Jehovah Humiliates Self-Exalted Ones
1, 2. Why is the prophetic message of Isaiah to the Jews of his day of interest to us?
DISGUSTED with the condition of Jerusalem and Judah, the prophet Isaiah now turns to Jehovah God and declares: “You have forsaken your people, the house of Jacob.” (Isaiah 2:6a) What has provoked God to reject the people whom he himself had chosen as his “special property”?—Deuteronomy 14:2.
2 Isaiah’s denunciation of the Jews of his time is of great interest to us. Why? Because the condition of Christendom today is very similar to that of Isaiah’s people, and so is the judgment that Jehovah pronounces. Paying attention to Isaiah’s proclamation will give us a clear understanding of what God condemns and will help us to shun practices that he disapproves of. With keen anticipation, then, let us consider Jehovah’s prophetic word as recorded at Isaiah 2:6–4:1.
In Pride They Bow Down
3. What error of his people does Isaiah confess?
3 Confessing the error of his people, Isaiah says: “They have become full of what is from the East, and they are practicers of magic like the Philistines, and with the children of foreigners they abound.” (Isaiah 2:6b) Some 800 years earlier, Jehovah had commanded his chosen people: “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things [by which] the nations whom I am sending out from before you have made themselves unclean.” (Leviticus 18:24) Concerning those whom he had selected as his special property, Jehovah forced Balaam to say: “From the top of the rocks I see them, and from the hills I behold them. There as a people they keep tabernacling isolated, and among the nations they do not reckon themselves.” (Numbers 23:9, 12) Yet, by Isaiah’s day Jehovah’s chosen ones have adopted the abominable practices of the surrounding nations and are “full of what is from the East.” Rather than putting faith in Jehovah and his word, they are practicing “magic like the Philistines.” Far from keeping separate from the nations, the land ‘abounds’ with “the children of foreigners”—doubtless, foreigners who introduce ungodly practices to God’s people.
4. Rather than causing them to thank Jehovah, how do riches and military strength affect the Jews?
4 Noting the current economic prosperity and the military strength of Judah under King Uzziah, Isaiah states: “Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no limit to their treasures. And their land is filled with horses, and there is no limit to their chariots.” (Isaiah 2:7) Do the people thank Jehovah for such wealth and military strength? (2 Chronicles 26:1, 6-15) Far from it! Instead, they put their trust in the wealth itself and turn away from its Source, Jehovah God. The result? “Their land is filled with valueless gods. To the work of one’s hands they bow down, to that which one’s fingers have made. And earthling man bows down, and man becomes low, and you cannot possibly pardon them.” (Isaiah 2:8, 9) They turn their faces away from the living God and bow down to lifeless idols.
5. Why is bowing down to idols not an act of humility?
5 Bowing down can be a sign of humility. But bowing down to lifeless things is futile, making the idol worshiper “low,” degenerate. How can Jehovah pardon such a sin? What will these idolaters do when Jehovah calls them to account?
‘Haughty Eyes Must Become Low’
6, 7. (a) What happens to self-exalted ones on the day of Jehovah’s judgment? (b) Upon what and whom does Jehovah express his anger, and why?
6 Isaiah continues: “Enter into the rock and hide yourself in the dust because of the dreadfulness of Jehovah, and from his splendid superiority.” (Isaiah 2:10) But no rock will be big enough to protect them, no cover thick enough to conceal them, from Jehovah, the Almighty. When he comes to execute his judgment, “the haughty eyes of earthling man must become low, and the loftiness of men must bow down; and Jehovah alone must be put on high in that day.”—Isaiah 2:11.
7 “The day belonging to Jehovah of armies” is coming. It will be a time for God to express his anger “upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up and upon all the massive trees of Bashan; and upon all the lofty mountains and upon all the hills that are lifted up; and upon every high tower and upon every fortified wall; and upon all the ships of Tarshish and upon all desirable boats.” (Isaiah 2:12-16) Yes, every organization raised up by man as a symbol of his pride and every ungodly individual will be given attention in the day of Jehovah’s wrath. Thus, “the haughtiness of the earthling man must bow down, and the loftiness of men must become low; and Jehovah alone must be put on high in that day.”—Isaiah 2:17.
8. How does the foretold day of judgment come upon Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E.?
8 The foretold day of judgment comes upon the Jews in 607 B.C.E. when Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar destroys Jerusalem. The inhabitants see their beloved city aflame, its proud buildings demolished, its mighty wall smashed. The temple of Jehovah is reduced to rubble. Neither their treasures nor their chariots amount to anything on “the day belonging to Jehovah of armies.” And their idols? It happens just as Isaiah foretells: “The valueless gods themselves will pass away completely.” (Isaiah 2:18) The Jews—princes and mighty men included—are taken into exile to Babylon. Jerusalem is to lie desolate for 70 years.
9. In what way is the condition of Christendom similar to that of Jerusalem and Judah in Isaiah’s day?
9 How similar the condition of Christendom is to that of Jerusalem and Judah in Isaiah’s day! Christendom has certainly cultivated a close relationship with the nations of this world. She is an enthusiastic supporter of the United Nations and has filled her house with idols and unscriptural practices. Her adherents are materialistic and put their confidence in military might. And do they not view their clergy as worthy of great distinction, attributing to them titles and honors? Christendom’s self-exaltation will without fail be brought to nothing. But when?
The Impending “Day of Jehovah”
10. To what “day of Jehovah” do the apostles Paul and Peter point?
10 The Scriptures point to a “day of Jehovah” that will be of far greater significance than the day of judgment upon ancient Jerusalem and Judah. The apostle Paul, under inspiration, associated the coming “day of Jehovah” with the presence of the enthroned King Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2) Peter spoke of that day in connection with the establishment of ‘new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness is to dwell.’ (2 Peter 3:10-13) It is the day on which Jehovah will execute his judgment upon the entire wicked system of things, including Christendom.
11. (a) Who will “hold up under” the upcoming “day of Jehovah”? (b) How can we make Jehovah our refuge?
11 “Alas for the day,” says the prophet Joel, “because the day of Jehovah is near, and like a despoiling from the Almighty One it will come!” In view of the imminence of that “day,” should not security during that fear-inspiring time concern everyone? “Who can hold up under it?” asks Joel. He answers: “Jehovah will be a refuge for his people.” (Joel 1:15; 2:11; 3:16) Will Jehovah God be a refuge for those who have a haughty spirit and who put their confidence in riches, military might, and man-made gods? Impossible! God abandoned even his chosen people when they acted in this way. How vital that all of God’s servants “seek righteousness, seek meekness,” and examine seriously the place of Jehovah’s worship in their lives!—Zephaniah 2:2, 3.
“To the Shrewmice and to the Bats”
12, 13. Why is it fitting for the idol worshipers to throw their gods “to the shrewmice and to the bats” on the day of Jehovah?
12 How will idol worshipers view their idols during Jehovah’s great day? Isaiah answers: “People will enter into the caves of the rocks and into the holes of the dust because of the dreadfulness of Jehovah and from his splendid superiority, when he rises up for the earth to suffer shocks. In that day the earthling man will throw his worthless gods of silver and his valueless gods of gold . . . to the shrewmice and to the bats, in order to enter into the holes in the rocks and into the clefts of the crags, because of the dreadfulness of Jehovah and from his splendid superiority, when he rises up for the earth to suffer shocks. For your own sakes, hold off from the earthling man, whose breath is in his nostrils, for on what basis is he himself to be taken into account?”—Isaiah 2:19-22.
13 Shrewmice live in holes in the ground, and bats roost in dark and desolate caves. Moreover, where a large number of bats roost in one place, there is a repulsive smell and a buildup of thick layers of droppings. Casting idols into such places is fitting. A place of darkness and uncleanness is all that they deserve. As for the people, they will seek refuge in caves and clefts in the rock on the day of Jehovah’s judgment. So the fate of the idols and their worshipers will be the same. True to Isaiah’s prophecy, lifeless idols saved neither their worshipers nor Jerusalem from Nebuchadnezzar’s hands in 607 B.C.E.
14. During the upcoming day of Jehovah’s judgment upon the world empire of false religion, what will worldly-minded men do?
14 During the coming day of Jehovah’s judgment upon Christendom and other segments of the world empire of false religion, what will people do? Faced with deteriorating conditions earth wide, most will likely come to realize that their idols are valueless. In place of these, they may well seek refuge and protection in nonspiritual, earthly organizations, perhaps including the United Nations, the “scarlet-colored wild beast” of Revelation chapter 17. It is “the ten horns” of that symbolic wild beast that will destroy Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, of which Christendom is a significant part.—Revelation 17:3, 8-12, 16, 17.
15. How will Jehovah alone “be put on high” in his day of judgment?
15 Although the devastating and burning of Babylon the Great may be the direct work of those symbolic ten horns, it is, in fact, the execution of Jehovah’s judgment. Concerning Babylon the Great, Revelation 18:8 states: “That is why in one day her plagues will come, death and mourning and famine, and she will be completely burned with fire, because Jehovah God, who judged her, is strong.” So to Jehovah God, the Almighty, goes the credit for liberating mankind from domination by false religion. As Isaiah states, “Jehovah alone must be put on high in that day. For it is the day belonging to Jehovah of armies.”—Isaiah 2:11b, 12a.
‘Leaders Are Causing You to Wander’
16. (a) What constitute the “support and stay” of a human society? (b) How will Isaiah’s people suffer from the removal of the “support and stay” of their society?
16 For a human society to be stable, it must have its “support and stay”—such necessities as food and water and, more important, trustworthy leaders who are able to guide the people and maintain social order. Concerning ancient Israel, though, Isaiah foretells: “Look! the true Lord, Jehovah of armies, is removing from Jerusalem and from Judah support and stay, the whole support of bread and the whole support of water, mighty man and warrior, judge and prophet, and practicer of divination and elderly man, chief of fifty and highly respected man and counselor and expert in magical arts, and the skilled charmer.” (Isaiah 3:1-3) Mere boys will become princes and rule capriciously. Not only will the rulers oppress the people but “the people will actually tyrannize one over the other . . . They will storm, the boy against the old man, and the lightly esteemed one against the one to be honored.” (Isaiah 3:4, 5) Children “storm” against their elders, lacking respect for them. So low will be the condition of life that one will say to another who has no qualification for rulership: “You have a mantle. A dictator you ought to become to us, and this overthrown mass should be under your hand.” (Isaiah 3:6) But the ones thus invited will refuse, insisting that they have neither the ability to heal the wounded land nor the wealth to handle the responsibility. They will say: “I shall not become a wound dresser; and in my house there is neither bread nor a mantle. You men must not set me as dictator over the people.”—Isaiah 3:7.
17. (a) In what sense was the sin of Jerusalem and Judah “like that of Sodom”? (b) Whom does Isaiah blame for the condition of his people?
17 Isaiah continues: “Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah itself has fallen, because their tongue and their dealings are against Jehovah, in behaving rebelliously in the eyes of his glory. The very expression of their faces actually testifies against them, and of their sin like that of Sodom they do tell. They have not hidden it. Woe to their soul! For they have dealt out to themselves calamity.” (Isaiah 3:8, 9) God’s people have rebelled against the true God in words and deeds. Even the shameless and unrepentant expressions on their faces expose their sins, which are as disgusting as those of Sodom. They are in a covenant with Jehovah God, yet he will not change his standards for them. “It will be well with the righteous one, for they will eat the very fruitage of their dealings. Woe to the wicked one!—Calamity; for the treatment rendered by his own hands will be rendered to him! As for my people, its task assigners are dealing severely, and mere women actually rule over it. O my people, those leading you on are causing you to wander, and the way of your paths they have confused.”—Isaiah 3:10-12.
18. (a) What judgment does Jehovah pronounce upon the elders and the princes of Isaiah’s day? (b) What lesson do we learn from Jehovah’s judgment of the elders and the princes?
18 To the elders and the princes in Judah, Jehovah ‘passes sentence’ and ‘enters into judgment’: “You yourselves have burned down the vineyard. What was taken by robbery from the afflicted one is in your houses. What do you men mean in that you crush my people, and that you grind the very faces of the afflicted ones?” (Isaiah 3:13-15) Instead of working for the welfare of the people, leaders engage in deceitful practices. They misuse their authority by enriching themselves and depriving the poor and needy. But these leaders must answer to Jehovah of armies for their oppression of the afflicted. What a warning this is to those in positions of responsibility today! May they be ever careful not to misuse their authority.
19. Of what oppression and persecution has Christendom been guilty?
19 Christendom—particularly her clergy and principal ones—has fraudulently acquired much that should belong to the common people, whom she has oppressed and continues to oppress. She has also beaten, persecuted, and maltreated the people of God and has brought great reproach upon Jehovah’s name. In his due time, Jehovah will certainly enter into judgment against her.
“A Brand Mark Instead of Prettiness”
20. Why does Jehovah denounce “the daughters of Zion”?
20 After denouncing the wrongs of the leaders, Jehovah turns to the women of Zion, or Jerusalem. Apparently for reasons of fashion, “the daughters of Zion” wear “step chains”—chainlets fastened to their ankles—which make a melodious tinkling sound. The women restrict their stride and walk along “with tripping steps,” cultivating what might be considered a genteel feminine gait. What, if anything, is wrong with this? It is the attitude of these women. Jehovah says: “The daughters of Zion have become haughty and they walk with their throats stretched forth and ogling with their eyes.” (Isaiah 3:16) Such haughtiness does not escape retribution.
21. How does Jehovah’s judgment of Jerusalem affect the Jewish women?
21 Hence, when Jehovah’s judgment comes upon the land, these haughty “daughters of Zion” will lose everything—even the beauty of which they are so proud. Jehovah prophesies: “Jehovah also will actually make the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion scabby, and Jehovah himself will lay their very forehead bare. In that day Jehovah will take away the beauty of the bangles and the headbands and the moon-shaped ornaments, the eardrops and the bracelets and the veils, the headdresses and the step chains and the breastbands and the ‘houses of the soul’ [probably perfume receptacles] and the ornamental humming shells [or, charms], the finger rings and the nose rings, the robes of state and the overtunics and the cloaks and the purses, and the hand mirrors and the undergarments and the turbans and the large veils.” (Isaiah 3:17-23; see footnotes.) What a tragic reversal!
22. Besides their ornaments, what else do the women of Jerusalem lose?
22 The prophetic message goes on to say: “Instead of balsam oil there will come to be merely a musty smell; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of an artistic hair arrangement, baldness; and instead of a rich garment, a girding of sackcloth; a brand mark instead of prettiness.” (Isaiah 3:24) In 607 B.C.E., the proud women of Jerusalem fall from wealth to poverty. They lose their freedom and receive “a brand mark” of slavery.
“She Will Certainly Be Cleaned Out”
23. What does Jehovah proclaim concerning Jerusalem?
23 Speaking now to the city of Jerusalem, Jehovah proclaims: “By the sword your own men will fall, and your mightiness by war. And her entrances will have to mourn and express sorrow, and she will certainly be cleaned out. She will sit down on the very earth.” (Isaiah 3:25, 26) The men of Jerusalem, even her mighty ones, will be slain in battle. The city will be leveled to the ground. For “her entrances,” it will be a time to “mourn and express sorrow.” Jerusalem will be “cleaned out” and laid desolate.
24. The loss of men by the sword has what drastic consequences for the women of Jerusalem?
24 The loss of men by the sword will have drastic consequences for the women of Jerusalem. Concluding this part of his prophetic book, Isaiah foretells: “Seven women will actually grab hold of one man in that day, saying: ‘We shall eat our own bread and wear our own mantles; only may we be called by your name to take away our reproach.’” (Isaiah 4:1) The shortage of marriageable men will become so severe that several women will attach themselves to one man in order to be called by his name—that is, to be publicly known as his wives—and thus be free of the reproach of being without a husband. The Mosaic Law required that a husband provide sustenance and clothing for his wife. (Exodus 21:10) However, agreeing to ‘eat their own bread and wear their own clothing,’ these women are willing to release the man from his legal obligations. What a desperate situation for the once haughty “daughters of Zion”!
25. What is in the offing for self-exalted ones?
25 Jehovah humiliates self-exalted ones. In 607 B.C.E., he does indeed make the haughtiness of his chosen people “bow down” and cause their “loftiness” to become “low.” May true Christians never forget that “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—James 4:6.
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Idols, riches, and military prowess do not save Jerusalem on the day of Jehovah’s judgment
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On “the day of Jehovah,” the world empire of false religion will be devastated