Jehovah’s Hand Has Not Become Short
1. What is the situation in Judah, and what do many wonder?
THE nation of Judah claims to be in a covenant relationship with Jehovah. Yet, there is trouble everywhere. Justice is in short supply, crime and oppression are rampant, and hopes for improvement go unrealized. Something is seriously wrong. Many wonder if Jehovah will ever correct matters. This is the situation in the days of Isaiah. But Isaiah’s account of this time is more than mere ancient history. His words contain prophetic warnings for any who claim to worship God but ignore His laws. And the inspired prophecy recorded in Isaiah chapter 59 provides warm encouragement for all who strive to serve Jehovah despite living in difficult and dangerous times.
Isolated From the True God
2, 3. Why is Jehovah not protecting Judah?
2 Just imagine—Jehovah’s covenant people have lapsed into apostasy! They have turned their backs on their Maker, thus removing themselves from under his protective hand. Because of this, they are experiencing severe distress. Do they perhaps blame Jehovah for their hard times? Isaiah tells them: “Look! The hand of Jehovah has not become too short that it cannot save, nor has his ear become too heavy that it cannot hear. No, but the very errors of you people have become the things causing division between you and your God, and your own sins have caused the concealing of his face from you to keep from hearing.”—Isaiah 59:1, 2.
3 Those words are frank but true. Jehovah is still the God of salvation. As the “Hearer of prayer,” he listens to the prayers of his faithful servants. (Psalm 65:2) However, he does not bless wrongdoers. The people themselves are responsible for their alienation from Jehovah. Their own wickedness has led him to conceal his face from them.
4. What charges are leveled against Judah?
4 The truth is, Judah has a terrible record. Isaiah’s prophecy lists some of the charges against them: “Your own palms have become polluted with blood, and your fingers with error. Your own lips have spoken falsehood. Your own tongue kept muttering sheer unrighteousness.” (Isaiah 59:3) The people lie and speak unrighteous things. The reference to “palms . . . polluted with blood” indicates that some have even committed murder. What a dishonor to God, whose Law not only prohibits murder but also forbids ‘hating your brother in your heart’! (Leviticus 19:17) The unbridled sinfulness of the inhabitants of Judah and the inevitable outcome should remind each one of us today that we need to control sinful thoughts and feelings. Otherwise, we could end up committing wicked acts that would separate us from God.—Romans 12:9; Galatians 5:15; James 1:14, 15.
5. How far has Judah’s corruption gone?
5 The disease of sin has infected the whole nation. The prophecy says: “There is no one calling out in righteousness, and no one at all has gone to court in faithfulness. There has been a trusting in unreality, and a speaking of worthlessness. There has been a conceiving of trouble, and a bringing of what is hurtful to birth.” (Isaiah 59:4) No one is speaking righteousness. Even in courts of law, it is rare to find someone who is reliable or faithful. Judah has turned her back on Jehovah and put her trust in alliances with nations, even in lifeless idols. All of these are “unreality,” of no value whatsoever. (Isaiah 40:17, 23; 41:29) As a result, there is much talk, but all of it is worthless. Plans are conceived, but they result in trouble and hurtfulness.
6. How is Christendom’s record like that of Judah?
6 Unrighteousness and violence in Judah find a striking parallel in Christendom. (See “Apostate Jerusalem—A Parallel of Christendom,” on page 294.) Two vicious world wars have been fought involving so-called Christian nations. Down to the present, Christendom’s form of religion has proved powerless to stop ethnic cleansing and intertribal slaughter among her own members. (2 Timothy 3:5) Although Jesus taught his followers to trust in God’s Kingdom, the nations of Christendom continue to rely for security on military arsenals and political alliances. (Matthew 6:10) Indeed, most of the world’s major arms producers are found in the nations of Christendom! Yes, when Christendom trusts in human efforts and institutions for a secure future, she too is trusting in “unreality.”
Reaping Bitter Fruit
7. Why do Judah’s schemes result only in what is harmful?
7 Idolatry and dishonesty cannot produce a healthy society. Because of resorting to such measures, the unfaithful Jews are now reaping the trouble that they themselves have sown. We read: “The eggs of a poisonous snake are what they have hatched, and they kept weaving the mere cobweb of a spider. Anyone eating some of their eggs would die, and the egg that was smashed would be hatched into a viper.” (Isaiah 59:5) From conception to realization, Judah’s schemes produce nothing substantial. Their wrong thinking results only in bad, just as the eggs of a poisonous snake produce only poisonous snakes. And the nation suffers.
8. What demonstrates Judah’s flawed thinking?
8 Some inhabitants of Judah may resort to violence in an effort to protect themselves, but they will fail. Physical force cannot replace trust in Jehovah and works of righteousness as protection any more than cobwebs can replace real fabric as protection against the elements. Isaiah declares: “Their mere cobweb will not serve as a garment, nor will they cover themselves with their works. Their works are hurtful works, and the activity of violence is in their palms. Their own feet keep running to sheer badness, and they are in a hurry to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are hurtful thoughts; despoiling and breakdown are in their highways.” (Isaiah 59:6, 7) Judah’s thinking is flawed. By resorting to violence to try to solve her problems, she demonstrates an ungodly attitude. It matters little to her that many of her victims are innocent and that some are genuine servants of God.
9. Why is true peace beyond the grasp of Christendom’s leaders?
9 These inspired words remind us of the bloody record of Christendom. Surely, Jehovah will call her to account for her tragic misrepresentation of Christianity! Like the Jews of Isaiah’s day, Christendom has pursued a morally twisted course because her leaders believe it to be the only practical one. While they talk of peace, they act with injustice. What duplicity! Since Christendom’s leaders continue using this tactic, true peace will remain beyond their grasp. It is as the prophecy goes on to say: “The way of peace they have ignored, and there is no justice in their tracks. Their roadways they have made crooked for themselves. No one at all treading in them will actually know peace.”—Isaiah 59:8.
Wandering in Spiritual Darkness
10. What confession does Isaiah make on behalf of Judah?
10 Jehovah cannot bless Judah’s devious and destructive ways. (Psalm 11:5) So speaking on behalf of the entire nation, Isaiah confesses Judah’s guilt: “Justice has come to be far away from us, and righteousness does not catch up with us. We keep hoping for light, but, look! darkness; for brightness, but in continuous gloom we kept walking. We keep groping for the wall just like blind men, and like those without eyes we keep groping. We have stumbled at high noon just as in evening darkness; among the stout ones we are just like dead people. We keep groaning, all of us, just like bears; and like doves we mournfully keep cooing.” (Isaiah 59:9-11a) The Jews have not let God’s Word be a lamp to their feet and a light to their roadway. (Psalm 119:105) As a consequence, things look dark. Even at high noon, they grope about as if it were night. It is as though they were dead. In their longing for relief, they groan loudly like hungry or wounded bears. Some coo pitifully, like lonely doves.
11. Why are Judah’s hopes for justice and salvation in vain?
11 Isaiah is only too aware that the reason for Judah’s plight is revolt against God. He says: “We kept hoping for justice, but there was none; for salvation, but it has stayed far away from us. For our revolts have become many in front of you; and as for our sins, each one has testified against us. For our revolts are with us; and as for our errors, we well know them. There have been transgressing and a denying of Jehovah; and there was a moving back from our God, a speaking of oppression and revolt, a conceiving and a muttering of words of falsehood from the very heart.” (Isaiah 59:11b-13) Since the inhabitants of Judah have not repented, their sins still count against them. Justice has left the land because the people have left Jehovah. They have proved false through and through, even oppressing their brothers. How like those in Christendom today! Not only do many ignore justice but they also actively persecute faithful Witnesses of Jehovah, who seek to do God’s will.
Jehovah Executes Judgment
12. What is the attitude of those responsible for administering justice in Judah?
12 There seems to be no justice, righteousness, or truth in Judah. “Justice was forced to move back, and righteousness itself kept standing simply far off. For truth has stumbled even in the public square, and what is straightforward is unable to enter.” (Isaiah 59:14) Behind the city gates in Judah, there are public squares where the older men meet to consider legal cases. (Ruth 4:1, 2, 11) Such men should judge in righteousness and pursue justice, not accept bribes. (Deuteronomy 16:18-20) Instead, they judge according to their own selfish ideas. Worse yet, they view any who sincerely try to do good as easy prey. We read: “The truth proves to be missing, and anyone turning away from badness is being despoiled.”—Isaiah 59:15a.
13. Since Judah’s judges are derelict in their duty, what will Jehovah do?
13 Those who fail to speak out against moral perversion forget that God is not blind, ignorant, or powerless. Isaiah writes: “Jehovah got to see, and it was bad in his eyes that there was no justice. And when he saw that there was no man, he began to show himself astonished that there was no one interposing. And his arm proceeded to save for him, and his own righteousness was the thing that supported him.” (Isaiah 59:15b, 16) Since appointed judges are derelict in their duty, Jehovah will intervene in the matter. When he does, he will act in righteousness and with power.
14. (a) What attitude do many today have? (b) How does Jehovah prepare himself for action?
14 There is a similar situation today. We live in a world where many have “come to be past all moral sense.” (Ephesians 4:19) Few believe that Jehovah will ever intervene to eliminate evil from the earth. But Isaiah’s prophecy shows that Jehovah closely observes human affairs. He makes judgments, and in his own time, he acts according to those judgments. Are his judgments fair? Isaiah shows that they are. In the case of the nation of Judah, he writes: “Then [Jehovah] put on righteousness as a coat of mail, and the helmet of salvation upon his head. Furthermore, he put on the garments of vengeance as raiment and enwrapped himself with zeal as if a sleeveless coat.” (Isaiah 59:17) These prophetic words picture Jehovah as a warrior girding himself for battle. He is intent on the salvation of his cause. He is sure of his own absolute and unassailable righteousness. And he will be fearlessly zealous in his acts of judgment. There is no doubt that right will prevail.
15. (a) In what way will true Christians conduct themselves when Jehovah executes judgment? (b) What can be said about Jehovah’s judgments?
15 Today in some lands, enemies of truth try to hinder the work of Jehovah’s servants by spreading false and defamatory propaganda. True Christians do not hesitate to stand up for the truth, but they never seek personal vengeance. (Romans 12:19) Even when Jehovah settles accounts with apostate Christendom, his worshipers on earth will have no hand in her destruction. They know that Jehovah has reserved vengeance for himself and that he will take appropriate action when the time comes. The prophecy assures us: “In accordance with the dealings he will reward correspondingly, rage to his adversaries, due treatment to his enemies. To the islands he will recompense due treatment.” (Isaiah 59:18) As in Isaiah’s day, not only will God’s judgments be fair but they will also be complete. They will even reach “to the islands,” to distant parts. No one will be so remote or isolated that he will be out of reach of Jehovah’s judgment acts.
16. Who will survive Jehovah’s judgment acts, and what will they learn from their survival?
16 Those who exert themselves to do right are judged righteously by Jehovah. Isaiah foretells that from one horizon to the other—throughout the entire earth—such ones will survive. And their experiencing Jehovah’s protection will profoundly strengthen their reverence and respect for him. (Malachi 1:11) We read: “From the sunset they will begin to fear the name of Jehovah, and from the rising of the sun the glory of him, for he will come in like a distressing river, which the very spirit of Jehovah has driven along.” (Isaiah 59:19) Like a powerful windstorm pushing a destructive wall of water ahead of it and washing away all in its path, Jehovah’s spirit will sweep away all barriers to the fulfillment of his will. His spirit is more powerful than any force that man possesses. When he uses it to execute judgment on men and nations, he will have certain and complete success.
Hope and Blessing for Repentant Ones
17. Who is Zion’s Repurchaser, and when does he repurchase Zion?
17 Under the Law of Moses, an Israelite who sold himself into slavery could be bought back out of slavery by a repurchaser. Previously in Isaiah’s prophetic book, Jehovah has been characterized as the Repurchaser of repentant individuals. (Isaiah 48:17) Now he is again described as the Repurchaser of repentant ones. Isaiah records Jehovah’s promise: “‘To Zion the Repurchaser will certainly come, and to those turning from transgression in Jacob,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.” (Isaiah 59:20) This reassuring promise is fulfilled in 537 B.C.E. But it has a further fulfillment. The apostle Paul quoted these words from the Septuagint version and applied them to Christians. He wrote: “In this manner all Israel will be saved. Just as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come out of Zion and turn away ungodly practices from Jacob. And this is the covenant on my part with them, when I take their sins away.’” (Romans 11:26, 27) Indeed, Isaiah’s prophecy has a greatly extended application—one that reaches down to our time and beyond. How so?
18. When and how did Jehovah bring into existence “the Israel of God”?
18 In the first century, a small remnant of the nation of Israel accepted Jesus as the Messiah. (Romans 9:27; 11:5) On the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., Jehovah poured out his holy spirit on about 120 of those believers and brought them into his new covenant mediated by Jesus Christ. (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Hebrews 9:15) On that day there came into existence “the Israel of God,” a new nation whose members are characterized, not by fleshly descent from Abraham, but by a begetting by God’s spirit. (Galatians 6:16) Starting with Cornelius, the new nation included uncircumcised Gentiles. (Acts 10:24-48; Revelation 5:9, 10) Thus they were adopted by Jehovah God and became his spiritual children, fellow heirs with Jesus.—Romans 8:16, 17.
19. What covenant does Jehovah make with the Israel of God?
19 Jehovah now makes a covenant with the Israel of God. We read: “‘As for me, this is my covenant with them,’ Jehovah has said. ‘My spirit that is upon you and my words that I have put in your mouth—they will not be removed from your mouth or from the mouth of your offspring or from the mouth of the offspring of your offspring,’ Jehovah has said, ‘from now on even to time indefinite.’” (Isaiah 59:21) Whether these words had an application upon Isaiah himself or not, they were certainly fulfilled in Jesus, who was assured that ‘he would see his offspring.’ (Isaiah 53:10) Jesus spoke words that he had learned from Jehovah, and Jehovah’s spirit rested upon him. (John 1:18; 7:16) Fittingly, his brothers and fellow heirs, members of the Israel of God, also receive Jehovah’s holy spirit and preach a message that they have learned from their heavenly Father. They are all “persons taught by Jehovah.” (Isaiah 54:13; Luke 12:12; Acts 2:38) Either through Isaiah or through Jesus, whom Isaiah prophetically pictures, Jehovah now covenants never to replace them but to use them to time indefinite as his witnesses. (Isaiah 43:10) Who, though, are their “offspring” who also benefit from this covenant?
20. How was Jehovah’s promise to Abraham fulfilled in the first century?
20 In ancient times Jehovah promised Abraham: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” (Genesis 22:18) In harmony with this, the small remnant of natural Israelites who accepted the Messiah went out into many nations, preaching the good news about the Christ. Starting with Cornelius many uncircumcised Gentiles ‘blessed themselves’ by means of Jesus, Abraham’s Seed. They became part of the Israel of God and a secondary part of the seed of Abraham. They are part of Jehovah’s “holy nation,” whose commission is to “declare abroad the excellencies of the one that called [them] out of darkness into his wonderful light.”—1 Peter 2:9; Galatians 3:7-9, 14, 26-29.
21. (a) What “offspring” has the Israel of God produced in modern times? (b) How are the “offspring” comforted by the covenant, or contract, that Jehovah has made with the Israel of God?
21 Today the full number of the Israel of God appears to have been gathered. Still, the nations continue to be blessed—and on a grand scale. How? In that the Israel of God has had “offspring,” disciples of Jesus whose hope is everlasting life on a paradise earth. (Psalm 37:11, 29) These “offspring” are also taught by Jehovah and are instructed in his ways. (Isaiah 2:2-4) While not baptized with holy spirit or considered to be participants in the new covenant, they are strengthened by Jehovah’s holy spirit to overcome all the obstacles that Satan puts in the way of their preaching work. (Isaiah 40:28-31) Their number now reaches into the millions and continues to increase as they produce offspring of their own. Jehovah’s covenant, or contract, with the anointed ones gives these “offspring” confidence that Jehovah will continue to use them too as his spokesmen to time indefinite.—Revelation 21:3, 4, 7.
22. What confidence can we have in Jehovah, and how should this affect us?
22 May all of us, then, maintain our faith in Jehovah. He is both willing and able to save! His hand will never be short; he will always deliver his faithful people. All who trust in him will continue to bear his good words in their mouths “from now on even to time indefinite.”
[Box on page 294]
Apostate Jerusalem—A Parallel of Christendom
Jerusalem, the capital city of God’s chosen nation, pictures God’s heavenly organization of spirit creatures and also the body of anointed Christians resurrected to heaven as the bride of Christ. (Galatians 4:25, 26; Revelation 21:2) Often, however, Jerusalem’s inhabitants were unfaithful to Jehovah, and the city was described as a prostitute and an adulteress. (Ezekiel 16:3, 15, 30-42) In that state, Jerusalem provided a fitting model of apostate Christendom.
Jesus called Jerusalem “the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her.” (Luke 13:34; Matthew 16:21) Like unfaithful Jerusalem, Christendom claims to serve the true God but deviates widely from his righteous ways. We can be confident that Jehovah will judge Christendom by the same righteous standards with which he judged apostate Jerusalem.
[Picture on page 296]
A judge should judge in righteousness, seek justice, and accept no bribes
[Picture on page 298]
Like a river in flood, Jehovah’s judgments will sweep away all barriers to the doing of his will
[Picture on page 302]
Jehovah covenants that his people will never lose the privilege of being his witnesses