“Do Not Put Your Trust in Nobles”
1, 2. (a) What inspired counsel do the Jews fail to heed, and with what result? (b) Why does Jehovah ask: ‘Where is the divorce certificate?’
“DO NOT put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs. . . . Happy is the one who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Jehovah his God, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 146:3-6) If only the Jews living in Isaiah’s day would do as the psalmist counseled! If only they would place their confidence, not in Egypt or in any other pagan nation, but in “the God of Jacob”! Then, when Judah’s enemies come up against her, Jehovah would act to protect her. However, Judah has refused to turn to Jehovah for help. As a result, Jehovah will allow Jerusalem to be destroyed and the inhabitants of Judah to be taken into captivity in Babylon.
2 Judah has no one to blame but herself. She cannot rightfully claim that her destruction comes about because Jehovah has dealt treacherously with her or has neglected his covenant with the nation. The Creator is no covenant breaker. (Jeremiah 31:32; Daniel 9:27; Revelation 15:4) Underscoring this fact, Jehovah asks the Jews: “Where, then, is the divorce certificate of the mother of you people, whom I sent away?” (Isaiah 50:1a) Under the Mosaic Law, a man who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce. She is then free to become another man’s. (Deuteronomy 24:1, 2) In a figurative sense, Jehovah has issued such a certificate to Judah’s sister kingdom, Israel, but he has not done so to Judah.* He is still her “husbandly owner.” (Jeremiah 3:8, 14) Judah is certainly not free to consort with pagan nations. Jehovah’s relationship with her will continue “until Shiloh [the Messiah] comes.”—Genesis 49:10.
3. For what reason does Jehovah ‘sell’ his people?
3 Jehovah also asks Judah: “Which one of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you people?” (Isaiah 50:1b) The Jews will not be sent into Babylonian captivity to cover some supposed debt that Jehovah has incurred. Jehovah is not like a poor Israelite who must sell his children to a creditor in order to settle accounts. (Exodus 21:7) Rather, Jehovah points to the real reason that his people will be enslaved: “Look! Because of your own errors you have been sold, and because of your own transgressions your mother has been sent away.” (Isaiah 50:1c) It is the Jews who have forsaken Jehovah; he has not forsaken them.
4, 5. How does Jehovah show his love for his people, but how does Judah respond?
4 Jehovah’s next question clearly highlights his love for his people: “Why is it that, when I came in, there was no one? When I called, there was nobody answering?” (Isaiah 50:2a) Through his servants the prophets, Jehovah has come in, as it were, to his people’s home to plead with them to return to him with all their hearts. But the answer is silence. The Jews prefer to look to earthling man for support, at times even turning to Egypt.—Isaiah 30:2; 31:1-3; Jeremiah 37:5-7.
5 Is Egypt a more reliable savior than Jehovah? Those unfaithful Jews have apparently forgotten the events that led up to the birth of their nation centuries earlier. Jehovah asks them: “Has my hand become in fact so short that it cannot redeem, or is there in me no power to deliver? Look! With my rebuke I dry up the sea; I make rivers a wilderness. Their fish stink due to there being no water, and they die because of thirst. I clothe the heavens with obscurity, and I make sackcloth itself their covering.”—Isaiah 50:2b, 3.
6, 7. How did Jehovah show his saving power in the face of the Egyptian threat?
6 In 1513 B.C.E., Egypt was the oppressor—not the hoped-for deliverer—of God’s people. The Israelites were slaves in that pagan land. But Jehovah delivered them, and what a thrilling deliverance that was! First he brought Ten Plagues upon the land. Following the particularly devastating tenth plague, Egypt’s Pharaoh urged the Israelites to leave the country. (Exodus 7:14–12:31) However, soon after they did so, Pharaoh had a change of heart. He mustered his troops and set out to force the Israelites to return to Egypt. (Exodus 14:5-9) With a host of Egyptian soldiers behind them and the Red Sea ahead of them, the Israelites were trapped! But Jehovah was there to fight for them.
7 Jehovah stopped the Egyptians in their tracks by positioning a pillar of cloud between them and the Israelites. On the Egyptians’ side of the cloud-mass, there was obscurity; on the Israelites’ side, there was light. (Exodus 14:20) Then, with the Egyptian armies held at bay, Jehovah “began making the sea go back by a strong east wind all night long and converting the sea basin into dry ground.” (Exodus 14:21) Once the waters were parted, all the people—men, women, and children—were able to cross the Red Sea to safety. When his people were well on their way to the opposite shore, Jehovah lifted the cloud. In hot pursuit, the Egyptians dashed headlong into the seabed. When his people were safely on the shore, Jehovah released the waters, drowning Pharaoh and his armies. Thus Jehovah fought for his people. What an encouragement that is for Christians today!—Exodus 14:23-28.
8. For ignoring what warnings do the inhabitants of Judah finally go into exile?
8 By Isaiah’s time, seven hundred years have passed since that divine victory. Judah is now a nation in her own right. At times, she enters into diplomatic negotiations with foreign governments, such as Assyria and Egypt. But the leaders of these pagan nations cannot be trusted. They will always put self-interest ahead of any covenants they make with Judah. Speaking in the name of Jehovah, the prophets warn the people not to put their trust in such men, but the prophets’ words fall on deaf ears. Finally, the Jews will be exiled to Babylon to spend 70 years in servitude. (Jeremiah 25:11) However, Jehovah will not forget his people, nor will he cast them off indefinitely. At the appointed time, he will remember them, and he will open the way for their return to their homeland to restore pure worship. To what end? To prepare for the coming of Shiloh, the one to whom the obedience of all the people will belong!
9. Who is Shiloh, and what kind of teacher is he?
9 Centuries pass. “The full limit of the time” arrives, and the one called Shiloh, the Lord Jesus Christ, appears on the earthly scene. (Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 1:1, 2) The fact that Jehovah has designated his closest companion as his Spokesman to the Jews shows how much Jehovah loves his people. What kind of spokesman does Jesus turn out to be? One of the highest order! Jesus is more than a spokesman, he is a teacher—a Master Teacher. That is not surprising, for he has a marvelous Instructor—Jehovah God himself. (John 5:30; 6:45; 7:15, 16, 46; 8:26) This is confirmed by what Jesus prophetically says through Isaiah: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has given me the tongue of the taught ones, that I may know how to answer the tired one with a word. He awakens morning by morning; he awakens my ear to hear like the taught ones.”—Isaiah 50:4.*
10. How does Jesus reflect Jehovah’s love for His people, and what response does Jesus receive?
10 Before coming to earth, Jesus worked at his Father’s side in heaven. The warm relationship between Father and Son is poetically described at Proverbs 8:30: “I came to be beside [Jehovah] as a master worker, . . . being glad before him all the time.” Listening to his Father brought Jesus great joy. He shared his Father’s love for “the sons of men.” (Proverbs 8:31) When he comes to earth, Jesus answers “the tired one with a word.” He begins his ministry by reading a comforting passage from Isaiah’s prophecy: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, . . . to send the crushed ones away with a release.” (Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1) Good news for the poor! Refreshment for the weary! What joy that announcement should bring to the people! Some do rejoice—but not all. In the end, many refuse to accept Jesus’ credentials as one taught by Jehovah.
11. Who get under the yoke with Jesus, and what do they experience?
11 However, some want to hear more. They respond gladly to Jesus’ heartwarming invitation: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28, 29) Among those who draw near to Jesus are the men who become his apostles. They know that to get under the yoke with Jesus means hard work for them. This work involves, among other things, preaching the good news of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth. (Matthew 24:14) As the apostles and other disciples get involved in this work, they find that it does indeed bring refreshment to their souls. The same work is being carried out by faithful Christians today, and sharing in it brings them similar joys.
He Is Not Rebellious
12. In what ways does Jesus show his obedience to his heavenly Father?
12 Jesus never loses sight of his purpose in coming to earth—to do God’s will. His view of matters is foretold: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has opened my ear, and I, for my part, was not rebellious. I did not turn in the opposite direction.” (Isaiah 50:5) Jesus is always obedient to God. Indeed, he goes so far as to say: “The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing.” (John 5:19) In his prehuman existence, Jesus likely worked alongside his Father for millions, even billions, of years. After coming to earth, he continues to follow Jehovah’s instructions. How much more should we, Christ’s imperfect followers, take care to do as Jehovah directs!
13. What lies ahead for Jesus, yet how does he show himself courageous?
13 Some of those who reject Jehovah’s only-begotten Son persecute him, and this too is foretold: “My back I gave to the strikers, and my cheeks to those plucking off the hair. My face I did not conceal from humiliating things and spit.” (Isaiah 50:6) According to the prophecy, the Messiah will suffer pain and humiliation at the hands of opposers. Jesus knows this. And he knows how far this persecution will go. Yet, as his time on earth draws to a close, he shows no fear. With flintlike determination he sets out for Jerusalem, where his human life will come to an end. On the way there, Jesus tells his disciples: “Here we are, advancing up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and will deliver him to men of the nations, and they will make fun of him and will spit upon him and scourge him and kill him, but three days later he will rise.” (Mark 10:33, 34) All this wicked mistreatment will be at the instigation of men who should know better—the chief priests and the scribes.
14, 15. How are Isaiah’s words that Jesus would be struck and humiliated fulfilled?
14 On the night of Nisan 14, 33 C.E., Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane with some of his followers. He is praying. Suddenly, a mob appears and takes him into custody. But he is not afraid. He knows that Jehovah is with him. Jesus assures his terrified apostles that if he wanted to, he could appeal to his Father to send more than twelve legions of angels to rescue him, but he adds: “In that case, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled?”—Matthew 26:36, 47, 53, 54.
15 Everything foretold concerning the trials and the death of the Messiah comes to pass. After a rigged trial before the Sanhedrin, Jesus is examined by Pontius Pilate, who has him whipped. Roman soldiers “hit him on the head with a reed and spit upon him.” Thus Isaiah’s words are fulfilled. (Mark 14:65; 15:19; Matthew 26:67, 68) Although the Bible does not state that some of the hair of Jesus’ beard is literally pulled out—a gesture of extreme contempt—this no doubt occurs, just as Isaiah foretold.*—Nehemiah 13:25.
16. In the face of immense pressure, what is Jesus’ demeanor, and why does he not feel ashamed?
16 When Jesus stands before Pilate, he does not beg for his life to be spared but maintains quiet dignity, knowing that he must die in order for the Scriptures to be fulfilled. When the Roman governor points out that he has the power to condemn Jesus to death or to release him, Jesus fearlessly replies: “You would have no authority at all against me unless it had been granted to you from above.” (John 19:11) Pilate’s soldiers subject Jesus to inhuman treatment, but they fail to shame him. Why should he feel ashamed? He is not being justly punished for some transgression. Rather, he is being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. In this respect, Isaiah’s further prophetic words are fulfilled: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself will help me. That is why I shall not have to feel humiliated. That is why I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”—Isaiah 50:7.
17. In what ways has Jehovah stood beside Jesus all through his ministry?
17 Jesus’ courage is rooted in his complete confidence in Jehovah. His comportment shows him to be in full harmony with the words of Isaiah: “The One declaring me righteous is near. Who can contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my judicial antagonist? Let him approach me. Look! The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself will help me. Who is there that can pronounce me wicked? Look! All of them, like a garment, will wear out. A mere moth will eat them up.” (Isaiah 50:8, 9) On the day of Jesus’ baptism, Jehovah declares him righteous as a spiritual son of God. In fact, God’s own voice is heard on that occasion, saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matthew 3:17) Near the end of his earthly life, as Jesus kneels in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, ‘an angel from heaven appears to him and strengthens him.’ (Luke 22:41-43) So Jesus knows that his Father approves of his life course. This perfect Son of God has committed no sin. (1 Peter 2:22) His enemies falsely accuse him of being a Sabbath breaker, a drunkard, and a demonized person, but Jesus is not dishonored by their lies. God is with him, so who can be against him?—Luke 7:34; John 5:18; 7:20; Romans 8:31; Hebrews 12:3.
18, 19. What experiences similar to those of Jesus have anointed Christians had?
18 Jesus warns his disciples: “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:20) Events soon prove this true. At Pentecost 33 C.E., holy spirit comes upon Jesus’ faithful disciples, and the Christian congregation is born. Almost immediately religious leaders try to suppress the preaching work of these faithful men and women who are now associated with Jesus as part of “Abraham’s seed” and adopted as spiritual sons of God. (Galatians 3:26, 29; 4:5, 6) From the first century until now, anointed Christians, while taking a firm stand for righteousness, have had to contend with lying propaganda and bitter persecution from Jesus’ enemies.
19 Still, they remember Jesus’ encouraging words: “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens.” (Matthew 5:11, 12) Hence, even under the most bitter of attacks, anointed Christians hold their heads high. Whatever their opponents might say, they know that they have been declared righteous by God. In his sight they are “unblemished and open to no accusation.”—Colossians 1:21, 22.
20. (a) Who support anointed Christians, and what have they experienced? (b) How do anointed Christians and “other sheep” come to have the tongue of the taught ones?
20 In modern times anointed Christians are supported by “a great crowd” of “other sheep.” These too take a stand for righteousness. Consequently, they have suffered along with their anointed brothers and have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Jehovah has declared them righteous with a view to survival of “the great tribulation.” (Revelation 7:9, 14, 15; John 10:16; James 2:23) Even if their opponents seem strong right now, Isaiah’s prophecy says that in God’s due time, those opponents will prove to be like a moth-eaten garment, fit only to be discarded. Meanwhile, both anointed Christians and “other sheep” keep strong through regular prayer, study of God’s Word, and attendance at meetings for worship. Thus they are taught by Jehovah and learn to speak with the tongue of the taught ones.
Trust in the Name of Jehovah
21. (a) Who are those who walk in the light, and what outcome is there for them? (b) What happens to those who walk in darkness?
21 Now note a striking contrast: “Who among you people is in fear of Jehovah, listening to the voice of his servant, who has walked in continual darkness and for whom there has been no brightness? Let him trust in the name of Jehovah and support himself upon his God.” (Isaiah 50:10) Those who listen to the voice of God’s Servant, Jesus Christ, walk in the light. (John 3:21) Not only do they use the divine name, Jehovah, but they also put their trust in the one who bears that name. Even if at one time they walked in darkness, now they do not fear men. They support themselves on God. However, those who persist in walking in darkness are gripped by the fear of man. Such is the case with Pontius Pilate. Although he knows that Jesus is innocent of the false charges that have been brought against him, fear prevents that Roman official from releasing Jesus. Roman soldiers kill the Son of God, but Jehovah resurrects him and crowns him with glory and honor. What of Pilate? According to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, a mere four years after Jesus’ death, Pilate was replaced as Roman governor and ordered to return to Rome to answer charges of serious wrongdoing. What of the Jews who brought about Jesus’ death? Less than four decades later, the armies of Rome destroyed Jerusalem and caused her inhabitants to be slain or taken into slavery. There is no bright light for those who prefer the darkness!—John 3:19.
22. Why is it the height of folly to look to men for salvation?
22 To look to men for salvation is the height of folly. Isaiah’s prophecy explains why: “Look! All you who are igniting a fire, making sparks light up, walk in the light of your fire, and amid the sparks that you have set ablaze. From my hand you will certainly come to have this: In sheer pain you will lie down.” (Isaiah 50:11) Human leaders come and go. A charismatic individual may capture the imagination of the people for a while. But even the most sincere human is limited in what he can accomplish. Instead of lighting a roaring fire, as his supporters expect, he may succeed only in igniting a few “sparks,” which give off a small measure of light and heat but soon die out. On the other hand, those who put their trust in Shiloh, God’s promised Messiah, will never be disappointed.
In the first three verses of Isaiah chapter 50 vss 1-3, Jehovah describes the nation of Judah as a whole as his wife and its individual inhabitants as her children.
From Isa 50 verse 4-11 to the end of the chapter, the writer appears to speak about himself. Isaiah may have experienced some of the trials that he mentions in these verses. However, in the fullest sense, the prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Interestingly, in the Septuagint, Isaiah 50:6 reads: “I gave my back to scourges, and my cheeks to blows.”
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The Jews look to human rulers rather than to Jehovah
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At the Red Sea, Jehovah protected his people by putting a pillar of cloud between them and the Egyptians