Salvation and Rejoicing Under the Messiah’s Reign
1. Describe the spiritual condition of God’s covenant people in the days of Isaiah.
IN THE days of Isaiah, the spiritual condition of God’s covenant people was bad. Even under the rule of faithful kings, such as Uzziah and Jotham, many of the people worshiped at the high places. (2 Kings 15:1-4, 34, 35; 2 Chronicles 26:1, 4) When Hezekiah became king, he had to remove the appendages of Baal worship from the land. (2 Chronicles 31:1) No wonder that Jehovah urged his people to return to him and warned of discipline to come!
2, 3. What encouragement does Jehovah supply for those who desire to serve him despite widespread unfaithfulness?
2 Still, not all were out-and-out rebels. Jehovah had faithful prophets, and likely there were some Jews who listened to them. Jehovah had comforting words for these ones. After describing the terrible depredations that Judah would experience during the Assyrian invasion, the prophet Isaiah was inspired to pen one of the most beautiful passages in the whole Bible, a description of the blessings to come under the reign of the Messiah.a Some aspects of these blessings turned out to have a small-scale fulfillment when the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon. But the prophecy as a whole has a major fulfillment today. True, Isaiah and other faithful Jews of his time did not live to see these blessings. But they looked forward to them in faith and will see a fulfillment of Isaiah’s words after the resurrection.—Hebrews 11:35.
3 Jehovah’s modern-day people also need encouragement. Rapidly decaying moral values in the world, vicious opposition to the Kingdom message, and personal weaknesses challenge all of them. Isaiah’s wonderful words about the Messiah and his reign can strengthen and help God’s people to meet these challenges.
Messiah—A Capable Leader
4, 5. What did Isaiah prophesy regarding the coming of the Messiah, and what application of Isaiah’s words did Matthew apparently make?
4 Centuries before Isaiah’s time, other Hebrew Bible writers pointed to the coming of the Messiah, the true Leader, whom Jehovah would send to Israel. (Genesis 49:10; Deuteronomy 18:18; Psalm 118:22, 26) Now through Isaiah, Jehovah adds further details. Isaiah writes: “There must go forth a twig out of the stump of Jesse; and out of his roots a sprout will be fruitful.” (Isaiah 11:1; compare Psalm 132:11.) “Twig” and “sprout” both indicate that the Messiah will be the descendant of Jesse through his son David, who was anointed with oil as king of Israel. (1 Samuel 16:13; Jeremiah 23:5; Revelation 22:16) When the true Messiah arrives, this “sprout,” from the house of David, is to produce good fruit.
5 The promised Messiah is Jesus. The gospel writer Matthew alluded to the words of Isaiah 11:1 when he said that Jesus’ being called “a Nazarene” fulfilled the words of the prophets. Because he was brought up in the town of Nazareth, Jesus was called a Nazarene, a name apparently related to the Hebrew word used in Isaiah 11:1 for “sprout.”b—Matthew 2:23, footnote; Luke 2:39, 40.
6. What kind of ruler is the Messiah prophesied to be?
6 What kind of ruler will the Messiah be? Will he be like the cruel, self-willed Assyrian who destroys the ten-tribe northern kingdom of Israel? Of course not. Of the Messiah, Isaiah says: “Upon him the spirit of Jehovah must settle down, the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of mightiness, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah; and there will be enjoyment by him in the fear of Jehovah.” (Isaiah 11:2, 3a) The Messiah is anointed, not with oil, but with God’s holy spirit. This happens at Jesus’ baptism, when John the Baptizer sees God’s holy spirit descending on Jesus in the form of a dove. (Luke 3:22) Jehovah’s spirit ‘settles down upon’ Jesus, and he gives evidence of this when he acts with wisdom, understanding, counsel, mightiness, and knowledge. What excellent qualities for a ruler!
7. What promise did Jesus make to his faithful followers?
7 Jesus’ followers too can receive holy spirit. In one of his discourses, Jesus declared: “If you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!” (Luke 11:13) Hence, we should never hesitate to ask God for holy spirit, nor should we cease to cultivate its wholesome fruitage—“love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) Jehovah promises to answer the request of Jesus’ followers for “wisdom from above” to help them deal successfully with the challenges of life.—James 1:5; 3:17.
8. How does Jesus find enjoyment in the fear of Jehovah?
8 What is the fear of Jehovah that the Messiah displays? Jesus certainly is not terrified by God, fearful of his condemnation. Rather, the Messiah has a respectful awe of God, a loving reverence for him. A God-fearing person desires always to “do the things pleasing to him,” as Jesus does. (John 8:29) By word and example, Jesus teaches that there is no greater joy than walking every day in the wholesome fear of Jehovah.
A Righteous and Merciful Judge
9. What example does Jesus give to those called upon to judge matters in the Christian congregation?
9 Isaiah foretells more of the Messiah’s characteristics: “He will not judge by any mere appearance to his eyes, nor reprove simply according to the thing heard by his ears.” (Isaiah 11:3b) If you had to stand before a court of law, would you not be grateful for a judge like that? In his capacity as Judge of all mankind, the Messiah is not swayed by false arguments, clever courtroom tactics, rumors, or superficial factors, such as wealth. He sees through deception and looks beyond unflattering outward appearances, discerning “the secret person of the heart,” “the hidden man.” (1 Peter 3:4, footnote) Jesus’ superlative example serves as the model for all who are called upon to judge matters in the Christian congregation.—1 Corinthians 6:1-4.
10, 11. (a) In what way does Jesus correct his followers? (b) What judgment does Jesus render to the wicked?
10 How will the Messiah’s superlative qualities influence his judicial decisions? Isaiah explains: “With righteousness he must judge the lowly ones, and with uprightness he must give reproof in behalf of the meek ones of the earth. And he must strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the spirit of his lips he will put the wicked one to death. And righteousness must prove to be the belt of his hips, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.”—Isaiah 11:4, 5.
11 When his followers need correction, Jesus delivers it in the way that benefits them most—an excellent example for Christian elders. On the other hand, those who practice wickedness can expect judgment of a severe sort. When God calls this system of things to account, the Messiah will “strike the earth” with his authoritative voice, issuing a judgment of destruction for all the wicked. (Psalm 2:9; compare Revelation 19:15.) Eventually, there will be no wicked people left to disturb the peace of mankind. (Psalm 37:10, 11) Jesus, with his hips and loins girded with righteousness and faithfulness, has the power to accomplish this.—Psalm 45:3-7.
Changed Conditions on Earth
12. What concerns might a Jew have when he contemplates returning from Babylon to the Promised Land?
12 Picture an Israelite who has just learned of Cyrus’ decree that the Jews return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Will he leave the security of Babylon to make the long trip home? During Israel’s 70-year absence, the deserted fields have become overgrown with weeds. Wolves, leopards, lions, and bears now freely prowl those fields. Cobras too make their home there. The returning Jews will have to depend on domestic animals for survival—flocks and herds will provide milk, wool, and meat, and oxen will pull the plow. Will these fall victim to predators? Will small children be bitten by snakes? What about the danger of being ambushed on the journey?
13. (a) What heartwarming picture does Isaiah paint? (b) How do we know that the peace Isaiah describes involves more than safety from wild animals?
13 Isaiah now paints a heartwarming picture of the conditions that God will bring about in the land. He says: “The wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them. And the cow and the bear themselves will feed; together their young ones will lie down. And even the lion will eat straw just like the bull. And the sucking child will certainly play upon the hole of the cobra; and upon the light aperture of a poisonous snake will a weaned child actually put his own hand. They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9) Do these words not touch the heart? Notice that the peace described here results from the knowledge of Jehovah. Hence, more is involved than mere safety from wild animals. The knowledge of Jehovah will not change animals, but it will affect people. Neither on the way home nor in their restored land will the Israelites need to fear wild beasts or beastlike men.—Ezra 8:21, 22; Isaiah 35:8-10; 65:25.
14. What is the larger fulfillment of Isaiah 11:6-9?
14 This prophecy, however, has a larger fulfillment. In 1914, Jesus, the Messiah, was enthroned on heavenly Mount Zion. In 1919 the remaining ones of “the Israel of God” experienced release from Babylonish captivity and shared in the restoration of true worship. (Galatians 6:16) As a result, the way was opened for a modern-day fulfillment of Isaiah’s Paradise prophecy. “Accurate knowledge,” the knowledge of Jehovah, has changed personalities. (Colossians 3:9, 10) Formerly violent people have become peaceable. (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:17-24) These developments have now affected millions because Isaiah’s prophecy has come to include a rapidly increasing number of Christians with an earthly hope. (Psalm 37:29; Isaiah 60:22) These have learned to look to the time when the whole earth will be restored as a secure, peaceful paradise, according to God’s original purpose.—Matthew 6:9, 10; 2 Peter 3:13.
15. Can we reasonably expect Isaiah’s words to have a literal fulfillment in the new world? Explain.
15 In that restored Paradise, will Isaiah’s prophecy have a further, perhaps more literal, fulfillment? It seems reasonable to think so. The prophecy gives to all who will live under the Messiah’s rule the same assurance that it gave to the returning Israelites; they and their children will not feel threatened by harm from any source—human or animal. Under the Messiah’s Kingdom rule, all earth’s inhabitants will enjoy peaceful conditions like those that Adam and Eve enjoyed in Eden. Of course, the Scriptures do not reveal every detail of what life was like in Eden—or of what it will be like in Paradise. We can be confident, though, that under the wise and loving rule of the King Jesus Christ, everything will be just as it should be.
Pure Worship Restored Through the Messiah
16. What stood as a signal for God’s people in 537 B.C.E.?
16 Pure worship first came under attack in Eden when Satan successfully influenced Adam and Eve to disobey Jehovah. To this day, Satan has not given up his goal of turning as many as possible away from God. But Jehovah will never permit pure worship to vanish from the earth. His name is involved, and he cares about those who serve him. Hence, through Isaiah he makes a striking promise: “It must occur in that day that there will be the root of Jesse that will be standing up as a signal for the peoples. To him even the nations will turn inquiringly, and his resting-place must become glorious.” (Isaiah 11:10) Back in 537 B.C.E., Jerusalem, the city that David had made the national capital, served as a signal, calling a faithful remnant of the dispersed Jewish people to return and rebuild the temple.
17. How did Jesus ‘arise to rule nations’ in the first century and in our day?
17 However, the prophecy points to more than that. As already seen, it points to the rule of the Messiah, the one true Leader for people of all nations. The apostle Paul quoted Isaiah 11:10 to show that in his day people of the nations would have a place in the Christian congregation. Quoting the Septuagint rendering of this verse, he wrote: “Isaiah says: ‘There will be the root of Jesse, and there will be one arising to rule nations; on him nations will rest their hope.’” (Romans 15:12) Moreover, the prophecy reaches even further—down to our day when people of the nations show their love for Jehovah by supporting the anointed brothers of the Messiah.—Isaiah 61:5-9; Matthew 25:31-40.
18. In our day, how has Jesus been a rallying point?
18 In the modern-day fulfillment, “that day” referred to by Isaiah began when the Messiah was enthroned as King of God’s heavenly Kingdom in 1914. (Luke 21:10; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Revelation 12:10) Since then, Jesus Christ has been a clear signal, a rallying point, for spiritual Israel and for people of all nations who long for righteous government. Under the Messiah’s direction, the good news of the Kingdom has been carried to all the nations, as Jesus foretold. (Matthew 24:14, Mark 13:10) This good news has a powerful effect. “A great crowd, which no man [is] able to number, out of all nations” is submitting to the Messiah by joining the anointed remnant in pure worship. (Revelation 7:9) As many new ones continue to come into association with the remnant in Jehovah’s spiritual “house of prayer,” they add to the glory of the Messiah’s “resting-place,” God’s great spiritual temple.—Isaiah 56:7; Haggai 2:7.
A United People Serve Jehovah
19. On what two occasions does Jehovah restore a remnant of his people scattered throughout the earth?
19 Isaiah next reminds the Israelites that Jehovah once before provided salvation for them when the nation faced oppression by a powerful enemy. That part of Israel’s history—Jehovah’s liberation of the nation from captivity in Egypt—is dear to the hearts of all faithful Jews. Isaiah writes: “It must occur in that day that Jehovah will again offer his hand, a second time, to acquire the remnant of his people who will remain over from Assyria and from Egypt and from Pathros and from Cush and from Elam and from Shinar and from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. And he will certainly raise up a signal for the nations and gather the dispersed ones of Israel; and the scattered ones of Judah he will collect together from the four extremities of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:11, 12) As if taking them by the hand, Jehovah will lead a faithful remnant of both Israel and Judah out from the nations to which they have been scattered and will bring them safely home. In a minor way, this happens in 537 B.C.E. How much more glorious, though, is the major fulfillment! In 1914, Jehovah raised the enthroned Jesus Christ as “a signal for the nations.” Starting in 1919 the remaining ones of “the Israel of God” began to flock to this signal, eager to share in pure worship under God’s Kingdom. This unique spiritual nation comes “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”—Revelation 5:9.
20. What unity will God’s people enjoy upon their return from Babylon?
20 Isaiah now describes the unity of the restored nation. Referring to the northern kingdom as Ephraim and to the southern kingdom as Judah, he says: “The jealousy of Ephraim must depart, and even those showing hostility to Judah will be cut off. Ephraim itself will not be jealous of Judah, nor will Judah show hostility toward Ephraim. And they must fly at the shoulder of the Philistines to the west; together they will plunder the sons of the East. Edom and Moab will be those upon whom they will thrust out their hand, and the sons of Ammon will be their subjects.” (Isaiah 11:13, 14) When the Jews return from Babylon, they will no longer be divided into two nations. Members from all tribes of Israel will return unitedly to their land. (Ezra 6:17) No longer will they show resentment and hostility toward one another. As a united people, they will take a triumphant stand against their enemies in the surrounding nations.
21. How is the unity of God’s people today truly outstanding?
21 Still more impressive is the unity of “the Israel of God.” The 12 symbolic tribes of spiritual Israel have for almost 2,000 years enjoyed a unity based on love for God and for their spiritual brothers and sisters. (Colossians 3:14; Revelation 7:4-8) Today, Jehovah’s people—both spiritual Israelites and those with an earthly hope—enjoy peace and worldwide unity under the Messiah’s rule, conditions unknown in the churches of Christendom. Jehovah’s Witnesses present a united spiritual front against Satan’s efforts to interfere with their worship. As one people, they carry out Jesus’ commission to preach and teach the good news of the Messiah’s Kingdom in all the nations.—Matthew 28:19, 20.
Barriers Will Be Overcome
22. How will Jehovah “cut off the tongue of the Egyptian sea” and “wave his hand at the River”?
22 There are many barriers, both literal and figurative, to hinder the Israelites’ return from exile. How will they be overcome? Isaiah says: “Jehovah will certainly cut off the tongue of the Egyptian sea, and wave his hand at the River in the glow of his spirit. And he must strike it in its seven torrents, and he will actually cause people to walk in their sandals.” (Isaiah 11:15) It is Jehovah who will remove all impediments to his people’s return. Even a barrier as formidable as a tongue of the Red Sea (such as the Gulf of Suez) or as impassable as the mighty Euphrates River will be dried up, as it were, so that a person can cross without having to take off his sandals!
23. In what way will there “come to be a highway out of Assyria”?
23 In Moses’ day, Jehovah prepared a way for Israel to escape from Egypt and march to the Promised Land. He will do something similar now: “There must come to be a highway out of Assyria for the remnant of his people who will remain over, just as there came to be one for Israel in the day of his coming up out of the land of Egypt.” (Isaiah 11:16) Jehovah will lead returning exiles as if they were walking along a highway from their place of exile to their homeland. Opposers will attempt to stop them, but their God, Jehovah, will be with them. Anointed Christians and their companions today likewise come under vicious attack, but they go forward courageously! They have come out of modern Assyria, Satan’s world, and they help others to do the same. They know that pure worship will succeed and flourish. It is not man’s work, but God’s.
Endless Rejoicing for the Subjects of the Messiah!
24, 25. With what expressions of praise and gratitude will Jehovah’s people cry out?
24 In joyful language Isaiah now describes the exultation of Jehovah’s people over the fulfillment of His word: “In that day you will be sure to say: ‘I shall thank you, O Jehovah, for although you got incensed at me, your anger gradually turned back, and you proceeded to comfort me.’” (Isaiah 12:1) Jehovah’s discipline of his wayward people is severe. But it accomplishes its purpose of healing the nation’s relationship with him and of restoring pure worship. Jehovah reassures his faithful worshipers that ultimately he will save them. No wonder they express appreciation!
25 The restored Israelites have their confidence in Jehovah completely confirmed, and they cry out: “‘Look! God is my salvation. I shall trust and be in no dread; for Jah Jehovah is my strength and my might, and he came to be the salvation of me.’ With exultation you people will be certain to draw water out of the springs of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2, 3) The Hebrew word translated “might” in Isa 12 verse 2 appears as “praise” in the Septuagint version. Worshipers break out in songs of praise over salvation from “Jah Jehovah.” As an abbreviated form of the name Jehovah, “Jah” is used in the Bible to convey heightened feelings of praise and gratitude. Using the expression “Jah Jehovah”—doubling the divine name—raises the intensity of praise to God to an even higher level.
26. Who today make God’s dealings known among the nations?
26 Genuine worshipers of Jehovah cannot keep their joy to themselves. Isaiah foretells: “In that day you will certainly say: ‘Give thanks to Jehovah, you people! Call upon his name. Make known among the peoples his dealings. Make mention that his name is put on high. Make melody to Jehovah, for he has done surpassingly. This is made known in all the earth.’” (Isaiah 12:4, 5) Since 1919, anointed Christians—later with the help of their “other sheep” companions—have ‘declared abroad the excellencies of the one that called them out of darkness into his wonderful light.’ They are “a chosen race, . . . a holy nation” set apart for this purpose. (John 10:16; 1 Peter 2:9) Anointed ones declare that Jehovah’s holy name is put on high and share in making it known in all the earth. They lead all of Jehovah’s worshipers in rejoicing in his provision for their salvation. It is just as Isaiah exclaims: “Cry out shrilly and shout for joy, O you inhabitress of Zion, for great in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel”! (Isaiah 12:6) The Holy One of Israel is Jehovah God himself.
Look to the Future With Confidence!
27. While awaiting the realization of their hope, in what are Christians confident?
27 Today millions have flocked to the “signal for the peoples”—Jesus Christ enthroned in God’s Kingdom. They rejoice to be subject to that Kingdom and are thrilled to know Jehovah God and his Son. (John 17:3) They find great happiness in their united Christian fellowship and strive hard to preserve the peace that is the mark of Jehovah’s true servants. (Isaiah 54:13) Convinced that Jah Jehovah is a God who fulfills his promises, they are confident in their hope and find great delight in sharing it with others. May each worshiper of Jehovah continue to use all his strength to serve God and to help others do likewise. Let all take Isaiah’s words to heart and rejoice in salvation through Jehovah’s Messiah!
a “Messiah” is derived from the Hebrew word ma·shiʹach, meaning “Anointed One.” The Greek equivalent is Khri·stosʹ, or “Christ.”—Matthew 2:4, footnote.
b The Hebrew word for “sprout” is neʹtser, and for “Nazarene” is Nots·riʹ.
[Pictures on page 158]
The Messiah is “a twig” out of Jesse, through King David
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Isaiah 12:4, 5, as it appears in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Occurrences of God’s name are highlighted)