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Saturday, January 9, 2010

‘Upon the Watchtower I Am Standing’

“And he proceeded to call out like a lion: ‘Upon the watchtower, O Jehovah, I am standing constantly by day, and at my guardpost I am stationed all the nights.’”—ISAIAH 21:8.

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A GOD-FEARING 21-year-old man living in the northeastern United States had a mission. It was his goal to expose the false religious teachings of his day, especially the doctrines of eternal torment and predestination. Also, he wanted to champion the truth about the ransom and the object and manner of Christ’s coming. How would he do all of this? By shining the light of God’s Word, the Holy Bible, on religious beliefs.—Psalm 43:3; 119:105.

Charles T. Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, was that man, and he decided in 1873 to publish religious literature as a means of bringing the light of Bible truth into focus. To sincere readers, those publications would reveal the cracks in Christendom’s dogmas. Any hidden doctrinal defects would not escape the Bible’s powerful light. (Ephesians 5:13) At the same time, this literature would spotlight ‘healthful teaching’ to build up the faith of readers. (Titus 1:9; 2:11; 2Timothy 1:13) Did the zeal for Bible truth that drove Russell in his quest have a precedent?—Compare 2 Kings 19:31.

Early Christians: Champions of God’s Word

The first-century Christians championed the use of God’s Word among the Jews and the Gentiles. They stood as if stationed on a watchtower, heralding forth the truth to all who would hear. (Matthew 10:27) Their Leader, Jesus Christ, set the pace. He said: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) Although perfect, he refused to rely on his own wisdom or personal opinions. Rather, his teachings originated with his Superior Teacher, Jehovah God. “I do nothing of my own initiative,” he told a group of Jews. “But just as the Father taught me I speak these things.” (John 8:28; see also John 7:14-18.) According to the Gospel accounts of his earthly ministry, Jesus quoted (or spoke parallel thoughts) from about one half of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures.—Luke 4:18, 19 (Isaiah 61:1, 2); Luke 23:46 (Psalm 31:5).

Even after his death and resurrection, Christ was still using God’s Word to teach the truth. For example, when Cleopas and his companion were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Jesus helped those disciples reason on the Scriptures. The account states: “And commencing at Moses and all the Prophets he interpreted to them things pertaining to himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27) Later that same day, Jesus appeared to the 11 apostles and some of his disciples to build up their faith. How? By the skillful use of the Scriptures. Luke writes: “Then he [Jesus] opened up their minds fully to grasp the meaning of the Scriptures, and he said to them: ‘In this way it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from among the dead on the third day.’”—Luke 24:45, 46.

Following its Exemplar, in the year 33 C.E. the Christian congregation began its public ministry with the use of the Scriptures. The setting: an open area outside a house in Jerusalem. After hearing the sound of “a rushing stiff breeze” upon this house, a crowd of thousands of Jews of Jerusalem and Jewish pilgrims are drawn to this place and assembled. Peter steps forward—the 11 other apostles are around him—and with a powerful voice he begins to speak: “Men of Judea and all you inhabitants of Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give ear to my sayings.” Then pointing out “what was said through the prophet Joel” and what “David says,” Peter explains the miracle that has just taken place and that “God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.”—Acts 2:2, 14, 16, 25, 36.

When the early Christians needed clarifying information on faith and conduct, the first-century governing body also made good use of the Scriptures. For example, at the meeting of the governing body in the year 49 C.E., the disciple James, acting as chairman, focuses their attention on a pertinent scripture found at Amos 9:11, 12. “Men, brothers, hear me,” he says. “Symeon has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written.” (Acts 15:13-17) The entire body concurred with James’ proposition and then put their scripturally based decision in written form so that it could be delivered to all the congregations and read by them. What were the results? The Christians “rejoiced over the encouragement,” and “the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.” (Acts 15:22-31; 16:4, 5) Thus, the early Christian congregation became “a pillar and support of the truth.” But what about modern history? Would C. T. Russell and his associate Bible students imitate this fine, first-century example? How would they champion the truth?—1 Timothy 3:15.

Magazines With a Far-Reaching View

July 1879 saw the birth of Russell’s principal vehicle for Bible enlightenment —Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. Its first issue laid out the magazine’s noble purpose: “As its name indicates, it aims to be the lookout from whence matters of interest and profit may be announced to the ‘little flock,’ and as the ‘Herald of Christ’s Presence,’ to give the ‘meat in due season’ to the ‘household of faith.’” Trust in almighty God was the magazine’s cornerstone. Its second issue stated: “‘Zion’s Watch Tower’ has, we believe, JEHOVAH for its backer, and while this is the case it will never beg nor petition men for support. When He who says: ‘All the gold and silver of the mountains are mine,’ fails to provide necessary funds, we will understand it to be time to suspend the publication.”

Zion’s Watch Tower, now The Watchtower, has been published continuously for more than 107 years. It has grown from a monthly magazine of 6,000 copies printed in one language to a semimonthly magazine of 12,315,000 copies available in 103 languages.—Compare Isaiah 60:22; Zechariah 4:10.

The title, Watch Tower, was an apt choice by Russell. The word usually used in the Hebrew Scriptures for “watchtower” means “lookout” or “observation point,” from which a guard could easily spot an enemy in the distance and sound an advance warning of the approach of danger. Suitably, then, for its first 59 years of publication, the title page carried this challenging quotation from Isaiah 21:11, 12, King James Version: “Watchman, What of the Night?” “The Morning Cometh.”

The posted watchman of Isaiah’s prophecy was due to step forward shortly. Amid the earth’s prevailing wicked state of gloom, Russell had gladly broadcast the good news of “the morning” to come. Jesus Christ’s Millennial Reign of peace is the theme of a welcome bulletin. But before “the morning” arrives, the class serving as a watchman—the remnant of spiritual Israel today—boldly warns of the progress of “the night,” which will reach its darkest point in “the war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon.—Revelation 16:14-16.

Earlier, in Isaiah 21:8, we are introduced to this faithful watchman with these words: “And he proceeded to call out like a lion: ‘Upon the watchtower, O Jehovah, I am standing constantly by day, and at my guardpost I am stationed all the nights.’”

Picture in your mind a watchman stationed on a high tower, bending forward, scanning the horizon during the daylight, straining to pierce the darkness during the night—always on the alert. You now have the main idea conveyed by the Hebrew word for “watchtower” (mits‧peh′) as used in Isaiah 21:8. Since the watchman is so vigilant, who in his right mind would doubt his ringing report? Likewise today, the watchman class has exerted itself by searching through the Scriptures to see what Jehovah has in store for this system of things. (James 1:25) This watchman then calls out that message loudly and fearlessly, principally through the pages of The Watchtower. (Compare Amos 3:4, 8.) This magazine will never shrink in fear from championing the truth!—Isaiah 43:9, 10.

- March 1, 1987 Watchtower, WTB&TS