Jehovah Makes a Beautiful Name for Himself
1, 2. (a) What personal interest do Christians have in the coming “day of Jehovah”? (b) What lofty issue is involved in the coming of Jehovah’s day?
FOR nearly two thousand years, Christians have been “awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.” (2 Peter 3:12; Titus 2:13) It is understandable that they are anxious for that day to come. After all, it will mark the beginning of their relief from the ravages of imperfection. (Romans 8:22) It will also mean an end to the pressures they suffer during these “critical times hard to deal with.”—2 Timothy 3:1.
2 However, while Jehovah’s day will bring relief for righteous ones, it will also mean destruction for “those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8) This is sobering to contemplate. Will God really bring about the destruction of the wicked simply to rescue his people from distressing conditions? The 63rd chapter of Isaiah shows that there is a far loftier issue involved, namely, the sanctification of God’s name.
The March of the Victorious Warrior
3, 4. (a) What is the setting for the prophecy in Isaiah chapter 63? (b) Who does Isaiah see marching toward Jerusalem, and whom have some scholars identified that one to be?
3 In Isaiah chapter 62, we read of the liberation of the Jews from captivity in Babylon and their restoration to their homeland. Naturally, the question arises: Will the restored remnant of Jews need to fear further devastation from other enemy nations? Isaiah’s vision does much to allay their fear. The prophecy begins: “Who is this one coming from Edom, the one with garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, this one who is honorable in his clothing, marching in the abundance of his power?”—Isaiah 63:1a.
4 Isaiah sees a warrior, energetic and triumphant, marching toward Jerusalem. His magnificent clothing indicates that he is of the very highest rank. He comes from the direction of Edom’s most prominent city, Bozrah, suggesting that he has won a great victory over that enemy land. Who can this warrior be? Some scholars identify him with Jesus Christ. Others believe him to be the Jewish military leader Judas Maccabaeus. However, the warrior himself indicates his own identity when he answers the foregoing question by saying: “I, the One speaking in righteousness, the One abounding in power to save.”—Isaiah 63:1b.
5. Who is the warrior seen by Isaiah, and why do you so answer?
5 There is little question that this warrior is Jehovah God himself. Elsewhere, he is described as having an “abundance of dynamic energy” and as “speaking what is righteous.” (Isaiah 40:26; 45:19, 23) The warrior’s magnificent garments remind us of the psalmist’s words: “O Jehovah my God, you have proved very great. With dignity and splendor you have clothed yourself.” (Psalm 104:1) While Jehovah is the God of love, the Bible shows that he takes on the mantle of a warrior when necessary.—Isaiah 34:2; 1 John 4:16.
6. Why is Jehovah returning from a battle in Edom?
6 Why, though, is Jehovah returning from a battle in Edom? The Edomites, perpetuators of an animosity that began with their forefather, Esau, are age-old enemies of God’s covenant people. (Genesis 25:24-34; Numbers 20:14-21) The depth of Edom’s hatred for Judah became particularly evident during the desolation of Jerusalem when the Edomites cheered on the Babylonian soldiers. (Psalm 137:7) Jehovah takes such animosity as an offense against him personally. No wonder that he determined to unleash his sword of vengeance against Edom!—Isaiah 34:5-15; Jeremiah 49:7-22.
7. (a) How was the prophecy against Edom initially fulfilled? (b) What does Edom symbolize?
7 Isaiah’s vision is therefore of much encouragement to the Jews returning to Jerusalem. It assures them of safe dwelling in their new home. Indeed, by the days of the prophet Malachi, God made Edom’s “mountains a desolated waste and his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” (Malachi 1:3) Does this mean, then, that Isaiah’s prophecy was completely fulfilled by Malachi’s day? No, for in spite of its desolate condition, Edom was determined to rebuild its devastated places, and Malachi continued to call Edom “the territory of wickedness” and “the people whom Jehovah has denounced to time indefinite.”* (Malachi 1:4, 5) Prophetically, however, Edom encompasses more than the descendants of Esau. It serves as a symbol of all the nations that prove themselves to be enemies of Jehovah’s worshipers. The nations of Christendom have been particularly prominent in this regard. What will happen to this modern-day Edom?
8, 9. (a) In what activity has the warrior seen by Isaiah been engaged? (b) When and how is the symbolic winepress trodden?
8 Isaiah asks the returning warrior: “Why is it that your clothing is red, and your garments are like those of one treading in the winepress?” Jehovah replies: “The wine trough I have trodden by myself, while there was no man with me from the peoples. And I kept treading them in my anger, and I kept trampling them down in my rage. And their spurting blood kept spattering upon my garments, and all my clothing I have polluted.”—Isaiah 63:2, 3.
9 These graphic words describe a bloodbath. Why, even God’s elegant garments are stained, like the garments of one treading a winepress! A winepress is a fitting symbol of the trapped condition in which enemies of Jehovah God find themselves when he moves to destroy them. When will this symbolic winepress be trodden? The prophecies of Joel and of the apostle John also speak of a symbolic winepress. The winepress of those prophecies is to be trodden when Jehovah treads down his enemies to destruction at Armageddon. (Joel 3:13; Revelation 14:18-20; 16:16) The prophetic winepress of Isaiah points forward to the same time.
10. Why does Jehovah say that he trod the winepress by himself?
10 Why, though, does Jehovah say that he trod this winepress by himself, while there was no man with him from the peoples? Will not Jesus Christ, as God’s representive, take the lead in treading the winepress? (Revelation 19:11-16) Yes, but Jehovah is referring to humans, not spirit creatures. He is saying that no human is equal to the task of ridding the earth of Satan’s followers. (Isaiah 59:15, 16) It is left to God Almighty to keep treading them in his anger, until they have been completely crushed.
11. (a) Why does Jehovah bring a “day of vengeance”? (b) Who were the “repurchased ones” in ancient times, and who are they today?
11 Jehovah further explains why he performs this task personally, saying: “The day of vengeance is in my heart, and the very year of my repurchased ones has come.” (Isaiah 63:4)* Only Jehovah has the right to execute vengeance upon those who harm his people. (Deuteronomy 32:35) In ancient times the “repurchased ones” were the Jews who suffered at the hands of the Babylonians. (Isaiah 35:10; 43:1; 48:20) In modern times they are the anointed remnant. (Revelation 12:17) Like their ancient counterparts, they have been repurchased from religious captivity. And like those Jews, the anointed, along with their “other sheep” companions, have been the victims of persecution and opposition. (John 10:16) Isaiah’s prophecy thus assures Christians today that at God’s appointed time, He will intervene in their behalf.
12, 13. (a) In what way is there no helper for Jehovah? (b) How does Jehovah’s arm furnish salvation, and how does his rage support him?
12 Jehovah continues: “I kept looking, but there was no helper; and I began to show myself astonished, but there was no one offering support. So my arm furnished me salvation, and my rage was what supported me. And I kept stamping down peoples in my anger, and I proceeded to make them drunk with my rage and to bring down to the earth their spurting blood.”—Isaiah 63:5, 6.
13 No human helper can claim credit for Jehovah’s grand day of vengeance. Nor does Jehovah need any human support to carry out his will.* His immeasurably powerful arm of strength is sufficient for the task. (Psalm 44:3; 98:1; Jeremiah 27:5) Moreover, his rage supports him. How? In that God’s rage is not uncontrolled emotion but righteous indignation. Since Jehovah always acts on the basis of righteous principles, his rage supports and motivates him in bringing “down to the earth” the “spurting blood” of his enemies, to their humiliation and defeat.—Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 25:10; 26:5.
14. What appropriate reminders does Isaiah now give?
14 In times past, the Jews quickly lost appreciation for the things Jehovah did in their behalf. Appropriately, then, Isaiah reminds them of why Jehovah did such things. Isaiah declares: “The loving-kindnesses of Jehovah I shall mention, the praises of Jehovah, according to all that Jehovah has rendered to us, even the abundant goodness to the house of Israel that he has rendered to them according to his mercies and according to the abundance of his loving-kindnesses. And he went on to say: ‘Surely they are my people, sons that will not prove false.’ So it was to them that he came to be a Savior. During all their distress it was distressing to him. And his own personal messenger saved them. In his love and in his compassion he himself repurchased them, and he proceeded to lift them up and carry them all the days of long ago.”—Isaiah 63:7-9.
15. How and why did Jehovah show loving-kindness to Abraham’s offspring in Egypt?
15 What an outstanding example Jehovah sets in demonstrating loving-kindness, or loyal love! (Psalm 36:7; 62:12) Jehovah formed a loving attachment to Abraham. (Micah 7:20) He promised the patriarch that by means of his seed, or offspring, all nations of the earth would bless themselves. (Genesis 22:17, 18) Jehovah stuck to that promise, showing abundant goodness to the house of Israel. Outstanding among his loyal acts was his rescue of Abraham’s offspring from slavery in Egypt.—Exodus 14:30.
16. (a) What viewpoint did Jehovah have when he made his covenant with Israel? (b) How does God deal with his people?
16 Following the Exodus, Jehovah brought Israel to Mount Sinai and made this promise: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property . . . And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5, 6) Was Jehovah being deceptive in making this offer? No, for Isaiah reveals that Jehovah said to himself: “Surely they are my people, sons that will not prove false.” One scholar observes: “The ‘surely’ is not the fiat of sovereignty or foreknowledge: it is the hope and confidence of love.” Yes, Jehovah made his covenant in good faith, sincerely wanting his people to succeed. In spite of their obvious shortcomings, he displayed confidence in them. How wonderful it is to worship a God who places such trust in his worshipers! Elders today do much to strengthen those entrusted to their charge when they manifest similar confidence in the basic goodness of God’s people.—2 Thessalonians 3:4; Hebrews 6:9, 10.
17. (a) What evidence did Jehovah give of his love for the Israelites? (b) What confidence can we have today?
17 Nevertheless, the psalmist says regarding the Israelites: “They forgot God their Savior, the Doer of great things in Egypt.” (Psalm 106:21) Their disobedient, stiff-necked attitude often resulted in their coming into dire circumstances. (Deuteronomy 9:6) Did Jehovah cease showing them loving-kindness? On the contrary, Isaiah relates that “during all their distress it was distressing to him.” What empathy Jehovah has! As with any loving father, it pained God to see his children suffer, even when the suffering was due to their own foolishness. As foretold and in evidence of his love, he sent his “personal messenger,” likely Jesus in his prehuman existence, to lead them into the Promised Land. (Exodus 23:20) Thus Jehovah lifted the nation up and carried it, “just as a man carries his son.” (Deuteronomy 1:31; Psalm 106:10) Today we can be confident that Jehovah is equally aware of our sufferings and that he feels for us when we are in dire straits. We can confidently ‘throw all our anxieties upon him because he cares for us.’—1 Peter 5:7.
God Becomes an Enemy
18. Why did Jehovah come to be an enemy of his people?
18 Never, though, should we presume upon God’s loving-kindness. Isaiah continues: “They themselves rebelled and made his holy spirit feel hurt. He now was changed into an enemy of theirs; he himself warred against them.” (Isaiah 63:10) Jehovah warned that although he is a God merciful and gracious, “by no means will he give exemption from punishment.” (Exodus 34:6, 7) The Israelites put themselves in line for punishment by establishing a pattern of rebellion. “Do not forget how you have provoked Jehovah your God in the wilderness,” reminded Moses. “From the day that you went out of the land of Egypt until your coming to this place you people have proved rebellious in your behavior with Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 9:7) By resisting the wholesome effects of God’s spirit, they have hurt, or grieved, it. (Ephesians 4:30) They have forced Jehovah to become an enemy of theirs.—Leviticus 26:17; Deuteronomy 28:63.
19, 20. What things do the Jews remember, and why?
19 In the midst of their affliction, some Jews are moved to reflect on the past. Says Isaiah: “One began to remember the days of long ago, Moses his servant: ‘Where is the One that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is the One that put within him His own holy spirit? The One making His beautiful arm go at the right hand of Moses; the One splitting the waters from before them in order to make an indefinitely lasting name for his own self; the One making them walk through the surging waters so that, like a horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble? Just as when a beast itself goes down into the valley plain, the very spirit of Jehovah proceeded to make them rest.’”—Isaiah 63:11-14a.*
20 Yes, suffering the results of disobedience, the Jews long for the days when Jehovah was their Deliverer instead of their enemy. They recall how their “shepherds,” Moses and Aaron, led them safely through the Red Sea. (Psalm 77:20; Isaiah 51:10) They recall a time when instead of hurting God’s spirit, they were led by it through the guidance given by Moses and other spirit-appointed older men. (Numbers 11:16, 17) They also remember seeing Jehovah’s “beautiful arm” of strength being used in their behalf through Moses! In time, God took them out of the great and fear-inspiring wilderness and led them into a land flowing with milk and honey—a place of rest. (Deuteronomy 1:19; Joshua 5:6; 22:4) Now, though, the Israelites suffer because of having lost their favorable relationship with God!
‘A Beautiful Name for Himself’
21. (a) What great privilege could Israel have had in connection with God’s name? (b) What was God’s primary reason for liberating Abraham’s descendants from Egypt?
21 Still, the material loss of the Israelites pales in comparison with the loss of the privilege they have tossed away, namely, that of sharing in the glorifying of God’s name. Moses promised the Jews: “Jehovah will establish you as a holy people to himself, just as he swore to you, because you continue to keep the commandments of Jehovah your God, and you have walked in his ways. And all the peoples of the earth will have to see that Jehovah’s name has been called upon you, and they will indeed be afraid of you.” (Deuteronomy 28:9, 10) When Jehovah acted in defense of Abraham’s descendants, rescuing them from slavery in Egypt, he was not doing so simply to make life more convenient or pleasant for them. He was acting in behalf of something far more important—his name. Yes, he was seeing to it that his name was “declared in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:15, 16) And when God showed mercy after the rebellion of Israel in the wilderness, his reason for doing so was not mere sentiment. Jehovah himself said: “I went acting for the sake of my own name that it might not be profaned before the eyes of the nations.”—Ezekiel 20:8-10.
22. (a) In the future, why will God once again fight in behalf of his people? (b) In what ways does our love for God’s name affect our actions?
22 What a powerful conclusion Isaiah then gives to this prophecy! He says: “Thus you led your people in order to make a beautiful name for your own self.” (Isaiah 63:14b) Now it can be clearly seen why Jehovah fights mightily in the interests of his people. It is to make a beautiful name for himself. Isaiah’s prophecy thus serves as a powerful reminder that bearing the name of Jehovah is both an awesome privilege and a great responsibility. True Christians today love the name of Jehovah more than their own lives. (Isaiah 56:6; Hebrews 6:10) They are loath to do anything that could possibly bring reproach upon that sacred name. They respond to God’s loyal love by remaining loyal to him. And because they love Jehovah’s beautiful name, they long for the day when he will trample his enemies in the winepress of his anger—not merely because it will benefit them but because it will lead to the glorification of the name of the God they love.—Matthew 6:9.
The Herods of the first century C.E. were Edomites.
The expression “year of my repurchased ones” may refer to the same period of time as the term “day of vengeance.” Note how similar terms are used in parallel at Isaiah 34:8.
Jehovah expresses astonishment that no one offered support. It might indeed be thought astonishing that almost 2,000 years after the death of Jesus, the powerful ones of mankind still oppose God’s will.—Psalm 2:2-12; Isaiah 59:16.
This verse could also begin: “He began to remember.” (Isaiah 63:11, footnote) However, this does not necessarily mean that Jehovah is the one remembering. The words that follow express the feelings of God’s people and not of Jehovah himself. The Soncino Books of the Bible thus renders these words: “Then His people remembered the days of old.”
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Jehovah had high hopes for his people