Jehovah—“A Righteous God and a Savior”
1, 2. What assurances are given in Isaiah chapter 45, and what questions will be considered?
JEHOVAH’S promises are reliable. He is the God of revelation and the God of creation. Time and again he has proved to be a righteous God and a Savior of people of all nations. These are some of the heartwarming assurances found in Isaiah chapter 45.
2 In addition, Isaiah chapter 45 contains a remarkable example of Jehovah’s prophetic ability. God’s spirit enables Isaiah to gaze upon distant countries and to survey events in centuries to come, and it moves him to describe an episode that only Jehovah, the God of true prophecy, could foretell with such accuracy. What is that event? How does it affect God’s people in Isaiah’s day? What significance does it have for us today? Let us examine the prophet’s words.
Jehovah’s Pronouncement Against Babylon
3. With what vivid expressions does Isaiah 45:1-3a describe Cyrus’ conquest?
3 “This is what Jehovah has said to his anointed one, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have taken hold of, to subdue before him nations, so that I may ungird even the hips of kings; to open before him the two-leaved doors, so that even the gates will not be shut: ‘Before you I myself shall go, and the swells of land I shall straighten out. The copper doors I shall break in pieces, and the iron bars I shall cut down. And I will give you the treasures in the darkness and the hidden treasures in the concealment places.’”—Isaiah 45:1-3a.
4. (a) Why does Jehovah call Cyrus his “anointed one”? (b) How will Jehovah ensure victory for Cyrus?
4 Jehovah, through Isaiah, speaks to Cyrus as if he were alive, although in Isaiah’s day Cyrus has not yet been born. (Romans 4:17) Since Jehovah appoints Cyrus in advance to accomplish a specific task, Cyrus can be said to be God’s “anointed one.” With God leading him, he will subdue nations, rendering kings weak and incapable of resistance. Then, when Cyrus attacks Babylon, Jehovah will see to it that the doors of the city are left open, making them as useless as gates that have been shattered. He will go before Cyrus, smoothing out all obstacles. In the end, Cyrus’ troops will conquer the city and take possession of its “hidden treasures,” its wealth stored in dark vaults. This is what Isaiah foretells. Do his words come true?
5, 6. When and how does the prophecy about the fall of Babylon come true?
5 In the year 539 B.C.E.—some 200 years after Isaiah records this prophecy—Cyrus does indeed arrive at the walls of Babylon to attack the city. (Jeremiah 51:11, 12) The Babylonians, however, are not concerned. They feel that their city is unconquerable. Its towering walls loom over deep moats filled with water from the Euphrates River, which forms part of the city’s defense system. For over a hundred years, no enemy has been able to take Babylon by storm! In fact, Babylon’s ruler in residence, Belshazzar, feels so secure that he feasts with members of his court. (Daniel 5:1) That night—the night of October 5/6—Cyrus completes a brilliant military maneuver.
6 Upstream from Babylon, Cyrus’ engineers have cut through the bank of the Euphrates River, diverting its waters so that they no longer flow southward toward the city. Before long, the water level of the river in and around Babylon falls so low that Cyrus’ troops are able to slosh along the riverbed toward the heart of the city. (Isaiah 44:27; Jeremiah 50:38) Amazingly, just as Isaiah foretold, the gates along the river are open. Cyrus’ forces swarm into Babylon, take the palace, and put King Belshazzar to death. (Daniel 5:30) In one night the conquest is all over. Babylon has fallen, and the prophecy is fulfilled to the letter.
7. How are Christians strengthened by the remarkable fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy regarding Cyrus?
7 The precise fulfillment of this prophecy strengthens the faith of Christians today. It gives them strong reason to believe that Bible prophecies not yet fulfilled are also completely reliable. (2 Peter 1:20, 21) Jehovah’s worshipers know that the event foreshadowed by the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C.E.—the fall of “Babylon the Great”—already occurred back in 1919. Still, they look forward to the destruction of that modern-day religious organization as well as the promised removal of the political system under Satan’s control, the abyssing of Satan, and the coming of new heavens and a new earth. (Revelation 18:2, 21; 19:19-21; 20:1-3, 12, 13; 21:1-4) They know that Jehovah’s prophecies are, not empty promises, but descriptions of definite, future events. The confidence of true Christians is strengthened when they remember the fulfillment of all the details of Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the fall of Babylon. They know that Jehovah always fulfills his word.
Why Jehovah Will Favor Cyrus
8. What is one reason that Jehovah gives Cyrus victory over Babylon?
8 After stating who will conquer Babylon and how this will be done, Jehovah goes on to explain one reason why Cyrus will be given the victory. Jehovah, prophetically speaking to Cyrus, says that it is “in order that you may know that I am Jehovah, the One calling you by your name, the God of Israel.” (Isaiah 45:3b) It is fitting that the ruler of the fourth world power of Bible history recognizes that his greatest victory comes as a result of the support of one who is greater than he is—Jehovah, the Universal Sovereign. Cyrus should acknowledge that the one who calls, or commissions, him is Jehovah, the God of Israel. The Bible record shows that Cyrus did indeed acknowledge that his great victory came from Jehovah.—Ezra 1:2, 3.
9. For what second reason does Jehovah bring Cyrus to conquer Babylon?
9 Jehovah explains the second reason why he brings Cyrus to conquer Babylon: “For the sake of my servant Jacob and of Israel my chosen one, I even proceeded to call you by your name; I proceeded to give you a name of honor, although you did not know me.” (Isaiah 45:4) Cyrus’ victory over Babylon is earth-shattering. It marks the fall of one world power and the ascent of another, and it leaves its mark on history for generations to come. Yet, those of the nations round about who are anxiously watching events would likely be astounded to know that it all happens for the sake of a few thousand “insignificant” exiles in Babylon—the Jews, descendants of Jacob. In Jehovah’s eyes, however, these survivors of the ancient nation of Israel are far from insignificant. They are his “servant.” Of all the nations of the earth, they are his “chosen one.” Even though Cyrus previously did not know Jehovah, he is used by Jehovah as His anointed one to overthrow the city that refused to give up its captives. It is not God’s purpose that his chosen people languish forever on foreign soil.
10. What is the most important reason why Jehovah uses Cyrus to bring about the end of the Babylonian World Power?
10 There is a third, even more important reason why Jehovah uses Cyrus to overthrow Babylon. Jehovah says: “I am Jehovah, and there is no one else. With the exception of me there is no God. I shall closely gird you, although you have not known me, in order that people may know from the rising of the sun and from its setting that there is none besides me. I am Jehovah, and there is no one else.” (Isaiah 45:5, 6) Yes, the fall of the Babylonian World Power is a demonstration of Jehovah’s Godship, proof to everyone that he alone is worthy of worship. Because God’s people are released, individuals from many nations—from east to west—will come to acknowledge that Jehovah is the only true God.—Malachi 1:11.
11. How does Jehovah illustrate that he has the power to fulfill his purpose regarding Babylon?
11 Remember that this prophecy of Isaiah was recorded some 200 years before the event. Upon hearing it some may have wondered, ‘Does Jehovah truly have the power to fulfill it?’ As history testifies, the answer is yes. Jehovah explains why it is reasonable to believe that he can accomplish what he says: “Forming light and creating darkness, making peace and creating calamity, I, Jehovah, am doing all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7) Everything in creation—from light to darkness—and everything in history—from peace to calamity—is subject to Jehovah’s control. Just as he creates the light of day and the darkness of night, so he will make peace for Israel and calamity for Babylon. Jehovah has the power to create the universe, and he also has the power to fulfill his prophecies. That is reassuring to Christians today, who closely study his prophetic word.
12. (a) What does Jehovah cause the figurative heavens and earth to produce? (b) What comforting promise do the words of Isaiah 45:8 contain for Christians today?
12 Fittingly, Jehovah uses events that regularly occur in creation to illustrate things that await the captive Jews: “O you heavens, cause a dripping from above; and let the cloudy skies themselves trickle with righteousness. Let the earth open up, and let it be fruitful with salvation, and let it cause righteousness itself to spring up at the same time. I myself, Jehovah, have created it.” (Isaiah 45:8) Just as the literal heavens cause life-giving rain to fall, Jehovah will cause righteous influences to shower from the figurative heavens upon his people. And just as the literal earth opens to produce bountiful harvests, Jehovah will call on the figurative earth to produce events in harmony with his righteous purpose—especially salvation for his captive people in Babylon. In 1919, Jehovah caused ‘heaven’ and “earth” to produce events in a similar way in order to liberate his people. Seeing such things causes Christians today to rejoice. Why? Because those events strengthen their faith as they look forward to the time when the figurative heavens, God’s Kingdom, will bring blessings to a righteous earth. At that time the righteousness and salvation coming forth from the figurative heavens and earth will be on a far grander scale than when ancient Babylon was overthrown. What a glorious final fulfillment of Isaiah’s words that will be!—2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1.
Blessings From Recognizing Jehovah’s Sovereignty
13. Why is it ridiculous for humans to challenge Jehovah’s purposes?
13 After this description of future joyful blessings, the tone of the prophecy changes abruptly, and Isaiah pronounces a double woe: “Woe to the one that has contended with his Former, as an earthenware fragment with the other earthenware fragments of the ground! Should the clay say to its former: ‘What do you make?’ And your achievement say: ‘He has no hands’? Woe to the one saying to a father: ‘What do you become father to?’ and to the wife: ‘What are you in birth pains with?’” (Isaiah 45:9, 10) Apparently, the sons of Israel object to what Jehovah foretells. Perhaps they do not believe that Jehovah will allow his people to go into exile. Or maybe they find fault with the idea that Israel will be liberated by a king of a heathen nation instead of a king of David’s house. To portray the absurdity of such objections, Isaiah compares objectors to discarded lumps of clay and scraps of pottery that would dare to question the wisdom of their maker. The very thing the potter has formed is now stating that the potter has no hands or power to form. How foolish! The objectors are like little children daring to criticize their parents’ authority.
14, 15. What do the expressions “the Holy One” and “the Former” reveal about Jehovah?
14 Isaiah gives Jehovah’s reply to such objectors: “This is what Jehovah has said, the Holy One of Israel and the Former of him: ‘Ask me even about the things that are coming concerning my sons; and concerning the activity of my hands you people should command me. I myself have made the earth and have created even man upon it. I—my own hands have stretched out the heavens, and all the army of them I have commanded. I myself have roused up someone in righteousness, and all his ways I shall straighten out. He is the one that will build my city, and those of mine in exile he will let go, not for a price nor for bribery,’ Jehovah of armies has said.”—Isaiah 45:11-13.
15 Describing Jehovah as “the Holy One” stresses his sanctity. Calling him “the Former” emphasizes his right as the Creator to decide how things will work out. Jehovah is able to inform the sons of Israel about things to come and to take care of his handiwork, that is, his people. Once again the principles of creation and revelation are shown to be related. As the Creator of the entire universe, Jehovah has the right to guide events in the way he decides. (1 Chronicles 29:11, 12) In the case being discussed, the Sovereign Ruler has decided to raise up Cyrus, a heathen, as liberator of Israel. Cyrus’ coming, although still future, is as certain as the existence of heaven and earth. Which son of Israel, then, would dare to criticize the Father, “Jehovah of armies”?
16. Why should Jehovah’s servants subject themselves to him?
16 These same verses of Isaiah contain yet another reason why God’s servants should subject themselves to him. His decisions are always in the best interests of his servants. (Job 36:3) He made laws to help his people benefit themselves. (Isaiah 48:17) The Jews in Cyrus’ day who accept Jehovah’s sovereignty find this to be true. Cyrus, acting in harmony with Jehovah’s righteousness, sends them home from Babylon so that they can rebuild the temple. (Ezra 6:3-5) Likewise today, blessings are experienced by those who apply God’s laws in their daily lives and who submit to his sovereignty.—Psalm 1:1-3; 19:7; 119:105; John 8:31, 32.
Blessings for Other Nations
17. Besides Israel, who will benefit from Jehovah’s saving acts, and how?
17 Israel will not be the only nation to benefit from the fall of Babylon. Isaiah says: “This is what Jehovah has said: ‘The unpaid laborers of Egypt and the merchants of Ethiopia and the Sabeans, tall men, will themselves come over even to you, and yours they will become. Behind you they will walk; in fetters they will come over, and to you they will bow down. To you they will pray, saying, “Indeed God is in union with you, and there is no one else; there is no other God.”’” (Isaiah 45:14) In Moses’ day, “a vast mixed company” of non-Israelites accompanied the Israelites on their Exodus from Egypt. (Exodus 12:37, 38) In a similar way, foreigners will accompany the Jewish exiles who return home from Babylon. These non-Jews will not be forced to go but “will themselves come over.” When Jehovah says, “to you they will bow down” and “to you they will pray,” he is referring to the willing subjection and allegiance shown to Israel by these foreigners. If they wear fetters, it will be in a voluntary sense, signifying their willingness to serve God’s covenant people, to whom they will say: “God is in union with you.” They will worship Jehovah as proselytes, under the provisions of his covenant with Israel.—Isaiah 56:6.
18. Who today have benefited from Jehovah’s liberating “the Israel of God,” and in what ways?
18 Since 1919 when “the Israel of God” was released from spiritual captivity, Isaiah’s words have had a greater fulfillment than in Cyrus’ day. Millions earth wide show a willingness to serve Jehovah. (Galatians 6:16; Zechariah 8:23) Like the “laborers” and “the merchants” mentioned by Isaiah, they cheerfully offer their physical strength and financial resources to support true worship. (Matthew 25:34-40; Mark 12:30) They dedicate themselves to God and walk in his paths, gladly becoming his slaves. (Luke 9:23) They worship only Jehovah, enjoying the benefits of associating with Jehovah’s “faithful and discreet slave,” who are in a special covenant relationship with God. (Matthew 24:45-47; 26:28; Hebrews 8:8-13) While not participants in that covenant, those “laborers” and “merchants” benefit from it and obey the laws associated with it, boldly proclaiming: “There is no other God.” How thrilling to be eyewitnesses today of the grand increase in the number of such willing supporters of true worship!—Isaiah 60:22.
19. What will happen to those who insist on worshiping idols?
19 After the disclosure that people of the nations will join in worshiping Jehovah, the prophet exclaims: “Truly you are a God keeping yourself concealed, the God of Israel, a Savior”! (Isaiah 45:15) Although Jehovah refrains from showing his power at present, in the future he will no longer hide himself. He will show himself to be the God of Israel, the Savior of his people. However, Jehovah will not be the Savior of those who trust in idols. Of such ones Isaiah says: “They will certainly be ashamed and even be humiliated, all of them. Together in humiliation the manufacturers of idol forms will have to walk.” (Isaiah 45:16) Their humiliation will be more than a temporary sense of disgrace and shame. It will mean death—the opposite of what Jehovah next promises Israel.
20. In what way will Israel experience “a salvation for times indefinite”?
20 “As for Israel, he will certainly be saved in union with Jehovah with a salvation for times indefinite. You people will not be ashamed, nor will you be humiliated for the indefinite times of eternity.” (Isaiah 45:17) Jehovah promises eternal salvation for Israel, but this is conditional. Israel must remain “in union with Jehovah.” When Israel breaks that union by rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, the nation will lose its prospect of “salvation for times indefinite.” However, some in Israel will exercise faith in Jesus, and these will become the nucleus of the Israel of God, which will take the place of fleshly Israel. (Matthew 21:43; Galatians 3:28, 29; 1 Peter 2:9) Spiritual Israel will never be humiliated. It will be taken into “an everlasting covenant.”—Hebrews 13:20.
In Creation and in Revelation, Jehovah Is Reliable
21. How does Jehovah show himself completely reliable in creation and in revelation?
21 Can the Jews rely on Jehovah’s promise of eternal salvation for Israel? Isaiah answers: “This is what Jehovah has said, the Creator of the heavens, He the true God, the Former of the earth and the Maker of it, He the One who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited: ‘I am Jehovah, and there is no one else. In a place of concealment I spoke not, in a dark place of the earth; nor said I to the seed of Jacob, “Seek me simply for nothing, you people.” I am Jehovah, speaking what is righteous, telling what is upright.’” (Isaiah 45:18, 19) For the fourth and final time in this chapter, Isaiah opens a weighty prophetic passage with the phrase: “This is what Jehovah has said.” (Isaiah 45:1, 11, 14) What does Jehovah say? That both in creation and in revelation, he is reliable. He did not create the earth “simply for nothing.” Likewise, he does not ask his people, Israel, to seek him “simply for nothing.” Just as God’s purpose for the earth will be carried out, so God’s purpose for his chosen people will be carried out. In contrast with the obscure utterances of those who serve false gods, Jehovah’s words are openly spoken. His words are just, and they will come true. Those who serve him will not serve him in vain.
22. (a) Of what can the Jews exiled in Babylon be sure? (b) What assurance do Christians today have?
22 For God’s exiled people in Babylon, those words are an assurance that the Promised Land will not remain desolate. It will be reinhabited. And Jehovah’s promises to them come true. By extension, Isaiah’s words are an assurance to God’s people today that the earth will not become a desolate ruin—charred by fire, as some believe, or destroyed by nuclear bombs, as others fear. God purposes that the earth will remain forever, robed in paradisaic beauty and populated by righteous inhabitants. (Psalm 37:11, 29; 115:16; Matthew 6:9, 10; Revelation 21:3, 4) Yes, as in Israel’s case, Jehovah’s words will prove reliable.
Jehovah Extends His Mercy
23. What is the outcome for those who worship idols, and how do those who worship Jehovah fare?
23 The salvation of Israel is emphasized in Jehovah’s next words: “Collect yourselves and come. Bring yourselves up close together, you escapees from the nations. Those carrying the wood of their carved image have not come to any knowledge, neither have those praying to a god that cannot save. Make your report and your presentation. Yes, let them consult together in unity. Who has caused this to be heard from a long time ago? Who has reported it from that very time? Is it not I, Jehovah, besides whom there is no other God; a righteous God and a Savior, there being none excepting me?” (Isaiah 45:20, 21) Jehovah summons the “escapees” to compare their salvation with what happens to those who worship idols. (Deuteronomy 30:3; Jeremiah 29:14; 50:28) Because idolaters pray to and serve powerless gods that cannot save them, they “have not come to any knowledge.” Their worship is in vain—simply for nothing. Those who worship Jehovah, however, find that he has the power to bring about events that he foretold “a long time ago,” including the salvation of his exiled people in Babylon. Such power and foresight set Jehovah apart from all other gods. Truly, he is “a righteous God and a Savior.”
“Salvation We Owe to Our God”
24, 25. (a) What invitation does Jehovah extend, and why is his promise sure of fulfillment? (b) What does Jehovah rightfully require?
24 Jehovah’s mercy moves him to extend an invitation: “Turn to me and be saved, all you at the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no one else. By my own self I have sworn—out of my own mouth in righteousness the word has gone forth, so that it will not return—that to me every knee will bend down, every tongue will swear, saying, ‘Surely in Jehovah there are full righteousness and strength. All those getting heated up against him will come straight to him and be ashamed. In Jehovah all the seed of Israel will prove to be right and will boast about themselves.’”—Isaiah 45:22-25.
25 Jehovah promises Israel that he will save those in Babylon who turn to him. Failure of his prophecy is an impossibility because Jehovah has both the desire and the ability to rescue his people. (Isaiah 55:11) God’s words are reliable in themselves, but they are all the more so when Jehovah adds his oath to confirm them. (Hebrews 6:13) He rightfully requires submission (“every knee will bend down”) and commitment (“every tongue will swear”) on the part of those desiring his favor. The Israelites who persevere in worshiping Jehovah will be saved. They will be able to boast of what Jehovah does for them.—2 Corinthians 10:17.
26. How are “a great crowd” from all nations responding to Jehovah’s invitation to turn to him?
26 God’s invitation to turn to him, however, is not limited to the exiles in ancient Babylon. (Acts 14:14, 15; 15:19; 1 Timothy 2:3, 4) This invitation is still going out, and “a great crowd . . . out of all nations” respond and proclaim: “Salvation we owe to our God . . . and to the Lamb [Jesus].” (Revelation 7:9, 10; 15:4) Every year, hundreds of thousands of new ones swell the great crowd by turning to God, fully recognizing his sovereignty and publicly declaring their allegiance to him. In addition, they loyally support spiritual Israel, the ‘seed of Abraham.’ (Galatians 3:29) They express their love for Jehovah’s righteous rule by proclaiming worldwide: “Surely in Jehovah there are full righteousness and strength.”a In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul quoted the Septuagint rendering of Isaiah 45:23 to show that eventually everyone alive will acknowledge God’s sovereignty and will praise his name continually.—Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 21:22-27.
27. Why can Christians today have absolute trust in Jehovah’s promises?
27 Why can members of the great crowd trust that turning to God means salvation? Because Jehovah’s promises are reliable, as the prophetic words found in Isaiah chapter 45 so clearly show. Just as Jehovah had the power and wisdom to create the heavens and the earth, so he has the power and wisdom to cause his prophecies to come true. And just as he saw to it that the prophecy concerning Cyrus came true, so he will fulfill any other Bible prophecy that still awaits fulfillment. Worshipers of Jehovah, therefore, can be confident that soon Jehovah will again prove to be “a righteous God and a Savior.”
a The New World Translation uses the expression “full righteousness” because the Hebrew text has the word “righteousnesses” in the plural form. The plural is here used to express the abundant degree of Jehovah’s righteousness.
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Jehovah, who forms light and creates darkness, can make peace and create calamity
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Jehovah will cause the “heavens” to rain down blessings and “the earth” to bring forth salvation
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Should discarded scraps of pottery question the wisdom of their maker?
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Jehovah did not create the earth for nothing