Jehovah God Has Mercy on a Remnant
1, 2. The prophet Isaiah foretells what concerning Judah and Jerusalem?
A VIOLENT storm descends upon a densely populated region. Strong winds, torrential rains, and heavy flooding cut a wide swath through the land, destroying homes, damaging crops, and claiming lives. But soon the storm passes, and in its aftermath a period of calm sets in. For those who have survived, it is a time for restoration and rebuilding.
2 The prophet Isaiah foretells something similar concerning Judah and Jerusalem. The storm clouds of divine judgment are moving ominously closer—and with good reason! The guilt of the nation is heavy. Both the rulers and the people have filled the land with injustice and bloodshed. Through Isaiah, Jehovah lays bare Judah’s guilt and warns that He will execute judgment on that delinquent nation. (Isaiah 3:25) The land of Judah will be left completely desolate in the wake of this storm. That prospect must sadden Isaiah.
3. What good news does the inspired message at Isaiah 4:2-6 contain?
3 But there is good news! The storm of Jehovah’s righteous judgment will pass, and a remnant will survive. Yes, Jehovah’s judgment of Judah will be tempered with mercy! Isaiah’s inspired message recorded at Isaiah 4:2-6 looks ahead to this blessed time. It is as if the sun breaks out from behind the clouds; the scene shifts from the sights and sounds of judgment—described at Isaiah 2:6–4:1—to a beautifully renewed land and people.
4. Why should we discuss Isaiah’s prophecy of the restoration of a remnant?
4 Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the restoration of a remnant and their subsequent security also finds a fulfillment in our time—“the final part of the days.” (Isaiah 2:2-4) Let us discuss this timely message, for not only does it have prophetic significance but it also teaches us about Jehovah’s mercy and how we as individuals might receive it.
‘The Sprouting of Jehovah’
5, 6. (a) How does Isaiah describe the peaceful time that follows the coming tempest? (b) What is the meaning of the term “sprout,” and what does this indicate about the land of Judah?
5 Isaiah’s tone becomes warm as he looks beyond the coming tempest to a more peaceful time. He writes: “In that day what Jehovah makes sprout [“the sprouting (sprout) of Jehovah,” footnote] will come to be for decoration and for glory, and the fruitage of the land will be something to be proud of and something beautiful for those of Israel who have escaped.”—Isaiah 4:2.
6 Isaiah here speaks of restoration. The Hebrew noun rendered “sprout” refers to ‘that which springs up, a shoot, a branch.’ It is associated with prosperity, increase, and blessings from Jehovah. Isaiah thus paints a picture of hope—the approaching desolation will not last forever. With Jehovah’s blessing, the once-prosperous land of Judah will again bring forth abundant fruitage.*—Leviticus 26:3-5.
7. In what way will the sprouting of Jehovah “be for decoration and for glory”?
7 Isaiah uses vivid terms to describe the grandeur of the transformation that lies ahead. The sprouting of Jehovah will “be for decoration and for glory.” The word “decoration” calls to mind the beauty of the Promised Land when Jehovah gave it to Israel centuries earlier. It was so beautiful that it was considered “the decoration [“jewel,” New American Bible] of all the lands.” (Ezekiel 20:6) Isaiah’s words thus assure the people that the land of Judah will be restored to its former glory and beauty. Indeed, it will be like a crowning jewel on the earth.
8. Who will be on hand to enjoy the restored beauty of the land, and how does Isaiah describe their feelings?
8 Who, though, will be on hand to enjoy the restored beauty of the land? “Those of Israel who have escaped,” writes Isaiah. Yes, some will survive the humiliating destruction previously foretold. (Isaiah 3:25, 26) A remnant of the survivors will return to Judah and share in its restoration. For these returnees—“the escaped ones”—the abundant produce of their restored land will become “something to be proud of and something beautiful.” (Isaiah 4:2; footnote) The humiliation of desolation will give way to a renewed sense of pride.
9. (a) In fulfillment of Isaiah’s words, what happened in 537 B.C.E.? (b) Why may it be said that “the escaped ones” include some who have been born in exile? (See footnote.)
9 True to Isaiah’s words, the storm of judgment arrived in 607 B.C.E. when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and many Israelites perished. Some survived and were taken into exile in Babylon, but if it had not been for God’s mercy, there would have been no survivors at all. (Nehemiah 9:31) Eventually, Judah was left completely desolate. (2 Chronicles 36:17-21) Then, in 537 B.C.E., the God of mercy allowed “escaped ones” to return to Judah in order to restore true worship.* (Ezra 1:1-4; 2:1) The heartfelt repentance of these returning exiles is beautifully expressed in Psalm 137, which was likely written during the captivity or shortly thereafter. Back in Judah they tilled the soil and sowed seed in the land. Think of how they must have felt when they saw that God was blessing their efforts, causing the land to sprout like the fruitful “garden of Eden”!—Ezekiel 36:34-36.
10, 11. (a) In what way were the Bible Students in captivity to “Babylon the Great” early in the 20th century? (b) How did Jehovah bless the remnant of spiritual Israelites?
10 A similar restoration has taken place in our day. Early in the 20th century, the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known, came into spiritual captivity to “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion. (Revelation 17:5) Although having rejected many false religious teachings, the Bible Students were still tainted by certain Babylonish ideas and practices. As a result of clergy-inspired opposition, some of them were literally imprisoned. Their spiritual land—their religious, or spiritual, estate—was left desolate.
11 But in the spring of 1919, Jehovah had mercy on this remnant of spiritual Israelites. (Galatians 6:16) He saw their repentance and their desire to worship him in truth, so he brought about their release from literal imprisonment and, more important, from spiritual captivity. These “escaped ones” were restored to their God-given spiritual estate, which he caused to sprout abundantly. This spiritual estate has presented an inviting, attractive appearance, which has drawn millions of other God-fearing people to join the remnant in true worship.
12. How do Isaiah’s words magnify the mercy that Jehovah has toward his people?
12 Isaiah’s words here magnify the mercy that God has toward his people. Although the Israelites as a nation turned against Jehovah, he had mercy on a repentant remnant. We can draw comfort from knowing that even those who err seriously can return to Jehovah with hope. Repentant ones need not feel that they are beyond Jehovah’s mercy, for he does not reject a contrite heart. (Psalm 51:17) The Bible assures us: “Jehovah is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness. As a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah has shown mercy to those fearing him.” (Psalm 103:8, 13) Surely, such a merciful God deserves all our praise!
A Remnant Becomes Holy to Jehovah
13. As recorded at Isaiah 4:3, how does Isaiah describe the remnant that would be shown mercy by Jehovah?
13 We have already been introduced to the remnant that would be shown mercy by Jehovah, but now Isaiah describes them in more detail. He writes: “It must occur that the ones remaining in Zion and the ones left over in Jerusalem will be said to be holy to him, everyone written down for life in Jerusalem.”—Isaiah 4:3.
14. Who are “the ones remaining” and “the ones left over,” and why will Jehovah have mercy on them?
14 Who are “the ones remaining” and “the ones left over”? They are the escaped ones mentioned in the preceding verse—the Jewish exiles who will be permitted to return to Judah. Now Isaiah shows why Jehovah will have mercy on them—they will “be holy to him.” Holiness means “religious cleanness or purity; sacredness.” To be holy involves being clean, or pure, in word and action, to measure up to Jehovah’s standard of what is right and proper. Yes, Jehovah will have mercy on those who are “holy to him,” and he will allow them to return to “the holy city,” Jerusalem.—Nehemiah 11:1.
15. (a) The expression “written down for life in Jerusalem” reminds us of what Jewish custom? (b) What sobering warning do Isaiah’s words imply?
15 Will this faithful remnant remain there? They will be “written down for life in Jerusalem,” promises Isaiah. This reminds us of the Jewish custom of keeping careful registers of Israel’s families and tribes. (Nehemiah 7:5) To be written in a register meant to be alive, for when a person died, his name was removed. In other parts of the Bible, we read of a figurative register, or book, containing the names of those whom Jehovah rewards with life. But this book receives names conditionally, for Jehovah can ‘wipe out’ names. (Exodus 32:32, 33; Psalm 69:28) Isaiah’s words, then, imply a sobering warning—the returnees may continue living in their restored land only if they remain holy in God’s sight.
16. (a) What did Jehovah require of those whom he permitted to head back to Judah in 537 B.C.E.? (b) Why can it be said that Jehovah’s mercy on the anointed remnant and the “other sheep” has not been in vain?
16 In 537 B.C.E., the remnant that returned to Jerusalem did so with a pure motive—to restore true worship. No one contaminated by pagan religious practices or by the unclean conduct that Isaiah had so forcefully warned against had a right to return. (Isaiah 1:15-17) Only those whom Jehovah viewed as holy could head back to Judah. (Isaiah 35:8) Similarly, since their release from spiritual captivity in 1919, the anointed remnant, now joined by millions of “other sheep”—those with the hope of everlasting life on earth—have made every effort to be holy in God’s sight. (John 10:16) They have rid themselves of Babylonish teachings and practices. Individually, they strive to hold to God’s high standards of morality. (1 Peter 1:14-16) Jehovah’s mercy on them has not been in vain.
17. Whose names does Jehovah write in his “book of life,” and what should we be determined to do?
17 Recall that Jehovah noted those in Israel who were holy and that he ‘wrote down their names for life.’ Today, too, Jehovah notices our endeavors to be clean in mind and body as we ‘present our bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God.’ (Romans 12:1) And all who follow such a life course are recorded by God in his “book of life”—the figurative record containing the names of those who are in line to receive everlasting life, either in heaven or on earth. (Philippians 4:3; Malachi 3:16) Let us, then, do our utmost to remain holy in God’s eyes, for then we may keep our names in that precious “book.”—Revelation 3:5.
A Promise of Loving Care
18, 19. According to Isaiah 4:4, 5, what cleansing is to be effected by Jehovah, and how will it be accomplished?
18 Next Isaiah shows how the inhabitants of the restored land will come to be holy and what blessings await them. He says: “When Jehovah will have washed away the excrement of the daughters of Zion and he will rinse away even the bloodshed of Jerusalem from within her by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning down, Jehovah will also certainly create over every established place of Mount Zion and over her convention place a cloud by day and a smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; because over all the glory there will be a shelter.”—Isaiah 4:4, 5.
19 Earlier Isaiah rebuked “the daughters of Zion,” whose moral corruption was hidden beneath their showy ornaments. He also exposed the bloodguilt of the people generally, urging them to wash themselves. (Isaiah 1:15, 16; 3:16-23) Here, though, he looks ahead to the time when God himself will have “washed away the excrement,” or moral filth, and ‘cleansed the bloodstains.’ (Isaiah 4:4, New International Version) How will this cleansing be effected? By “the spirit of judgment” and by “the spirit of burning down.” The coming destruction of Jerusalem and the exile in Babylon will be blasts of God’s judgment and burning anger on an unclean nation. The remnant that survives these calamities and returns home will have been humbled, refined. That is why they will be holy to Jehovah and receive mercy.—Compare Malachi 3:2, 3.
20. (a) Of what are the expressions “a cloud,” “a smoke,” and “a flaming fire” reminiscent? (b) Why will the purged exiles not need to fear?
20 Jehovah, through Isaiah, promises that he will take this cleansed remnant into his loving care. The expressions “a cloud,” “a smoke,” and “a flaming fire” are reminiscent of how Jehovah cared for the Israelites after they left Egypt. A “pillar of fire and cloud” protected them from the pursuing Egyptians; it also led them in the wilderness. (Exodus 13:21, 22; 14:19, 20, 24) When Jehovah manifested himself at Mount Sinai, the mountain “smoked all over.” (Exodus 19:18) The cleansed exiles, then, will not need to fear. Jehovah will be their Protector. He will be with them whether they gather in their own homes or meet together in holy conventions.
21, 22. (a) A booth, or hut, was often built for what purpose? (b) What prospect is set before the cleansed remnant?
21 Isaiah concludes his description of divine protection by focusing on everyday life. He writes: “There will come to be a booth for a shade by day from the dry heat, and for a refuge and for a hiding place from the rainstorm and from the precipitation.” (Isaiah 4:6) A booth, or hut, was often built in a vineyard or in a field to provide much-needed shelter from the burning sun of the dry season and from the cold and storms of the rainy season.—Compare Jonah 4:5.
22 When faced with the scorching heat of persecution and the storms of opposition, the cleansed remnant will find Jehovah to be their Source of protection, security, and refuge. (Psalm 91:1, 2; 121:5) A beautiful prospect is thus set before them: If they leave behind the unclean beliefs and practices of Babylon, submit to the cleansing of Jehovah’s judgment, and endeavor to remain holy, they will remain safe, as if in “a booth” of divine protection.
23. Why has Jehovah blessed the anointed remnant and their companions?
23 Notice that first comes the cleansing, then the blessings. This has proved true in our day. Back in 1919 the anointed remnant humbly submitted to being refined, and Jehovah “washed away” their uncleanness. Since then, “a great crowd” of other sheep have also allowed themselves to be cleansed by Jehovah. (Revelation 7:9) Thus cleansed, the remnant and their companions have been blessed—Jehovah has taken them into his protective care. He does not miraculously prevent the heat of persecution or the storms of opposition from bearing down on them. But he does protect them, as if erecting over them ‘a booth for shade and for a hiding place from the rainstorm.’ How?
24. How is it evident that Jehovah has blessed his people as an organization?
24 Consider this: Some of the most powerful governments in history have banned the preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses or have tried to eliminate them completely. Yet, the Witnesses have remained firm and have continued to preach without letup! Why have mighty nations been unable to put a stop to the activity of this relatively small and seemingly defenseless group of people? Because Jehovah has placed his clean servants in “a booth” of protection that no human can tear down!
25. What does having Jehovah as our Protector mean for us as individuals?
25 What about us as individuals? Having Jehovah as our Protector does not mean that we have a problem-free life in this system of things. Many faithful Christians face severe adversities, such as poverty, natural disasters, war, sickness, and death. When facing such distresses, let us never forget that our God is with us. He protects us spiritually, providing what we need—even “power beyond what is normal”—to endure trials faithfully. (2 Corinthians 4:7) Safe in his presence, we need not fear. After all, as long as we do our best to keep ourselves holy in his sight, nothing “will be able to separate us from God’s love.”—Romans 8:38, 39.
Some scholars suggest that the phrase ‘sprout of Jehovah’ is an allusion to the Messiah, who would not appear until after the restoration of Jerusalem. In the Aramaic Targums, the paraphrase of this expression reads: “The Messiah [Christ] of Jehovah.” Interestingly, the same Hebrew noun (tseʹmach) is later used by Jeremiah when he speaks of the Messiah as “a righteous sprout” raised up to David.—Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15.
“The escaped ones” included some who had been born in exile. These could be considered to have “escaped,” since they would never have been born if their ancestors had not survived the destruction.—Ezra 9:13-15; compare Hebrews 7:9, 10.
[Picture on page 63]
A storm of divine judgment is coming upon Judah