“Cry Out Joyfully in Unison”!
1. Why are the prophetic words of Isaiah chapter 52 a source of joy, and what two fulfillments do they have?
LIBERATION! Can there be a more joyful prospect for a captive people? Since a major theme in the book of Isaiah is liberation and restoration, it is not surprising that aside from the Psalms, this Bible book contains more expressions of joy than any other. Isaiah chapter 52 especially gives reason for God’s people to rejoice. Its prophetic words are fulfilled upon Jerusalem in 537 B.C.E. And they have a greater fulfillment involving “Jerusalem above,” Jehovah’s heavenly organization of spirit creatures, which is sometimes described as a mother and a wife.—Galatians 4:26; Revelation 12:1.
“Put On Your Strength, O Zion!”
2. When does Zion wake up, and how does this happen?
2 Jehovah, through Isaiah, calls out to His beloved city, Zion: “Wake up, wake up, put on your strength, O Zion! Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! For no more will there come again into you the uncircumcised and unclean one. Shake yourself free from the dust, rise up, take a seat, O Jerusalem. Loosen for yourself the bands on your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.” (Isaiah 52:1, 2) Because her inhabitants have provoked Jehovah’s anger, Jerusalem has lain desolate for 70 years. (2 Kings 24:4; 2 Chronicles 36:15-21; Jeremiah 25:8-11; Daniel 9:2) Now it is time for her to wake up from her long period of inactivity and don the beautiful garments of liberty. Jehovah has moved the heart of Cyrus to free the “captive daughter of Zion” so that the former inhabitants of Jerusalem and their offspring can leave Babylon, return to Jerusalem, and restore true worship. No uncircumcised and unclean ones must be found in Jerusalem.—Ezra 1:1-4.
3. Why can the congregation of anointed Christians be called the “daughter of Zion,” and in what sense are they liberated?
3 These words of Isaiah also have a fulfillment on the Christian congregation. The congregation of anointed Christians can be described as the modern-day “daughter of Zion,” since “Jerusalem above” is their mother.* Set free from pagan teachings and apostate doctrines, the anointed must maintain a clean standing before Jehovah, no, not by being circumcised in the flesh, but by being circumcised in their hearts. (Jeremiah 31:33; Romans 2:25-29) This includes maintaining spiritual, mental, and moral cleanness before Jehovah.—1 Corinthians 7:19; Ephesians 2:3.
4. Although “Jerusalem above” has never disobeyed Jehovah, what experiences of her representatives on earth mirror those of the ancient inhabitants of Jerusalem?
4 True, “Jerusalem above” has never disobeyed Jehovah. During the first world war, however, her representatives on earth—anointed Christians—unwittingly broke Jehovah’s law because they did not properly understand true Christian neutrality. Losing divine favor, they came into spiritual captivity to “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion. (Revelation 17:5) Their condition of being in slavery climaxed in June 1918 when eight staff members of the Watch Tower Society were imprisoned on false charges, including conspiracy. At that point the organized preaching of the good news virtually stopped. In 1919, however, a clarion call to spiritual wakefulness was sounded forth. Anointed Christians began to separate themselves more completely from the moral and spiritual uncleanness of Babylon the Great. They rose from the dust of captivity, and “Jerusalem above” came to have the splendor of a “holy city” where spiritual uncleanness is not allowed.
5. Why does Jehovah have a perfect right to repurchase his people without giving compensation to their captors?
5 Both in 537 B.C.E. and in 1919 C.E., Jehovah had a perfect right to liberate his people. Isaiah explains: “This is what Jehovah has said: ‘It was for nothing that you people were sold, and it will be without money that you will be repurchased.’” (Isaiah 52:3) Neither ancient Babylon nor Babylon the Great paid anything when they took possession of God’s covenant people as slaves. Since no transaction involving money took place, Jehovah was still the legal Owner of his people. Should he have felt indebted to anybody? Of course not. In both cases, Jehovah could rightly repurchase his worshipers without giving any compensation to their captors.—Isaiah 45:13.
6. What lessons from history did Jehovah’s enemies fail to heed?
6 Jehovah’s enemies had not learned any lessons from history. We read: “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: ‘It was to Egypt that my people went down in the first instance to reside there as aliens; and without cause Assyria, for its part, oppressed them.’” (Isaiah 52:4) Pharaoh of Egypt enslaved the Israelites, who had been invited to his land to reside as guests. But Jehovah drowned Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea. (Exodus 1:11-14; 14:27, 28) When King Sennacherib of Assyria threatened Jerusalem, Jehovah’s angel struck down 185,000 of the king’s soldiers. (Isaiah 37:33-37) Similarly, neither ancient Babylon nor Babylon the Great can escape the consequences of oppressing God’s people.
“My People Will Know My Name”
7. What effect has the captivity of Jehovah’s people had on his name?
7 The captive condition of Jehovah’s people has an effect on his name, as the prophecy shows: “‘Now, what interest do I have here?’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘For my people were taken for nothing. The very ones ruling over them kept howling,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and constantly, all day long, my name was being treated with disrespect. For that reason my people will know my name, even for that reason in that day, because I am the One that is speaking. Look! It is I.’” (Isaiah 52:5, 6) What interest does Jehovah have in the situation? What concern of his is it that Israel is enslaved in Babylon? Jehovah must act because Babylon has taken his people captive and has howled over them in triumph. Such bragging has led to Babylon’s treating Jehovah’s name disrespectfully. (Ezekiel 36:20, 21) She has failed to recognize that the desolate condition of Jerusalem is on account of Jehovah’s displeasure toward his people. Rather, Babylon has viewed the enslavement of the Jews as evidence of the weakness of their God. The Babylonian coregent Belshazzar even mocks Jehovah by using vessels from His temple during a feast in honor of Babylonian gods.—Daniel 5:1-4.
8. How has Jehovah’s name been treated since the death of the apostles?
8 How does all of this apply to “Jerusalem above”? Ever since apostasy took root among professed Christians, it could be said that “the name of God is being blasphemed on account of [those] people among the nations.” (Romans 2:24; Acts 20:29, 30) For that matter, because of superstition the Jews eventually started to avoid using the divine name. Soon after the death of the apostles, apostate Christians followed suit and ceased to use God’s personal name. The apostasy resulted in the development of Christendom, a major part of Babylon the Great. (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7; Revelation 17:5) Christendom’s wanton immorality and brazen bloodguilt have reflected badly on Jehovah’s name.—2 Peter 2:1, 2.
9, 10. What deeper understanding of Jehovah’s standards and his name have God’s covenant people of modern times come to have?
9 When the Greater Cyrus, Jesus Christ, freed God’s covenant people from captivity to Babylon the Great in 1919, they came to a better understanding of Jehovah’s requirements. They had already cleansed themselves of many teachings of Christendom that have their roots in pre-Christian paganism, such as the Trinity, immortality of the soul, and eternal torment in a fiery hell. Now they set out to rid themselves of all traces of Babylonish influence. They also came to realize the importance of maintaining strict neutrality regarding this world’s partisan affairs. They even wanted to purify themselves of whatever bloodguilt some might have incurred.
10 The modern-day servants of God also came to have a deeper understanding of the importance of Jehovah’s name. In 1931 they adopted the name Jehovah’s Witnesses, thus publicly announcing that they supported Jehovah and his name. Moreover, through the publication of the New World Translation since 1950, Jehovah’s Witnesses have restored the divine name to its proper place in the Bible. Yes, they have come to appreciate Jehovah’s name and are making it known to the ends of the earth.
“The One Bringing Good News”
11. Why is the exclamation “Your God has become king!” appropriate with regard to events in 537 B.C.E.?
11 Now our attention is turned back to Zion when she is still in her desolate state. A messenger approaches bearing good news: “How comely upon the mountains are the feet of the one bringing good news, the one publishing peace, the one bringing good news of something better, the one publishing salvation, the one saying to Zion: ‘Your God has become king!’” (Isaiah 52:7) In 537 B.C.E., how can it be said that Zion’s God has become King? Has not Jehovah always been King? Indeed, he is the “King of eternity”! (Revelation 15:3) But the exclamation “Your God has become king!” is appropriate because Babylon’s fall and the royal proclamation to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and restore pure worship there constitute a new expression of Jehovah’s kingship.—Psalm 97:1.
12. Who took the lead in “bringing good news,” and how?
12 In Isaiah’s day, no individual or group of individuals was identified as “the one bringing good news.” Today, though, the identity of the bearer of good news is known. Jesus Christ is Jehovah’s greatest messenger of peace. While on earth, he preached the good news that there would be a release from all the effects of sin inherited from Adam, including sickness and death. (Matthew 9:35) Jesus set a zealous example in publishing this good news of something better, seizing every opportunity to teach people about the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 5:1, 2; Mark 6:34; Luke 19:1-10; John 4:5-26) And his disciples followed his example.
13. (a) How does the apostle Paul expand on the meaning of the expression “How comely upon the mountains are the feet of the one bringing good news”? (b) Why can it be said that the feet of the messengers are “comely”?
13 In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul quotes Isaiah 52:7 to highlight the importance of the work of preaching the good news. He poses a series of thought-provoking questions, including ‘How will people hear without someone to preach?’ He then says: “Just as it is written: ‘How comely are the feet of those who declare good news of good things!’” (Romans 10:14, 15) Paul thus expands the application of Isaiah 52:7, using the plural form “those” instead of the singular “one,” which appears in the original text of Isaiah. Imitating Jesus Christ, all Christians are messengers of the good news of peace. How are their feet “comely”? Isaiah speaks as if the herald is approaching Jerusalem from the nearby mountains of Judah. From afar, it is impossible to see the messenger’s feet. Rather, the focus here is on the messenger, the feet standing for the messenger himself. Just as Jesus and his disciples were a beautiful sight to meek ones in the first century, present-day Witnesses are a welcome sight to humble ones who heed the lifesaving message of good news.
14. How has Jehovah become King in modern times, and since when has this been announced to mankind?
14 Since when in modern times has the cry “Your God has become king!” been heard? Since 1919. In that year at a convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, J. F. Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society, stirred his listeners with a talk entitled “Address to Co-laborers.” The talk, based on Isaiah 52:7 and Revelation 15:2, encouraged all present to take up the preaching work. Thus, ‘comely feet’ began to appear on “the mountains.” First anointed Christians and later their companions of the “other sheep” zealously went forth to preach the good news that Jehovah had become King. (John 10:16) How had Jehovah become King? He expressed his kingship anew in 1914 when he installed his Son, Jesus Christ, as King in the newly established heavenly Kingdom. And Jehovah made yet another expression of his kingship in 1919 when he liberated “the Israel of God” from Babylon the Great.—Galatians 6:16; Psalm 47:8; Revelation 11:15, 17; 19:6.
“Your Own Watchmen Have Raised Their Voice”
15. Who are the “watchmen” who raise their voice in 537 B.C.E.?
15 Does the cry “Your God has become king!” elicit a response? Yes. Isaiah records: “Listen! Your own watchmen have raised their voice. In unison they keep crying out joyfully; for it will be eye into eye that they will see when Jehovah gathers back Zion.” (Isaiah 52:8) No literal watchmen take their positions in Jerusalem in 537 B.C.E. to welcome back the first returning exiles. The city has lain desolate for 70 years. (Jeremiah 25:11, 12) So the “watchmen” who raise their voice must be those Israelites who get the news in advance regarding Zion’s restoration and who become responsible for passing the news on to the rest of Zion’s children. Upon seeing Jehovah give Babylon into the hands of Cyrus in 539 B.C.E., the watchmen have no doubt in their minds that Jehovah is liberating his people. Together with those who respond to their call, the watchmen keep crying out joyfully, in unison, letting others hear the good news.
16. Whom do the watchmen see “eye into eye,” and in what sense?
16 The alert watchmen establish a close, personal relationship with Jehovah, seeing him “eye into eye,” or face-to-face, as it were. (Numbers 14:14) Their close contact with Jehovah and with one another highlights their unity and the joyful nature of their message.—1 Corinthians 1:10.
17, 18. (a) How has the modern-day watchman class raised its voice? (b) In what sense has the watchman class called out in unison?
17 In the modern-day fulfillment, the watchman class, “the faithful and discreet slave,” raises its voice not just to the ones who are already in God’s visible organization but also to outsiders. (Matthew 24:45-47) A call went out to gather in the remaining ones of the anointed in 1919, and in 1922 the call was intensified at the Cedar Point, Ohio, convention with the appeal to “advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom.” Since 1935, attention has been turned to gathering in a great crowd of sheeplike ones. (Revelation 7:9, 10) In recent years the announcement of Jehovah’s kingship has intensified. How? In the year 2000, some six million were sharing in telling of Jehovah’s kingship in more than 230 lands and territories. Further, The Watchtower, the foremost instrument of the watchman class, sounds out the joyful message in more than 130 languages.
18 To share in such a unifying work takes humility and brotherly love. For the call to be effective, all involved must preach the same message, featuring Jehovah’s name, his ransom provision, his wisdom, his love, and his Kingdom. As Christians all around the world work shoulder to shoulder, their personal bond with Jehovah is strengthened to sound out the glad tidings in unison.
19. (a) How do the “devastated places of Jerusalem” become cheerful? (b) In what sense has Jehovah “bared his holy arm”?
19 With God’s people shouting in joy, even the place in which they dwell looks cheerful. The prophecy continues: “Become cheerful, cry out joyfully in unison, you devastated places of Jerusalem, for Jehovah has comforted his people; he has repurchased Jerusalem. Jehovah has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth must see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:9, 10) With the arrival of the returnees from Babylon, the mournful-looking places of desolated Jerusalem have a cheerful appearance because Jehovah’s pure worship can now be restored. (Isaiah 35:1, 2) Clearly, Jehovah has his hand in this. He has “bared his holy arm,” as if rolling up his sleeves in order to apply himself to the task of saving his people.—Ezra 1:2, 3.
20. What has resulted and will yet result from Jehovah’s baring his holy arm in modern times?
20 In these “last days,” Jehovah has bared his holy arm in order to revive the anointed remnant, the “two witnesses” of the book of Revelation. (2 Timothy 3:1; Revelation 11:3, 7-13) Since 1919, these have been brought into a spiritual paradise, the spiritual estate that they now share with millions of their associates, the other sheep. Eventually, Jehovah will bare his holy arm to bring salvation to his people at “Har–Magedon.” (Revelation 16:14, 16) Then, “all the ends of the earth must see the salvation of our God.”
An Urgent Requirement
21. (a) What is required of those “carrying the utensils of Jehovah”? (b) Why is there no reason for Jews departing from Babylon to panic?
21 Those who get out of Babylon to return to Jerusalem have a requirement to meet. Isaiah writes: “Turn away, turn away, get out of there, touch nothing unclean; get out from the midst of her, keep yourselves clean, you who are carrying the utensils of Jehovah. For you people will get out in no panic, and you will go in no flight. For Jehovah will be going even before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (Isaiah 52:11, 12) The departing Israelites must leave behind them in Babylon anything having a taint of Babylon’s false worship. Since they carry the utensils of Jehovah that came from the temple in Jerusalem, they have to be clean, not merely in an outward, ceremonial way, but primarily in their hearts. (2 Kings 24:11-13; Ezra 1:7) Further, Jehovah is going before them, so they do not have to panic, nor do they have to run frantically, as though bloodthirsty pursuers were hard on their heels. The God of Israel is their rear guard.—Ezra 8:21-23.
22. How does Paul stress the need for cleanness among anointed Christians?
22 Isaiah’s words about keeping clean have a major fulfillment on the offspring of “Jerusalem above.” When Paul admonished the Corinthian Christians not to become unevenly yoked with unbelievers, he quoted the words of Isaiah 52:11: “‘Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing.’” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17) Just like the Israelites heading home from Babylon, Christians have to steer clear of Babylonish false worship.
23. In what ways do servants of Jehovah today endeavor to keep themselves clean?
23 This was particularly true of those anointed followers of Jesus Christ who fled Babylon the Great in 1919. They progressively cleansed themselves of all traces of false worship. (Isaiah 8:19, 20; Romans 15:4) They also became increasingly aware of the importance of moral cleanness. Although Jehovah’s Witnesses have always upheld high moral standards, The Watchtower carried articles in 1952 emphasizing the need to discipline immoral ones so as to keep the congregation clean. Such disciplinary action also helps the wrongdoer himself to realize the need for sincere repentance.—1 Corinthians 5:6, 7, 9-13; 2 Corinthians 7:8-10; 2 John 10, 11.
24. (a) In modern times, what are “the utensils of Jehovah”? (b) Why are Christians today confident that Jehovah will continue to go before them as well as be their rear guard?
24 Anointed Christians together with the great crowd of other sheep are determined to touch nothing that is spiritually unclean. Their purified, cleansed condition qualifies them to be bearers of “the utensils of Jehovah”—the precious provisions that God makes for sacred service in the house-to-house and Bible study ministry and other forms of Christian activity. By maintaining a clean standing, God’s people today can be confident that Jehovah will continue to go before them as well as be their rear guard. As God’s clean people, they have an abundance of reasons to “cry out joyfully in unison”!
See Chapter 15 of this book for a more extensive discussion of the relationship between “Jerusalem above” and her earthly, anointed children.
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Zion will be freed from captivity
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Starting in 1919, ‘comely feet’ have once again appeared on “the mountains”
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Jehovah’s Witnesses speak in unison
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Those “carrying the utensils of Jehovah” have to be morally and spiritually clean