“No Resident Will Say: ‘I Am Sick’”
“ALL creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now.” So said the apostle Paul. (Romans 8:22) Despite advances in medical science, sickness and death continue to plague the human race. How wonderful, then, the promise that climaxes this part of Isaiah’s prophecy is! Imagine the time when “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” (Isaiah 33:24) When and how will this promise be fulfilled?
2 Isaiah is writing at a time when God’s covenant people are sick spiritually. (Isaiah 1:5, 6) They have plunged so deeply into apostasy and immorality that they need severe discipline from Jehovah God. Assyria serves as Jehovah’s “rod” to administer that discipline. (Isaiah 7:17; 10:5, 15) First, the northern ten-tribe kingdom of Israel falls to the Assyrians in the year 740 B.C.E. (2 Kings 17:1-18; 18:9-11) A few years later, King Sennacherib of Assyria launches an all-out attack on the southern kingdom of Judah. (2 Kings 18:13; Isaiah 36:1) As the Assyrian juggernaut sweeps through the land, Judah’s complete annihilation seems inevitable.
3 But Assyria, going beyond its mandate to discipline God’s people, is now pursuing its own greedy ambition for world conquest. (Isaiah 10:7-11) Will Jehovah allow its brutal mistreatment of his people to go unpunished? Will there be a healing of the nation’s spiritual illness? In Isaiah chapter 33, we read Jehovah’s answers to these questions.
Despoiling the Despoiler
4 The prophecy begins: “Woe to you who are despoiling, without you yourself being despoiled, and to you who are dealing treacherously, without others having dealt treacherously with you! As soon as you have finished as a despoiler, you will be despoiled. As soon as you have done with dealing treacherously, they will deal treacherously with you.” (Isaiah 33:1) Isaiah directly addresses the despoiler, Assyria. At the peak of its power, that aggressive nation seems unbeatable. It has ‘despoiled without being despoiled,’ ravaging the cities of Judah, even stripping the house of Jehovah of its wealth—and doing so with seeming impunity! (2 Kings 18:14-16; 2 Chronicles 28:21) Now, though, the tables will be turned. “You will be despoiled,” Isaiah boldly declares. How comforting this prophecy is to faithful ones!
5 During that frightening period of time, loyal worshipers of Jehovah will need to turn to him for help. Isaiah thus prays: “O Jehovah, show us favor. In you we have hoped. Become our arm [of strength and support] every morning, yes, our salvation in the time of distress. At the sound of turmoil peoples have fled. At your arising nations have been dispersed.” (Isaiah 33:2, 3) Appropriately, Isaiah prays that Jehovah deliver His people as He has done many times in the past. (Psalm 44:3; 68:1) And no sooner does Isaiah offer this prayer than he foretells Jehovah’s answer to it!
6 “The spoil of you people [the Assyrians] will actually be gathered like the cockroaches when gathering in, like the onrush of locust swarms that is rushing against one.” (Isaiah 33:4) Judah is familiar with devastating insect invasions. This time, though, it is Judah’s enemies that will be devastated. Assyria will suffer a humiliating defeat, and its soldiers will be forced to flee, leaving behind a great spoil for the inhabitants of Judah to collect! It is only fitting that Assyria, known for its cruelty, will experience being despoiled.—Isaiah 37:36.
The Modern-Day Assyrian
7 How does Isaiah’s prophecy apply in our day? The spiritually sick nation of Israel can be compared to unfaithful Christendom. Just as Jehovah used Assyria as a “rod” to punish Israel, so he will use a “rod” to punish Christendom—as well as the rest of the world empire of false religion, “Babylon the Great.” (Isaiah 10:5; Revelation 18:2-8) That “rod” will be member nations of the United Nations—an organization pictured in Revelation as a seven-headed, ten-horned, scarlet-colored wild beast.—Revelation 17:3, 15-17.
8 When the modern-day Assyrian rampages throughout the realm of false religion, it will appear to be unstoppable. With an attitude like that of Sennacherib, Satan the Devil will be emboldened to strike out—not only against apostate organizations deserving of punishment but also against true Christians. Alongside the remaining ones of Jehovah’s anointed spiritual sons, millions who have come out of Satan’s world, which includes Babylon the Great, take their stand for Jehovah’s Kingdom. Angered at the refusal of true Christians to pay him homage, “the god of this system of things,” Satan, will launch an all-out attack against them. (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ezekiel 38:10-16) As terrifying as this attack will no doubt be, Jehovah’s people will not need to cower in fear. (Isaiah 10:24, 25) They have assurance from God that he will be their “salvation in the time of distress.” He will intervene, bringing devastation upon Satan and his crowd. (Ezekiel 38:18-23) Just as in ancient times, those trying to despoil God’s people will themselves be despoiled! (Compare Proverbs 13:22b.) Jehovah’s name will be sanctified, and survivors will be rewarded for having sought “wisdom and knowledge [and] the fear of Jehovah.”—Read Isaiah 33:5, 6.
A Warning to Faithless Ones
9 What, though, will be the fate of faithless ones in Judah? Isaiah paints a grim picture of their impending doom at the hands of Assyria. (Read Isaiah 33:7.) Judah’s military “heroes” cry out in fear at the Assyrian advance. “Messengers of peace,” diplomats sent to negotiate peace with the warlike Assyrians, face mockery and humiliation. They will weep bitterly over their failure. (Compare Jeremiah 8:15.) The brutal Assyrian will not pity them. (Read Isaiah 33:8, 9.) He will ruthlessly ignore covenants he has made with the inhabitants of Judah. (2 Kings 18:14-16) The Assyrian will ‘contemn the cities’ of Judah, viewing them with contempt and scorn, having no regard for human life. The situation will be so devastating that the land itself will, as it were, mourn. Lebanon, Sharon, Bashan, and Carmel will likewise mourn over the desolation.
10 Similar circumstances will no doubt develop in the near future as the nations begin their assault on religion. As in Hezekiah’s day, physical resistance to these destructive forces will be futile. Christendom’s “heroes”—its politicians, financiers, and other people of influence—will be unable to come to her aid. Political and financial ‘covenants,’ or agreements, designed to protect Christendom’s interests will be violated. (Isaiah 28:15-18) Frantic attempts to stave off destruction by diplomacy will fail. Commercial activities will come to a halt, as Christendom’s properties and investments are confiscated or destroyed. Any who still have friendly feelings toward Christendom will do little more than stand at a safe distance and mourn her passing. (Revelation 18:9-19) Will true Christianity be swept away with the false? No, for Jehovah himself gives this assurance: “‘Now I will rise up,’ says Jehovah, ‘now I will exalt myself; now I will lift myself up.’” (Isaiah 33:10) Finally, Jehovah will intervene in behalf of faithful ones, like Hezekiah, and halt the Assyrian’s advance.—Psalm 12:5.
11 The unfaithful cannot count on such protection. Jehovah says: “You people conceive dried grass; you will give birth to stubble. Your own spirit, as a fire, will eat you up. And peoples must become as the burnings of lime. As thorns cut away, they will be set ablaze even with fire. Hear, you men who are far away, what I must do! And know, you who are nearby, my mightiness. In Zion the sinners have come to be in dread; shivering has grabbed hold of the apostates: ‘Who of us can reside for any time with a devouring fire? Who of us can reside for any time with long-lasting conflagrations?’” (Isaiah 33:11-14) These words evidently apply to the time when Judah faces a new enemy, Babylon. After the death of Hezekiah, Judah reverts to her wicked ways. Over the next few decades, conditions in Judah deteriorate to the point where the entire nation has to suffer the fire of God’s anger.—Deuteronomy 32:22.
12 Wicked plans and schemes hatched by disobedient ones to avert God’s judgment prove to be of no more substance than stubble. In fact, the proud, rebellious spirit of the nation will actually trigger the events leading to its destruction. (Jeremiah 52:3-11) Wicked ones will “become as the burnings of lime”—utterly destroyed! As they contemplate this impending doom, the rebellious inhabitants of Judah experience a sickening dread. Jehovah’s words to unfaithful Judah illustrate the situation of Christendom’s members today. If they do not heed God’s warning, a grim future awaits them.
“Walking in Continual Righteousness”
13 By way of contrast, Jehovah next says: “There is one who is walking in continual righteousness and speaking what is upright, who is rejecting the unjust gain from frauds, who is shaking his hands clear from taking hold on a bribe, who is stopping up his ear from listening to bloodshed, and who is closing his eyes so as not to see what is bad. He is the one that will reside on the heights themselves; his secure height will be craggy places difficult to approach. His own bread will certainly be given him; his water supply will be unfailing.” (Isaiah 33:15, 16) As the apostle Peter later expresses it, “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off.” (2 Peter 2:9) Jeremiah experienced such deliverance. During the Babylonian siege, people had to “eat bread by weight and in anxious care.” (Ezekiel 4:16) Some women even ate the flesh of their own children. (Lamentations 2:20) Yet, Jehovah saw to it that Jeremiah was kept safe.
14 Christians today must likewise ‘walk in continual righteousness,’ daily observing Jehovah’s standards. (Psalm 15:1-5) They must ‘speak what is upright’ and reject lying and untruth. (Proverbs 3:32) Fraud and bribery may be common in many lands, but they are repugnant to one “walking in continual righteousness.” Christians must also keep “an honest conscience” in business dealings, studiously avoiding shady or fraudulent schemes. (Hebrews 13:18; 1 Timothy 6:9, 10) And one who has ‘stopped up his ear from listening to bloodshed and closed his eyes so as not to see what is bad’ will be selective in his choice of music and entertainment. (Psalm 119:37) During his day of judgment, Jehovah will protect and sustain his worshipers, who live by such standards.—Zephaniah 2:3.
Beholding Their King
15 Isaiah next gives this glowing glimpse of the future: “A king in his handsomeness is what your eyes will behold; they will see a land far away. Your own heart will comment in low tones on a frightful thing: ‘Where is the secretary? Where is the one that does the paying out? Where is the one counting the towers?’ No insolent people will you see, a people too deep in language to listen to, of a stammering tongue without your understanding.” (Isaiah 33:17-19) The promise of the future Messianic King and his Kingdom will sustain faithful Jews during the long decades of exile in Babylon, even though they can see that Kingdom only from afar. (Hebrews 11:13) When Messiah’s rule finally becomes a reality, the Babylonian tyranny will be a distant memory. Survivors of the attack of the Assyrian will happily ask: “Where are the tyrant’s officers, who taxed us, charged us, took our tribute?”—Isaiah 33:18, Moffatt.
16 Although Isaiah’s words guarantee a restoration from Babylonian captivity, individual Jewish exiles will have to await the resurrection to enjoy the complete fulfillment of this part of the prophecy. What about God’s servants today? Since 1914, Jehovah’s people have been able to “behold,” or discern, the Messianic King, Jesus Christ, in all his spiritual beauty. (Psalm 45:2; 118:22-26) As a result, they have experienced deliverance from the oppression and control of Satan’s wicked system. Under Zion, the seat of God’s Kingdom, they enjoy true spiritual security.
17 Isaiah continues: “Behold Zion, the town of our festal occasions! Your own eyes will see Jerusalem an undisturbed abiding place, a tent that no one will pack up. Never will its tent pins be pulled out, and none of its ropes will be torn in two. But there the Majestic One, Jehovah, will be for us a place of rivers, of wide canals. On it no galley fleet will go, and no majestic ship will pass over it.” (Isaiah 33:20, 21) Isaiah assures us that God’s Messianic Kingdom cannot be uprooted or destroyed. Moreover, such protection clearly extends to faithful Kingdom supporters on earth today. Even if many individuals are put to severe tests, subjects of God’s Kingdom are assured that no effort to destroy them as a congregation can possibly succeed. (Isaiah 54:17) Jehovah will protect his people in the way that a moat or canal protects a city. Any enemy coming up against them—even one as powerful as a “galley fleet” or a “majestic ship”—will face destruction!
18 Why, though, can lovers of God’s Kingdom feel so confident of divine protection? Explains Isaiah: “Jehovah is our Judge, Jehovah is our Statute-giver, Jehovah is our King; he himself will save us.” (Isaiah 33:22) Jehovah accepts the responsibility of protecting and directing his people, who recognize his position as Supreme Sovereign. These willingly submit to his rule through his Messianic King, recognizing that Jehovah has the authority not only to make laws but also to enforce them. However, because Jehovah is a lover of righteousness and justice, his rule, through his Son, is not a burden to his worshipers. Rather, they ‘benefit themselves’ by submitting to his authority. (Isaiah 48:17) He will never abandon his loyal ones.—Psalm 37:28.
19 Isaiah tells enemies of Jehovah’s faithful people: “Your ropes must hang loose; their mast they will not hold firmly erect; they have not spread a sail. At that time even spoil in abundance will have to be divided up; the lame ones themselves will actually take a big plunder.” (Isaiah 33:23) Any approaching enemy will prove to be as ineffective and helpless against Jehovah as a warship with loose rigging, a wobbling mast, and no sail. The destruction of God’s enemies will result in so much spoil that even disabled ones will share in taking plunder. We can therefore be confident that through the King Jesus Christ, Jehovah will triumph over his enemies in the coming “great tribulation.”—Revelation 7:14.
20 This section of Isaiah’s prophecy concludes with a heartwarming promise: “No resident will say: ‘I am sick.’ The people that are dwelling in the land will be those pardoned for their error.” (Isaiah 33:24) The sickness that Isaiah speaks of is primarily spiritual, for it is connected with sin, or “error.” In the first application of these words, Jehovah promises that after their release from Babylonian captivity, the nation will be healed spiritually. (Isaiah 35:5, 6; Jeremiah 33:6; compare Psalm 103:1-5.) Having been forgiven for their former sins, the returning Jews will reestablish pure worship in Jerusalem.
21 However, Isaiah’s prophecy has a modern fulfillment. Jehovah’s people today have also enjoyed a spiritual healing. They have been liberated from such false teachings as the immortality of the soul, the Trinity, and hellfire. They receive moral guidance, freeing them from immoral practices and helping them to make good decisions. And thanks to the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, they have a clean standing before God and enjoy a clean conscience. (Colossians 1:13, 14; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 4:10) This spiritual healing has physical benefits. For example, avoiding immoral sex and the use of tobacco products protects Christians against sexually transmitted diseases and certain forms of cancer.—1 Corinthians 6:18; 2 Corinthians 7:1.
22 Moreover, there will be a grander fulfillment of the words of Isaiah 33:24 after Armageddon, in God’s new world. Under the rulership of the Messianic Kingdom, humans will experience a great physical healing along with their spiritual healing. (Revelation 21:3, 4) Shortly after the destruction of Satan’s system of things, miracles like those that Jesus performed while on earth will no doubt take place on a global scale. The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk! (Isaiah 35:5, 6) This will allow all survivors of the great tribulation to share in the grand work of bringing the earth to a paradisaic condition.
23 Later, when the resurrection begins, those coming back to life will no doubt be raised with good health. But as the value of the ransom sacrifice is applied to an increasing extent, more physical benefits will ensue, until mankind is lifted to perfection. Then, righteous ones will “come to life” in the fullest sense. (Revelation 20:5, 6) At that time, in both a spiritual and a physical way, “No resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” What an exciting promise! May all true worshipers today resolve to be among those who will experience its fulfillment!
1. Why are the words of Isaiah 33:24 comforting?
2, 3. (a) In what way is the nation of Israel sick? (b) How does Assyria serve as God’s “rod” of discipline?
4, 5. (a) What reversal will Assyria experience? (b) What prayer does Isaiah offer on behalf of Jehovah’s people?
6. What will happen to Assyria, and why is this fitting?
7. (a) Who today can be compared to the spiritually sick nation of Israel? (b) Who will serve as Jehovah’s “rod” to destroy Christendom?
8. (a) Who today can be compared to Sennacherib? (b) Who will the modern-day Sennacherib be emboldened to attack, and with what outcome?
9. (a) What will Judah’s “heroes” and “messengers of peace” do? (b) How will the Assyrian respond to peace initiatives from Judah?
10. (a) How will Christendom’s “heroes” prove to be ineffective? (b) Who will protect genuine Christians during Christendom’s day of distress?
11, 12. (a) When and how do the words of Isaiah 33:11-14 find fulfillment? (b) Jehovah’s words give what warning for today?
13. What promise is made to one “walking in continual righteousness,” and how was it fulfilled in Jeremiah’s case?
14. How can Christians today keep “walking in continual righteousness”?
15. What promise will sustain faithful Jewish exiles?
16. Since when have God’s people been able to “behold” the Messianic King, and with what result?
17. (a) What promises are made regarding Zion? (b) How are Jehovah’s promises regarding Zion fulfilled on the Messianic Kingdom and on its supporters on earth?
18. What responsibility does Jehovah accept?
19. How does Isaiah describe the ineffectiveness of enemies of Jehovah’s faithful people?
20. God’s people will experience what kind of healing, and when?
21. In what ways do Jehovah’s worshipers today experience spiritual healing?
22, 23. (a) What grand fulfillment will Isaiah 33:24 have in the future? (b) What is the resolve of true worshipers today?
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Isaiah prays confidently to Jehovah
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Thanks to the ransom sacrifice, Jehovah’s people have a clean standing before him
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In the new world, there will be a great physical healing