Many Nations Go to the City of Divine Favor
1. For the would-be fasters, what was the good news from Jehovah through Zechariah?
HERE IS the good news—for the would-be fasters of almost twenty-five centuries ago, and for those of today: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth month, and the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month will become for the house of Judah an exultation and a rejoicing and good festal seasons.’”—Zechariah 8:19.
2 Such a change meant indeed a change in the mental attitude of the members of the restored “house of Judah” away back there in the sixth century B.C.E.—and of us today! As a background for such a radical change in viewpoint and conduct, there had to be a great change in the set of circumstances that are involved. Also, since it was predicted and thus decreed by their God, there had to be a merciful expression of divine favor toward them. It was just as King David, who captured Mount Zion and Jerusalem, stated matters in his own case: “I shall exalt you, O Jehovah, for you have drawn me up and you have not let my enemies rejoice over me. You have changed my mourning into dancing for me; you have loosened my sackcloth, and you keep me girded with rejoicing.”—Psalm 30:1, 11.
3. This change in the set of circumstances would come about because of what feeling on Jehovah’s part toward his worshipers and toward their enemies?
3 How this was to come about was told to the prophet Zechariah, just after the question of fasting by the restored Jews had come up. On this we read Jehovah’s first statement of a series in Zechariah’s account: “And the word of Jehovah of armies continued to occur, saying: ‘This is what Jehovah of armies has said, “I will be jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and with great rage I will be jealous for her.”’” (Zechariah 8:1, 2) Jehovah’s feelings in this regard would be like those of a man whose wife had been abused, outraged, by his enemies. Since he had not rejected Mount Zion (or, Jerusalem) in complete abandonment of her, he would be very zealous, earnestly active in recovering her from the disgraced state into which she had been brought before the eyes of the world. He would be very vigilant in safeguarding her interests and demonstrating that she had been reinstated in his favor. Whereas this meant divine favor to her, it meant rage against those who had disgraced her and those who were trying to hinder her complete recovery, especially as a worshiper of Jehovah. His zeal for this would equal in degree his rage upon his enemies.
4. Had Jehovah by that time fully returned to Jerusalem, and when was such a full return possible for Him?
4 For seventy years, while the deported Jews were exiles in Babylon, the city of Jerusalem and the land of Judah had lain desolate, without man or domestic animal. In 537 B.C.E. Jehovah of armies proved true to his word and brought back to their homeland the repentant remnant. But in a sense Jehovah had not then fully returned to Mount Zion or Jerusalem. He had brought them back to build a second temple for his worship at Jerusalem. For sixteen years they had permitted the enemies to suppress the building of that holy house of worship, and now, when Jehovah here spoke by his prophet Zechariah, the temple was still not completed or inaugurated into divine service. So, not until that temple had its culminating feature, its headstone, put in place and was inaugurated by his priests, yes, not until then would Jehovah have fully returned to the holy city. First then would he be taking up residence in her by taking up residence in the Most Holy of the finished temple, by His spirit.
5. According to Jehovah’s declaration, what was Jerusalem yet to be called as a city, and also Jehovah’s mountain?
5 Hence now comes the second divine promise introduced by the declaration “This is what Jehovah [of armies] has said,” as a formal introduction: “This is what Jehovah has said, ‘I will return to Zion and reside in the midst of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem will certainly be called the city of trueness, and the mountain of Jehovah of armies, the holy mountain.’”—Zechariah 8:3.
6. Why was Jerusalem’s mountainous elevation to be called “the holy mountain,” and she herself called “the city of trueness”?
6 The completed temple would sanctify the mountainous height of Jerusalem, and this elevation would consequently be called “the holy mountain.” Because Jerusalem as the provincial capital of Judah had thus proved true to her commitment to the worship of Jehovah and had put the interests of his pure worship first and ahead of all else, Jerusalem would be correctly called “the city of trueness.” The true worship would be practiced in her. The truths of the pure and undefiled worship of the true God would be spoken in her. Her mountainous location would be called “the mountain of Jehovah.” How much this promise of God means to us today!
7. According to Jehovah’s third promise, what was to indicate the life expectancy of Jerusalem’s people, and what was to mark her public squares?
7 But that was not all, for now comes a third promise of divine favor: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘There will yet sit old men and old women in the public squares of Jerusalem, each one also with his staff in his hand because of the abundance of his days. And the public squares of the city themselves will be filled with boys and girls playing in her public squares.’”—Zechariah 8:4, 5.
8. That prophetic picture borders on the fulfillment of what prophecy in chapter sixty-five of Isaiah?
8 What a delightful picture this is of good physical health and peace and security and of a good population growth, unmarred by the sorrowful early death of infants! It borders on the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy as delivered more than one hundred and twenty-five years before the seventy-year-long desolation of Jerusalem and the land of Judah without man and domestic animal:
“For here I am creating new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart. But exult, you people, and be joyful forever in what I am creating. For here I am creating Jerusalem a cause for joyfulness and her people a cause for exultation. And I will be joyful in Jerusalem and exult in my people; and no more will there be heard in her the sound of weeping or the sound of a plaintive cry.
“No more will there come to be a suckling a few days old from that place, neither an old man that does not fulfill his days; for one will die as a mere boy, although a hundred years of age; and as for the sinner, although a hundred years of age he will have evil called down upon him. And they will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat their fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eating. For like the days of a tree will the days of my people be; and the work of their own hands my chosen ones will use to the full. They will not toil for nothing, nor will they bring to birth for disturbance; because they are the offspring made up of the chosen ones of Jehovah, and their descendants with them.”—Isaiah 65:17-23.
9. How does the spiritual estate on earth of Jehovah’s worshipers compare with the worldly nations as to peace and security today?
9 In these days, since the faithful remnant of spiritual Israel was restored to its God-given spiritual estate in the year 1919 C.E., what do we find? The political nations of the earth are putting on a show of trying to maintain world peace and security by means of the United Nations with now a membership of 132 member countries, but there is little security anywhere on earth. Also, the peace of all mankind is constantly under threat of nuclear warfare by the superpowers of the nations, democratic and communistic. However, within the spiritual estate of Jehovah’s worshipers there are to be found blessed peace and security. Even though the spiritual remnant has been joined, particularly since 1935 C.E., by a “great crowd” of dedicated, baptized disciples of Christ from “all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues,” yet there is no international rivalry or tension or conflict among them. Instead, brotherly love, the fruitage of God’s spirit, prevails among them.
10. How can we see a fulfillment of Jehovah’s promise in Zechariah 8:4, 5 in a physical sense and in a spiritual sense?
10 Since the end of World War I in 1918 till now it has been well over fifty years, and yet a number of the original remnant that survived the afflictions of that trialsome period have lived on, yes, even through World War II. By now they have literally grown old physically, yes, some even using a staff or cane when walking, because of the ‘abundance of their days.’ And many of these have raised up children, rearing them in the worship of the one living and true God. But, when we look for a spiritual fulfillment of this charming prophecy, we can see how the ‘old men and women sitting in the public squares of Jerusalem’ picture the members of the remnant of spiritual Israel who passed through the persecutions and disciplining of the first world war. The “boys and girls playing in her public squares” picture those members of that remnant whom Jehovah of armies added to the spiritual remnant from the postwar year of 1919 and onward. Together both old and young grow spiritually in faith, hope and love while enjoying together the peace and security of their spiritual estate.
11. Back there, what did it require to expect fulfillment of such a prophecy, and so what did Jehovah’s fourth declaration say?
11 At first it took tremendous faith to believe that such things would take place, and accordingly it took faith to hold fast to the newly restored organization of Jehovah’s worshipers. God showed that he realized how his people felt about the matter, when he made his fourth statement of promise, saying to his repatriated remnant: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Although it should seem too difficult in the eyes of the remaining ones of this people in those days, should it seem too difficult also in my eyes?’ is the utterance of Jehovah of armies.”—Zechariah 8:6.
12. How did Jehovah aid the surviving remnant as to organization and discernment of issues, and according to today’s realities was fulfillment of the promise too hard for Jehovah?
12 At the beginning of the work in 1919 C.E. to restore and to expand the pure and undefiled worship of Jehovah of armies, it was indeed difficult for the restored remnant to discern and appreciate all the marvelous things that Jehovah purposed to accomplish toward them and through them during this “conclusion of the system of things,” this “time of the end.” But patiently, little by little he corrected their understanding of the prophecies and their attitude toward theocratic organization. He directed them and protected them in the Christian work that was to be done in this most momentous time. He helped them to discern the issues that confronted a Christian worshiper of Jehovah amid the international struggle for domination of the world. More than that, he helped them to take the Biblical stand on such issues so as to abide in His favor. A half century ago what we now see accomplished within and by means of His theocratic organization seemed too difficult of realization in the eyes of the small remnant of spiritual Israel. But did it prove to be too difficult for Jehovah of armies? Today’s realities say No!
13. In contrast with loss of membership for Babylon the Great, what did Jehovah say in his fifth promise?
13 As we examine the facts of today when the multitudinous religious systems of Babylon the Great are losing members to the attractions of this modern world, we note that God has irresistibly carried out his fifth utterance of promise: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Here I am saving my people from the land of the sunrise and from the land of the setting of the sun. And I shall certainly bring them in, and they must reside in the midst of Jerusalem; and they must become my people, and I myself shall become their God in trueness and in righteousness.’”—Zechariah 8:7, 8.
14. According to promise, to where has Jehovah gathered those of the spiritual remnant, and into what?
14 In obedience to the divine commands through Jesus Christ, the restored remnant of spiritual Israelites has proclaimed the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom in all the inhabited earth and for a witness to all the nations. They have endeavored to make disciples of Christ from people of all the nations, baptizing them in water according to Christ’s own example and teaching these disciples what Christ commanded as the one to whom Jehovah God had given all necessary power in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20) From the Far East and from the Far West the final members of the “holy nation” of spiritual Israel have been gathered, under angelic guidance. But not to the earthly Jerusalem that stands as the capital of the Republic of Israel. To where, then? To the God-given spiritual estate of the “Israel of God” on earth, and into a unity of theocratic organization and a unity of activity and of pure worship of Jehovah at His spiritual temple.—Galatians 6:15, 16.
SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY TO BE NOTICED BY NATIONS
15, 16. (a) In proof that they have become his people and He their God, what does he do? (b) According to Jehovah’s sixth declaration, what had been the economic condition and social state of the restored remnant?
15 The real God proves just who are his accepted people by the way he favors them in the fulfillment of his prophetic promises. He proves that He, the Bible God, has become their God by showing trueness to his prophecies and to his covenant with them and by doing what is righteous for their sakes. Yes, he counts them as righteous in His sight, forgiving them through the ransom sacrifice of His High Priest, Jesus the Messiah. In harmony with this, He favors his restored remnant with spiritual prosperity to such an extent that peoples of the nations take notice of it and speak of it as a fine example of blessedness. So in God’s sixth statement of promise, he tells of a change of action on his part:
16 “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Let the hands of you people be strong, you who are hearing in these days these words from the mouth of the prophets, on the day on which the foundation of the house of Jehovah of armies was laid, for the temple to be built. For before those days there were no wages for mankind made to exist; and as for the wages of domestic animals, there was no such thing; and to the one going out and to the one coming in there was no peace because of the adversary, as I kept thrusting all mankind against one another.’
17. What change of conditions would now take place, and therefore how would the nations change their speech about the restored remnant?
17 “‘And now I shall not be as in the former days to the remaining ones of this people,’ is the utterance of Jehovah of armies. ‘For there will be the seed of peace; the vine itself will give its fruitage, and the earth itself will give its yield, and the heavens themselves will give their dew; and I shall certainly cause the remaining ones of this people to inherit all these things. And it must occur that just as you became a malediction among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I shall save you, and you must become a blessing. Do not be afraid. May your hands be strong.’”—Zechariah 8:9-13.
18. Why would it have been inconsistent for Jehovah to bless the restored remnant while they were letting the temple work go unfinished for fear of men?
18 These divine words remind us that the temple of Jerusalem was not yet finished at Jerusalem. About two years before this, work had been resumed at the foundation of the temple by the remnant from all the tribes of Israel, from the “house of Judah and house of Israel.” Such work had been taken up anew under the stimulation and encouragement of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. (Haggai 2:10-19; Zechariah 1:1-7; Ezra 4:23 to 5:2) Up till that time the temple work had lain dormant for about sixteen years. If Jehovah had blessed them and prospered them materially during all those years of neglect of his temple, it would have appeared that it did not matter with him whether his house of worship was brought to completion and into use or not. He had prophesied that that second temple would be constructed at Jerusalem. He had liberated the remnant of Jewish exiles from Babylon that they might return to their homeland specifically to rebuild His temple. (Isaiah 44:26 to 45:6) How could he bless them when they feared men and ceased from building His house of worship and took up materialism?
19. Why was there no peace from outside nor peace inside, and what did the remnant need to do in behalf of a change?
19 During those years when the restored exiles were neglecting their commission from God and were not seeking to magnify Jehovah of armies by completing a temple to His name, conditions in Jerusalem and the province of Judah were bad, not only spiritually but also materially, economically. There was unemployment for man and domestic animal. Weather conditions hurt their growing crops and cut down on their harvests. Hostile neighbor nations interfered with their affairs religiously and otherwise. There was no peace among themselves as fellow Israelites because of their pursuing each one his own selfish, materialistic aims. Evidently God’s indignation was against them. In repentance they needed to return to Him that he might return to them with favor.
20. With what command did Jehovah open and close his sixth statement of promise, and why?
20 Mercifully God called their shortcomings to their attention, by his prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Assured that Jehovah of armies was with them although all the Persian Empire might be against them, they took courage and, defiant of all likely human interference, they resumed God’s assigned work at the temple foundation, with a determination to push through to the end of the work. “From this day I shall bestow blessing,” said Jehovah of armies by his prophet Haggai (2:19). That was in the second year of the reign of King Darius I of Persia. Now, when Jehovah made his ten statements of promise through Zechariah, it was the fourth year of King Darius. The divine blessings upon the nation of temple builders had now begun. But there was yet much work to do in order to finish that house of worship despite the displeasure of those who hated Jehovah. The temple builders needed to work on. Appropriately he opened and closed his sixth statement of promise with the command that their working hands be strong. “Do not be afraid,” he said. Fear not men, but God.
21. When the surrounding nations would call down a malediction or a blessing upon others, whom would they use as an illustration, and why?
21 At the completing of the temple divine favor and blessing would be upon them to the full. During the many years of their indifference to building the temple, their condition had become so bad as regards peace, security and material well-being that the surrounding nations felt that the land of Judah and its restored exiles were under a curse. And so, when cursing others, those nations would call upon such ones to be cursed with a malediction such as rested upon those Israelites in the land of Judah. But no longer would this be true when Jehovah’s temple was finished. Then the astonished nations would observe that restored Israel had come into a blessed condition under the favor of their God. Accordingly, when calling down blessings upon others, those nations would use the blessedness of Israel as an example.
22. How has it been similar in this twentieth century, and, after five decades of work, how do Jehovah’s witnesses compare with Christendom in a spiritual sense?
22 So, too, in this twentieth century C.E., in this “conclusion of the system of things.” Until the restored remnant of spiritual Israel got down to sincere hard work at restoring and extending, first of all in their own lives, the pure, undefiled worship at Jehovah’s spiritual temple, there were difficulties from without and within. Religious opposers of Christendom cursed them, interfered with them, feverishly tried to stamp them out or suppress their temple work. But after five decades of undeviating attention to the worship of Jehovah and to the interests of his Messianic kingdom, how does the anointed remnant of the Christian witnesses of Jehovah compare with Christendom? Who is it that is prospering in a Christian spiritual sense? Who is it that has the divine blessing because of sticking strictly to the Holy Bible and doing God’s work as set out therein? Even the clergymen of Christendom express the wish that their church members had the zeal, faith, courage and knowledge of the Bible that Jehovah’s Christian witnesses had and prospered religiously as such witnesses did.
GOD’S CHANGE OF MIND TOWARD HIS PEOPLE
23. Because of what change of mind on God’s part did the remnant now not need to be afraid?
23 Further strengthening encouragement comes to God’s obedient remnant as He makes his seventh statement of promise, saying: “For this is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Just as I had in mind to do what was calamitous to you people because of your forefathers’ making me indignant,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘and I felt no regret, so I will again have in mind in these days to deal well with Jerusalem and with the house of Judah. Do not be afraid.’”—Zechariah 8:14, 15.
24. Why was Jehovah’s having in mind to bring calamity upon their forefathers not a case of ill-temper on His part?
24 Jehovah here admits that he had had in mind to do what was calamitous to the nation of Israel because the forefathers of the faithful remnant had made him indignant. But this did not mean any sort of ill-temper and fuming vexation on His part. The calamity that he had in mind to bring upon the nation or to let come upon the nation was strictly in harmony with the calmly stated set of warnings against the curses that they would suffer for breaking their part of their national covenant with Him. In all fairness he had warned them long previously through the prophet Moses:
“Jehovah will raise up against you a nation far away, from the end of the earth, just as an eagle pounces, a nation whose tongue you will not understand, a nation fierce in countenance, who will not be partial to an old man or show favor to a young man.
“And it must occur that just as Jehovah exulted over you to do you good and to multiply you, so Jehovah will exult over you to destroy you and to annihilate you; and you will simply be torn away from off the soil to which you are going to take possession of it.
“And Jehovah will certainly scatter you among all the peoples from the one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, and there you will have to serve other gods whom you have not known.”—Deuteronomy 28:49, 50, 63, 64; see also Leviticus 26:27-43.
25. (a) Why was it no injustice when Jehovah let those curses take effect? (b) What divine change of mind was now in effect, and why?
25 It was therefore only a just enforcement of His part of the national covenant with Jehovah, when he let the lawbreaking Israelites be “torn away from off the soil” by the Assyrians and by the Babylonians and then let the land of Judah lie utterly desolate for seventy years. But now, after he had disciplined the nation according to the terms of His covenant with them, he had the opposite things in mind to do to them in mercy. He started by bringing the repentant faithful remnant back to Jerusalem and the land of Judah. Their fear-induced holding back from building the temple could not and did not have His blessing. But now, “in these days,” in the days when they trustfully took up the temple work anew and courageously went ahead with it, Jehovah appreciatively had in mind “to deal well with Jerusalem and with the house of Judah.” So if Jehovah of armies was for them and with them for their wholehearted worship of Him, they should not fear men.
26. In this twentieth century, how has this seventh statement of promise been seen to apply equally as much to the spiritual remnant?
26 In modern times Jehovah has been true to this promise which applies equally as much to the faithful remnant of spiritual Israel. For delinquencies, they were scattered from their God-given spiritual estate during World War I. But today they can look back over the many years since their restoration in 1919 C.E. and can see how marvelously well the God whose name they bear has dealt with them for their work at restoring his pure worship.
27. What did Jehovah now have in mind for the restored remnant to do, and in harmony with what two commandments was this in agreement?
27 However, there are vital things for those who have mercifully been restored to divine favor to do. What Jehovah tells them to do is in agreement with the two greatest commandments of the Law, namely, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We read: “‘These are the things that you people should do: Speak truthfully with one another. With truth and the judgment of peace do your judging in your gates. And calamity to one another do not you scheme up in your hearts, and do not love any false oath; for these are all things that I have hated,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Zechariah 8:16, 17.
28. Hence, how were truth and justice to be upheld in their “gates” or law courts, and what was the object of judging with the “judgment of peace”?
28 The things that Jehovah of armies hates the restored remnant must not do, in order to remain in His favor. Justice must be executed in their gates or law courts. There no false oath should be resorted to in order to bring undeserved calamity upon one’s fellowman. One should be honest in what one says to a fellowman or swears to in court, always speaking the truth and not saying one thing with one’s mouth but having another thing in one’s deceptive heart. In settling any matter of dispute in a judicial way, the aim should be to bring about peace among those going to law; and this peace objective can be reached only if truth and justice are upheld in the court. We should love what God loves, not what he hates.
29. How did the apostle Paul show that Zechariah 8:16 applies to the Christian remnant, and how do they thus speak the truth?
29 Does this apply to the anointed remnant of spiritual Israel? Most certainly it does. When writing to the believers in Ephesus, Asia Minor, in behalf of Christian unity, the apostle Paul said: “Speaking the truth, let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ. Wherefore, now that you have put away falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, because we are members belonging to one another.” (Ephesians 4:15, 25) Evidently the apostle was here quoting part of Zechariah 8:16 and was properly applying it to Christians who were the “Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:15, 16) Speaking truthfully or speaking the truth with one another would also mean telling the Bible truths to one another, and not the religious falsehoods of Babylon the Great. In that way we promote pure worship of God at his spiritual temple.
FROM FASTING TO FEASTING
30. According to Jehovah’s eighth statement of promise, the hitherto times of fasting were to become what kind of occasions?
30 Just because seven is a Scriptural number denoting perfection in a spiritual way, God does not stop with the above seventh statement of promise. He carries on to an eighth, just as we now read: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth month, and the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month will become for the house of Judah an exultation and a rejoicing and good festal seasons. So love truth and peace.’”—Zechariah 8:19.
31. Whose question about fasting did that answer, and why was it now not proper to continue such fasts with mourning?
31 Here was a direct and positive answer to Sharezer and Regem-melech, who were sent from the city of Bethel to ask whether they should continue observing an abstinence from food, together with mourning, during the fifth month. (Zechariah 7:1-3) Now that the building of the second temple at Jerusalem was going on to grand completion, it was not the time to bemoan the past destruction of Jerusalem and its temple back there in 607 B.C.E., or more than eighty years ago. It was His will for them to rejoice in his present goodness to them and to exult in the undoing of all the destructive work that the Babylonians had done in Jerusalem and the land of Judah. Away with mournful fasts! Enjoy good festal seasons!
32. How has this divine promise been fulfilled in Christian spiritual Israel, and what one day each year does the remnant observe in obedience to Christ’s command?
32 How grandly this divine promise uttered to ancient Israel has been fulfilled in Christian spiritual Israel! The anointed remnant today do not observe any of the fasts and mournful seasons of ancient Israel. Not even the annual Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh lunar month (Tishri). (Leviticus, chapter 16) They rejoice in the true Atonement Day as carried out by Jehovah’s High Priest, Jesus Christ, by means of his perfect atoning sacrifice, the merit of which Jesus Christ presented to Jehovah in heaven in 33 C.E. in behalf of all mankind. (1 John 1:7 to 2:2) The only day that the remnant of spiritual Israel observe each year is the day of Christ’s sacrificial death on Passover Day, Nisan 14, in obedience to Christ’s own command to his disciples. Thus, when the surviving remnant observed the Lord’s Supper after sundown of April 13, 1919, there were upward of 17,961 that came together world wide to observe his atoning death. But on Friday, April 9, 1971, after sundown, there were 3,453,542 who attended, 10,384 of these partaking of the emblematic unleavened bread and wine.—Luke 22:7-20.
33. That large attendance at the Lord’s Supper in 1971 world wide is explained by what prophecy in Jehovah’s ninth statement of promise?
33 From where did all those more than 3,400,000 observers come, in addition to the 10,384 partakers, on this latter observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal? This worldwide phenomenon of the year 1971 is explained by the fulfillment of Jehovah’s ninth statement of promise, as recorded in Zechariah 8:20-22: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘It will yet be that peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will come; and the inhabitants of one city will certainly go to those of another, saying: “Let us earnestly go to soften the face of Jehovah and to seek Jehovah of armies. I myself will go also.” And many peoples and mighty nations will actually come to seek Jehovah of armies in Jerusalem and to soften the face of Jehovah.’”
INTERNATIONAL GATHERING TO GOD’S CITY
34. (a) In what way do “peoples” and “nations” now come to Jehovah’s center of worship? (b) Does this gathering include individuals from “many peoples and mighty nations” and “many cities”?
34 No whole “peoples” and whole “nations” were thus to come to Jehovah’s center of worship and to appease him to gain his favor. Individual persons from those peoples and nations were to do so. World conversion to Judaism was by no means meant here. So, when we examine the 1972 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses we learn that these Christian witnesses of Jehovah are found in 207 lands and islands. The list of these lands and islands includes “many peoples and mighty nations.” And as for the “inhabitants of many cities,” the 1972 Yearbook reveals that, by the time of August 31, 1971, there were 27,154 congregations of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses around the globe. New York city alone had 212 of those congregations in a number of languages. All together, the Bibles and Biblical literature of these Christians who worship Jehovah is printed in 165 languages. They worship Jehovah as Jesus Christ himself did.
35. Why is it that they do not go to the present-day earthly Jerusalem, and so where do they worship Jehovah?
35 No, they do not go to the present-day earthly Jerusalem, where a Mohammedan mosque, the Dome of the Rock, sits on the location where the temple of Jerusalem used to stand. They recognize the existence of what Hebrews 12:22 calls “a Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.” They exult and rejoice in the fact that at the end of the Gentile Times in 1914 C.E., God’s Messianic kingdom was established on that Mount Zion, and there Jesus Christ, “son of David, son of Abraham,” is enthroned. (Matthew 1:1) No longer therefore is the God-given right of the royal family of David to reign in God’s city being trampled upon by the Gentile nations. (Luke 21:20-24) They give their allegiance to this Messianic kingdom, which, shortly now, will destroy all Gentile governments on earth and will reign forever for the vindication of the universal sovereignty of Jehovah of armies. In the earthly courtyards of His spiritual temple they worship Him and enjoy his favor.—Psalms 84:2, 10; 116:18, 19.
36. According to Jehovah’s culminating statement of promise, how many were to take hold of the skirt of a Jew, and what were they to say to him?
36 Marvelous indeed is the modern-day fulfillment of that ninth statement of promise by the Sovereign Lord God. But there is yet a culminating utterance of promise, a tenth one, to this grand series of divine promises. So in the closing verse (23) of this eighth chapter of Zechariah’s prophecy we read: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘It will be in those days that ten men out of all the languages of the nations will take hold, yes, they will actually take hold of the skirt of a man who is a Jew, saying: “We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people.”’”—Zechariah 8:23.
37. To understand who is meant here by the term “Jew,” what guiding rule stated by a natural Jew do we need to consider?
37 In order to understand aright this prophecy about the “skirt of a man who is a Jew,” we have to consider the guiding rule set forth by a man who was “circumcised the eighth day, out of the family stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born from Hebrews; as respects law, a Pharisee”; namely, the apostle Paul, who was aforetime, “as respects zeal, persecuting the congregation.” (Philippians 3:5, 6) When writing the Christian congregation of the first century in Rome, this natural-born Jew or Israelite said: “He is not a Jew who is one on the outside, nor is circumcision that which is on the outside upon the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart by spirit, and not by a written code. The praise of that one comes, not from men, but from God.”—Romans 2:28, 29.
38. (a) So, if racial extraction does not count in this matter, what does, even with natural Jews? (b) Till when was the Christian congregation made up exclusively of natural Jews and proselytes, and then what choice did Cornelius have to make?
38 For this reason the fulfillment of Zechariah 8:23 does not rest upon any racial superiority according to the flesh. The “skirt of a man who is a Jew” is not taken hold of because he is a Jew according to natural birth. One’s fleshly connection does not count at all in this matter. What counts is, Whom does he worship? Or, if he is a professed worshiper of God, Is God really with him? It is true that, during the second half of the seventieth week of years of the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27, namely, from Pentecost of 33 C.E. to the autumn of 36 C.E., the Christian congregation was made up exclusively of natural Jews and circumcised Jewish proselytes. But what distinguished such natural Jews comprising the Christian congregation? During that time there were natural Jews and natural Jews. God was definitely not with both kinds. God was not divided. Hence, at the end of the seventieth week of years in early fall of 36 C.E., with what kind of Jews did the Gentile, the Italian centurion Cornelius, go to join with them in worship? What does Acts 10:1-48 show?
39. With which group of natural Jews did Cornelius decide to go?
39 This Cornelius of Italian language ceased to go along with the worship of the natural Jews and make “many gifts of mercy” to the natural Jews who had Jesus Christ put to a violent death as a blasphemer of God and as a false Christ. Cornelius and his fellow Gentile converts went with only those natural Jews who had become disciples of Jesus Christ and upon whom God poured out his holy spirit through Jesus Christ, thereby manifesting that He (God) was with the Christian congregation. (Acts 2:1-47; 11:1-18) That Christian congregation was made up of spiritual Jews, spiritual Israelites, in the new covenant with God through Christ as mediator. The Italian Cornelius was just as much a spiritual Jew or Israelite as those believing natural Jews. Cornelius saw that the Christian congregation was made up of spiritual Jews and that God was with those people. Hence he decided to go with spiritual Jews.
40. How can we determine whether, especially since Jerusalem’s destruction by the Romans, there is any basis for applying Zechariah 8:23 to non-Christian natural Jews?
40 Could the destruction of Jerusalem and its material temple by Roman legions be interpreted as a proof that God was with the Jews caught in that awful calamity, just because they were Jews according to their circumcised flesh? How could any honest reasonable person accept such an interpretation? Today there is no Jewish temple in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah for any of the Gentiles to go up there and worship with the Jews. Nor are the Jewish religious leaders and political leaders imitating High Priest Joshua and Governor Zerubbabel and rebuilding the temple upon its historical location, even though the Jews took over the old walled city of Jerusalem in the six-day war of 1967. What basis, therefore, is there to apply Zechariah 8:23 to the non-Christian natural, circumcised Jews today or even in the foreseeable future? None whatsoever!
41. Is Zechariah 8:23 being fulfilled upon Christendom today?
41 Well, then, is the prophecy’s fulfillment being realized in religious Christendom today, which has long held to the idea of world conversion to her multi-sectarian religious organization? Are ten non-Christians of all peoples and nations taking hold of the skirt of a church member of Christendom and saying, “We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people”? And by “God” the prophecy means “Jehovah of armies.” Certainly the pagan world is not being converted to the sects of Christendom at the rate of ten pagans to one church member. Christendom estimates her church membership today as being 924,274,000 and ten times that would mean more than twice the present world population.
42. To determine which ones of all the professed spiritual Jews of today Zechariah 8:23 applies to, on what questions must we get the facts?
42 Just as there were natural Jews and natural Jews in the days of Christ’s apostles, so today there are professed spiritual Jews and professed spiritual Jews. Christendom has more than 900 million such professed spiritual Jews who are supposed to be in the new covenant through Christ as mediator. But of all these two kinds of professed spiritual Jews, we ask: Which kind is really worshiping and serving Jehovah of armies at his true spiritual temple? To which kind are the peoples of all nations, big and small, saying that they will go with them because they have heard, not that some nameless “God” is with them, but that Jehovah God is with them? In this case only the facts should be relied upon. Let these speak for themselves.
43. What things today distinguish those spiritual Israelites to whom Zechariah 8:23 applies, and how many of them are there now?
43 According to worldwide evidences, it is the anointed remnant of spiritual Israelites whom Jehovah God began to liberate from Babylon the Great, that world empire of false Babylonish religion. These are engaged in spiritual work like that of building the second temple of Jehovah in the days of High Priest Joshua and Governor Zerubbabel. They are wholeheartedly promoting the worship of Jehovah of armies world wide, by persons of all nations, tribes, peoples and languages. Annually they meet on Passover Day to celebrate the sacrificial death of Jehovah’s Son, the Messiah Jesus, and on that occasion they eat the unleavened bread and drink the wine just as Jesus Christ commanded. From this eloquent testimony on their part, they seem to number today only around ten thousand anointed spiritual Israelites. Much less than the remnant in Zechariah’s day.
44. Who is it that join themselves to these true spiritual Israelites, and in what numbers, according to reports?
44 Who, though, are joining themselves to these spiritual Jews in worship of the one living and true God at his spiritual temple? Just as was foretold in Revelation 7:9-17, it is a numberless “great crowd” “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” These also are becoming disciples of Jehovah’s Messiah. (Matthew 28:19, 20) Just in the year 1971 alone there were 149,808 of these baptized as dedicated disciples of Jehovah’s Messiah. During that same year there was an average of 1,510,245 who reported joining together in obeying the Messiah’s command to preach “this good news” of Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom everywhere down to the approaching end of this system of things. (Matthew 24:14) How remarkable already the fulfillment of Zechariah 8:23!