Jehovah’s Hand Becomes High
1. Why does Isaiah have appreciation for Jehovah?
ISAIAH has deep love for Jehovah and delights in praising him. He cries out: “O Jehovah, you are my God. I exalt you, I laud your name.” What helps the prophet to have such fine appreciation for his Creator? A major factor is his knowledge of Jehovah and of his activities. Isaiah’s next words reveal this knowledge: “For you have done wonderful things, counsels from early times, in faithfulness, in trustworthiness.” (Isaiah 25:1) Like Joshua before him, Isaiah knows that Jehovah is faithful and trustworthy and that all his “counsels”—the things he purposes—come true.—Joshua 23:14.
2. What counsel of Jehovah does Isaiah now pronounce, and what may be the object of this counsel?
2 The counsels of Jehovah include his judgment declarations against Israel’s enemies. Isaiah now pronounces one of these: “You have made a city a pile of stones, a fortified town a crumbling ruin, a dwelling tower of strangers to be no city, which will not be rebuilt even to time indefinite.” (Isaiah 25:2) What is this unnamed city? Isaiah may be referring to Ar of Moab—Moab has long been at enmity with God’s people.* Or he may be referring to another, stronger city—Babylon.—Isaiah 15:1; Zephaniah 2:8, 9
3. In what way do Jehovah’s enemies glorify him?
3 How will Jehovah’s enemies react when his counsel against their strong city comes true? “Those who are a strong people will glorify you; the town of the tyrannical nations, they will fear you.” (Isaiah 25:3) It is understandable that the enemies of the almighty God will fear him. How, though, do they glorify him? Will they abandon their false gods and adopt pure worship? Hardly! Rather, like Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, they glorify Jehovah when they are compelled to recognize his overwhelming superiority.—Exodus 10:16, 17; 12:30-33; Daniel 4:37.
4. What “town of the tyrannical nations” exists today, and how does even she have to glorify Jehovah?
4 Today “the town of the tyrannical nations” is “the great city that has a kingdom over the kings of the earth,” namely, “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion. (Revelation 17:5, 18) The principal part of this empire is Christendom. How do the religious leaders of Christendom glorify Jehovah? By bitterly conceding the wonderful things he has accomplished in behalf of his Witnesses. Particularly in 1919 when Jehovah restored his servants to dynamic activity after their release from spiritual captivity to Babylon the Great, these leaders “became frightened and gave glory to the God of heaven.”—Revelation 11:13.*
5. How does Jehovah protect those who have absolute confidence in him?
5 Although fearsome when viewed by his enemies, Jehovah is a refuge to the meek and humble who want to serve him. Religious and political tyrants may try everything to break the faith of true worshipers, but they fail because these have absolute confidence in Jehovah. Eventually, he easily silences his opposers, doing so as if he were covering the burning desert sun with a cloud or blocking the force of a rainstorm with a wall.—Read Isaiah 25:4, 5.
‘A Banquet for All the Peoples’
6, 7. (a) What kind of feast does Jehovah spread, and for whom? (b) What does the banquet prophesied by Isaiah foreshadow?
6 Like a loving father, Jehovah not only protects but also feeds his children, especially in a spiritual way. After liberating his people in 1919, he set before them a victory banquet, an abundant supply of spiritual food: “Jehovah of armies will certainly make for all the peoples, in this mountain, a banquet of well-oiled dishes, a banquet of wine kept on the dregs, of well-oiled dishes filled with marrow, of wine kept on the dregs, filtered.”—Isaiah 25:6.
7 The banquet is spread in Jehovah’s “mountain.” What is this mountain? It is “the mountain of the house of Jehovah” to which all nations stream “in the final part of the days.” It is Jehovah’s “holy mountain,” where his faithful worshipers do no harm and cause no ruin. (Isaiah 2:2; 11:9) In this elevated place of worship, Jehovah spreads his lush banquet for faithful ones. And the spiritual good things now supplied so generously foreshadow the physical good things that will be provided when God’s Kingdom becomes the sole government of mankind. Then hunger will be no more. “There will come to be plenty of grain on the earth; on the top of the mountains there will be an overflow.”—Psalm 72:8, 16.
8, 9. (a) What two great enemies of mankind will be removed? Explain. (b) What will God do to remove the reproach of his people?
8 Those who now partake of the divinely provided spiritual feast have glorious prospects. Listen to Isaiah’s next words. Comparing sin and death to a suffocating “woven work,” or “envelopment,” he says: “In this mountain [Jehovah] will certainly swallow up the face of the envelopment that is enveloping over all the peoples, and the woven work that is interwoven upon all the nations. He will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces.”—Isaiah 25:7, 8a.
9 Yes, no more sin and death! (Revelation 21:3, 4) Moreover, the lying reproach that Jehovah’s servants have endured for thousands of years will also be done away with. “The reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for Jehovah himself has spoken it.” (Isaiah 25:8b) How will this happen? Jehovah will remove the source of that reproach, Satan and his seed. (Revelation 20:1-3) Little wonder that God’s people will be moved to exclaim: “Look! This is our God. We have hoped in him, and he will save us. This is Jehovah. We have hoped in him. Let us be joyful and rejoice in the salvation by him.”—Isaiah 25:9.
The Haughty Are Abased
10, 11. What harsh treatment does Jehovah reserve for Moab?
10 Jehovah saves those of his people who manifest humility. However, Israel’s neighbor Moab is proud, and Jehovah detests pride. (Proverbs 16:18) Moab, therefore, is slated for humiliation. “The hand of Jehovah will settle down on this mountain, and Moab must be trodden down in its place as when a straw heap is trodden down in a manure place. And he must slap out his hands in the midst of it as when a swimmer slaps them out to swim, and he must abase its haughtiness with the tricky movements of his hands. And the fortified city, with your high walls of security, he must lay low; he must abase it, bring it into contact with the earth, to the dust.”—Isaiah 25:10-12.
11 Jehovah’s hand will “settle down” protectively on his holy mountain. However, haughty Moab is to be slapped and trodden down as “in a manure place.” In Isaiah’s time, straw is trampled into piles of dung to make fertilizer; so Isaiah foretells humiliation for Moab, despite her high, seemingly secure walls.
12. Why is Moab singled out for Jehovah’s judgment declaration?
12 Why does Jehovah single out Moab for such harsh counsel? The Moabites are descendants of Lot, the nephew of Abraham and a worshiper of Jehovah. Thus, they are not only neighbors of God’s covenant nation but also relatives. Despite this, they have adopted false gods and manifested hard-set enmity toward Israel. They deserve their fate. In this, Moab is like the enemies of Jehovah’s servants today. She is especially like Christendom, which claims to have roots in the first-century Christian congregation but which, as seen earlier, is the principal part of Babylon the Great.
A Song of Salvation
13, 14. What “strong city” does God’s people have today, and who are allowed to enter it?
13 What of God’s people? Thrilled to have Jehovah’s favor and protection, they raise their voices in song. “In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: ‘We have a strong city. He sets salvation itself for walls and rampart. Open the gates, you men, that the righteous nation that is keeping faithful conduct may enter.’” (Isaiah 26:1, 2) While these words no doubt had a fulfillment in ancient times, they also have a clear fulfillment today. Jehovah’s “righteous nation,” spiritual Israel, is endowed with a strong, citylike organization. What a cause for rejoicing, for song!
14 What kind of people come into this “city”? The song gives the answer: “The inclination that is well supported you [God] will safeguard in continuous peace, because it is in you that one is made to trust. Trust in Jehovah, you people, for all times, for in Jah Jehovah is the Rock of times indefinite.” (Isaiah 26:3, 4) “The inclination” Jehovah supports is the desire to obey his righteous principles and to trust in him, not in the floundering commercial, political, and religious systems of the world. “Jah Jehovah” is the only reliable Rock of security. Those having full confidence in Jehovah receive his protection and enjoy “continuous peace.”—Proverbs 3:5, 6; Philippians 4:6, 7.
15. How has “the elevated town” been abased today, and in what way do “the feet of the afflicted one” trample it?
15 What a contrast to what happens to the enemies of God’s people! “He has laid low those inhabiting the height, the elevated town. He abases it, he abases it to the earth; he brings it in touch with the dust. The foot will trample it down, the feet of the afflicted one, the steps of the lowly ones.” (Isaiah 26:5, 6) Again, Isaiah may be here referring to an “elevated town” in Moab, or he may mean some other city, such as Babylon, which is certainly elevated in haughtiness. Whatever the case, Jehovah has turned the tables on “the elevated town,” and his ‘lowly and afflicted ones’ trample it. Today this prophecy aptly fits Babylon the Great, particularly Christendom. In 1919 this “elevated town” was forced to release Jehovah’s people—a humiliating fall—and they, in turn, have taken to trampling upon their old captor. (Revelation 14:8) How? By publicly announcing Jehovah’s coming vengeance upon her.—Revelation 8:7-12; 9:14-19.
Desiring Righteousness and Jehovah’s “Memorial”
16. What fine example of devotion does Isaiah set?
16 After this triumphant song, Isaiah reveals the depth of his own devotion and the rewards of serving the God of righteousness. (Read Isaiah 26:7-9.) The prophet provides a fine example of ‘hoping in Jehovah’ and of having a deep desire for Jehovah’s “name” and “memorial.” What is Jehovah’s memorial? Exodus 3:15 says: “Jehovah . . . is my name to time indefinite, and this is the memorial of me to generation after generation.” Isaiah cherishes Jehovah’s name and all that it stands for, including His righteous standards and ways. Those who cultivate a similar love for Jehovah are assured of his blessing.—Psalm 5:8; 25:4, 5; 135:13; Hosea 12:5.
17. What privileges will be withheld from the wicked?
17 Not all, however, love Jehovah and his lofty standards. (Read Isaiah 26:10.) The wicked, even when invited, stubbornly refuse to learn righteousness in order to enter “the land of straightforwardness,” the land occupied by Jehovah’s morally and spiritually straightforward servants. Consequently, the wicked “will not see the eminence of Jehovah.” They will not live to enjoy the blessings that will flow to mankind after Jehovah’s name has been sanctified. Even in the new world, when the whole earth will be a “land of straightforwardness,” some may fail to respond to Jehovah’s loving-kindness. The names of such ones will not be written in the book of life.—Isaiah 65:20; Revelation 20:12, 15.
18. In what way are some in Isaiah’s day blind by choice, and when will they be forced to “behold” Jehovah?
18 “O Jehovah, your hand has become high, but they do not behold it. They will behold and be ashamed at the zeal for your people. Yes, the very fire for your own adversaries will eat them up.” (Isaiah 26:11) In Isaiah’s day, the hand of Jehovah has shown itself to be exalted when Jehovah protects his people by acting against their enemies. But most have not recognized this. Such ones, spiritually blind by choice, will eventually be forced to “behold,” or acknowledge, Jehovah when they are eaten up by the fire of his zeal. (Zephaniah 1:18) God later says to Ezekiel: “They will have to know that I am Jehovah.”—Ezekiel 38:23.
“Whom Jehovah Loves He Disciplines”
19, 20. Why and how has Jehovah disciplined his people, and who have benefited from such discipline?
19 Isaiah knows that any peace and prosperity that his fellow countrymen enjoy is due to Jehovah’s blessing. “O Jehovah, you will adjudge peace to us, because even all our works you have performed for us.” (Isaiah 26:12) In spite of this and in spite of Jehovah’s having set before his people the opportunity to become “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” Judah has had a checkered history. (Exodus 19:6) Repeatedly, her people have turned to the worship of false gods. As a result, time after time they have been disciplined. Such discipline, however, is evidence of Jehovah’s love because “whom Jehovah loves he disciplines.”—Hebrews 12:6.
20 Often, Jehovah disciplines his people by allowing other nations, “other masters,” to dominate them. (Read Isaiah 26:13.) In 607 B.C.E., he allows the Babylonians to take them into exile. Does this benefit them? Suffering in itself does not benefit a person. However, if the sufferer learns from what happens, repents, and gives Jehovah exclusive devotion, then he benefits. (Deuteronomy 4:25-31) Do any Jews show godly repentance? Yes! Isaiah says prophetically: “By you only shall we make mention of your name.” After their return from exile in 537 B.C.E., the Jews often need discipline for other sins, but they never again fall prey to worshiping gods of stone.
21. What will happen to those who have oppressed God’s people?
21 What of Judah’s captors? “Impotent in death, they will not rise up. Therefore you have turned your attention that you might annihilate them and destroy all mention of them.” (Isaiah 26:14) Babylon will suffer for the cruelties visited upon Jehovah’s chosen nation. By means of the Medes and the Persians, Jehovah will overturn proud Babylon and free his exiled people. That great city, Babylon, will be rendered impotent, as good as dead. Eventually, she will cease to exist.
22. In modern times, how have God’s people been blessed?
22 In the modern fulfillment, a remnant of chastened spiritual Israel was set free from Babylon the Great and restored to Jehovah’s service in 1919. Revitalized, anointed Christians threw themselves into their preaching work. (Matthew 24:14) In turn, Jehovah has blessed them with increase, even bringing in a great crowd of “other sheep” to serve with them. (John 10:16) “You have added to the nation; O Jehovah, you have added to the nation; you have glorified yourself. You have extended afar all the borders of the land. O Jehovah, during distress they have turned their attention to you; they have poured out a whisper of prayer when they had your disciplining.”—Isaiah 26:15, 16.
“They Will Rise Up”
23. (a) What outstanding demonstration of Jehovah’s power occurs in 537 B.C.E.? (b) What similar demonstration occurred in 1919 C.E.?
23 Isaiah returns to the situation facing Judah while she is still captive to Babylon. He compares the nation to a woman who is in labor but who without help is unable to give birth. (Read Isaiah 26:17, 18.) That help comes in 537 B.C.E., and Jehovah’s people return to their homeland, eager to rebuild the temple and restore true worship. In effect, the nation is raised from the dead. “Your dead ones will live. A corpse of mine—they will rise up. Awake and cry out joyfully, you residents in the dust! For your dew is as the dew of mallows, and the earth itself will let even those impotent in death drop in birth.” (Isaiah 26:19) What a demonstration of Jehovah’s power! Further, what a great demonstration there was when these words were fulfilled in a spiritual sense in 1919! (Revelation 11:7-11) And how we look forward to the time when these words are fulfilled in a literal way in the new world and those impotent in death ‘hear Jesus’ voice and come out’ from the memorial tombs!—John 5:28, 29.
24, 25. (a) How may the Jews in 539 B.C.E. have obeyed Jehovah’s command to hide themselves? (b) What may the “interior rooms” point to in modern times, and what attitude must we cultivate toward these?
24 However, if faithful ones are to enjoy the spiritual blessings promised through Isaiah, they must obey Jehovah’s commands: “Go, my people, enter into your interior rooms, and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourself for but a moment until the denunciation passes over. For, look! Jehovah is coming forth from his place to call to account the error of the inhabitant of the land against him, and the land will certainly expose her bloodshed and will no longer cover over her killed ones.” (Isaiah 26:20, 21; compare Zephaniah 1:14.) This passage may have an initial fulfillment when the Medes and the Persians, led by King Cyrus, conquer Babylon in 539 B.C.E. According to the Greek historian Xenophon, when Cyrus enters Babylon, he commands everyone to stay in their homes because his cavalry has “orders to cut down all whom they found out of doors.” Today, the “interior rooms” of this prophecy could be closely linked with the tens of thousands of congregations of Jehovah’s people around the world. Such congregations will continue to play a key role in our lives, even through “the great tribulation.” (Revelation 7:14) How vital that we maintain a wholesome attitude toward the congregation and regularly associate with it!—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
25 Soon the end will come for Satan’s world. How Jehovah will protect his people during that fear-inspiring time, we do not yet know. (Zephaniah 2:3) However, we do know that our survival will depend on our faith in Jehovah and our loyalty and obedience to him.
26. What is “Leviathan” in Isaiah’s day and in our day, and what happens to this “sea monster”?
26 Looking toward that time, Isaiah prophesies: “In that day Jehovah, with his hard and great and strong sword, will turn his attention to Leviathan, the gliding serpent, even to Leviathan, the crooked serpent, and he will certainly kill the sea monster that is in the sea.” (Isaiah 27:1) In the initial fulfillment, “Leviathan” refers to the countries to which Israel has been scattered, such as Babylon, Egypt, and Assyria. These countries will be unable to prevent the return of Jehovah’s people to their homeland at the proper time. Who, though, is the modern-day Leviathan? It appears to be Satan—“the original serpent”—and his wicked system of things here on earth, his tool for warring against spiritual Israel. (Revelation 12:9, 10; 13:14, 16, 17; 18:24) “Leviathan” lost his hold on God’s people in 1919, and soon he will disappear altogether when Jehovah will “certainly kill the sea monster.” Meantime, nothing “Leviathan” may try to do against Jehovah’s people will have real success.—Isaiah 54:17.
“A Vineyard of Foaming Wine”
27, 28. (a) With what has Jehovah’s vineyard filled the whole earth? (b) How does Jehovah protect his vineyard?
27 With another song, Isaiah now beautifully illustrates the fruitfulness of Jehovah’s freed people: “In that day sing to her, you people: ‘A vineyard of foaming wine! I, Jehovah, am safeguarding her. Every moment I shall water her. In order that no one may turn his attention against her, I shall safeguard her even night and day.’” (Isaiah 27:2, 3) The remnant of spiritual Israel and their hardworking associates have indeed filled the entire earth with spiritual produce. What a cause for celebration—for song! All credit goes to Jehovah, the one lovingly attending to his vineyard.—Compare John 15:1-8.
28 Truly, Jehovah’s earlier anger has been replaced by joy! “There is no rage that I have. Who will give me thornbushes and weeds in the battle? I will step on such. I will set such on fire at the same time. Otherwise let him take hold of my stronghold, let him make peace with me; peace let him make with me.” (Isaiah 27:4, 5) To ensure that his vines continue to produce an abundance of “foaming wine,” Jehovah crushes and consumes as with fire any weedlike influence that could corrupt his vineyard. Hence, let no one endanger the welfare of the Christian congregation! Rather, let all ‘take hold of Jehovah’s stronghold,’ seeking his favor and protection. In so doing, they make peace with God—something so important that Isaiah mentions it twice. The result? “In the coming days Jacob will take root, Israel will put forth blossoms and actually sprout; and they will simply fill the surface of the productive land with produce.” (Isaiah 27:6)* What wonderful evidence of Jehovah’s power the fulfillment of this verse is! Since 1919, anointed Christians have filled the earth with “produce,” nourishing spiritual food. As a result, they have come to be joined by millions of loyal other sheep, who together with them “are rendering [God] sacred service day and night.” (Revelation 7:15) In the midst of a corrupt world, these joyfully maintain his elevated standards. And Jehovah continues to bless them with increase. May we never lose sight of the grand privilege of partaking of “produce” and sharing it with others through our own shout of praise!
The name Ar probably means “City.”
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“A Great Horn” Heralds Liberty
In 607 B.C.E., Judah’s pains increase when Jehovah disciplines his wayward nation with the stroke of exile. (Read Isaiah 27:7-11.) The nation’s error is too great to be atoned for by animal sacrifices. So, as one might scatter sheep or goats with “a scare cry” or might “blast” leaves away with a strong wind, Jehovah expels Israel from their homeland. Thereafter, even weak peoples, symbolized by the feminine sex, are able to exploit what remains in the land.
However, the time comes for Jehovah to deliver his people from captivity. He frees them as a farmer might free olives held prisoner, so to speak, on trees. “It must occur in that day that Jehovah will beat off the fruit, from the flowing stream of the River [Euphrates] to the torrent valley of Egypt, and so you yourselves will be picked up one after the other, O sons of Israel. And it must occur in that day that there will be a blowing on a great horn, and those who are perishing in the land of Assyria and those who are dispersed in the land of Egypt will certainly come and bow down to Jehovah in the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 27:12, 13) Following his victory in 539 B.C.E., Cyrus issues a decree freeing all the Jews in his empire, which includes those in Assyria and Egypt. (Ezra 1:1-4) It is as if “a great horn” sounded, echoing the anthem of freedom for God’s people.
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“A banquet of well-oiled dishes”
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Babylon is trampled under the feet of those who were prisoners
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“Enter into your interior rooms”