True Worship Expands Worldwide
1. What encouraging message does Isaiah chapter 60 contain?
CHAPTER 60 of Isaiah is written as a soul-stirring drama. In the opening verses, our attention is captured by a touching scene. A series of events follows in rapid succession, leading us to a moving finale. The chapter describes in colorful word pictures the restoration of true worship in ancient Jerusalem and the worldwide expansion of true worship today. Moreover, it points to eternal blessings in store for all of God’s loyal worshipers. Each one of us can play a part in the fulfillment of this fascinating portion of Isaiah’s prophecy. Let us therefore examine it carefully.
Light Shines in the Darkness
2. What command is given to a woman lying in darkness, and why is it urgent that she obey?
2 The opening words of this chapter of Isaiah are addressed to a woman in sad circumstances. She is evidently lying prostrate in darkness on the ground. Suddenly, light pierces the gloom as Jehovah, through Isaiah, calls out: “Arise, O woman, shed forth light, for your light has come and upon you the very glory of Jehovah has shone forth.” (Isaiah 60:1) Yes, the “woman” should get to her feet and reflect God’s glory! Why is this a matter of urgency? The prophecy continues: “Look! darkness itself will cover the earth, and thick gloom the national groups; but upon you Jehovah will shine forth, and upon you his own glory will be seen.” (Isaiah 60:2) For the benefit of those around her who are still groping in darkness, the “woman” must “shed forth light.” What will be the result? “Nations will certainly go to your light, and kings to the brightness of your shining forth.” (Isaiah 60:3) These opening words provide the gist of what will be explained in greater detail in the verses that follow—true worship must expand worldwide!
3. (a) Who is the “woman”? (b) Why has the “woman” been lying in darkness?
3 Although speaking about future events, Jehovah tells the “woman” that her light “has come.” This stresses the certainty that the prophecy will be fulfilled. The “woman” being referred to is Zion, or Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. (Isaiah 52:1, 2; 60:14) The city stands for the entire nation. At the time of the first fulfillment of this prophecy, the “woman” is found lying in darkness, where she has been since Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C.E. However, in 537 B.C.E., a faithful remnant of exiled Jews return to Jerusalem and restore pure worship. At last, Jehovah causes light to shine upon his “woman,” and his restored people become a source of enlightenment among the spiritually bedarkened nations.
A Greater Fulfillment
4. Who today on earth represent the “woman,” and to whom do the prophetic words apply by extension?
4 Our interest in these prophetic words goes beyond their fulfillment upon Jerusalem of old. Today Jehovah’s heavenly “woman” is represented on earth by “the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:16) Over the period of its existence, from Pentecost 33 C.E. until now, this spiritual nation has come to have a total of 144,000 spirit-anointed members, “who have been bought from the earth” with the prospect of ruling with Christ in heaven. (Revelation 14:1, 3) The modern-day fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 60 centers on those of the 144,000 who are alive on earth during “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1) The prophecy also has to do with the companions of these anointed Christians, the “great crowd” of “other sheep.”—Revelation 7:9; John 10:11, 16.
5. When did surviving members of the Israel of God find themselves lying in darkness, and when did Jehovah’s light shine forth upon them?
5 For a short time in the early 1900’s, those of the Israel of God still on earth found themselves prostrate in darkness, so to speak. The first world war drew to a close with them in the situation symbolically described in the book of Revelation—their corpses lying “on the broad way of the great city which is in a spiritual sense called Sodom and Egypt.” (Revelation 11:8) In 1919, however, Jehovah shed forth his light upon them. In response, they stood up and reflected God’s light, fearlessly proclaiming the good news of God’s Kingdom.—Matthew 5:14-16; 24:14.
6. How has the world in general responded to the proclamation of Jesus’ royal presence, but who have been drawn to Jehovah’s light?
6 Influenced by Satan, chief of “the world rulers of this darkness,” mankind in general has rejected the announcement of the royal presence of Jesus Christ, “the light of the world.” (Ephesians 6:12; John 8:12; 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4) Nonetheless, millions have been drawn to Jehovah’s light, including “kings” (those who become anointed heirs of the heavenly Kingdom) and “nations” (the great crowd of other sheep).
Expansion Causes Heartfelt Joy
7. What heartwarming sight does the “woman” see?
7 Developing the theme set forth at Isaiah 60:3, Jehovah gives the “woman” another command: “Raise your eyes all around and see!” When the “woman” obeys, a heartwarming sight greets her—her children are coming home! “They have all of them been collected together; they have come to you. From far away your own sons keep coming, and your daughters who will be taken care of on the flank.” (Isaiah 60:4) The international Kingdom proclamation that began in 1919 resulted in thousands of additional anointed “sons” and “daughters” being joined to the Israel of God. In this way Jehovah took steps to complete the foretold number of 144,000, who will rule with Christ.—Revelation 5:9, 10.
8. What cause for happiness has the Israel of God had since 1919?
8 This increase caused rejoicing. “At that time you will see and certainly become radiant, and your heart will actually quiver and expand, because to you the wealthiness of the sea will direct itself; the very resources of the nations will come to you.” (Isaiah 60:5) The ingathering of anointed ones during the 1920’s and 1930’s brought great happiness to the Israel of God. Yet, they have had an additional reason for joy. Especially since the mid-1930’s, people who were once part of “the sea” of mankind alienated from God have come out of all the nations to worship with the Israel of God. (Isaiah 57:20; Haggai 2:7) These people do not go off to serve God, each one in his own way. Rather, they come to God’s “woman” and become part of the united flock of God. As a result, all of God’s servants share in the expansion of true worship.
Nations Converge Upon Jerusalem
9, 10. Who are seen converging on Jerusalem, and how does Jehovah receive them?
9 Using illustrations familiar to Isaiah’s contemporaries, Jehovah describes the expansion. The “woman,” looking from her vantage point on Mount Zion, first scans the eastern horizon. What does she see? “The heaving mass of camels itself will cover you, the young male camels of Midian and of Ephah. All those from Sheba—they will come. Gold and frankincense they will carry. And the praises of Jehovah they will announce.” (Isaiah 60:6) Camel caravans used by traveling merchants of various tribes wend their way along the roads leading to Jerusalem. (Genesis 37:25, 28; Judges 6:1, 5; 1 Kings 10:1, 2) Camels are everywhere, like a flood covering the land! The caravans bring valuable gifts, showing that the traders come with peaceful intentions. They want to worship Jehovah and give him the best they can offer.
10 These merchants are not the only ones on the march. “All the flocks of Kedar—they will be collected together to you. The rams of Nebaioth—they will minister to you.” Yes, pastoral tribes are also traveling to Jerusalem. They come with gifts of their most valuable possessions—flocks of sheep—and offer themselves as ministers. How will Jehovah receive them? He says: “With approval they will come up upon my altar, and I shall beautify my own house of beauty.” (Isaiah 60:7) Jehovah accepts their gifts, which will be used in pure worship.—Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 49:28, 29.
11, 12. (a) What sight greets the “woman” as she gazes westward? (b) Why are so many hurrying to Jerusalem?
11 Jehovah now directs the “woman” to look to the western horizon, and he asks: “Who are these that come flying just like a cloud, and like doves to their birdhouse holes?” Jehovah himself answers: “In me the islands themselves will keep hoping, the ships of Tarshish also as at the first, in order to bring your sons from far away, their silver and their gold being with them, to the name of Jehovah your God and to the Holy One of Israel, for he will have beautified you.”—Isaiah 60:8, 9.
12 Imagine that you are standing with the “woman,” gazing westward across the Great Sea. What do you see? A distant cloud of white dots skimming the surface of the water. They look like birds, but as they come closer, you see that they are ships with their sails unfurled. They have come “from far away.”* (Isaiah 49:12) So many vessels are speeding toward Zion that they resemble a flock of homeward-bound doves. Why is the fleet in such a hurry? It is eager to deliver its cargo of worshipers of Jehovah coming from faraway ports. Indeed, all the new arrivals—both Israelites and foreigners, from the east or the west and from nearby or faraway lands—are hurrying to Jerusalem to dedicate their all to the name of Jehovah, their God.—Isaiah 55:5.
13. In modern times, who are the “sons” and “daughters,” and who are the “resources of the nations”?
13 What a vivid picture Isaiah 60:4-9 paints of the worldwide expansion that has taken place since Jehovah’s “woman” began shedding forth light amid the darkness of this world! First came the “sons” and “daughters” of heavenly Zion, those who became anointed Christians. In 1931 these publicly identified themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Then a cloud of meek ones, “the very resources of the nations” and “the wealthiness of the sea,” hurried to join the remaining ones of Christ’s brothers.* Today all these servants of Jehovah coming from the four corners of the globe and from all walks of life join the Israel of God in praising their Sovereign Lord, Jehovah, and in exalting his name as the grandest name in all the universe.
14. How is it that the new arrivals “come up upon [God’s] altar”?
14 What does it mean, though, that these new arrivals from the nations “come up upon [God’s] altar”? A sacrifice is placed upon an altar. The apostle Paul used an expression involving sacrifice when he wrote: “I entreat you . . . to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.” (Romans 12:1) Genuine Christians are willing to give of themselves. (Luke 9:23, 24) They devote their time, energy, and skills to the promoting of pure worship. (Romans 6:13) In doing so, they offer acceptable sacrifices of praise to God. (Hebrews 13:15) How heartwarming it is that millions of worshipers of Jehovah today, both young and old, have put their personal desires in a position secondary to the interests of God’s Kingdom! They display a genuine spirit of self-sacrifice.—Matthew 6:33; 2 Corinthians 5:15.
New Arrivals Share in the Expansion
15. (a) In ancient times, how was Jehovah’s mercy expressed with regard to foreigners? (b) In modern times, how have “foreigners” shared in building up true worship?
15 The new arrivals offer both their possessions and their personal services in support of Jehovah’s “woman.” “Foreigners will actually build your walls, and their own kings will minister to you; for in my indignation I shall have struck you, but in my goodwill I shall certainly have mercy upon you.” (Isaiah 60:10) Jehovah’s mercy was expressed in the sixth century B.C.E. when foreigners helped in the construction work in Jerusalem. (Ezra 3:7; Nehemiah 3:26) In today’s larger fulfillment, “foreigners,” the great crowd, support the anointed remnant in building up true worship. They help build Christian qualities in their Bible students and thus build up Christian congregations and strengthen the citylike “walls” of Jehovah’s organization. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) They also build in a literal way, working hard in the construction of Kingdom Halls, Assembly Halls, and Bethel facilities. Thus they join their anointed brothers in caring for the needs of Jehovah’s expanding organization.—Isaiah 61:5.
16, 17. (a) How have the “gates” of God’s organization been kept open? (b) How have “kings” ministered to Zion? (c) What will happen to those who try to close the “gates” that Jehovah wishes left open?
16 Each year as a result of the spiritual building program, hundreds of thousands of “foreigners” begin to associate with Jehovah’s organization, and the way is open for still more. Jehovah says: “Your gates will actually be kept open constantly; they will not be closed even by day or by night, in order to bring to you the resources of the nations, and their kings will be taking the lead.” (Isaiah 60:11) Who, though, are the “kings” taking the lead in bringing the resources of the nations to Zion? In ancient times Jehovah moved the hearts of certain rulers to “minister to” Zion. Cyrus, for example, took the initiative in sending the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Later, Artaxerxes contributed resources and sent Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:2, 3; Nehemiah 2:1-8) Truly “a king’s heart is as streams of water in the hand of Jehovah.” (Proverbs 21:1) Our God can move even powerful rulers to act in harmony with his will.
17 In modern times many “kings,” or secular authorities, have tried to close the “gates” of Jehovah’s organization. However, others have ministered to Zion by making decisions that helped to keep those “gates” open. (Romans 13:4) In 1919, secular authorities released Joseph F. Rutherford and his companions from unjust imprisonment. (Revelation 11:13) Human governments “swallowed up” the flood of persecution unleashed by Satan after his fall from heaven. (Revelation 12:16) Some governments have promoted religious tolerance, sometimes specifically in behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This kind of ministering has made it easier for crowds of meek ones to pass through the open “gates” into Jehovah’s organization. And what of the opposers who try to close those “gates”? They will never succeed. Of them, Jehovah says: “Any nation and any kingdom that will not serve you will perish; and the nations themselves will without fail come to devastation.” (Isaiah 60:12) All who fight against God’s “woman”—be they individuals or organizations—will perish in the coming war of Armageddon at the latest.—Revelation 16:14, 16.
18. (a) What is meant by the promise that trees will flourish in Israel? (b) What is the ‘place of Jehovah’s feet’ today?
18 After this warning of judgment, the prophecy turns back to promises of exaltation and prosperity. Speaking to his “woman,” Jehovah states: “To you the very glory of Lebanon will come, the juniper tree, the ash tree and the cypress at the same time, in order to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I shall glorify the very place of my feet.” (Isaiah 60:13) Luxuriant trees symbolize beauty and fruitfulness. (Isaiah 41:19; 55:13) The expressions “sanctuary” and “place of my feet” in this verse refer to Jerusalem’s temple. (1 Chronicles 28:2; Psalm 99:5) However, the apostle Paul explained that the temple in Jerusalem was a typical representation foreshadowing a greater spiritual temple, the arrangement for approaching Jehovah in worship on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice. (Hebrews 8:1-5; 9:2-10, 23) Today Jehovah glorifies the ‘place of his feet,’ the earthly courtyards of this great spiritual temple. These become so inviting that they attract people out of all nations to share in true worship there.—Isaiah 2:1-4; Haggai 2:7.
19. What will opposers be forced to acknowledge, and when at the latest will they do this?
19 Now turning his attention back to the opposers, Jehovah says: “To you the sons of those afflicting you must go, bowing down; and all those treating you disrespectfully must bend down at the very soles of your feet, and they will have to call you the city of Jehovah, Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 60:14) Yes, seeing the bountiful increase and the superior way of life that God’s blessing brings to his people will compel some opposers to bow down and call out to the “woman.” That is, they will be forced to acknowledge—at Armageddon at the latest—that the anointed remnant and their companions truly do represent God’s heavenly organization, “the city of Jehovah, Zion of the Holy One of Israel.”
Using Available Resources
20. What great change in circumstances does the “woman” experience?
20 How great a change in circumstances Jehovah’s “woman” experiences! Jehovah says: “Instead of your proving to be one left entirely and hated, with nobody passing through, I will even set you as a thing of pride to time indefinite, an exultation for generation after generation. And you will actually suck the milk of nations, and the breast of kings you will suck; and you will be certain to know that I, Jehovah, am your Savior, and the Powerful One of Jacob is your Repurchaser.”—Isaiah 60:15, 16.
21. (a) How does ancient Jerusalem become “a thing of pride”? (b) What blessings have Jehovah’s anointed servants enjoyed since 1919, and how have they sucked “the milk of nations”?
21 For 70 years ancient Jerusalem is off the map, so to speak, “with nobody passing through.” But starting in 537 B.C.E., Jehovah repopulates the city, making it “a thing of pride.” Similarly, toward the end of the first world war, the Israel of God experienced a period of desolation in which they felt “left entirely.” But in 1919, Jehovah repurchased his anointed servants from captivity, and since then he has blessed them with unprecedented expansion and spiritual prosperity. His people have sucked “the milk of nations,” using resources from the nations for the advancement of true worship. For example, wise use of modern technology has made possible the translation and publication of Bibles and Bible literature in hundreds of languages. As a result, hundreds of thousands each year study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and come to know that Jehovah, through Christ, is their Savior and Repurchaser.—Acts 5:31; 1 John 4:14.
22. What special kind of progress does Jehovah promise?
22 The growth in the number of Jehovah’s people is accompanied by organizational progress. Jehovah states: “Instead of the copper I shall bring in gold, and instead of the iron I shall bring in silver, and instead of the wood, copper, and instead of the stones, iron; and I will appoint peace as your overseers and righteousness as your task assigners.” (Isaiah 60:17) Replacing copper with gold is an improvement, and the same is true of the other materials here mentioned. In harmony with this, Jehovah’s people have been experiencing improved organizational arrangements throughout the last days.
23, 24. What improved organizational arrangements have Jehovah’s people been experiencing since 1919?
23 By 1919, congregations had elders and deacons who were elected in a democratic way. Starting in that year, a service director was theocratically appointed to supervise field service activities in the congregation, but there were cases where some elected elders resisted the service director. In 1932, things changed. Through the Watchtower magazine, congregations were instructed to discontinue the electing of elders and deacons. Rather, they would elect a service committee to work along with the service director. That was a great improvement.
24 In 1938, more “gold” was brought in when it was established that all servants in the congregation were to be theocratically appointed. Congregation administration came to be in the hands of a company servant (later, congregation servant) and the various servants who assisted him, all appointed under the oversight of “the faithful and discreet slave.”* (Matthew 24:45-47) In 1972, however, it was seen that the Scriptural method of overseeing a congregation is through a body of elders rather than through one man. (Philippians 1:1) Other changes were made at both the congregation level and the Governing Body level. An example of the latter was seen on October 7, 2000, when it was announced that members of the Governing Body who were serving as directors of the Watch Tower Society of Pennsylvania and affiliated corporations had voluntarily stepped aside. In this way, the Governing Body, representing the faithful and discreet slave, is able to give more attention to caring for the spiritual oversight of “the congregation of God” and its associates, the other sheep. (Acts 20:28) All such arrangements have been improvements. They have strengthened Jehovah’s organization and blessed his worshipers.
25. Who has been behind the organizational progress of Jehovah’s people, and what benefits have been reaped?
25 Who has been behind these improvements? Are they due to the organizational ability or the ingenious thinking of some humans? No, for Jehovah stated: “I shall bring in gold.” All this progress is the result of divine guidance. As Jehovah’s people submit to his guidance and make adjustments, they reap benefits. Peace prevails among them, and the love of righteousness impels them to serve him.
26. What mark identifying true Christians do even opposers notice?
26 God-given peace has a transforming effect. Jehovah promises: “No more will violence be heard in your land, despoiling or breakdown within your boundaries. And you will certainly call your own walls Salvation and your gates Praise.” (Isaiah 60:18) How true! Even opposers admit that peacefulness is an outstanding mark of true Christians. (Micah 4:3) This peace with God and among Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves makes each Christian meeting place a refreshing oasis in a violent world. (1 Peter 2:17) It is a foretaste of the abundance of peace that will exist when all earth’s inhabitants will be “persons taught by Jehovah.”—Isaiah 11:9; 54:13.
The Glorious Light of Divine Approval
27. What constant light shines upon Jehovah’s “woman”?
27 The intensity of the light that shines upon Jerusalem is described by Jehovah when he states: “For you the sun will no more prove to be a light by day, and for brightness the moon itself will no more give you light. And Jehovah must become to you an indefinitely lasting light, and your God your beauty. No more will your sun set, nor will your moon go on the wane; for Jehovah himself will become for you an indefinitely lasting light, and the days of your mourning will have come to completion.” (Isaiah 60:19, 20) Jehovah will continue to be “an indefinitely lasting light” for his “woman.” He will never “set” like the sun or “wane” like the moon.* His constant light of approval shines upon anointed Christians, the human representatives of God’s “woman.” They, along with the great crowd, enjoy such a blaze of spiritual light that no darkness on the world’s political or economic scene can diminish it. And they have confidence in the bright future that Jehovah has set before them.—Romans 2:7; Revelation 21:3-5.
28. (a) What is promised regarding the returning inhabitants of Jerusalem? (b) What did anointed Christians take possession of in 1919? (c) For how long will the righteous possess the land?
28 Regarding Jerusalem’s inhabitants Jehovah goes on to say: “As for your people, all of them will be righteous; to time indefinite they will hold possession of the land, the sprout of my planting, the work of my hands, for me to be beautified.” (Isaiah 60:21) When natural Israel returned from Babylon, they took “possession of the land.” But in that case, “to time indefinite” turned out to be until the first century C.E. when the armies of Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish state. In 1919 the remnant of anointed Christians came out of spiritual captivity and took possession of a spiritual land. (Isaiah 66:8) This land, or realm of activity, is marked by a paradisaic spiritual prosperity that will not fade. Unlike ancient Israel, spiritual Israel as a body will not prove unfaithful. Moreover, Isaiah’s prophecy will also have a material fulfillment when the earth becomes a literal paradise characterized by an “abundance of peace.” Then the righteous with an earthly hope will possess the land forever.—Psalm 37:11, 29.
29, 30. How has “the little one” become “a thousand”?
29 At the conclusion of Isaiah chapter 60 can be found a solemn promise, which Jehovah guarantees by his own name. He states: “The little one himself will become a thousand, and the small one a mighty nation. I myself, Jehovah, shall speed it up in its own time.” (Isaiah 60:22) When the dispersed anointed ones were restored to activity in 1919, they were “the little one.”* But their number multiplied as the remaining spiritual Israelites were brought in. And the increase became phenomenal as the gathering of the great crowd got under way.
30 Before long, the peace and righteousness existing among God’s people attracted so many honesthearted ones that “the small one” literally grew into “a mighty nation.” At present it is more populous than a considerable number of the world’s sovereign states. Clearly, Jehovah, through Jesus Christ, has directed the Kingdom work and has sped it up. What a thrill it is to see the worldwide expansion of true worship and to have a part in it! Yes, it is a joy to realize that this increase brings glory to Jehovah, who prophesied these things so long ago.
Tarshish was likely located in what is now known as Spain. However, according to some reference works, the expression “ships of Tarshish” refers to the type of ships—“high-masted ocean-going vessels”—that were “fit to ply to Tarshish,” in other words, ships considered suitable for making long voyages to faraway ports.—1 Kings 22:48.
While there were active, zealous Christians with an earthly hope associated with the Israel of God before 1930, their numbers started increasing noticeably in the 1930’s.
In those days, local congregations were called companies.
The apostle John uses similar language in describing “new Jerusalem,” the 144,000 in their heavenly glory. (Revelation 3:12; 21:10, 22-26) This is fitting, for “new Jerusalem” represents all members of the Israel of God after they receive their heavenly reward, becoming with Jesus Christ the capital part of God’s “woman,” “the Jerusalem above.”—Galatians 4:26.
In 1918 the average number who shared in preaching the word each month was fewer than 4,000.
[Picture on page 305]
The “woman” is commanded to “arise”
[Picture on page 312, 313]
“The ships of Tarshish” carry their cargo of Jehovah’s worshipers