Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Witnessing to Witnesses [Part 4]

Jehovah’s Witnesses say the Bible is inspired and accurate but don’t accept its testimony about the deity of Jesus Christ.

That combination doesn’t work. It’s intellectually vacuous and spiritually dangerous.

The extent to which scripture parallels Jesus with Jehovah is a subject worth considering for all believers, whether or not you regularly encounter JWs in your travels. John wrote that the Father has given all judgment to the Son in order that “all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father”.

That’s the aim of this series.

In the previous three weekly installments, I’ve demonstrated that the names used for Jehovah in the Old Testament are equally names used for Jesus Christ in the New Testament. We’re moving on this week to the offices of Jehovah.


What Do We Mean by “Offices”?

First question: What’s an office, other than that room in the corner of the 30th floor from which our CEO gets a really good view?

We might say that an office is a role that is conferred, or a position of responsibility to which one is appointed. Today, we appoint politicians to office by means of elections. But spiritual offices are different: the universe is not a democracy. God is sovereign and appoints those he pleases to fulfill his purposes. Common offices in scripture include prophet, priest and king.

With respect to the issue of appointment to an office, God himself is naturally an exception. Since Jehovah (or YHWH, or in most Bibles, “the Lord”) is both our Creator and infinitely powerful and wise, certain roles and responsibilities fall to him naturally. They are not conferred upon him but are assumed on the basis of his unique set of qualifications.

That part is uncontested by JWs. The question is whether these same offices occupied by Jehovah are also said to be occupied by Jesus Christ.

If so, it makes it a little difficult to contest his deity.

1.  Head Over All

After providing everything necessary for the building of the temple in Jerusalem, King David stood before the people of Israel and prayed this prayer:
“Yours is the kingdom, O [Jehovah], and you are exalted as head above all.”
This office of Jehovah, as I say, is assumed. David takes it for granted on the basis that “all that is in the heavens and the earth is yours” and “yours is the kingdom”. When you create something from nothing, it can hardly be said to be the property of anyone else. Nobody but you can decide who calls the shots.

But in the New Testament, the following is said of Jesus Christ:
“And he [God, the “Father of glory”] put all things under his feet and gave him [Christ] as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
There is no higher authority than God, and God confers that authority to his Son.

2.  The Shepherd

In scripture human beings are frequently compared to sheep. Sheep require shepherding, and the famous twenty-third psalm declares:
“[Jehovah] is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
The role is an individual one, as David implies, involving specific attention to the needs of everyone under his care. But the office is national too. Which makes sense: how many shepherds have only a single sheep? Asaph refers to the Shepherd of Israel:
“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim.”
Even if we didn’t have his reference to Jehovah in the immediate context, the place in which he sits leaves us no doubt as to the identity of the one Asaph invokes. If it seems contrived to refer to the menial task of shepherding as an “office”, this verse reminds us there is nothing inherently lowly about the responsibility. Jehovah shepherds from his throne above the cherubim.

Jehovah’s shepherding is without parallel, as Isaiah declares:
“Behold, [Adonai YHWH] comes with might,
    and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense before him.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead those that are with young.”
Here we have prophetic reference to a coming “arm” of Jehovah whose defining characteristic is his exceptional, gentle shepherd care. The hint is not overly subtle.

Shepherds are rarely self-appointed, unless they own the flock. Usually the task is delegated to a servant or family member. And Jehovah has appointed many shepherds, good and bad, over the years, including Cyrus king of Persia. And God’s New Testament people have delegated shepherds too.

But Jesus is distinguished from all other merely human shepherds in this: that he shepherds in the spirit of Jehovah. He could say, “I am the good shepherd”. In the goodness department, you cannot top a shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. Further, he is called the great shepherd and the chief Shepherd who was brought again from the dead.

Jesus Christ is no mere shepherd in the tradition of those raised up and used by God to direct his people in Old Testament times. He is not A shepherd, but THE shepherd: the Arm of Jehovah of whom Isaiah spoke. He is unique in his perfect fulfillment of the office.

There is, as usual, more to come.

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