“You Are My Witnesses”!
1. How does Jehovah use prophecy, and how are his people to respond to fulfilled prophecy?
THE ability to predict the future is one thing that distinguishes the true God from all false gods. But when Jehovah prophesies, he has more in mind than proving his Godship. As demonstrated in Isaiah chapter 43, Jehovah makes prophecy a proof both of his Godship and of his love for his covenant people. His people, in turn, are not to discern fulfilled prophecy and yet remain mute; they are to bear testimony to what they have seen. Yes, they are to be Jehovah’s witnesses!
2. (a) What is the spiritual condition of Israel in Isaiah’s time? (b) How does Jehovah open the eyes of his people?
2 Sadly, by Isaiah’s time Israel is in such a deplorable state that Jehovah considers the people spiritually disabled. “Bring forth a people blind though eyes themselves exist, and the ones deaf though they have ears.” (Isaiah 43:8) How can people who are spiritually blind and deaf serve Jehovah as his living witnesses? There is only one way. Their eyes and ears must be miraculously opened. And open them, Jehovah does! How? First, Jehovah administers severe discipline—the inhabitants of the northern kingdom of Israel go into exile in 740 B.C.E., and those of Judah, in 607 B.C.E. Then, Jehovah acts with power in behalf of his people by liberating them and bringing a spiritually revitalized, repentant remnant back to their homeland in 537 B.C.E. In fact, Jehovah is so confident that his purpose in this regard cannot be thwarted that some 200 years in advance, he speaks of Israel’s liberation as though it has already occurred.
3. What encouragement does Jehovah give to the future exiles?
3 “This is what Jehovah has said, your Creator, O Jacob, and your Former, O Israel: ‘Do not be afraid, for I have repurchased you. I have called you by your name. You are mine. In case you should pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not flood over you. In case you should walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, neither will the flame itself singe you. For I am Jehovah your God, the Holy One of Israel your Savior.’”—Isaiah 43:1-3a.
4. How is it that Jehovah is Israel’s Creator, and what assurance does he give his people in regard to their return to their homeland?
4 Jehovah has a special interest in Israel because the nation belongs to him. It is his own personal creation in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. (Genesis 12:1-3) Thus, Psalm 100:3 says: “Know that Jehovah is God. It is he that has made us, and not we ourselves. We are his people and the sheep of his pasturage.” As Israel’s Creator and Repurchaser, Jehovah will bring his people safely back to their homeland. Impediments, such as waters, flooding rivers, and fiery deserts, will not hinder or harm them, just as similar things did not slow their forefathers when en route to the Promised Land a thousand years earlier.
5. (a) How do Jehovah’s words comfort spiritual Israel? (b) Who are the companions of spiritual Israel, and by whom were these prefigured?
5 Jehovah’s words also give comfort to the modern-day remnant of spiritual Israel, the members of which are a spirit-begotten “new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Having stepped boldly before “the waters” of mankind, they have enjoyed God’s loving protection through figurative floods. Fire emanating from their enemies has not harmed them but, rather, has served to refine them. (Zechariah 13:9; Revelation 12:15-17) Jehovah’s watchcare has also extended to the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” who have joined God’s spiritual nation. (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16) These ones were prefigured by the “vast mixed company” that made the Exodus from Egypt along with the Israelites and also by the non-Jews who returned with the freed exiles from Babylon.—Exodus 12:38; Ezra 2:1, 43, 55, 58.
6. How does Jehovah show himself to be a God of justice in regard to the ransoming of (a) fleshly Israel? (b) spiritual Israel?
6 Jehovah promises to deliver his people from Babylon by means of the armies of Media and Persia. (Isaiah 13:17-19; 21:2, 9; 44:28; Daniel 5:28) As a God of justice, Jehovah will pay his Medo-Persian “employees” a suitable ransom in exchange for Israel. “I have given Egypt as a ransom for you, Ethiopia and Seba in place of you. Owing to the fact that you have been precious in my eyes, you have been considered honorable, and I myself have loved you. And I shall give men in place of you, and national groups in place of your soul.” (Isaiah 43:3b, 4) History confirms that the Persian Empire did conquer Egypt, Ethiopia, and nearby Seba, just as God foretold. (Proverbs 21:18) In 1919 by means of Jesus Christ, Jehovah similarly released the remnant of spiritual Israel from captivity. For his services, however, Jesus needed no reward. He was no pagan ruler. And he was liberating his own spiritual brothers. Besides, in 1914, Jehovah had already given him “nations as [his] inheritance and the ends of the earth as [his] own possession.”—Psalm 2:8.
7. How does Jehovah feel toward his people, both in ancient and in modern times?
7 Notice how Jehovah openly expresses his tender feelings toward the repurchased exiles. He tells them that they are “precious” and “honorable” to him and that he ‘loves’ them. (Jeremiah 31:3) He feels the same way—and even more so—toward his loyal servants today. Anointed Christians have been brought into a relationship with God, not by birth, but by the operation of God’s holy spirit following their personal dedication to their Creator. Jehovah has drawn these ones to his Son and to himself and written his laws and principles on their receptive hearts.—Jeremiah 31:31-34; John 6:44.
8. What reassurance does Jehovah give the exiles, and how will they feel about their deliverance?
8 Offering still more reassurance to the exiles, Jehovah adds: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. From the sunrising I shall bring your seed, and from the sunset I shall collect you together. I shall say to the north, ‘Give up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not keep back. Bring my sons from far off, and my daughters from the extremity of the earth, everyone that is called by my name and that I have created for my own glory, that I have formed, yes, that I have made.’” (Isaiah 43:5-7) Not even the remotest parts of the earth will be beyond Jehovah’s reach when the time comes to free his sons and daughters and to bring them back to their beloved homeland. (Jeremiah 30:10, 11) No doubt, in their eyes this liberation will eclipse the nation’s earlier deliverance from Egypt.—Jeremiah 16:14, 15.
9. In what two ways does Jehovah relate his acts of deliverance to his name?
9 By reminding his people that they are called by his name, Jehovah confirms his promise to deliver Israel. (Isaiah 54:5, 6) What is more, Jehovah attaches his name to his promises of liberation. In so doing, he ensures that he will receive the glory when his prophetic word is fulfilled. Not even Babylon’s conqueror will be entitled to the honor due the one and only living God.
The Gods on Trial
10. What challenge does Jehovah put before the nations and their gods?
10 Jehovah now makes his promise to free Israel the basis for a universal court case in which he puts the gods of the nations on trial. We read: “Let the nations all be collected together at one place, and let national groups be gathered together. Who [of their gods] is there among them that can tell this? Or can they cause us to hear even the first things? Let them [their gods] furnish their witnesses, that they may be declared righteous, or let them hear and say, ‘It is the truth!’” (Isaiah 43:9) Jehovah places a formidable challenge before the nations of the world. In effect, he says: ‘Let your gods prove that they are gods by accurately foretelling the future.’ As only the true God can prophesy unerringly, this test will expose all impostors. (Isaiah 48:5) But the Almighty adds yet another legal stipulation: All who claim to be true gods must furnish witnesses, both to their predictions and to the fulfillment of these. Naturally, Jehovah does not exclude himself from this legal requirement.
11. What commission does Jehovah give to his servant, and what does Jehovah reveal about his Godship?
11 Being impotent, false gods can furnish no witnesses. Hence, the witness stand remains embarrassingly empty. But now comes Jehovah’s time to confirm his Godship. Looking toward his people, he says: “You are my witnesses, . . . even my servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and have faith in me, and that you may understand that I am the same One. Before me there was no God formed, and after me there continued to be none. I—I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no savior. I myself have told forth and have saved and have caused it to be heard, when there was among you no strange god. So you are my witnesses, . . . and I am God. Also, all the time I am the same One; and there is no one effecting deliverance out of my own hand. I shall get active, and who can turn [my hand] back?”—Isaiah 43:10-13.
12, 13. (a) What abundant testimony do Jehovah’s people have to present? (b) How has Jehovah’s name come to the fore in modern times?
12 In response to Jehovah’s words, the witness stand soon overflows with a joyful throng of witnesses. Their testimony is clear and unassailable. Like Joshua, they testify that ‘everything Jehovah has spoken has come true. Not one word has failed.’ (Joshua 23:14) Still ringing in the ears of Jehovah’s people are the words of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets who, as with one voice, foretold Judah’s exile and their miraculous deliverance from exile. (Jeremiah 25:11, 12) Judah’s deliverer, Cyrus, was named well before he was even born!—Isaiah 44:26–45:1.
13 In view of this mountain of evidence, who can deny that Jehovah is the only true God? Unlike pagan gods, Jehovah alone is uncreated; he alone is the true God.a Consequently, the people bearing Jehovah’s name have the unique and thrilling privilege of relating his wonderful deeds to future generations and to others who inquire about him. (Psalm 78:5-7) In a similar way, Jehovah’s modern-day Witnesses have the privilege of declaring Jehovah’s name in all the earth. In the 1920’s the Bible Students became increasingly aware of the deep significance of God’s name, Jehovah. Then, on July 26, 1931, at a convention in Columbus, Ohio, the Society’s president, Joseph F. Rutherford, presented a resolution entitled “A New Name.” The words, “We desire to be known as and called by the name, to wit, Jehovah’s witnesses,” thrilled the conventioners, who approved the resolution with a resounding “Aye!” Since then, Jehovah’s name has gained worldwide prominence.—Psalm 83:18.
14. Of what does Jehovah remind the Israelites, and why is this reminder timely?
14 Jehovah cares for those who bear his name honorably, viewing them as “the pupil of his eye.” He reminds the Israelites of this, telling them how he delivered them from Egypt and led them safely through the wilderness. (Deuteronomy 32:10, 12) At that time there was no strange god among them, for they saw with their own eyes the utter humiliation of all the gods of Egypt. Yes, the entire Egyptian pantheon could neither protect Egypt nor prevent Israel’s departure. (Exodus 12:12) Likewise, mighty Babylon, whose urban landscape is dominated by at least 50 temples to false gods, will be unable to check the hand of the Almighty when he frees his people. Clearly, “there is no savior” besides Jehovah.
War-Horses Fall, Prisons Open
15. What does Jehovah prophesy concerning Babylon?
15 “This is what Jehovah has said, the Repurchaser of you people, the Holy One of Israel: ‘For your sakes I will send to Babylon and cause the bars of the prisons to come down, and the Chaldeans in the ships with whining cries on their part. I am Jehovah your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.’ This is what Jehovah has said, the One making a way through the sea itself and a roadway even through strong waters, the One bringing forth the war chariot and the horse, the military force and the strong ones at the same time: ‘They will lie down. They will not get up. They will certainly be extinguished. Like a flaxen wick they must be put out.’”—Isaiah 43:14-17.
16. What will befall Babylon, the Chaldean merchants, and any would-be defenders of Babylon?
16 Babylon is like a prison to the exiles in that it prevents their return to Jerusalem. But Babylon’s defenses are no obstacle to the Almighty, the One who earlier made “a way through the [Red Sea] itself and a roadway even through strong waters”—apparently those of the Jordan. (Exodus 14:16; Joshua 3:13) In a similar way, Jehovah’s agent, Cyrus, will make the mighty Euphrates recede, allowing his warriors entry into the city. Chaldean merchants plying Babylon’s canals—waterways for thousands of commercial galleys and for barges carrying the Babylonian gods—will whine in grief when their mighty capital falls. Like Pharaoh’s chariots in the Red Sea, Babylon’s swift chariots will be helpless. They will not save her. As easily as one extinguishes the flaxen wick of an oil lamp, the invader will snuff out the lives of any would-be defenders.
Jehovah Leads His People Safely Home
17, 18. (a) What “new” thing does Jehovah prophesy? (b) In what way are the people not to remember the former things, and why?
17 Comparing his earlier acts of deliverance with what he is about to do, Jehovah says: “Do not remember the first things, and to the former things do not turn your consideration. Look! I am doing something new. Now it will spring up. You people will know it, will you not? Really, through the wilderness I shall set a way, through the desert rivers. The wild beast of the field will glorify me, the jackals and the ostriches; because I shall have given water even in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to cause my people, my chosen one, to drink, the people whom I have formed for myself, that they should recount the praise of me.”—Isaiah 43:18-21.
18 In saying, “do not remember the first things,” Jehovah is not suggesting that his servants erase his past acts of salvation from their minds. In fact, many of these acts are part of Israel’s divinely inspired history, and Jehovah commanded that the escape from Egypt be remembered annually at the Passover celebration. (Leviticus 23:5; Deuteronomy 16:1-4) However, Jehovah now wants his people to glorify him on the basis of “something new”—something they will experience firsthand. This includes not just their deliverance from Babylon but also their miraculous journey home, perhaps by the more direct desert route. In that barren land, Jehovah will make “a way” for them and will perform powerful works reminiscent of what he did for the Israelites in Moses’ day—indeed, he will feed the returnees in the desert and quench their thirst with veritable rivers. So bounteous will Jehovah’s provisions be that even the wild beasts will glorify God and refrain from attacking the people.
19. How do the remnant of spiritual Israel and their companions walk upon “the Way of Holiness”?
19 Similarly, in 1919 the remnant of spiritual Israel were freed from Babylonish captivity, and they set off on a route Jehovah had prepared for them, “the Way of Holiness.” (Isaiah 35:8) Unlike the Israelites, they did not have to move through the burning desert from one geographical location to another, and their journey was not concluded after a few months with an arrival in Jerusalem. However, “the Way of Holiness” did lead the remnant of anointed Christians into a spiritual paradise. In their case, they remain on that “Way of Holiness,” since they still have to journey through this system of things. As long as they remain on the highway—as long as they observe God’s standards of cleanness and holiness—they remain in the spiritual paradise. And what a joy for them to be joined by a great crowd of “non-Israelite” companions! In sharp contrast with those who look to Satan’s system, both the remnant and their companions continue to enjoy a rich spiritual banquet at Jehovah’s hand. (Isaiah 25:6; 65:13, 14) Discerning Jehovah’s blessing on his people, many beastlike ones have changed their ways and glorified the true God.—Isaiah 11:6-9.
Jehovah Reveals His Hurt
20. How has the Israel of Isaiah’s day failed Jehovah?
20 In ancient times the restored remnant of Israel are a changed people when compared with Isaiah’s wicked generation. Of the latter, Jehovah says: “You have not called even me, O Jacob, because you have grown weary of me, O Israel. You have not brought me the sheep of your whole burnt offerings, and with your sacrifices you have not glorified me. I have not compelled you to serve me with a gift, nor have I made you weary with frankincense. For me you have bought no sweet cane with any money; and with the fat of your sacrifices you have not saturated me. In reality you have compelled me to serve because of your sins; you have made me weary with your errors.”—Isaiah 43:22-24.
21, 22. (a) Why can it be said that Jehovah’s requirements are not burdensome? (b) How do the people, in effect, make Jehovah serve them?
21 In saying, “I have not compelled you to serve me with a gift, nor have I made you weary with frankincense,” Jehovah is not suggesting that sacrifice and frankincense (a component of holy incense) are not required. Indeed, these are an integral part of true worship under the Law covenant. The same is true of the “cane,” which refers to aromatic calamus, a sweet-smelling ingredient of holy anointing oil. The Israelites have been neglecting the use of these in temple service. But are such requirements burdensome? No indeed! Jehovah’s requirements are light when compared with those of false gods. For instance, the false god Molech demanded child sacrifice—something that Jehovah has never required!—Deuteronomy 30:11; Micah 6:3, 4, 8.
22 If only the Israelites had spiritual perception, for then they would never ‘grow weary of Jehovah.’ By looking in his Law, they would see his deep love for them and gladly offer him “the fat,” the best part of their sacrifices. Instead, they greedily keep the fat for themselves. (Leviticus 3:9-11, 16) How this wicked nation weighs Jehovah down with the burden of their sins—in effect, making him serve them!—Nehemiah 9:28-30.
Discipline Reaps Fruitage
23. (a) Why is Jehovah’s discipline well deserved? (b) What is involved in God’s disciplining of Israel?
23 Although severe, and deservedly so, Jehovah’s discipline achieves the desired results, making mercy possible. “I—I am the One that is wiping out your transgressions for my own sake, and your sins I shall not remember. Remind me; let us put ourselves on judgment together; tell your own account of it in order that you may be in the right. Your own father, the first one, has sinned, and your own spokesmen [“interpreters,” footnote] have transgressed against me. So I shall profane the princes of the holy place, and I will give Jacob over as a man devoted to destruction and Israel over to words of abuse.” (Isaiah 43:25-28) Like all the nations of the world, Israel descends from Adam, “the first one.” Hence, no Israelite can prove himself to be “in the right.” Even Israel’s “spokesmen”—her teachers, or interpreters, of the Law—have sinned against Jehovah and taught falsehoods. In turn, Jehovah will hand his entire nation over “to destruction” and “to words of abuse.” He will also profane all those officiating at his “holy place,” or sanctuary.
24. For what primary reason will Jehovah forgive his people—both ancient and modern—yet, what are his feelings toward them?
24 Notice, though, that the resulting divine mercy will not simply be because of Israel’s contrition; it will be for Jehovah’s own sake. Yes, his name is involved. Were he to abandon Israel to permanent exile, his own name would be reproached by onlookers. (Psalm 79:9; Ezekiel 20:8-10) Likewise today, the salvation of humans is secondary to the sanctification of Jehovah’s name and the vindication of his sovereignty. Nonetheless, Jehovah loves those who accept his discipline without reservation and who worship him with spirit and truth. He demonstrates his love for these ones—whether anointed or other sheep—by wiping out their transgressions on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.—John 3:16; 4:23, 24.
25. What awe-inspiring things will Jehovah perform in the near future, and how can we demonstrate our appreciation now?
25 Furthermore, Jehovah will soon demonstrate his love for a great crowd of his loyal worshipers when he does something new in their behalf by delivering them through “the great tribulation” into a cleansed “new earth.” (Revelation 7:14; 2 Peter 3:13) They will witness the most awesome manifestation of Jehovah’s power ever seen by humans. The certain prospect of that event causes the anointed remnant and all those who will make up the great crowd to rejoice and to live each day in accord with that lofty commission: “You are my witnesses”!—Isaiah 43:10.
a In the mythologies of the nations, many gods are “born” and have “children.”
[Picture on page 48, 49]
Jehovah will support the Jews on their way home to Jerusalem
[Pictures on page 52]
Jehovah challenges the nations to produce witnesses for their gods
1. Bronze statue of Baal 2. Clay figurines of Ashtoreth 3. Egyptian triad of Horus, Osiris, and Isis 4. Greek gods Athena (left) and Aphrodite
[Pictures on page 58]
“You are my witnesses.”—Isaiah 43:10