When President Bush addressed the nation to offer words of strength and comfort he chose to include the words of Psalm 23.
This utterly personal Psalm, composed by David, King of Israel, has so often been turned to as a source of comfort to people of many backgrounds and over many centuries. It concludes with these words:
"Surely goodness and loving-kindness themselves will pursue me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of Jehovah to the length of days." (Psalm 23:6)
On face value this says that the individual may look forward with confidence to being with God ("the house of Jehovah") for eternity.
This poses a problem for the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses. How so? Because they teach that all the faithful who lived prior to Jesus of Nazareth do not gain a resurrection to heaven but instead are resurrected to earth. So how could David write of dwelling "in the house of Jehovah to the length of days" i.e. forever?
This particular verse of Psalm 23 has seldom been commented on in WTS publications. Notice these comments however from The Watchtower, July 1, 1988 (pages 27-8):
“And I will dwell in the house of Jehovah to the length of days.” In David’s day God’s sanctuary was the tabernacle, for the temple had not yet been built. Since the psalmist had a gracious host in mind, ‘dwelling in Jehovah’s house’ meant having a good relationship with God as His guest. Today, that house can be identified with Jehovah’s holy temple, his arrangement for pure worship. King Solomon was privileged to construct the first material temple, richly ornamented with gold and built to honor Jehovah. What a great privilege it was to serve there! Although such a temple no longer exists, God has a holy organization to honor him and promote pure worship. As one means of doing this, Jehovah’s organization has established Bethel Homes in scores of countries. “Bethel” means “House of God,” and thousands of dedicated people serve in these theocratic centers. Some of these men and women have served in this way “to the length of days,” having spent most of their lives in Bethel service. Millions of others, not members of a Bethel family, are similarly determined to serve Jehovah forever.Notice that the 'organisation' has become the temple of Jehovah? Surprise, surprise!
No literal interpretation would 'fit' in with Witness theology, so a convoluted explanation transfers the reader's attention from the Psalmist's longing to be with his Father to a service in the Organisation; even serving at Bethel is spoken here as being what the Psalmist had in mind!!
How difficult it becomes when the Bible has to 'interpreted'. How much more satisfying it is to read it on its own merits without the 'coloured filters' of Watchtower beliefs.
President Bush rightly sought to bring comfort to his people by using these wonderful words.
"It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."