names hurled at them?
5 At this late date the dwindling members of the anointed remnant still circulate worldwide, and in many languages, the magazine The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom. This special identifying of themselves with Jehovah God is the logical outcome of the 20th-century march of theocratic events. Yes, for in the memorable year of 1931 many thousands of the anointed remnant met in general assembly at Columbus, Ohio, and there, on July 26, they unanimously adopted a resolution by which they took upon themselves the Biblically authorized name “Jehovah’s witnesses.” Thus they disclaimed all the reproachful names by which the religious systems of Christendom had dubbed these internationally associated students of the Bible. In short order all the congregations of spiritual Israelites around the globe harmoniously adopted the name.
6. By thus taking God’s name upon them, what did they willingly assume?
6 Thus they undertook the responsibilities conveyed in the words addressed to the Israelites of the prophet Isaiah’s day:
“‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and have faith in me, and that you may understand that I am the same One. . . . So you are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I am God.’”—Isa. 43:10-12.
THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF STEWARDSHIP
7. (a) How did religious claimers of stewardship before the close of World War I in 1918 belie their claim? (b) How did the clergy of Christendom prove to be like Shebna?
7 Like Shebna in King Hezekiah’s government during Isaiah’s time, there are religious clergymen of Christendom who claim to have the exclusive right to the earthly stewardship under the Greater Hezekiah, Jesus Christ. But unlike the clergy, the faithful members of the anointed remnant of Jehovah’s Witnesses have striven earnestly to carry out in actuality the Kingdom stewardship. This has been outstandingly true since the close of the first world war that started in Christendom. By that time the warmongering clergymen of Christendom had inerasably made their record as regards the stewardship that they claim to have received from the King, Jesus Christ. Even by then the evidence had piled up that “the times of the Gentiles” or “the appointed times of the nations” had ended in the autumn of 1914. Yes, also, that then the glorified Jesus Christ had begun to reign in the heavens as the Greater Hezekiah. (Ezek. 21:25-27; Luke 21:24, Authorized Version; New World Translation) But did the clergymen of Christendom come out in support of Jehovah’s established kingdom by Christ? No!
8. After the League failed, what action did Christendom’s clergy take in contrast with that of the remnant of spiritual Israelites?
8 In 1919 the clergy of Christendom offered to serve as stewards of the proposed League of Nations. But that League failed completely in 1939. It has now been succeeded by the revised peace-keeping agency, the United Nations. In stark contrast with those clergymen, the remnant of spiritual Israelites continue to support the established kingdom of God by Christ.
9. According to the historical facts, what is the modern answer to Jesus’ question at Luke 12:42?
9 So, since the beginning of divine judgment in 1918, who has been honored with the stewardship or has been confirmed in it? The historical facts since 1918, which speak for themselves, answer: The anointed remnant of spiritual Israelites. They as a class are the answer to Jesus’ own question, “Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time?” (Luke 12:42) They make up the Greater Eliakim of today. That is, they are the “steward” class typified by the faithful and discreet Eliakim during King Hezekiah’s reign (745-716 B.C.E.), at the time of the Assyrian invasion into the land of Judah.
10. According to Jesus’ prophecy of Luke 12:43, 44, how was the slave “steward,” as represented by the remnant of spiritual Israelites, to be made “happy”?
10 In spite of the woes upon Christendom and the rest of the world of mankind, the remnant of the faithful “steward” class is, indeed, “happy,” just as Jesus himself foretold, saying: “Happy is that slave, if his master on arriving finds him doing so!” Why? Due to the fact that, just as Jesus continued on to say, “I tell you truthfully, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”—Luke 12:43, 44.
11. According to Isaiah 22:20, 21, how did Jehovah say he would replace Shebna?
11 In a spiritual way it has happened to the faithful remnant of spiritual Israelites just as it happened to Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who replaced self-glorifying Shebna as “steward” over King Hezekiah’s household. As Jehovah said to his prophet Isaiah: “And it must occur in that day [of Jehovah’s pushing Shebna away from his position] that I will call my servant, namely, Eliakim the son of Hilkiah. And I will clothe him with your [Shebna’s] robe, and your sash I shall firmly bind about him, and your dominion I shall give into his hand; and he must become a father to the inhabitant of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.”—Isa. 22:20, 21.
12. With what action by Jesus Christ since the spring of 1919 did that correspond?
12 This corresponds with Jesus’ appointing the faithful, discreet “steward” class over all his Kingdom belongings. Particularly since the spring of the postwar year 1919 a new chapter opened up in religious history. Then, like Eliakim, the remnant of the faithful, discreet “steward” class was robed with the dignity of being ambassadors of the established kingdom of Jehovah God by Christ. (2 Cor. 5:20) In this capacity they have advertised the established kingdom “in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10) Pictorially speaking, the Almighty God has girded up their loins for the discharge of this weighty ministry by binding about their hips the “sash” of a steward or majordomo (so·khenʹ, Hebrew; oikonómos, Greek Septuagint).—Compare Zechariah 3:1-7.
13. When did those making up the composite “steward” class get out of Babylon the Great, and over whom has the “dominion” of this “steward” been extended?
13 Notably since spring of 1919, Jehovah God has issued his call for all his dedicated people to get out of “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion. (Rev. 18:2, 4) Those making up the “steward” class obediently did get out, and their heavenly Master, the invisibly present Lord Jesus Christ, has used them as a class to give all those in line for the heavenly kingdom “their measure of food supplies at the proper time.” In this respect the Eliakim class has become like a “father” who provides for all those pictured by “the inhabitant of Jerusalem and . . . the house of Judah.” Such a “dominion” as this Jehovah by Christ has given into the hand of the “steward” class, and this composite “steward” has faithfully and discreetly exercised this “dominion” till now. Especially since 1935 have the “great crowd” of Christ’s “other sheep” benefited from such fatherly care, just like the “alien resident who [was] inside” the gates of ancient Jerusalem.—Ex. 20:10; John 10:16; Rev. 7:9-17.
14. How did the “steward” discharge his responsibility as pictured by Eliakim’s shouldering “the key of the house of David”?
14 Heavy responsibility has been laid upon the Eliakim class of today similar to that described in Jehovah’s words regarding the Eliakim of King Hezekiah’s day: “And I will put the key of the house of David upon his shoulder, and he must open without anyone’s shutting, and he must shut without anyone’s opening.” (Isa. 22:22) The composite “steward” class has shown itself worthy of shouldering the royal “key of the house of David.” It has kept alert to safeguard the earthly interests of God’s Messianic kingdom as pictured by the “house of David.” It welcomed in those whom the Master chose to make up the final members of the remnant of Kingdom heirs. In 1935 it began to welcome in the “other sheep” whom the Fine Shepherd was pleased to bring together to form “one flock” with the anointed remnant. It shut the door on all the expelled apostates and those who tried to sneak in to corrupt Jehovah’s Witnesses.—Compare Revelation 3:7.
15. Jehovah purposed to drive Eliakim like what into a lasting place, and what things were to be suspended from him?
15 Further prophesying regarding the modern Eliakim class, Jehovah said: “And I will drive him in as a peg in a lasting place, and he must become as a throne of glory to the house of his father. And they must hang upon him [like upon a peg] all the glory of the house of his father, the descendants and the offshoots, all the vessels of the small sort, the vessels of the bowl sort as well as all the vessels of the large jars.”—Isa. 22:23, 24.
16. Whom did Eliakim replace, and to what service was the antitypical Eliakim appointed in behalf of the “body of attendants”?
16 The permanently placed “peg” from which those household utensils were to hang pictured Eliakim, the new steward who replaced Shebna. Accordingly he was put in charge of serving food and drink to the members of the king’s household. The appointing of Eliakim to serve in that capacity typified that the Greater Hezekiah, Jesus Christ, at his coming in glory, approved of the “faithful steward” class to be over the remnant of his joint heirs yet on earth to issue to this “body of attendants” the needed “measure of food supplies at the proper time,” whether in large measure or in small measure. This depended upon the type of solid food or of drink. Of course, such “food supplies” would be from God’s Word. However from another Bible standpoint, those “vessels” picture the servants of God themselves, having varying capacities for service.—2 Tim. 2:20-22.
17. In what way would Eliakim be a “throne of glory” to the house of his father, and how would the “descendants and the offshoots” of his father benefit from this?
17 Eliakim was to become a “throne of glory” to the house of his own father, Hilkiah. This meant that he would not disgrace his father’s house or its reputation in contrast with the former steward Shebna. He was to be elevated higher in the royal service of King Hezekiah. His becoming like a “throne of glory” symbolized all of this. He would not seat himself as a king to be served, but, as the king’s servant, he would have authority and “dominion” in his newly assigned realm. To a certain extent he would represent and speak for the king of Jerusalem. No discredit would result to “the house of his father,” but, rather, “glory” would result to his father’s house and it would be sustained as though on an irremovable peg. The “descendants and the offshoots” of his father’s house would suffer no discredit because of depending upon Eliakim for a recommendation. All such relatives of Eliakim could count on him to represent them honorably, creditably. All his relatives could depend on him to represent them nobly in his higher station. Thus such dependent relatives would be encouraged to serve as “vessels” in royal service because of having strong backing.
18. (a) From whom today has special responsibility been suspended, and how is it a royal responsibility? (b) Who today are “the descendants and the offshoots,” and to what utensils are they likened?
18 Likewise, today, a heavy weight of responsibility has been suspended from the “faithful steward” class. It is a royal responsibility, a glorifying one, because it is borne in the service of Jehovah’s now installed King, Jesus Christ. It is a spiritual responsibility toward all those related to the Eliakim class in the Kingdom hope, like “the descendants and the offshoots” of their spiritual Father. They depend on or hang from the peglike “steward” class and are themselves like intelligent, living “vessels” to bear food supplies in varying quantities to other members of their spiritual relationship.—2 Tim. 2:20, 21; 1 Cor. 4:7.
19. (a) At what critical time was Eliakim promoted to royal stewardship? (b) In what direction did the king of Judah turn for aid under the threatening circumstances?
19 In ancient times, in the eighth century before our Common Era, Eliakim was promoted to royal stewardship at a critical time period of Jehovah’s typical kingdom at Jerusalem. He heard directly the terrifying threats that were yelled out by the envoy of the invading Assyrian king, Sennacherib. Eliakim repeated these to his master, King Hezekiah. In turn, King Hezekiah sought not military aid from Egypt but his God, Jehovah. In response, Jehovah gave a most strengthening reply through his prophet Isaiah. Then what happened in fulfillment of Jehovah’s defiant message? We read:
20. What did Jehovah then do in fulfillment of His defiant message through the prophet Isaiah?
20 “And the angel of Jehovah proceeded to go forth and strike down a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. When people rose up early in the morning, why, there all of them were dead carcasses. Hence Sennacherib the king of Assyria pulled away and went and returned and took up dwelling in Nineveh. And it came about that as he was bowing down at the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his own sons, struck him down with the sword.”—Isa. 37:36-38; 2 Ki. 19:35-37.
21. (a) What did Jehovah’s battle action there prefigure? (b) What does the “steward” class of today now face, and since when and to whom has this class sounded out the warning?
21 Back there the battle action on Jehovah’s part in behalf of his kingdom at Jerusalem prefigured his still greater act during “the war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon. There his angel of destruction will be an archangel, the installed King, Jesus Christ, in command of all the heavenly angels. (Rev. 16:14-16; 19:11-21) The remnant of the “steward” class faces this war of all wars, never to be repeated. The “steward” class, in charge of the “food supplies” from God’s Word, has been used, particularly since 1919, to sound out the warning of this coming “war” at what is called Har–Magedon. As in the case of Eliakim during the days of King Hezekiah, they face the approaching attack of the Greater “Assyrian,” Satan the Devil, and his hordes. (Mic. 5:5, 6) They persist in warning all the members of their heavenly Master’s household and all mankind.
22. Who have responded to that warning, and why are they encouraged by what happened to Eliakim and the other inhabitants of Jerusalem and the significance of this?
22 An international “great crowd” has responded to the warning and has sounded it out to still others. (Rev. 7:9-17) They are encouraged by what happened to Eliakim, the steward of King Hezekiah, and the other inhabitants of Jerusalem, for these escaped being war casualties by the wholesale destruction of the Assyrian invaders. Likewise the “steward” class in this “time of the end,” along with the “great crowd” of Christ’s “other sheep,” will be spared from being destroyed with the worldly system of things in “the war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon. (Dan. 12:4) After Jehovah’s victory there, the Greater Sennacherib, Satan the Devil, and all his demon angels will be abyssed for the 1,000 years of the reign of the Greater Hezekiah, Jesus Christ.
23. When will there be no doubt as to the right answer to the question raised by Jesus at Luke 12:42?
23 For as long as their reigning Master, Jesus Christ, is pleased to use them further on earth, the remnant of “the faithful steward” class will dispense the due “measure of food supplies” to their fellow survivors, the “great crowd” of their Master’s “other sheep.” Toward their realizing that thrilling prospect, let all sheeplike persons keep guarding against being “cut off” at Har–Magedon as those hanging dependently from that disqualified “peg,” the Shebna class in Christendom. (Isa. 22:17-19, 25) Happy, indeed, are all those who have ascertained and adhere to the right answer to Jesus’ question: “Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one?” In loyalty to his stewardship, let them continue to accept at this proper time the needed “measure of food supplies” at the hands of the “faithful steward,” the Greater Eliakim. That symbolic “peg” is, according to God’s foreknowledge, driven into a “lasting place” to stay, with God’s help. So hang onto it confidently, in all loyalty.
In the Greek Septuagint Version of the Hebrew Scriptures Isaiah 22:19 reads: “And thou shalt be removed from thy stewardship [oi·ko·no·miʹa], and from thy place.”—The Septuagint Version, Greek and English, by Samuel Bagster and Sons Limited, London, England.
See the Watchtower issue of April 1, 1945, page 102, paragraph 1; also, December 1, 1951, page 719, paragraph 10.