Requirements for Entering the Spiritual Paradise
1, 2. To enter the spiritual paradise, what requirements, set out in Isaiah 55:6, 7, must be met?
THE way into the spiritual paradise is still open! The invitation to enter and enjoy it is still sounding out world wide! What does it call for if a hearer of the invitation desires to enter? The requirements are beautifully set out in the further words of the inspired prophecy of Isaiah chapter fifty-five:
2 “Search for Jehovah, you people, while he may be found. Call to him while he proves to be near. Let the wicked man leave his way, and the harmful man his thoughts; and let him return to Jehovah, who will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will forgive in a large way.”—Isaiah 55:6, 7.
3. (a) Why is now the time to “search for Jehovah”? (b) In what sense is he “near”?
3 Since we have been living in the “time of the end” of this worldly system of things since the year 1914 C.E., the time that is left during which Jehovah may be found in a favorable way is by now very short. So now is the favorable time in which to search for him. A person does not have to go far in this search in order to find him. He is still near, within reach of sincere searchers for him. So now is also the time to call to him. He is not beyond hearing distance. Now, before “the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah,” is when the reassuring words apply: “It must occur that everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe.”—Joel 2:31, 32; Romans 10:13.
4. (a) Explain the requirement, “let the wicked man leave his way.” (b) What is involved in leaving ‘harmful thoughts,’ and why is it important to do so?
4 We are told what to do in this searching for Jehovah and in order to call upon his name. Attention must be given to one’s ways of life and also to one’s thinking, which has much to do with the condition of one’s heart. This is indicated in the exhortation: “Let the wicked man leave his way, and the harmful man his thoughts; and let him return to Jehovah.” (Isaiah 55:7) Certainly, if a man who was wicked desired to search for Jehovah and find him and call upon him with acceptance, he would have to leave his way that is wicked. Jehovah hates wickedness. The wicked man would also be harmful, and so his thoughts would be of doing harm to others. In order, then, to search for Jehovah, who is a God of benevolence, he would have to change his thoughts from harmful intents to helpful, beneficial thinking. He must take seriously what God says in Proverbs 21:27: “The sacrifice of the wicked ones is something detestable. How much more so when one brings it along with loose conduct.” Ways and thoughts approved by the God of righteousness are a requirement for gaining entrance to the spiritual paradise of His worshipers and servants.
5. (a) How did the requirement, “Let him return to Jehovah,” apply to the ancient Jewish exiles? (b) What prospect lay before those who heeded that requirement?
5 Concerning the wicked and harmful man, it is said: “And let him return to Jehovah.” This signifies that the wicked and harmful man had got away from Jehovah and had turned bad. He had once had good, peaceful, intimate relationship with Jehovah. This was the way that it had been with ancient Israel down to the time of their exile in Babylon, which the prophet Isaiah had predicted earlier in his prophecy. So, in its first and direct application, the exhortation, “Let him return to Jehovah,” was addressed to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. They had to repent of their misconduct and misdeeds that had resulted in the desolation of their homeland and their exile in pagan Babylonia. Their homeland was to lie desolate for a limited time, seventy years, and then was to be reoccupied by a faithful, God-fearing remnant of Jews released from Babylon. More and more as the fixed time for the liberation from Babylon drew near, it would become advisable, yes, urgent, for exiled Jews to prepare themselves to be among those privileged to return to their homeland and transform it into a paradise.
6, 7. (a) What action did the prophet Daniel take in harmony with Isaiah 55:7, and why was such action appropriate? (b) In what year did the Jewish remnant and their servants return to their homeland?
6 The aged prophet Daniel, who had been an exile in Babylon even eleven years before the desolation of Jerusalem and Judah, took to heart the exhortation of Isaiah 55:7. Ancient Babylon on the Euphrates River had just fallen to the Persian conqueror, Cyrus the Great, which was in 539 B.C.E. Cyrus’ associate, Darius the Mede, was now ruling as temporary king over Babylon. “In the first year of his reigning,” says Daniel, “I myself, Daniel, discerned by the books the number of the years concerning which the word of Jehovah had occurred to Jeremiah the prophet, for fulfilling the devastations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. And I proceeded to set my face to Jehovah the true God, in order to seek him with prayer and with entreaties, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. And I began to pray to Jehovah my God and to make confession.” (Daniel 9:1-4) In his prayer Daniel confessed to being a member of the rebellious nation and his bearing a share in its iniquity and disobedience to God.
7 Personally, Daniel had not been wicked in his way and harmful in his thoughts, and so his prayer in behalf of the exiled Jews found favor in God’s eyes. The aged Daniel, who was retained in the service of King Darius and then King Cyrus, did not return to the land of Judah, but he had the unspeakable joy of seeing a repentant, reformed Jewish remnant, together with thousands of non-Jewish servants of theirs, return to the homeland to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple. This occurred at the end of the seventy years of desolation in 537 B.C.E.
8. How was the situation that confronted the remnant of spiritual Israel at the end of World War I similar to that of the natural Jews near the end of their period of exile in Babylon?
8 In similar fashion, the modern-day remnant of spiritual Israel had to do some reforming as to their way and thoughts as World War I ended on November 11, 1918, and they entered still alive on earth into the postwar period. Their exile from God’s full favor in Babylon the Great’s realm was about to end, and it became the proper time for them to think about their failings and shortcomings with regard to God’s worship and service. They had come under a community responsibility because of the bloodshed and violence of World War I. They needed to search for Jehovah and to call upon His name in prayer. In harmony with this Godward movement of theirs, the prophetic exhortation applied to them: “Let the wicked man leave his way, and the harmful man his thoughts; and let him return to Jehovah.”—Isaiah 55:7.
9. (a) In their searching for Jehovah, what action did the remnant of spiritual Israel take? (b) For how long were they obliged to serve God, and what work needed to be done?
9 In their search, accompanied by calling upon the divine name in prayer, the remnant of spiritual Israel made a reexamination of the Holy Scriptures, now that things had turned out in a manner different from the way that they had understood Bible prophecies. They needed to readjust their thinking and their way to the new and unexpected situation that now opened up before them. They had been “consecrated” to their God, not to a certain date such as 1914 or 1918 C.E., but for eternity. This obliged them to continue serving the true God as long as he preserved them alive on earth. Through His written Word and His organization, He revealed to the remnant that there was a highly important work for them to do on earth in connection with His newly born Messianic kingdom. So there was every reason for them to “return to Jehovah.” But would such an endeavor on their part be in vain, in view of their past failings?
10. In view of their past failings, did they have any good reason to believe that God would accept them?
10 Just like the exiled Jews in ancient Babylon, the remnant of spiritual Israel had every reason to take heart and be of good courage in their Godward movement. Why? Because of these reassuring words of Isaiah 55:7: “And let him return to Jehovah, who will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will forgive in a large way.”
THE LARGENESS OF GOD’S WAY OF FORGIVENESS
11. How was it true that God forgave the exiles of natural Israel “in a large way”?
11 There is no stinginess about God’s forgiveness. His abundant mercy makes him forgiving “in a large way.” He expressed his forgiveness toward the exiled Jews in Babylon by performing a miracle of mercy toward them. He broke open the prison in which imperial Babylon had been holding them captive and he provided the way for them to return to their homeland that had lain desolate without man or domestic animal for seven decades! This amazed the ancient nations roundabout that observed this, and they could ascribe this miracle only to the God of Israel. “At that time they proceeded to say among the nations: ‘Jehovah has done a great thing in what he has done with them.’ Jehovah has done a great thing in what he has done with us. We have become joyful. Do gather back, O Jehovah, our company of captives, like stream beds in the Negeb [parched land].” (Psalm 126:2-4) In the face of their past sins and transgressions, the exiled Jews did not deserve this, but God was forgiving them “in a large way” because of their sincere repentance.
12. What gave evidence that Jehovah likewise restored the remnant of spiritual Israel to his favor?
12 The like was true in the case of the modern-day remnant of spiritual Israel. Because of their heartfelt repentance God freed them from the power of Babylon the Great by means of his Greater Cyrus, Jesus Christ the King, and brought them back to their rightful spiritual estate on earth, the estate of divine favor and peaceful relations. He resumed using them in the proclaiming of the message of the hour, “this good news of the kingdom,” world wide. Thus he reintroduced them upon the stage of fearless public activity, and the hostile nations became aware that Jehovah God had done something great for them, something that proved that he had restored them to his favor and service.
13. Through his prophet Isaiah, how does Jehovah explain his reason for displaying such outstanding mercy?
13 These acts of deliverance, the one from ancient Babylon and the other from her modern-day counterpart, were things unimaginable to the human mind. All of this was so contrary to imperfect human thinking. It was so contrary to human ways of dealing with people in this present wicked system of things. Why did the God against whom such offense had been committed show such mercy and forgive in so large a way? He explains, as his prophecy through Isaiah goes on to say: “‘For the thoughts of you people are not my thoughts, nor are my ways your ways,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For just as the pouring rain descends, and the snow, from the heavens and does not return to that place, unless it actually saturates the earth and makes it produce and sprout, and seed is actually given to the sower and bread to the eater, so my word that goes forth from my mouth will prove to be. It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.’”—Isaiah 55:8-11.
14. Why is it not safe to presume upon God’s mercy?
14 Our thoughts and ways can never be as high as those of God the Creator, and especially so during our sinful imperfection. And so there is no comparison between our thoughts and ways and His. However, we cannot for that reason presume upon his mercy. We cannot, with immunity, become like those hypocritical men described in Jude 4, “ungodly men, turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct and proving false to our only Owner and Lord, Jesus Christ.” We cannot safely presume upon the magnanimity of God. We deserve nothing from him, and we have no right to demand anything from him. We cannot go beyond what his given word allows.
15. (a) With what record is God’s display of mercy in full harmony? (b) How is God’s stated word like the rain and snow from heaven?
15 Whatever it is that Jehovah God has done in such mercy to us, he has previously given his word for it in writing in his prophecies of the Holy Bible. He means what he says, and he says what he purposes to do. So his given word is reliable, as reliable as the rain and the snow from heaven are in accomplishing the divine purpose for which they are deposited upon the earth. For that reason his stated word will not boomerang at him because of having accomplished no results. If he has given his word, then he will see to it that it is carried out by means of his almighty spirit and by means of his chosen servants. What he pleases or delights in will be done without fail according to his word. He has sent forth his word on a mission, and it will not prove to be mere empty talk. It will certainly have success in the stated mission for which he sent it.
16. In his dealings with natural Israel and with spiritual Israel, how did Jehovah prove himself to be “the God of truth”?
16 So God’s own honor is at stake in connection with his word. He cannot let it come short of its purpose, for that would mean that he is not almighty. It would mean that he is not true and is not “the God of truth.” (Psalm 31:5) His word did not fail when it came to delivering the exiled Israelites from imperial Babylon and restoring the remnant of them to their desolated homeland right on time. Nor did his word return to him without results in modern times when it came to liberating the remnant of spiritual Israel from the power of Babylon the Great and restoring them to his favor and service on earth from 1919 C.E. onward. Many other historic examples, ancient and modern, could be cited to prove the truth of his word as expressed in Isaiah 55:10, 11.
PROPHECY OF A PARADISE
17. After having emphasized the absolute certainty of the fulfillment of his word, what does Jehovah promise, as recorded in Isaiah 55:12, 13?
17 What Jehovah God has thus said about the absolute certainty that his word will come true, strengthens us to accept with confidence the glowing prophecy now forthcoming. He addresses it to those who search for him and call upon his name and return to him in repentance and righteousness. (Isaiah 55:6, 7) Revealing how elevated his thoughts and ways are above those of imperfect, mortal man, he continues on to say: “For with rejoicing you people will go forth, and with peace you will be brought in. The mountains and the hills themselves will become cheerful before you with a joyful outcry, and the very trees of the field will all clap their hands. Instead of the thicket of thorns the juniper tree will come up. Instead of the stinging nettle the myrtle tree will come up. And it must become for Jehovah something famous, a sign to time indefinite that will not be cut off.”—Isaiah 55:12, 13, NW; Young; The New American Bible; Leeser.
18, 19. (a) What grand deliverance is there being described? (b) Who was to do the “rejoicing,” and how does Psalm 126:1, 2 delightfully describe their feelings?
18 Do not those prophetic words beautifully describe a thrilling deliverance of an exiled people and a homecoming with a joyful welcome! “For,” that is, in verification of what was just said by Jehovah about his exalted thoughts and ways toward his people, “with rejoicing you people will go forth.” It was from the land of Babylon that they were to be brought out, a liberated people. This deliverance was to be with rejoicing, not on the part of the Gentile nations in any show of sympathy toward Jehovah’s exiled people, but on the part of His people whom He was delivering in such a remarkable way, so contrary to what the Gentile nations expected or desired. The joyful emotion of the Israelite remnant and their devoted companions at such a marvelous release from pagan Babylon is caught up and echoed in the opening words of Psalm 126:
19 “When Jehovah gathered back the captive ones of Zion, we became like those who were dreaming. At that time our mouth came to be filled with laughter, and our tongue with a joyful cry. At that time they proceeded to say among the nations: ‘Jehovah has done a great thing in what he has done with them.’”—Psalm 126:1, 2; 2 Chronicles 36:20-23.
20, 21. In the deliverance that they experienced in 537 B.C.E., how could faithful Jews see powerful evidence that Jehovah had vindicated the truthfulness of his word?
20 When the deliverance came in the year 537 B.C.E., the faithful Jewish remnant could turn to the inspired prophecy of Isaiah 44:28 through 45:3, written two centuries previously, and could see how their God had vindicated his Word by using his anointed servant, Cyrus the Persian, in liberating them. The historic record of Ezra 1:1-5 matches up with Isaiah’s prophecy by reporting:
21 “In the first year of Cyrus the king of Persia, that Jehovah’s word from the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, Jehovah roused the spirit of Cyrus the king of Persia so that he caused a cry to pass through all his realm, and also in writing, saying: ‘This is what Cyrus the king of Persia has said, “All the kingdoms of the earth Jehovah the God of the heavens has given me, and he himself has commissioned me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God prove to be with him. So let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of Jehovah the God of Israel—he is the true God—which was in Jerusalem. As for anyone that is left from all the places where he is residing as an alien, let the men of his place assist him with silver and with gold and with goods and with domestic animals along with the voluntary offering for the house of the true God, which was in Jerusalem.”’ Then the heads of the fathers of Judah and of Benjamin and the priests and the Levites rose up, even everyone whose spirit the true God had roused, to go up and rebuild the house of Jehovah, which was in Jerusalem.”
22. Why was it not in any disorderly flight that the Jews left Babylon?
22 Consequently it was in no panic or disorderly flight that the Jewish remnant and their companions left Babylon in the year 537 B.C.E. It could not be that way if they were to go out “with rejoicing,” just as it had been prophesied. They went out in orderly fashion, with no shrieks of terror at the sight of pursuers. They went out with full confidence that the God who had procured their release would go before them to lead them in the way and that he would protect them from the rear. To this effect he had given them the promise: “Turn away, turn away, get out of there, touch nothing unclean; get out from the midst of her, keep yourselves clean, you who are carrying the utensils of Jehovah. For you people will get out in no panic, and you will go in no flight. For Jehovah will be going even before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”—Isaiah 52:11, 12.
23. (a) What reason did they have for confidence that they would safely reach their destination? (b) By when were they back in their homeland, and how does this give evidence that Jehovah’s word does not return to him without results?
23 Peacefully, with good organization among themselves, they left ancient Babylon, and peacefully, under divine protection and guidance, they would reach their destination. That was what the divine infallible word assured them: “For with rejoicing you people will go forth, and with peace you will be brought in.” (Isaiah 55:12) They would be “brought in” upon their homeland that had lain desolate for seventy years. As Rabbi Leeser’s translation of the Hebrew text reads: “For in joy shall ye go out, and in peace shall ye be brought home.” Or, as The New American Bible words it: “Yes, in joy you shall depart, in peace you shall be brought back.” It proved to be even that way, and, in the seventh month (Tishri) of the year 537 B.C.E., the returned Jewish remnant and their loyal companions had taken up residence on their city sites, and they began restoring the worship of their God in their homeland. (Ezra 2:68 through 3:2) Just as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and carry out God’s purpose, so Jehovah’s prophetic word did not return to him without results to its credit.—Isaiah 55:10, 11.
24, 25. (a) On arrival at their destination, did the former exiles find that their homeland was a paradise? (b) What had God promised would take place in due time after they went to work?
24 The route that the Jewish remnant and their God-fearing companions took out of Babylon was not through a paradise, nor did the countryside along the way miraculously turn into a paradise before them to cheer them along during the journey of several months. Neither did their long-desolate, thicket-overgrown homeland suddenly take on a paradisaic appearance before their eyes. But what were their prospects according to God’s promise after they were replanted upon their beloved native land and diligently went to work, without expecting any direct miracles of transformation? Ah, regarding this their high priest Jeshua the son of Jehozadak or their appointed governor Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel could read to them the stimulating, encouraging words of Isaiah 55:12, 13:
25 “The mountains and the hills themselves will become cheerful before you with a joyful outcry, and the very trees of the field will all clap their hands. Instead of the thicket of thorns the juniper tree will come up. Instead of the stinging nettle the myrtle tree will come up. And it must become for Jehovah something famous, a sign to time indefinite that will not be cut off.”—See Haggai 1:1.
26. As indicated in the prophecy, to whom would go the credit for the transformation of the land, and why appropriately so?
26 A lovely transformation of the long-untended, uncultivated land there would be indeed! This, however, would not occur without first the zealous, earnest work on the part of the repatriated people. Yet, to Jehovah should and would go the credit for the marvelous transformation, for He was the One that would bless their sincere endeavors. His blessing upon their efforts was the necessary thing, and his blessing would attend them provided that they put the worship of Him in the first place and carried out the purpose for which He had released them from oppressive Babylon and had restored them to their beloved homeland.
27. What gave evidence that the land of Judah, during its years of desolation, had been like cursed ground?
27 Doubtless on their arrival back on the land thickets of thorns abounded, and stinging nettles flourished on the long-neglected land. Such plants had not been an outstanding, inviting feature of man’s original paradise. Rather, when God sentenced the first man and woman as sinners to life outside the Garden of Eden, he said to the man: “Cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life. And thorns and thistles it will grow for you.” (Genesis 3:17, 18) So the land of Judah, during its seventy years of desolation, had become like cursed ground: “If it produces thorns and thistles, it is rejected and is near to being cursed; and it ends up with being burned.”—Hebrews 6:8; compare Deuteronomy 28:15-18; Isaiah 24:6.
“A SIGN TO TIME INDEFINITE”
28. How does the language employed in the portion of Isaiah 55:13 here quoted reflect a restoration of God’s blessing upon his people?
28 Look, now, to the evidence of the restoring of God’s blessing upon his worshipful people who had searched for him and who had called upon his name in repentance and with righteous fruit that befits repentance! “Instead of the thicket of thorns the juniper tree will come up. Instead of the stinging nettle the myrtle tree will come up.” (Isaiah 55:13) Instead of the low prickly plants to be shunned, there come up the evergreen trees, like the myrtle and the juniper that grows up to a height of sixty-five feet. There the birds of the heavens, even the stork, can make their homes. (Psalm 104:16, 17) From the myrtle tree the restored Israelites could take leafy branches and build booths for themselves when celebrating the festival of the booths (or, tabernacles) during the third week of the lunar month of Tishri. (Nehemiah 8:15, 16; Zechariah 1:8-11) What a refreshing, eye-pleasing change from prickly, stinging plants to evergreen trees like the juniper and the myrtle!
29. Explain the meaning of the promise: “the very trees of the field will all clap their hands” and “the mountains and the hills themselves will become cheerful before you with a joyful outcry.”
29 There were other trees to adorn the reworked land. Why, “the very trees of the field will all clap their hands.” They will applaud their heavenly Creator, who makes them grow. They, together with other verdure studded with wild flowers, will clothe the slopes of the mountains and the hills. The appearance of these heights of the land of Judah will take on cheerfulness. They will tell a message of praise to God, and it will be as if they had become vocal “with a joyful outcry.” The natural environment takes on the look of happiness, reflecting the happiness of God over the restoration of his people to freedom of worship at Jerusalem and throughout all the land of Judah. (Isaiah 55:12) How could the occupants of this transformed land keep from being cheerful themselves and breaking forth in outcries of thanksgiving and praise to Him?
30, 31. (a) With what would the appearance of the reoccupied land move a person to compare it? (b) What had God inspired Ezekiel to prophesy concerning just such a thing?
30 The beauty that was to crown the reoccupied land could not do otherwise than stir up comparisons of it with the Garden of Eden, man’s original paradise home. Observers of the beautification of the once-desolate land would now make such comparisons. Such a thing was foretold in the prophecy that God inspired Ezekiel to utter after Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed in 607 B.C.E. and the land of Judah began to lie desolate.
31 “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.
32. How was God’s own name, his reputation, involved in what was happening with the people of Israel?
32 Nobody could have brought all this reversal of matters in behalf of the internationally hated and exiled nation of Israel but their God, who was keeping his covenant with them. So, for bringing it about in accordance with his promise, he had made himself famous throughout the earth. His name, his fame, his renown, was at stake in this vital matter, for the people that were involved in this turn of events were the people called by his own name. What befell them reflected upon his name. The wrong conclusions that the Gentile nations had drawn from the way that he chastised and disciplined his covenant people had to be corrected. This would affect the view that the non-Jewish nations took of him as a god. In self-respect and for his own honor he needed to prove to all nations that he was the true, reliable, word-keeping God!
33. (a) What was his primary purpose in bringing his people Israel back to their land? (b) What was it that made it possible to convert that land into a paradise?
33 Not primarily for the sake of his covenant people Israel, who had brought his name into reproach among the nations, but for his own name’s sake, he freed them from ancient Babylon and brought them back to the land to which he had given a sabbath period of seventy years. (Leviticus 26:41-45; 2 Chronicles 36:20, 21) When this sabbath period was over, in 537 B.C.E., then he restored the rightful cultivators of it. By his blessing upon them, he transformed it into a beauteous land, whose appearance approached that of the Paradise of Pleasure, the Garden of Eden. This had great significance. There was a purpose behind it.
34. What was the purpose behind this, as stated in Isaiah 55:13?
34 God makes known the motive behind this, he himself saying: “And it must become for Jehovah something famous [literally, for a name, Young], a sign to time indefinite that will not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:13) This clothing of the long-desolate land with paradisaic loveliness won begrudged acknowledgment from the observing Gentile nations and raised their respect for him.
35. In understanding the “sign” referred to in Isaiah 55:13, what must be remembered about the land and its inhabitants?
35 As the land stood there, reclaimed and glorified, it was a “sign” of something highly important. It must be remembered that, first of all, it was a God-given land, for Jehovah had given it to his chosen people in the fifteenth century B.C.E., in fulfillment of his promise made to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (or, Israel). Then, because of the persistent disobedience and unfaithfulness of his people, he had, as it were, turned the land upside down like a pot and emptied it of its inhabitants, exiling them to the land of Babylon and letting the polluted land lie desolate in sabbath keeping for seventy years. (Isaiah 24:1-6; 2 Kings 21:13) And now he had caused the rebirth of a populous land and also brought about the rebirth of a nation by restoring his long-exiled people to their God-given estate. In whose honor, then, would the transformation of the land to a paradise be a “sign”?
36. (a) How was the transformation of the land to a paradise a “sign” that honored Jehovah? (b) What has made it a “sign to time indefinite”?
36 By the mouth of his prophet Isaiah, Jehovah himself gives the true answer, saying: “And this will make Yahweh famous, a sign for ever, ineffaceable.” (Isaiah 55:13, The Jerusalem Bible) Or, “All this shall win the LORD a great name, imperishable, a sign for all time.” (The New English Bible) In His case it disproved that “God is dead.” His marvelous works with respect to the land proved that He is a living God, and that the prophecies given over his name Jehovah are true. Great and glorious was the name that he thus made for himself. And the paradise-like, repopulated land of Judah was a “sign” of his Godship, of his universal sovereignty, of his almightiness, of his faithfulness, and of his heaven-high mercy to repentant people who were in a covenant with him. This became a “sign to time indefinite,” even till now; it is a sign that has not been “cut off,” even after the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and laid the land of Judea waste in the year 70 of our Common Era. Why not? Because the record of God’s carrying out of his prophecy has been put in the imperishable record of the Bible.
37. (a) With what people do we find a modern-day counterpart for that “sign”? (b) At the time of their deliverance from Babylon the Great, what was the condition of their symbolic land?
37 Because this is an imperishable, ineffaceable sign, one “to time indefinite,” we look for a modern-day counterpart of it. To fit the ancient pattern, this would involve the modern-time remnant of spiritual Israel, who are in the “new covenant” through the Greater Mediator, Jesus Christ. Modern history confirms that this remnant was delivered from Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, in the spring of the year 1919 C.E. Their religious or spiritual estate on earth had been rendered quite desolate by the depredations committed upon them and their working organization by Babylon the Great and her political, military and judicial patronizers. Their symbolic land, their spiritual estate, had, as it were, become forbidding because things that were like thickets of thorns and stinging nettles marred the looks of it. It did not present an inviting, attractive appearance that would draw religiously inclined people to take part with these worshipers of Jehovah God in their beliefs and activities.
38. When Jehovah opened the way for their return, how did the remnant of spiritual Israel respond?
38 Nevertheless, when their living God opened the way for them, it was “with rejoicing” that the remnant of spiritual Israel did “go forth” from bondage to Babylon the Great. They were filled with hope, seeing the religious possibilities of the future although realizing that it would require courage to take advantage of them in the face of a hostile world. Global warfare had ended and a patched-up peace had come in, and so it was “with peace” that they were “brought in” upon their rightful spiritual estate, their restoration to God’s favor, their reconciliation with him, their becoming approved again for his service as ambassadors of his now established Messianic kingdom. (2 Corinthians 5:20) They reorganized for the work ahead that had been foretold by Jesus Christ for the “conclusion of the system of things,” namely: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” They began clearing out the things that were objectionable and hindersome to true worship of God.—Matthew 24:3, 14.
39. How has a worldwide spiritual paradise been produced for the habitation of God’s people in modern times?
39 Faithful to his written promises and consistent with the ancient prototype, Jehovah blessed the efforts of the restored remnant of spiritual Israelites. A spiritual paradise has resulted, that is a worldwide marvel today. It is as if the mountains and hills of their spiritual estate had become cheerful before them with a joyful outcry, and as if the trees of Christian fruitfulness were clapping their hands. Figuratively, the thornbush thickets and the stinging nettle have been replaced by beautiful juniper and myrtle evergreens. Its appearance of being cursed by God has vanished! It has become a habitable place for the true Christians, who really follow the example of Jehovah’s anointed Servant, Jesus Christ. There are also hundreds of thousands of righteously inclined people who were searching for Jehovah, the God of the restored remnant of spiritual Israel. These have become the loyal companions of the faithful anointed remnant.
40. How has the beautified estate of the spiritual remnant become a “sign” that honors Jehovah, and that is not “cut off”?
40 This remarkable transformation in the spiritual estate of the remnant has resulted in Jehovah’s becoming famous throughout the earth. God’s personal name has become known around the globe. The revived, beautified estate of the spiritual remnant has become a “sign,” and the time of its continuance is indefinite. It has persisted till now in spite of World War II and other world turmoil and disasters. It has not been “cut off” till the present time, and it will never be cut off.—Isaiah 55:12, 13.
41, 42. In this matter of the restoration of spiritual Israel, how did matters turn out as expressed at Isaiah 55:8, 9?
41 Especially in the eyes of the restored remnant of spiritual Israel this has all been so wonderful, amazing. Back there during the oppressions of World War I and during their bondage to Babylon the Great, never did they imagine that such a thing would take place. According to the ways that they understood the Bible prophecies, such a thing was unimaginable! It would have been thought to be presumptuous to expect or predict that such a thing would take place with this captive, exiled remnant of spiritual Israel while still on earth. Certainly their thoughts were not on a level with God’s thoughts nor their ways of proceeding on a plane with his ways. It turned out to be just as Jehovah himself expressed it:
42 “‘The thoughts of you people are not my thoughts, nor are my ways your ways,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”—Isaiah 55:8, 9.
43. What does all the evidence indicate as to who is responsible for this spiritual paradise?
43 It all tends to prove that this thing is not of man, but is of the Almighty God. In this regard the rule is true today that was stated by the lawyer Gamaliel to the Jerusalem Sanhedrin back in the apostolic days of the first century C.E.: “If this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them [the scheme or the work].” (Acts 5:38, 39) Consequently, the spiritual paradise that has not been cut off from Jehovah’s Christian witnesses down to this day is a “sign” for which the Almighty God is responsible. By it He has become famous earth wide. He has won for himself a great name. Thankful can all those God-fearing people be who have met the requirements for entering the spiritual paradise that he has established by their searching for him while he can be found and calling upon his personal name while he is yet near during this “conclusion of the system of things.”—Isaiah 55:6; Matthew 24:3.
[Picture on page 123]
Storks in their nest atop a juniper tree