"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." —Luke 2:11,12)
WHY WAS THIS BABE EXPECTED?
Why were all men in expectation of him at the time of his birth? What was to be peculiar about him to lead Israel to expect his birth? The answer to this question is that God had made a certain promise centuries before and the promise had not been fulfilled. This promise contained the thought that a holy child would be born, and that in some way, not explained in the promise, this child would bring the blessing the world needed. Therefore every mother amongst the Israelites was very solicitous that she might be the mother of a son rather than a daughter, that perchance she might be the mother of this promised child. Thus the matter went on for years until, finally, the child was born.
The promise back of the expectation was that which God made to Abraham, saying, "In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." From that time forward Abraham began to look for the promised Seed – the promised child. He looked first of all to his own children, and was finally informed that it would not be one of his children direct, but through their children, at some remote date, this child should be born – the Seed of Abraham. From that time onward, all the Israelites were waiting for the birth of the child that should bring the blessing.
But why was a Messiah necessary? Why wait at all for the birth of the child? The answer to this question is that sin had come into the world; that God had placed our first parents – holy, pure and free from sin – in the glorious conditions of the Garden of Eden with every favorable prospect and everlasting life at their command if they continued in harmony with God. But by reason of their disobedience they came under Divine displeasure and sentence of death. This sentence of death has brought in its wake aches, pains, sorrows, tears, sighing, crying, dying and death – all of these experiences as the result of sin.
Our Heavenly Father said to our first parents – and this was the first intimation that He gave them of a deliverance – that "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." The serpent in this expression means Satan ‑ all the powers of evil, everything adverse to humanity, everything adverse to the blessings which God had given them, and which they had lost by disobedience. But the promise was vague and they understood little about the "seed of the woman" and "bruising the serpent's head." It merely meant in an allegorical way a great victory over sin and Satan, without explaining how it should come.
So mankind continued to die; they continued to have aches and pains and sorrows; they continued going down to the tomb. They realized that what they needed was some Savior to come and deliver them from the power of sin, to deliver them from the death penalty of sin – a Savior who would be, in other words, a Life‑giver. They were dying and needed new life. This is the meaning of the word Savior in the language used by our Lord and the apostles. They were hoping and expecting that God would send a Life‑giver.
It was on this account that they were so greatly concerned regarding the promise made to Abraham ‑ "In thee and in thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed" – they shall be granted a release from sin and death. In no other way could mankind be blessed. It would be impossible to bless mankind except by releasing them from sin and death. Hence, the Scriptures tell us of God's sympathy; that God looked down from His holy habitation, and beheld our sorrow, and heard, figuratively, "the groaning of the prisoners" – humanity – all groaning and travailing under this penalty of death – some with few aches and pains, and some with more aches and pains; some with few sorrows and some with greater sorrows, but all groaning and travailing in pain.
But God's sympathy was manifested; and we read that, "He looked down and beheld that there was no eye to pity and no arm to save" and with "his own arm he brought salvation." This is what was promised to Abraham – that one should come from his posterity who would be the Savior of the world; and because this promise was made to Abraham and to his seed, they were marked out as separate from all other nations and peoples. To the Jewish nation alone belonged this great honor – that through them should come this salvation. Hence, from that time onward the Jews spoke of themselves as God's chosen people, the people whom God had promised to bless, and through whom He would bring a blessing to all others. Therefore, all other people were called heathen (or nations, which the word means). Israel was thus separated because God's covenant was with them, and not with the others. But God's covenant with Israel was for the blessing of all the others: "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Now we have the "why" of this wonderful babe's being born.
HOW WAS THIS BABE PECULIAR ‑ HOLY, HARMLESS, UNDEFILED?
How could he be a Savior? In what way could he be different from any other babe? Why not use some other babe as the one through whom salvation should come? The answer of the Bible is that salvation could not come to mankind unless there should be a satisfaction of justice on account of original sin. That must be the first consideration. The penalty, "Dying, thou shalt die," pronounced against the first man, must be met before the world could be blessed.
Why not let any man die? Because all were under the sentence of the original condemnation, and none could be a ransom‑price or a substitute. Hence the necessity for a specially born babe, different from any other babe. In what way was this One differently born? The Bible explains to us very distinctly that he was not begotten of an earthly father. Although Joseph was espoused to Mary, yet this child was not the child of Joseph. The Bible explains that this child was specially begotten by Divine power, in the mother, though she was still a "virgin" when she brought forth the child.
This is the Scriptural proposition; and while it may not seem clear to some, yet the Word of God standeth sure. If the Redeemer was not perfect then He could not be the Savior of the world. The promised redemption implied that Jesus would be perfect; it implied that He would be as the first man was before he sinned. "For since by man came death, by man shall come also the resurrection of the dead"; "As all in Adam die, even so shall all in Christ be made alive."
So this One must be, as the Apostle declares, "holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners." (Heb. 7:26) He must be entirely distinct and separate from humanity so far as sinful features were concerned. If we had time it would be interesting to go into the scientific features – of how a perfect child could be born from an imperfect mother. If we can have a perfect life germ we can have a perfect child from an imperfect mother. If a breeder of stock wishes to raise the standard of his stock, he selects a fine bull, a male goat, or a male ram, and thus he improves the entire herd. And so, if we had perfect fathers, we would soon have a perfect race. But there is no father who can produce a perfect child. Hence it was necessary in this case (and the Scriptures declare it was accomplished) that God should beget this Son by power from on high. Therefore, that which was born of the "virgin" was separate and distinct from all humanity. His life came not from an earthly father, but from His Heavenly Father.
WHO WAS HE THUS BORN?
It is written that before He became flesh Jesus had an existence; as He declared, "Before Abraham was, I am." Again, in one of His prayers He said, "Father glorify thou me with the glory that I had with thee before the world was." The Revelator tells us that "He was the beginning of the creation of God," and Paul says that "by him all things were made." And so our Lord Jesus was not only the beginning, but also the active agent of the Father in all the creative work in the angelic world and in the creation of humanity, and in all things that were created.
The whole matter is summed up by the Apostle John. We will give a more literal translation of "In the beginning was the Word." [This expression, Word, in the Greek is Logos. The thought behind the word Logos is that in olden times a king, instead of speaking his commands directly to his people, sat behind a lattice work, and his Logos, or messenger, or word, or representative, stood before the lattice work, and gave the message of the king to the people in a loud tone of voice. The king himself was not seen. So this is the picture the Scriptures give us of how Jesus was the express representative of the Heavenly Father, the one through whom the Heavenly Father made Himself known ‑ the Word, or the Logos. So we read in the first chapter of John], "In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with the God, and the Logos was a god. The same was in the beginning with the God. By him were all things made, and without him was not anything made."
In other words, Jesus was the direct creator of all things. He was the Divine Power, Agent, Word, Messenger, the Logos of Jehovah. He did all the great work of creation; but He Himself was the first of God's direct creation, the First‑born of all creatures, that in all things He might have the pre‑eminence – the first place.
When the time came that our Heavenly Father made known His great purpose that He would bless the world, He gave opportunity to this First‑begotten One ‑ this One begotten of the Father – to be the servant in this great work He intended to accomplish for mankind. Consequently, the Scriptures state that "for the joy set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame." And now He has sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He has this great reward because of His obedience even unto death, the death of the cross.
The Apostle speaks of Him as having been rich, but for our sakes becoming poor, that through His poverty we might be made rich. He tells us how He left the glory which He had with the Father and humbled Himself to the human nature. Why? Because, as already stated, it was necessary that some one should become man's Redeemer, an angel could not redeem man, neither could an animal redeem man. The Divine law is "an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth; a man's life for a man's life." This was to teach us a great lesson: that perfect human life having been condemned to death, it would require a perfect life to redeem it. It was therefore necessary that Jesus should become the "Man Christ Jesus," in order "that he, by the grace of God, might taste death for every man."
WHAT RESULTS HAVE FOLLOWED?
The results that have followed have been that He Himself proved His own faithfulness. "Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" – the most ignominious form of death. It pleased the Father thus to prove Him, not only by death, but by the most ignominious form of death – dying as a culprit, being crucified between two thieves. What a terrible ignominy to die thus!
It would be ignominy enough for us in our imperfection, but for Him, perfect, "holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners," it must have been a cause for deep and poignant sorrow. Having completed the laying down of His life, at the end of the three and half years, He cried, "It is finished!" What? Not His work, for much of that lay before Him! He merely finished this part of the work, finished laying down His life a ransom‑price.
What next? After His death came His resurrection; and we read that "God raised him from the dead on the third day." According to the Scriptures He was raised up from death a glorious being – "sown in corruption, raised in incorruption; sown in dishonor, raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spirit body"; "Wherefore God hath highly exalted him and given him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, those in heaven, and those on earth, and those under the earth; that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:10)
But we see not yet all knees bowed to Him. Why not? The Scriptures tell us that before He begins His great work for the world of mankind, He first does a work for the elect, the Church, those who desire to walk in His footsteps, to gather out of the world a bride, to be co‑workers with Him in all the great work of the Father. This is the only work yet in process of accomplishment, and this has been going on now for over eighteen centuries. We see how He gathered out the saintly ones from amongst the Jews, "Israelites, indeed, in whom there was no guile." Not finding enough to make the desired number, He proceeded to gather them from all nations, kindreds, tongues and peoples.
The Apostle tells us that when this bride class is united with Him they shall be parts of the seed of Abraham; as we read, "And if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs of the promise." (Gal. 3:29) This statement relates to the promise made to Abraham, that through him and his Seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Thus we see the work that Christ is accomplishing now.
The invitation to become the bride of Christ is a very special invitation and those who would be His must walk in the "narrow way." If they will sit in His throne, they must suffer with Him. If they suffer with Him they shall also share His glory. So "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that shall follow," were not only to be accomplished in our Lord Jesus, personally, but He was an example for all the Church who are justified through faith in His blood. They have a share with Him in His sufferings, and will share in His glory; they have also a share in the First Resurrection; as the Revelator declares, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection, on such the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." (Rev. 20:6)
Saint Paul says, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord," "that I might know him and the power of his resurrection" (the special resurrection) to the Divine nature. How? By being made conformable to His death; for, "If we suffer with him we shall also reign with him."
WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?
All families of the earth are to be blessed, as originally promised in Eden: "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." Also, as St. Paul states in the 16th chapter of Romans, "The very God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." So, then, the next thing in order in the outworking of God's plan will be to bruise Satan and destroy sin.
When and how will this be done? Just as soon as this Age shall end; because this Age is merely for the development of the bride class; then will come the promised free grace to all the families of the earth. Messiah's Kingdom shall come. He has promised that when He shall reign, all His faithful shall reign with Him: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne." All the Church will be associated with Him in His great Messianic Kingdom; and "he shall reign from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth"; and "Unto him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, to the glory of God the Father"; "The knowledge of the glory of God shall fill the whole earth." The whole earth will become as the Garden of Eden. Paradise Lost will be Paradise Restored. The Divine image lost in Adam will be restored to man. Human nature will be brought to perfection. But the glorious reward to the Church will be the Divine nature, to sit at His right hand, and to bless the world of mankind. Man will become not only perfect, having all that Adam had, but will have additional knowledge and character; and there is every evidence that this shall be an eternal blessing.
SHALL NONE BE LOST?
Yes, the Scriptures tell us that some will be lost, and that the loss they shall sustain will be loss of life, and therefore all the pleasures of life. "They shall be as though they had not been"; "They shall be destroyed from amongst the people." St. Peter says, "They shall be destroyed as brute beasts." (Acts 3:23; 2 Peter 2:12)
When? When the eyes of their understanding shall have been opened to see the Lord and to understand His glorious character, and they shall have had opportunity to appreciate and enjoy His blessing. When such intentionally reject the grace of God, they shall die the Second Death, from which there is no resurrection, no hope of recovery. But, thank God, there shall be no knowledge of suffering for them; they shall be destroyed as brute beasts.
In proportion as we believe in this babe of Bethlehem shall we rejoice today. In proportion as we believe He was manifested on our behalf; in proportion as we believe He died for our sins; in proportion as we recognize Him as the glorified Savior; in proportion as we have surrendered our hearts to Him and seek to do the things well pleasing to Him shall we have the peace of God.
Our hope on behalf of mankind in general is that in God's due time His blessing shall reach all ‑ not the same as that for the Church, but as St. Peter tells us in Acts 3:19‑21, "Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, and he shall send Jesus Christ, who before was preached unto you, whom the heavens must retain until the times of restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets."
(Pastor Russell, Reprints 4963‑4965, February 1, 1912)
THE PRINCIPLES OF LOVE AND JUSTICE CONTRASTED
Nothing is more necessary to the peace and prosperity of the Church of God than that its members should have a clear understanding and appreciation of moral principles, with a full determination to be controlled by them. Even among Christians there are often differences of opinion with reference to principles of action, which greatly interfere with spiritual growth and prosperity. Such difficulties most frequently arise through failure to distinguish between the relative claims of love and justice. Therefore we consider it profitable to examine these principles and their operation among the children of God.
Justice is sometimes represented by a pair of evenly poised balances, and sometimes by a square and compass, both of which are fitting emblems of its character. Justice knows no compromise and no deviation from its fixed rule of action. It is mathematically precise. It gives nothing over for "good weight" or "good measure." There is no grace in it, no heart, no sympathy, no favor of any kind. It is a calculating, exact measure of truth and righteousness. When justice is done, there are no thanks due to the one who metes it out. Such a one has merely done a duty, the neglect of which would have been culpable, and the doing of which merits no favor or praise. And yet, firm and relentless as this principle is, it is declared to be the very foundation of God's throne. It is the principle which underlies all His dealings with His creatures. It is His unchangeable business principle; and how firmly He adheres to it is manifest to every one who understands the plan of salvation, the basis of which is the satisfaction of justice against our race. Though the arrangement for the satisfaction of justice cost the life of His Only‑begotten and well‑beloved Son, so important was this principle of Divine justice that God freely gave Him up for us all.
JUSTICE, BEFORE GENEROSITY
The principles of love, unlike that of justice, overflows with tenderness, and longs to bless. It is full of grace, and delights in the bestowment of favor. It is manifest, however, that no action can be rewarded as a favor or a manifestation of love which has not underneath it the substantial foundation of justice. Thus, for instance, if one comes to you with a gift, and at the same time disregards a just debt to you, the gift falls far short of appreciation as an expression of love; and you say, "We should be just before we attempt to be generous."
And this is right; if justice is the foundation principle in all of God's dealings, it should be the same in all of our dealings; and none the less so among brethren in Christ than among those in the world. As brethren in Christ, we have no right to presume upon the favor of one another. All to which we have a right is simple justice, though we may waive those things that are really our rights. But in our own dealings, we should strive always to render justice – justice in the payment of our honest debts to each other, justice in our judgment one of another (which must make due allowance for frailties, etc., because we recognize in ourselves some measure of similar imperfection), and justice in fair and friendly treatment one of another.
As we have just said, there is no obligation to demand justice for ourselves, and we may, if we choose, even suffer injustice uncomplainingly. We must, however, if we are Christ's, render justice so far as we are enabled to recognize it. In other words, we are not responsible for the action of others in this respect, but are responsible for our own. Therefore we are to endeavor earnestly that all our actions, our words and our thoughts may be squared by the exact rule of justice, before we offer even one single act as an expression of love.
JUSTICE, EQUITY, A CHRISTIAN QUALITY
It would appear that many Christian people spend years of their experience without making any great progress. One difficulty leading up to this condition is a failure to recognize the basic principles underlying the Divine laws, which apply to us from the moment we are adopted into the Lord's family. The first of these basic principles is justice. We need to learn more and more clearly what are our own rights and the rights of our fellow creatures in the Church and out of the Church. We need to learn how to measure the affairs of ourselves and of others with the plummet of justice, and to recognize that we must not under any circumstances or conditions infract the rights, interests or liberties of others – that to do so would be wrong, sinful, contrary to the Divine will, and a serious hindrance to our growth in grace. Secondly, we must learn to esteem love next to justice in importance in the Divine code. By love we mean, not amativeness, nor soft sentimentality, but that principle of kindness, sympathy, consideration and benevolence which we see manifested in our Heavenly Father and in our Lord Jesus.
In proportion as we grow up in the Lord, strong in Him, it must be along the lines of these elements of His character. More and more we must appreciate and sympathize with others in their trials and difficulties and afflictions; more and more we must become gentle, patient, kind towards all, but especially toward the household of faith. All the graces of the spirit are elements of love. God is love; and whoever receives of His spirit receives the spirit of love.
These two basic principles must cover all of our conduct in life. Justice tells us that we must cease to do evil ‑ that we must not speak a word nor do an act that would work injustice to another, nor even by look imply such injustice; that we must be as careful of his or her interest and welfare as of our own. Justice may permit us to give them more than justice could require, but justice demands that we must never give them less than due. No matter if they do not require justice at our hands, no matter if they are willing to take less than justice, no matter if they would say nothing if we should take advantage of them, no matter if they would not appreciate our degree of justice, still our course is the same. We have received of the Lord's Spirit, and must act from this standpoint and not from the standpoint of others who have not His spirit or who are more or less blinded and disabled from dealing justly.
LOVE AND JUSTICE BOTH CONTROL
If justice must mark our conduct toward others, so love must be used by us in measuring the conduct of others toward us. We may not apply to others the strict rules of justice which we acknowledge as our responsibility to them. Love, generosity, demands that we accept from others less than justice, because we realize that they are fallen, imperfect, not only in their flesh, but also in their judgments. Furthermore, we see that the great mass of the world has not received the spirit of the Lord at all, and therefore cannot appreciate these basic principles of justice and love as we appreciate them. We must in love look sympathetically upon their condition, as we would upon the condition of a sick neighbor, friend, parent or child. We must make allowance for their disordered condition, and think as charitably as possible of their words, conduct, etc.
This does not mean that we are to be blind or oblivious to true conditions, and permit ourselves to be deprived of all that we possess or earn; but it does mean that we should take a kind, sympathetic view of the unrighteousness and injustice of those with whom we have dealings. We should remember that they are fallen, and that they have not received the grace of God as we have received it; and that they are not, therefore, to be measured by the line of strict justice, but rather that their imperfections are to be allowed for reasonably by the elastic cord of love. It is our own conduct that we are to measure by the law of justice, the Golden Rule.
HOW LOVE MAY OVERFLOW THE MEASURE
How clearly the Master sets forth these conditions, urging upon us the Golden Rule as the measure for our conduct toward others, and that in measuring their conduct toward us we shall be as generous as we shall wish our Lord to be in His judgment of ourselves, in harmony with His statement, "With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged"! A right appreciation of these basic principles, justice and love, by the Lord's people, and worked out in the daily affairs of life, would lift them above the world. It would save many an altercation, many a law suit, many a quarrel, and would make of the Lord's people shining examples of kindness, generosity, love, and at the same time examples of justice, right living, sterling honesty, etc.
Love is not, like justice, an exact principle to be measured and weighed. It is three‑fold in character: it is pitiful; it is sympathetic, in the sense of kinship of soul – affectionate; it is reverential. These different forms of love are exercised according to the object upon which love is centered. Pity‑love is the lowest form of love; it takes cognizance of even the vile and degraded, and is active in measures of relief. Sympathetic love rises higher, and proffers fellowship, comradeship. But the reverential love rises above all these, and delights in the contemplation of the good, the pure and the beautiful. In this latter form we may indeed love God supremely, as the personification of all that is truly worthy of admiration and reverence; and love our fellow men in proportion as they bear His likeness. The Divine law demands love, both to God and to man.
Although we owe to every man, as a duty, love in one of these senses, we may not demand it one of another; but love overflows justice. Love shakes the measure, presses it down, heaps it up. The lack of love is not to be complained of by the Christian, however, but when bestowed it is to be appreciated gratefully and reciprocated generously. Every one who craves love should crave it in its highest sense ‑ in the sense of admiration and reverence. But this form of love is the most costly; and the only way to secure it is to manifest that nobility of character which calls it forth from others who are truly noble, truly like our Lord Jesus.
The love begotten of sympathy and fellowship is also very precious. But any sentiment that comes merely in response to a demand, is deprived of love's choicest aroma. Therefore never demand love, but rather by manifestation of it toward others court its reciprocation. The love of pity is not called out by the nobility of the subject, but rather by the nobility of the bestower, whose heart is so full of love that it overflows in generous impulses toward even the unworthy. All of the objects of pity, however, are not unworthy of love in the higher senses; and some such often draw upon our love in every sense.
A SELFISH, ONE‑SIDED VIEW
To demand love's overflow of blessing – which is beyond the claim of justice ‑ is only an exhibition of covetousness. We may act on this principle of love ourselves, but we may not claim it from others. If we do, we manifest a lack of love and the possession of a considerable measure of selfishness. Some seem to see clearly where brotherly love should be extended to themselves, but are slow to see their own obligations in this respect.
For instance, two brethren were once rooming together, and through a failure to consider the relative claims of both love and justice, one presumed upon the brotherly love of the other to the extent of expecting him to pay the entire rent of the room. When the other urged the claim of justice, the first urged the claim of brotherly‑love, and the former reluctantly yielded, not knowing how to refute the claim, yet feeling that somehow some Christians had less principle than many worldly people. How strange that any of God's children should take so narrow, so one‑sided, so selfish a view! Cannot all see that love and justice should work both ways; that it is the duty of each not to oversee others in these respects, but to look well to his own course, to see that he manifests brotherly love; and that if he would teach others, it should be rather by example than by precept?
LET LOVE REIGN SUPREME
Let us beware of a disposition toward covetousness. Let us each remember that he is steward over the Lord's goods entrusted to him, and not over those entrusted to his brother; that each is accountable to the Lord, and not to others, for the right use of that which the Master has placed in his hands. There is nothing much more unbecoming and unlovely in the children of God than a disposition to petty criticism of the individual affairs of one another. It is a business too small for the saints, and manifests a sad lack of that brotherly love which should be especially manifest in broad and generous consideration, which would rather cover a multitude of sins than to magnify one.
The Christian is to have the loving, generous disposition of heart ‑ a copy of the Heavenly Father's disposition. In trivial affairs he is to have so much sympathy and love that he will take no notice, just as God for Christ's sake deals with us and does not impute sin to us, except as it represents knowledge and willfulness. With such a rule operating amongst Christians, a determination not to recognize as an offense anything that is not purposely done, or intended as an offense, would be a great blessing to all, and the proper, God‑like course. The transgressions to which our Lord refers in Matthew 18:15‑17, are not the trivial affairs of no consequence, are not evil surmisings and imaginings, are not rumors, are not fancied insults, but positive wrongs done us, and on account of which it is our duty, kindly and lovingly and wisely, to give some proper rebuke – some intimation that we recognize the wrong and that it has grieved us and hurt us and needs correction.
The disposition to forgive should be with us always, and should be manifested by us at all times. Our loving generosity, our kindness and our desire to think no evil or as little evil as possible, should be manifest by all the words and acts of life. This is God‑like. God had a kind, benevolent, generous sentiment toward us even while we were yet sinners. Nor did He wait for the sinners to ask forgiveness, but promptly manifested His desire for harmony and His readiness to forgive. The whole Gospel message is to this effect: "Be ye reconciled to God." Our hearts should be so full of this disposition toward forgiveness that our faces would not have a hard look, nor our words of reproof a bitter sting. We should manifest the loving forgiveness that we should have in our hearts at all times.
May love and justice find their proper, relative places in the hearts of all of God's people, that so the enemy may have no occasion to glory! The Psalmist said, "O how I love thy law [the law of love whose foundation is justice]! It is my meditation all the day." (Psalms 119:97) Surely, if God's law were the constant meditation of all, there would be fewer and less glaring mistakes than we often see! Let us watch and be sober, that the adversary and our fallen flesh may not gain an advantage over us as new creatures. Let SELF be more and more eliminated and LOVE reign supreme.
(Pastor Russell, Reprints 5883‑5885, April 15, 1916)
AT EMEK HA'SHALOM HERMANN BEZNER AWAITS THE COMING OF THE MESSIAH
At the foot of Kibbutz Ramat ha'Shofet, bedded into hills, this little garden of Eden is situated. There, amidst lemon trees, the flowers and all the green, they tell you that peace will soon come to Israel and that the Messiah is standing on the threshold ‑ it is only a question of time, and we are extremely near that time.
At a time when Israel still laments the victims of the holocaust and their war dead, Hermann Bezner, the serious Bible‑scholar, speaks about a third catastrophe which is nearing very quickly. However after that period he asserts the madness and amok‑run of mankind will come to an end. The peoples will live with justice and fraternity... as the Prophet Jesaya had prophesied: "They will reforge their weapons into plough shares and they will not learn war anymore."
Hermann is 87 years old. Since twenty years he has been in this small paradise, cut off from the outside world. He leaves the place only if it is absolutely essential, and the people flock to him in thousands to listen to the message which he already recites almost automatically.
His posture is upright and erect, his white hair is carefully combed back. His hearing has greatly deteriorated. There is something in his bearing which does not allow you to interrupt his lecture.
He preaches his message in the German language with closed eyes. He does not understand Hebrew. He does not reply direct to questions. One must listen very carefully to hear the reply out of the lecture. Sometimes the question remains also hanging in the air.
Josef is standing next to him and translates into Hebrew. Josef is 40 years old and has been living for fifteen years in Emek ha'Shalom. He is Hermann's right hand and serves also as his ear and speaker.
Hermann's history with the People of Zion started in the year 1933 with the national‑socialistic Germany. The Nazis hated the Bible scholars more than the Jews, because of their faithful devotion to the Bible.
Together with other Bible scholars, he fled to Austria where he kept himself hidden for seven years in a small mountain farm. During those years Hermann and his friends already prophesied the end of the Nazi rule. Hence also his profound belief that the end of Israel's enemies was nearing. He knows it today as he knew it at that time.
In post‑war Austria he founded a supermarket in Vienna and so he lived until he saw that the moment had come to emigrate to Israel. In this country he met with Oscar Eder, a previous leader of the Hitler Youth who contended having been forced into the movement. At the end of the war, he tried to overcome this nightmare in Austria. However the peace of mind did not come. Burdened with self‑reproaches, he emigrated to Israel, converted to Judaism and his name into Hebrew. Oscar lived as a hermit in a rocky area not far from Yokneam.
Here, in 1967, Hermann decided to buy a plot of land to found the Valley of Peace. Oscar regarded him as mad and thought it would be impossible to make this rocky land fertile. Hermann replied to him that in Israel every square metre could be converted into fertile land. From nothing he started and he did not give up.
Now Hermann says some words to Josef in German. They go into the house, and for a moment it looks as though the interview had come to an end without further explanation. However both reappear, carrying a huge painting and putting it onto an easel. The picture is breath‑taking: green, very green, fruit trees, lions, leopards, sheep together on the pasture. A house with steps leading to a veranda, the columns of which being entwined by vines. We get up and stroll in front of the house through the surrounding gardens and back.
We are spellbound and can no longer distinguish where the painted paradise ceases and the real one begins. As though the painter had painted Emek ha'Shalom today, but this is not the case. A friend had painted the picture 57 years ago in Vienna for Hermann's birthday. So inspired was the painter that six decades ago he had foreseen the State of Israel and that Hermann for twenty years would translate the painting on the canvas into the desert, imperturbably convinced that it was the prophesied future for the whole of Israel.
It seems that it is within the power of this small valley to conquer the hate of the world.
Three events, the Bible scholars say, precede the People of Zion. Two labour pains lie already behind us – the First and the Second World Wars. The third, as a matter of fact, is already very near, or, more exactly, we are amidst its beginnings. Hermann accuses the leaders of the peoples that they keep silent about the new era which has come so near. They are incapable to perceive the time and, as scientists, they are intoxicated by the world spirit. The coming years will open the eyes of these men and will lead to an unpleasant awakening.
Only the coming of the Messiah will lead to the turning point. The prophecies have been disregarded; the earth has been transformed into desert; the rivers have been poisoned; dying forests and polluted air have been created, and wars are the main occupation.
"Ask him," I say to Josef, "why he has chosen such solitude. How can he be influential, if he does not seek contacts with the outside world?" Hermann does not reply, he is already tired and enters the house.
Josef tries hard and brings heavy albums and cuttings of press reports. He shows us that thousands are coming. Also today already more than over a hundred visitors have come. Often on Sabbats many hundreds. Uninterruptedly, numerous cars and busses. As usual, without prior warning. But how can they give prior notice? Admittedly, sometimes it is quite difficult to face these crowds. But always anew they convey the good message from face to face. In 1972 Josef came from Vienna to assist Hermann, joined him and remained. He studied Hebrew at the language course of Ramat ha'Shofet.
The District Administration will establish a training center in Emek ha'Shalom. For this reason, Emek ha'Shalom was transferred into State Ownership. By all means one wants to continue what has begun.
One has to admit that the place is extremely impressive. There is something messianic in these people and this place. If it is at all possible to define what "messianic" means.
According to Hermann's words, the Messiah will be Jesus. Because Jesus as a Jew has sacrificed himself for mankind.
Hermann and Josef do not attribute any significance to external formalities. With a gesture of his hand, Hermann negates all ideas of this kind. One should remove all these human additions, all these religious secondary considerations. The victim remains and the personality of the Messiah.
The evening comes to Emek ha'Shalom. From the house emanates the aroma of the supper which is being prepared by young friends who happen to stay here.
If Hermann's and Josef's prophecies will thus materialize, it remains only to say ''AMEN. I'
On our way home through the garden gate, we have the feeling to have been in a fairy film like "Mary Poppins" and that everything has become reality for a short hour.
It was not the rain on the way back which had
obliterated the vision. The reality did it!
(Newspaper report from Hermann Bezner)
LETTERS OF GENERAL INTEREST
Dear Ones: Grace and peace!
I have visited with an "X‑Jehovah's Witness' Group" in Virginia. Their purpose is to offer comfort to the disfellowshipped and to those who are disillusioned with the Witnesses. They place ads in various newspapers, listing phone numbers so that these Ex‑Witnesses can call for personal help, or hear a recorded message.
Their position toward Parousia Truth is not clear, but they have offered kind words about Pastor Russell, and have shown strong interest in his writings. I am doing my best to interest them in reading the Studies in the Scriptures. I gave them the book about Pastor Russell, by David Horowitz, which was well received. I am corresponding with Emily Hood, a member of the group. Below is a copy of the letter I wrote her.
The news articles were interesting and very revealing. You need not consider yourselves "stupid" for joining the Jehovah's Witnesses as they have enough Truth to attract anyone of sincere faith, and enough error to repel anyone of sincere faith once that error is manifest.
In answer to your question about John 1:1, I quote from Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 5, p. 69, under the heading of "God" and "Lord" in the New Testament:
''In the New Testament the matter is clarified by the use of less words. It may be said that nothing whatever in the words used distinguishes the Father from the Son in the words rendered Lord and God. The matter is left often to the judgment of the reader, and indicated often by the form of the sentence, especially where the word Theos is used contrastedly in a sentence the Greek article is used, so as to give the effect of the God in contrast with a God. An illustration of this is found in John 1: 1 – 'The Word was with the God [ho theos] and the Word was a God [theos]...'"
Although the Scriptures make mention of many "gods" and many “lords" (1 Cor. 8:5; 2 Cor. 4:4; Ps. 97:7,9; Ex. 12:12, 15:11, 18:11; Deut. 10:17; Josh. 22:22; Ps. 95:3, 96:4; Ex. 7:1, 22:28; Ps. 82:6; John 10:34,35; Ps. 110:1) this does not conflict with the doctrine of One God as expressed in Is. 45:18, 46:9, and 45:5. The thought in these verses is that Jehovah alone is the Eternal, Supreme ruler of the universe and no other creature can occupy this position. See also Ps. 83:18.
"Theos" simply means "mighty one" and is a very general term applicable to any spirit being or powerful creature. In 1 Cor. 8:5 "gods" is from "theos" or "Theoi" (plural). In 2 Cor. 4:4 "gods" is also from 'theos’ even though the reference here is to Satan. In John 10:34 Jesus calls the saints "gods" (theoi). From these and similar verses we can see that any "mighty ones" whether human, angelic, or Divine, can properly be called "gods." Therefore it is proper to think of our Lord Jesus as "a God" (theos) since He is surely a “mighty one,” the mightiest next to Jehovah, and much more than a mere angel as the Witnesses believe (Heb. 1:1‑6; Phil. 2:9‑11).
That Jesus received the Divine Nature at His resurrection (John 5:26) is not proof that He is the Eternal God because the Glorified Church also receives the Divine Nature (2 Peter 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:53; 1 John 3:2).
In John 20:28 Thomas does not call Jesus Jehovah but rather, as the context shows, he was startled to learn that Jesus had been resurrected and let out an exclamation similar to "Praise God" or "Hallelujah."
St. Paul summarizes our belief by saying "As there be gods many, and lords many, but to us there is but one [supreme] God, the Father, of whom are all things... and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things..." (1 Cor. 8:5,6)
I am preparing some answers to your "Questions for Jehovah's Witnesses" and hope to send them soon.
Once again, "Grace and Peace to all," -------------- (NORTH CAROLINA)
Dear Brethren: Grace and peace!
Even though you don't hear from me very often, I keep up with your good work by reading the papers, which I find helpful and interesting. It is a blessing to know the Truth and recognize that we are in that great Time of Trouble forecast in Daniel 12:1 and prophesied by our Lord in Matt. 24:21. So we know why all the crime and calamities are permitted by our Lord, and realize we can have no real peace until that glorious Kingdom is inaugurated.
I note, with pleasure, the book about PASTOR CHARLES TAZE RUSSELL is getting the publicity and acclaim it deserves. It was "due time" for Pastor Russell's name and teaching to be again brought to public knowledge. God always selects the right man for His purposes. It seems most appropriate this time it was a Jew ‑ David Horowitz. The Jews will be more prominent than they are today when the peoples will learn the Truth: The "Word of the Lord" (Is. 2:3) will go forth from Jerusalem for the healing of the nations and all peoples.
It appears that several Bible Student groups have publicized the Pastor Russell book, and also other Christian magazines have publicized the book in their literature. However, the Laymen's Home Missionary Movement has not publicized the book in their magazines – The Present Truth and The Bible Standard. This is surprising as David Horowitz has published articles written by the LHMM brethren. It would seem they would be happy to publicize David Horowitz' book, especially as it is all about Pastor Russell.
Be assured of my warm Christian love and prayers as you "Continue in the things thou hast learned and been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them." (2 Tim. 3:14) The Lord continue to bless and guide you.
Faithfully yours, ------- (MISSOURI)
Dear Sister Hoefle,
I have finished reading "Thy Kingdom Come" and am looking forward to reading the "Battle of Armageddon, and the last two volumes of Studies in the Scriptures.
Of the two books you sent me about Pastor Russell, I gave one of them to a friend I work with who has been studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses. Also her mother is an ax‑Witness and she found the book helpful to her.
I would also like to receive the United Israel Bulletin, which was referred to often in the Pastor Russell book. I feel Jehovah answered my prayers as to the right road to take. I have been helped by the literature you have sent me. I only wish there was a meeting place in my area. If there are any within 100 miles of my area I would be willing to make the trip.
Also if you have available Nos. 121, 130, and 4, could you send them to me? I am enclosing a little something to help you in your work.
Sincerely, ------- (MICHIGAN)
Dear Mr. Horowitz:
A friend of mine has loaned me a book – PASTOR CHARLES TAZE RUSSELL, which is very interesting. I would like to add it to my library! If you would be so kind as to send me a couple of copies, I will be most appreciative. You may send them COD, or I will send a check upon receipt.
Sincerely, -------------- (CALIFORNIA)