A “Garden of Eden” for the Sake of His Name
1, 2. In the twentieth century B.C.E. what portion of the land of Palestine was like the “garden of Jehovah,” and how did the land of the Kingdom of Judah become like a jungle?
IN THE twentieth century before our Common Era, at least a portion of the land of Palestine looked like the garden of Eden in which the Creator placed the first man, Adam.
2 Genesis 13:10 tells us: “So Lot raised his eyes and saw the whole District of the Jordan, that all of it was a well-watered region before Jehovah brought Sodom and Gomorrah to ruin, like the garden of Jehovah.” (Genesis 2:7-15) Four hundred years later the Promised Land of Palestine was still beautiful, like a “decoration” on our earth. Jehovah spoke of it as “a land that I had spied out for them [the Israelites], one flowing with milk and honey. It was the decoration of all the lands.” (Ezekiel 20:5, 6) That included what became the territory of the Kingdom of Judah, of which Jerusalem was the capital. The Babylonian conquest of the land of Judah in 607 B.C.E. resulted in the land’s being left desolate, without human inhabitant and domestic animal. It became like a jungle. (Micah 3:12; Jeremiah 26:17, 18) Would it ever again be transformed into a land like the garden of Eden?
3, 4. After Jerusalem’s destruction, what heartwarming message concerning the land did Jehovah give to Ezekiel, and when did the enemies speak about the spiritual estate of His anointed remnant, as in Ezekiel 36:1, 2?
3 Shortly after Jewish exiles in Babylon had learned from a fugitive firsthand that Jerusalem had been struck down by the Babylonians, Jehovah gave the heartwarming assurance that the now desolated land of Judah would not always lie thus without man or domestic animal. He would lift the reproach off his name and would magnify his name by what he would miraculously do for that land. To his faithful prophet Ezekiel he said: “And as for you, O son of man, prophesy concerning the mountains of Israel, and you must say, ‘O mountains of Israel, hear the word of Jehovah. This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: “For the reason that the enemy has said against you, ‘Aha! Even the high places of old time—as a possession it has become ours!’”’”—Ezekiel 36:1, 2.
4 That is the way the worldly enemies talked against the spiritual estate of the anointed remnant of spiritual Israel after this estate had been desolated by religious persecution and suppression during World War I. Christendom was then ready to take over the whole religious field during the postwar period, to the exclusion of the downtrodden remnant of spiritual Israelites. But Jehovah had other thoughts and said prophetically through Ezekiel:
5. Into what condition had the various features of the land of Israel come, and what was the attitude of the remaining nations toward the land?
5 “Therefore prophesy, and you must say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: “For the reason, even for the reason that there has been a lying desolate and a snapping at you from all sides, in order for you to become a possession to the remaining ones of the nations and you continue being talked about with the tongue and there is a bad report among people, therefore, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah! This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said to the mountains and to the hills, to the stream beds and to the valleys and to the devastated places that were laid desolate and to the abandoned cities that have come to be for plunder and for ridicule to the remaining ones of the nations that are round about; therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said,
6. How did Jehovah say that he would address himself to such nations?
6 “‘“‘Certainly in the fire of my zeal I will speak against the remaining ones of the nations and against Edom, all of it, those who have given my land to themselves as a possession with the rejoicing of all the heart, with scorn in the soul, for the sake of its pasture ground and for the plunder.’”’”—Ezekiel 36:3-5.
7, 8. What was Jehovah’s will concerning the land, how would he have to speak in order to block the greedy efforts of the nations against his will, and so what would the land of Edom become?
7 By repeated reference to himself Jehovah leaves no room for question as to who is speaking. The enemy nations right around the desolated land of Judah had their own selfish purpose regarding the vacant territory, but He, Jehovah, had another and different purpose. Those nations showed their hatred of Jehovah by coveting the desolated land of His exiled people, but he had decreed that the land should keep a sabbath of being unoccupied and unworked for seventy years. (2 Chronicles 36:19-21; Daniel 9:2) Those self-seeking nations had to be blocked in carrying out their greedy efforts against Jehovah’s will. This obliged Jehovah to speak, not just with words but more fully with deeds, “against the remaining ones of the nations and against Edom, all of it,” in the fire of his zeal for his name and his cause. This would fulfill, for instance, what he had said in the previous chapter against Edom and its mountainous region of Seir:
8 “Indefinitely lasting desolate wastes are what I shall make you, and your own cities will not be inhabited; and you people will have to know that I am Jehovah. . . . A desolate waste is what you will become, O mountainous region of Seir, even all Edom, all of it; and they will have to know that I am Jehovah.”—Ezekiel 35:9, 15.
9. Must the land of Israel lie desolate as long as the land of Edom, and what has the land of Israel borne that obliges Jehovah to speak?
9 The land of Jehovah’s exiled people was to lie desolate with no Edomites and no other enemy nationalities plundering its abandoned cities and using its pasture ground. Yes, “desolate” the land must lie, but not forever as the land of Edom was decreed to lie. “Therefore,” said Jehovah to his prophet Ezekiel, “prophesy concerning the soil of Israel, and you must say to the mountains and to the hills, to the stream beds and to the valleys, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: “Look! I myself in my zeal and in my rage must speak, for the reason that humiliation by nations is what you have borne.”’”—Ezekiel 36:6.
10. By the end of World War I, why was Jehovah displeased at the way enemy religionists (particularly those of Christendom) had acted, and why should the spiritual estate of his spiritual Israel have been respected?
10 Jehovah was enraged at the way the enemy nations were humiliating the “soil of Israel” because he had permitted it to be desolated in the punishment of the Israelites because of their bloodguiltiness and idolatry. To no less degree was Jehovah displeased at the close of World War I in 1918 C.E. because of the way that the enemy religionists, particularly those of Christendom, were talking about the religious estate of Jehovah’s dedicated people (spiritual Israel). They had desolated that estate by persecution and high-handed action during the hysterical days of mankind’s first world war. True, there was some faultiness on the record back there of his remnant of spiritual Israelites, but still their religious estate ought to be respected. Why? Because it was connected with His holy name and his name ought to be respected, not misrepresented. How, then, would he speak in his zeal and rage in postwar times? Would there be any beautification again of the spiritual estate of the spiritual Israelites who were devoted to His name? Listen:
11. In Ezekiel 36:7-12, what did Jehovah say to the mountains of Israel as to whether they would be beautified again?
11 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘I myself have raised my hand in an oath that the nations that you have round about—they themselves will bear their own humiliation. And you yourselves, O mountains of Israel, will give forth your very own boughs and bear your own fruitage for my people Israel, for they have drawn near to the point of coming in. For here I am in favor of you, and I shall certainly turn toward you, and you will actually be cultivated and sown with seed. And I will multiply upon you humankind, the whole house of Israel, all of it, and the cities must become inhabited, and the devastated places themselves will be rebuilt. Yes, I will multiply upon you humankind and animalkind, and they will certainly multiply and become fruitful, and I shall actually cause you to be inhabited as in your former condition and I will do more good than in your initial state; and you will have to know that I am Jehovah. And upon you I will cause humankind to walk, even my people Israel, and they must take possession of you, and you must become a hereditary possession to them, and you will not bereave them again of any more children.’”—Ezekiel 36:7-12.
GREATER BEAUTIFICATION OF THE SPIRITUAL ESTATE
12. What kind of guarantee is Jehovah’s swearing with an oath to his statement of purpose, and what fulfillment of prophecy was there in 537 B.C.E., but what humiliation came upon enemy nations?
12 When Jehovah raises his hand in an oath and swears to anything that he purposes to do, it is impossible for it to fail of coming true. (Hebrews 6:17, 18) The solid facts of history prove that Jehovah’s sworn words were fulfilled upon the land of Judah after its lying desolate without man and domestic animal ended in 537 B.C.E. (Ezra 1:1 to 3:7) But as for Edom, before the desolation of the land of Judah ended, the prophecy of Jeremiah 25:15-21 went into fulfillment upon this age-old enemy of Israel, when the king of Babylon subjugated the land of Edom in 602-601 B.C.E. Later, according to the movement of the tides of history, the Edomites became a displaced people and, after the second destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the Edomites ceased to exist as a people. Other enemy nations that had rejoiced at the desolating of Judah bore their own respective humiliation at the hand of the king of Babylon. (Jeremiah 25:21-24) A divine retribution!
13. As regards her predictions and hopes concerning the remnant of spiritual Israelites, how did Christendom undergo a great humiliation in 1919 C.E.?
13 In the modern outworking of Ezekiel’s prophecy, Christendom with its hundreds of religious sects underwent a great humiliation in 1919 C.E. How so? Because the humiliating things that she had predicted and hoped for against the persecuted remnant of spiritual Israelites failed to be realized. The spiritual estate of these spiritual Israelites did not continue desolate, but in that year it began to become alive with them as they fearlessly renewed their worldwide work of witnessing to Jehovah’s kingdom.—Matthew 24:14.
14. In view of what threat was there a swell in Christendom’s membership, but what happened to her membership according to the 1969 report, and what did American Roman Catholics report in 1970?
14 Because of the increased threat of world domination by atheistic communism, Christendom was recommended by democratic politicians as a powerful religious buffer against the menacing tide of international communism. At length, according to the Britannica Book of the Year 1968 church membership of Christendom swelled up to a maximum number of 977,383,000 Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox church members and Protestants. But the very next year Christendom reportedly experienced a decline, noticeably so! According to the Britannica Book of the Year 1969 (page 647) Christendom’s membership dropped to 924,274,000. This is a drop back to less than the total of 933,055,000 as estimated for the year 1963.* The following two years (1970 and 1971) no recovery of the loss was reported, no new figures being given. Indicative of what is actually taking place, however, the New York Times, under date of May 21, 1970, under the bold headlines “Catholics Report Drop in U.S. Rolls, First This Century,” stated the following:
The Roman Catholic Church in the United States experienced its first decline in membership in this century, according to figures released in the latest edition of The Official Catholic Directory.
The new total of members of the Church is 47,872,089 a decrease of 1,149 below the figure of a year ago, according to the 1970 edition of the statistical compilation issued by P. J. Keney & Sons of New York.
. . .
As for the seminaries, the total enrollments there were down to 17,317, a drop of 2,256, and there were a total of 118 of the diocesan seminaries, 19 fewer than in the preceding year. . . .
In the meantime the world population has exploded to more than 3,552,000,000.
15. What question, though, is asked about the population on the symbolic “mountains” of the spiritual estate of the “Israel of God”?
15 How, though, about the symbolic “mountains” of the spiritual estate of the “Israel of God” since the end of World War I in 1918? By the population thereof do such “mountains” now have reason to know that Jehovah is in favor of them and that the One who swore to his good word of promise with an oath is really Jehovah? Let these symbolic “mountains of Israel” recall their own recent history.
16. How was desolation brought upon the public activities of the remnant of spiritual Israel in 1918, but what occurred in the following year?
16 At the time that the government of Canada banned the book The Finished Mystery in February of 1918 and then this Bible commentary was withdrawn from circulation in March of 1918 because of the United States government’s censorship, there were 7,000 members of the anointed remnant that were actively engaged in circulating this book and other Watch Tower Society publications by personally going from house to house. (See The Watch Tower as of September 15, 1919, page 281, paragraph 3; and March 1, 1918, page 78.) Shortly thereafter there was a desolating of the public activities of the remnant of spiritual Israel on the “mountains of Israel.” But in the following year (1919) the desolated condition was brought to a halt, and those “mountains” began to be repeopled with a courageous revived remnant of spiritual Israelites.
17. From then onward, what took place upon the “mountains” of the spiritual estate of spiritual Israel, and how have the spiritual Israelites shown that they know the Doer of this to be Jehovah?
17 From then onward there was a steady increase in the active spiritual Israelites upon those mountains of their spiritual estate, enjoying the rich fruitage with which Jehovah blessed their restored relationship with Him. In the year 1928 there were 44,080 of the remnant who were reporting an active part in the proclamation of the good news of Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom. By that time they knew that the Divine One who was doing such wonderful things for them in spite of worldwide opposition was Jehovah. After the question was raised in the Watch Tower issue of January 1, 1926, page 3, “Who will honor Jehovah?” they responded: “We will do so.” This decision they backed up with vigorous action. They appreciated that the time had come for Jehovah to “make an indefinitely lasting name for his own self.” (Isaiah 63:12; 2 Samuel 7:23) Realizing more keenly than ever that he was taking out of all nations a “people for his name,” the anointed remnant saw good to identify themselves before all the world by the name drawn from the Holy Scriptures, Jehovah’s witnesses.—Isaiah 43:10; 44:8.
18. In 1935 who began to become active with the anointed remnant of the symbolic “mountains of Israel,” and today how have those “mountains” more reason than ever before to “know that I am Jehovah”?
18 By the year 1935 the “great crowd” of the Fine Shepherd’s “other sheep” began to get associated with the anointed remnant of spiritual Israelites and thus became active upon the symbolic “mountains of Israel.” Consequently the number active in the preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom rose to 59,047 in 1938, this including a number of those “other sheep.” (John 10:16; Revelation 7:9-17) Even the worldwide persecutions during World War II did not bereave the symbolic “mountains of Israel” of its population or even reduce it, for at the close of World War II in 1945 there were 127,478 world wide who were announcing Jehovah’s established Messianic kingdom. In the years since then the growth each year of the population on those symbolic “mountains of Israel” has been steady, until in February of this year 1971 there were 1,502,180 who reported a share in the worldwide witness to God’s name and kingdom. It has been truly from Jehovah that humankind has been multiplied upon those “mountains of Israel,” and today, more than ever, they have reason to know “that I am Jehovah.”
19. As regards the symbolic “mountains of Israel” becoming a “hereditary possession” of restored spiritual Israel, what question arose as to occupancy thereof as well as to their identifying name?
19 So since 1919 the remnant of spiritual Israel has taken possession of those “mountains of Israel,” and these have become a “hereditary possession to them.” (Ezekiel 36:12) They have shared the Kingdom fruitage and privileges of this spiritual estate with the increasing “great crowd” of sheeplike ones whom the reigning King, Jesus Christ, is now separating from the goatlike people of all the nations. (Matthew 25:31-46) When the name, Jehovah’s witnesses, was first embraced by the anointed remnant in the year 1931, the question arose in the mind of many worldly observers: “Will the name stick?” Likewise, another question called for an answer: “Will the spiritual estate pictured by the ‘mountains of Israel’ prove to be too difficult a responsibility and hardship for the anointed remnant of spiritual Israelites to occupy and hold? Especially so in the postwar period with its atheistic communism, Fascism and Nazism, dictators, militant ‘Catholic Action,’ nationalism, Brain Age intellectualism, irreligiousness and lowered moral standards.”
20, 21. Because of the pressures of such worldly things, what question arose as to how the “mountains” would deal with their occupants, and what assurance did Jehovah give in addressing those “mountains”?
20 Would the pressures from such worldly things in this age of anarchy and violence cause the restored spiritual Israelites to disappear from their newly occupied spiritual estate, as if they were devoured, swallowed up by invading aggressors or by a famine in their land? No! This post-restoration spiritual estate was certain to retain and sustain a faithful remnant of spiritual Israelites. Of this their God gave the assurance in these prophetic words addressed to the land of Israel:
21 “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘For the reason that there are those saying to you: “A devourer of humankind is what you yourself are, and a land bereaving your nations of children is what you have become,”’ ‘therefore humankind you will no more devour, and your nations you will no more bereave of children,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. ‘And I shall cause no further humiliating talk by the nations to be heard concerning you, and reproach by peoples you will bear no more, and your nations you will no more cause to stumble,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.”—Ezekiel 36:13-15.
22, 23. How had the land of Canaan gained a bad reputation as a devourer of its inhabitants, and how did Jehovah remove that “reproach” both in the case of natural Israel and in the case of spiritual Israel?
22 The land of Canaan had a bad reputation respecting the destruction of its peoples as if being devoured by the land. (Numbers 13:32) When Jehovah brought the Israelites into the land of Canaan in 1473 B.C.E. and they proceeded to destroy seven nations, it was as if the land ate up, devoured those inhabitants.
23 In 607 B.C.E. the king of Babylon conquered the land of Judah and deported many hundreds of surviving Jews and the land became desolate without man and domestic beast. It again appeared as if the land had devoured its inhabitants and had bereaved the nation of the Kingdom of Judah of its children just as earlier, in 740 B.C.E., it had bereaved the nation of the Kingdom of Israel of its children. But by Jehovah’s special blessing and protection the once desolated land was not to have another experience like this in connection with the remnant of faithful Israelites that were restored from exile in Babylon in 537 B.C.E. and thereafter. So too it has been with the spiritual estate to which a remnant were restored in the postwar year of 1919 C.E. They are still there, alive, fruitful, multiplying.
HAVING COMPASSION ON HIS HOLY NAME
24, 25. Was it because of their own worthiness or merit that such divine goodness came upon Jehovah’s remnant, and how does He explain the matter in Ezekiel 36:16-21?
24 Was it because of their own worthiness or merit that all such divine goodness came upon the typical remnant in 537 B.C.E. and afterward and upon the antitypical remnant in 1919 C.E. and afterward? No! Why not? Because they had made their former God-given estate unclean by bloodshed and idolatry. Hence Jehovah explains:
25 “And the word of Jehovah continued to occur to me, saying: ‘Son of man, the house of Israel were dwelling upon their soil, and they kept making it unclean with their way and with their dealings. Like the uncleanness of menstruation their way has become before me. And I proceeded to pour out my rage upon them on account of the blood that they had poured out upon the land, which land they had made unclean with their dungy idols. And I proceeded to scatter them among the nations, so that they were dispersed among the lands. According to their way and according to their dealings I judged them. So they came in to the nations where they came in, and people proceeded to profane my holy name in saying with reference to them, “These are the people of Jehovah, and from his land they have gone out.” And I shall have compassion on my holy name, which the house of Israel have profaned among the nations where they have come in.’”—Ezekiel 36:16-21.
26. Israel’s going as exiles out of their own land gave what appearance to Jehovah, so affecting his name in what way, and why did he have to show self-respect also in the case of His modern-day remnant?
26 Because the Israelites had gone out from Jehovah’s land as exiles, it appeared that Jehovah, their professed God, was not able to protect them against their enemies. This brought reproach upon his holy name. It caused the Gentile nations to speak profanely of his name. Similarly when the anointed remnant of spiritual Israelites were brought into bondage to Babylon the Great and her political and military paramours during World War I, it made it seem as if they as members of the International Bible Students Association were not genuine Christians. It seemed as if the true God was not on their side and was not protecting them. This brought reproach upon the name of the God of the Bible to whom they were truly dedicated as baptized disciples of Christ. Hence Jehovah was obliged to show self-respect by having compassion on his own name. It was a holy name and did not deserve to be profaned by worldlings. Because he had a devoted remnant who were connected with his name, then whatever he did in compassion on his name would call for compassion on that remnant.
27, 28. For the sake of whom or what was Jehovah bringing the Israelites back onto their own soil, and what relationship would then exist between Him and them?
27 That his own holy name and its reputation was the main thing to be taken into account, God made plain to Ezekiel, saying:
28 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: “Not for your sakes am I doing it, O house of Israel, but for my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have come in.”’ ‘And I shall certainly sanctify my great name, which was being profaned among the nations, which you profaned in the midst of them; and the nations will have to know that I am Jehovah,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘when I am sanctified among you before their eyes. And I will take you out of the nations and collect you together out of all the lands and bring you in upon your soil. And I will sprinkle upon you clean water, and you will become clean; from all your impurities and from all your dungy idols I shall cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I shall put inside you, and I will take away the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And my spirit I shall put inside you, and I will act so that in my regulations you will walk, and my judicial decisions you will keep and actually carry out. And you will certainly dwell in the land that I gave to your forefathers, and you must become my people and I myself shall become your God.’”—Ezekiel 36:22-28.
29. For the sake of what did Jehovah restore his anointed remnant in 1919, and how did it become apparent that He was their liberator and restorer?
29 Not for any worthiness on their part, but for the sake of his own holy name Jehovah restored the anointed remnant of spiritual Israel to their privileged estate in 1919 C.E., soon after World War I ended. This surprised the nations of Christendom and of heathendom. It became evident to them that the Lord God was acting in favor of them after all. And when they plainly made public that the name of their God is Jehovah (as on page 14 of The Harp of God, published in 1921),* then the nations had no excuse for not knowing who the liberator and restorer of the remnant of spiritual Israelites was. Then Jehovah’s declaration of purpose that applies to nations who profaned God’s name because of what happened to the spiritual Israelites went into effect:
30. What divine purpose of international importance then went into effect?
30 “‘And the nations will have to know that I am Jehovah,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘when I am sanctified among you before their eyes.’”—Ezekiel 36:23, NW; AS.
31. Despite what procedure on the part of modern Bible translators has the divine name become more widely known?
31 Evidently because the divine name has become so prominently connected with Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, translators in Christendom who are bringing out new, modern versions of the Holy Bible omit the name Jehovah, almost or altogether, and substitute for it the word “GOD” or “the LORD.” Nonetheless, the name of Jehovah becomes more widely known because He has sanctified it among his remnant of spiritual Israelites before the eyes of the Gentile nations inside and outside Christendom.
32. How have Jehovah’s dedicated people endeavored to sanctify his name among the nations, and what have nations that tamper with his faithful people found out?
32 The nations are being shown that Jehovah has produced a dedicated people who regard His name as so holy, so sacred, so worthy of reverence, that they seek to keep it from reproach due to any misconduct on their part; rather, they seek to do all things for the glory of His name. So they choose to obey Him as Ruler rather than men when there is any conflict between God’s law and laws framed by God-ignoring men. (Acts 5:29) When the nations harass and persecute the people whom Jehovah has taken out for his name, these nations find that they have an embarrassing problem on their hands. They find that when they use their political power to frame “trouble by decree,” frame “mischief by a law” against the people bearing Jehovah’s name, this legal subterfuge does not work out in the end and Jehovah makes it public that he has no alliance or fellowship with such troublemakers. (Psalm 94:20, NW; AV; Zechariah 12:2-4) No nation can unrighteously tamper with His faithful witnesses without having eventually to reckon with Jehovah.
33. How has Jehovah cleansed his restored remnant, even from “dungy idols,” and what kind of “heart” has he given them?
33 As the impurities of menstruation are washed away with clean water, so Jehovah has cleansed his restored remnant from religious uncleanness by his cleansing agencies, like sprinkling clean water upon them. Since he has cleansed them from the “dungy idols” of this worldly system of things, how consistent it is for them to refuse to idolize political, military or religious dignitaries or to make idolatrous gestures and attitudes toward images, statues or emblems! He has taken away from them any stoniness of heart and given them a “heart of flesh” that has love and affection to move them to keep his judicial decision and to walk in his regulations.
34. What does the “new spirit” that he has given to them produce, and to what extent has he become their God?
34 He has put a “new spirit,” that is, “my spirit,” inside them, so that they produce the fruitage of His spirit such as “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control,” against which things there is no divine law. (Galatians 5:22, 23) As baptized followers of his Son Jesus Christ they have indeed become Jehovah’s people, and he has become their God to whom their exclusive devotion is given.—Ezekiel 36:25-28.
35. Jehovah promised to bless his restored people in what way, and why would their feelings show that it was not for their sakes that He did this?
35 In order to correct any misimpression that the nations got about Him because of his disciplining his people, Jehovah has thus abundantly blessed his restored remnant since 1919. It has been just as he prophetically promised through his prophet Ezekiel: “‘And I will save you from all your impurities and call to the grain and make it abound, and I shall put upon you no famine. And I shall certainly make the fruitage of the tree abound, and the produce of the field, in order that you may no more receive among the nations the reproach of famine. And you will be bound to remember your bad ways and your dealings that were not good, and you will be bound to feel a loathing at your own person on account of your errors and on account of your detestable things. Not for your sakes am I doing this,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘let it be known to you. Be ashamed and feel humiliation because of your ways, O house of Israel.’”—Ezekiel 36:29-32.
36. Because of such undeserved goodness to them, how do they feel respecting the things they did in the past, and for God’s letting what be known to them are they grateful?
36 Because of such divine goodness to them in their restored spiritual estate, the members of the anointed remnant feel a loathing of themselves when they look back at what they were in the past, taking note of their errors and bad dealings that were not glorifying to God’s name. It makes them ashamed, it makes them feel humiliated, just to think about it. This attitude takes away from them any inclination to engage in spiritual and immoral impurities once again, willingly. Thus, because of the effect that Jehovah’s undeserved kindness has upon them in their restored estate, he saves them from all their impurities. They keenly appreciate that it was not for any past goodness of theirs, not for their sakes, that, figuratively speaking, he called for the life-sustaining grain to sprout up from the ground and produce so abundantly, so that worldly nations cannot reproach them for having any famine of spiritual food and provisions. They are thankful for God’s letting it be known to them that for the sake of his holy name he has done all this for them. So in all humility they sanctify the name of Jehovah in their lives.
“LIKE THE GARDEN OF EDEN” WITH A POPULATION
37, 38. Consequently, what has the spiritual estate of the restored remnant now become, and how did Jehovah foretell this to Ezekiel?
37 Because of such divine compassion in behalf of Jehovah’s name, the spiritual estate of the restored remnant has become a spiritual Paradise. Informed observers who noted the transformation have acknowledged this. It is just as the name-respecting God has foretold, saying:
38 “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘In the day of my cleansing you from all your errors I will also cause the cities to be inhabited, and the devastated places must be rebuilt. And the desolated land itself will be cultivated, whereas it had become a desolate waste before the eyes of every passerby. And people will certainly say: “That land yonder which was laid desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the cities that were a waste and that were laid desolate and that were torn down are fortified; they have become inhabited.” And the nations that will be left remaining round about you will have to know that I myself, Jehovah, have built the things torn down, I have planted what has been laid desolate. I myself, Jehovah, have spoken and I have done it.’”—Ezekiel 36:33-36.
39. What does Ezra 3:1, 2 tell us about the start of the ancient fulfillment of that prophecy?
39 Regarding the start of the ancient fulfillment of that bright prophecy, it is written, in Ezra 3:1, 2: “When the seventh month [Tishri] arrived [at the close of the seventy years of desolation in 537 B.C.E.] the sons of Israel were in their cities. And the people began to gather themselves as one man to Jerusalem. And Jeshua the son of Jehozadak and his brothers the priests and [Governor] Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brothers proceeded to rise up and build the altar of the God of Israel, to offer up burnt sacrifices upon it, according to what is written in the law of Moses the man of the true God.” The Israelites that returned from Babylon then numbered 42,360, along with whom there came 7,337 slaves and some 200 to 245 professional singers. This amounted to almost 50,000 persons.—Ezra 2:64, 65; Nehemiah 7:66, 67.
40. What, corresponding with that first postexile gathering in Jerusalem, took place in 1919 C.E. concerning Jehovah’s restored people?
40 Likewise in the year 1919 of our Common Era, the release in March of eight prominent officials and agents of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society from the federal penitentiary at Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A., occurred as a symbol of the release of the International Bible Students from Babylonish bondage and oppression. The very next month, on Sunday night, April 13, many thousands of these dedicated Bible Students gratefully gathered together in their congregations around the world to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, that being the anniversary of Jesus’ instituting of this memorial of his death. Early reports from congregations that had an attendance of thirty or more in just eight European cities and 164 other cities in North and South America showed a total attendance of 17,961. Later additional reports were not published. (See The Watch Tower under date of May 15, 1919, page 151.) Later that year, on September 1-8, the first postwar general convention of the International Bible Students Association was held in Cedar Point, Ohio, U.S.A., attended by some 6,000 Bible Students. The public attendance was 7,000 on Sunday, September 7, 1919.
41. How did the figurative “cities” that had been desolated become “fortified” and “inhabited”?
41 The congregations of the restored remnant of spiritual Israelites were like the cities of ancient Israel. They became “fortified” especially by the better organization of them for actively carrying out Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24:14, to preach the good news of God’s established kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations. They became more fully fortified in the year 1938 when the centralized theocratic rule, rather than the local congregational rule, of organization was applied to all the congregations around the globe. The number of these fortified congregations and their inhabitants increased.
42. Why was it manifestly Jehovah that did this, and how was the presenting of the “fruits” of God’s kingdom amplified?
42 Jehovah himself was manifestly the One who did this, forasmuch as the nations of Christendom and of the world were in opposition to it or not cooperative with it. He was the One that blessed the spiritual estate of his restored remnant so that it became very fruitful and productive. To amplify the presenting of the “fruits” of God’s kingdom to all the inhabited earth, printing plants were established by the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society and enlarged in many parts of the earth for the production of Bible literature by the millions of copies in many languages, for the restored remnant to distribute free to the people or at a surprisingly small nominal contribution. The terrible havoc wrought by World War II of 1939-1945 did not decrease this.—Matthew 21:43.
43. Besides the “fruits” of God’s kingdom, in what other way did the congregation of Jehovah’s people become fruitful, and what were honest observers obliged to exclaim about their spiritual estate?
43 Not only did the offering of the “fruits” of the Kingdom increase by the expanding of the Kingdom preaching world wide, but the spirituality of the congregations grew also. Especially so after World War II, despite the now increased tempo in the demoralization of human society inside Christendom as well as outside. Among the congregations the “fruitage of the spirit” of God became more luxuriant with “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) This has become manifest not only in the local congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses but also in the more public gatherings, in circuit, district, national and international assemblies throughout the earth. In contrast with the dilapidated religious condition of Christendom, honest observers of the spiritual prosperity of the spiritual estate of Jehovah’s witnesses have been obliged to exclaim: “That land yonder which was laid desolate has become like the garden of Eden.” (Ezekiel 36:35) To whom is this due?
44. To whom was this transformation due, and who should take note of that fact?
44 The real credit for this goes, not to the anointed remnant and the “great crowd” of Christ’s “other sheep,” but to Jehovah. Long ago he had spoken of it prophetically. In our time He has done it. For the sake of his much-maligned Name he has transformed the once desolated spiritual estate of his anointed remnant into a spiritual Paradise, a “garden of Eden,” which, like the original garden of Eden in Adam’s day, is the planting of Jehovah. (Genesis 2:7-9) Let the nations of the world take note of that fact.
45. Through Ezekiel, what did Jehovah promise to do about the uninhabited cities of Judah, and what were the exiled Israelites then to do about this?
45 Back there in the days of the prophet Ezekiel in exile in Babylon this Paradisaic transformation of the desolated homeland was something yet to be sought and searched for, with decades of exile for them yet to undergo in Babylon. This state of affairs at that time is what God commented upon to his prophet Ezekiel, saying: “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘This is what I shall yet let myself be searched for by the house of Israel to do for them: I shall multiply them like a flock with men. Like a flock of holy persons, like the flock of Jerusalem in her festal seasons, thus the cities that had been a waste will become full of a flock of men; and people will have to know that I am Jehovah.’”—Ezekiel 36:37, 38.
46. As regards the prophecy of the repeopling of the cities of the land of Judah, how does the situation of the anointed remnant today contrast with that of the exiled Jews?
46 Back there, over two thousand five hundred years ago, that repeopling of the devastated cities of the land of Judah needed to be searched for from Jehovah by those exiled Jews who repented and who desired the fulfillment of Jehovah’s merciful promises, especially for the sanctifying and vindicating of his holy name. A number of those exiled Jews did survive and return to their homeland to see the realization of Jehovah’s promise to repopulate their beloved homeland. (Ezra 3:12) Today, in this twentieth century, we are decades removed from the liberation year of 1919. For the anointed remnant it is no longer a matter of searching for Jehovah to repopulate with holy persons the spiritual estate of the “Israel of God.” This is now an accomplished fact, and the end of the fulfillment of the prophecy is not yet.—Galatians 6:16.
47. How extensively have the congregations of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses increased, and how, as regards a “flock of holy persons,” is it manifest that He has done better for their spiritual estate than at its beginning?
47 On the six great continents above the Antarctic region and on the islands of the seven seas the number of congregations of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses has increased, in order to enjoy as widely as possible the spiritual estate, the spiritual Paradise, of the Christian Israel of God. In doing better or more good for the spiritual estate of his Christian witnesses than at its beginnings or in its “initial state,” Jehovah has filled it with a vast “flock of men.” (Ezekiel 36:11) As the twelve tribes of Israel used to flock to Jerusalem and its temple during the three “festal seasons” of the year (at Passover, at Pentecost, and at the festival of booths), so Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have enjoyed flocking together, not only to their local Kingdom Halls, but, in an amazing manner, to their regular circuit, district, national and international assemblies.
48. How is the case of the “Men of Goodwill” District Assemblies from June to December, 1970, an example of such flocking?
48 For instance, during the district assemblies designated as for “Men of Goodwill,” in the year 1970, the attendances surpassed expectations. At these district assemblies on all six continents the talk for the general public was mainly on the subject “Saving the Human Race—in the Kingdom Way.”* The attendances at these from June into December totaled over a million.
49. In what way of salvation, as stated by Peter to Jews on the day of Pentecost, do Jehovah’s Christian witnesses still believe?
49 Back in the year 33 C.E., at the festal season of Pentecost, at the beginning of the Christian congregation, the apostle Peter said to a flock of Jews who were interested in everlasting salvation: “And everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” (Acts 2:21; quoted from Joel 2:32) Jehovah’s Christian witnesses of today still believe in that unchangeable way of salvation.
50. How does God’s name become known through this flocking together of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, and what may be said about the people seeking life-giving association with them?
50 For that reason they not only flock together, but also make known the name of Jehovah as the divine Author of salvation through his Son Jesus Christ. (Romans 10:10-14) Otherwise, from just the flocking of His dedicated people it would not become known by the people that, as He said, “I am Jehovah.” But because the increasing flock of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses proclaim his name everywhere as the one name to call upon for salvation through Jesus Christ, more and more people are seeking the life-giving association with these witnesses. At the annual celebration of the Lord’s Supper on March 22, 1970, what was the attendance world wide? The total of reports received showed it to be 3,226,168. (Page 43 of 1971 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses) This was for over 26,000 congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses.
51. From a comparison of the published number of Kingdom proclaimers and the number of attenders at the Lord’s Supper, what is evident regarding Jehovah’s declared purpose, and why?
51 At the time of their celebrating that annual memorial of the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world,” there was just an average of 1,384,782 witnesses of Jehovah who were regularly proclaiming the good news of Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom in more than two hundred lands. From the difference between that number of active proclaimers and the worldwide attendance at the Lord’s Supper, it is evident that nearly two million persons were then experiencing what the accredited Doer of all these marvelous things foretold, namely, “people will have to know that I am Jehovah.” (Ezekiel 36:38) Beyond all contradiction this Jehovah has transformed the once desolated spiritual estate of his anointed witnesses, the present remnant of spiritual Israel, into a spiritual “garden of Eden,” and this He has done for the sake of his own worthy name.—Ezekiel 36:22.
See Britannica Book of the Year 1964, page 728, column 1.
The Harp of God reached a printing of 5,819,037 copies, in 22 languages. It is now out of print and out of stock.
In Freetown, Sierra Leone, Lagos, Nigeria, and in Nairobi, Kenya, Africa, the public talk was entitled “Restoration of All Things of Which God Spoke.”
[Graph on page 321]
Increase in number of proclaimers of GOD’S NAME
(Each person represents 100,000 proclaimers)
1971 1,502,180 (Feb.)