1, 2. How does the New World Translation exalt God’s name?
ON A cool but sunny Tuesday morning, December 2, 1947, a small group of anointed brothers from Bethel in Brooklyn, New York, set out to accomplish a huge task. The work was exacting, but for the next 12 years, they kept at it. At long last, on Sunday, March 13, 1960, they completed the final text for a new Bible translation. Three months later, on June 18, 1960, Brother Nathan Knorr released the final volume of the complete New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures to a thrilled convention audience in Manchester, England. The speaker well expressed the feelings of all in attendance when he exclaimed: ‘Today is a day for rejoicing on the part of Jehovah’s Witnesses the wide world over!’ One outstanding feature of that new translation was a special cause for joy—the frequent use of God’s personal name.
2 Many translations of the Bible leave out God’s name. But Jehovah’s anointed servants took a stand against Satan’s scheme to blot the name of God out of human memory. The introduction of the New World Translation released that day stated: “The foremost feature of this translation is the restoration of the divine name to its rightful place.” Indeed, the New World Translation uses God’s personal name, Jehovah, more than 7,000 times. How outstandingly this translation has exalted the name of our heavenly Father—Jehovah!
3 In earlier years, the Bible Students understood God’s name to mean “I am that I am.” (Ex. 3:14, King James Version) Thus, The Watch Tower of January 1, 1926, noted: “The name Jehovah signifies the self-existing One, . . . the One who had no beginning and no end.” However, by the time the translators of the New World Translation began their work, Jehovah had helped his people to discern that his name signifies not merely that he is self-existent but foremost that he is a God of purpose and activity. They learned that the name Jehovah literally means “He Causes to Become.” Yes, he caused the universe and intelligent beings to come into existence, and he continues to cause his will and purpose to become a reality. Why, though, is it so important that God’s name be exalted, and how can we have a share in exalting it?
The Sanctification of God’s Name
4, 5. (a) For what do we ask when we pray: “Let your name be sanctified”? (b) How and when will God sanctify his name?
4 Jehovah wants his name to be exalted. In fact, his primary purpose is to sanctify his name, as is evident in Jesus’ first request in his model prayer: “Let your name be sanctified.” (Matt. 6:9) When making that petition, for what are we praying?
5 As we learned in Chapter 1 of this publication, the request “Let your name be sanctified” is one of three petitions in Jesus’ model prayer that have to do with Jehovah’s purpose. The other two are: “Let your Kingdom come. Let your will take place.” (Matt. 6:10) Hence, just as we ask for Jehovah to take action to cause his Kingdom to come and his will to take place, so we ask for Jehovah to take action to sanctify his name. In other words, we are asking Jehovah to act to clear his name of all the reproach that has been heaped upon it since the rebellion in Eden. How will Jehovah respond to such a prayer? He states: “I will certainly sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the nations.” (Ezek. 36:23; 38:23) At Armageddon, when he removes wickedness, Jehovah will sanctify his name before the eyes of all creation.
6. How can we share in sanctifying God’s name?
6 Throughout history, Jehovah has allowed his servants to share in sanctifying his name. Of course, we cannot make God’s name more sacred. It is already sacred, or holy, in the absolute sense. So how can we sanctify it? Isaiah states: “Jehovah of armies—he is the One you should regard as holy.” And Jehovah himself said concerning his people: “They will sanctify my name . . . , and they will stand in awe of the God of Israel.” (Isa. 8:13; 29:23) Thus, we sanctify God’s name by regarding it as separate from and higher than all other names, by respecting what it represents, and by helping others to regard it as holy. We especially demonstrate our awe and reverence for God’s name when we recognize Jehovah as our Ruler and obey him with all our heart.—Prov. 3:1; Rev. 4:11.
Prepared to Bear and Exalt God’s Name
7, 8. (a) Why did it take time before God’s people could bear his name? (b) What will we now consider?
7 God’s servants in modern times have used God’s name in their publications since the 1870’s. For instance, Zion’s Watch Tower of August 1879 and Songs of the Bride, a songbook published that same year, mention the name Jehovah. Still, it seems that before Jehovah allowed his people to call themselves publicly by his sacred name, he saw to it that they met the requirements for that grand privilege. How did Jehovah prepare those early Bible Students to become bearers of his name?
8 In looking back at the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, we see how Jehovah gave his people a clearer understanding of important truths related to his name. Let us consider three of these truths.
9, 10. (a) Why did early Watch Tower articles focus on Jesus? (b) What change occurred from 1919 onward, and with what results? (See also the box “How The Watchtower Has Exalted God’s Name.”)
9 First, Jehovah’s servants came to have the proper view of the importance of God’s name. Faithful early Bible Students viewed the ransom arrangement as the Bible’s main teaching. That explains why the Watch Tower often focused on Jesus. For example, in its first year of publication, the magazine mentioned the name Jesus ten times more than the name Jehovah. Regarding the Bible Students’ early years, The Watchtower of March 15, 1976, noted that they gave “overbalanced importance” to Jesus. In time, though, Jehovah helped them to discern the prominence that the Bible gives to God’s personal name. How did that affect the Bible Students? Especially from 1919 onward, says the same Watchtower article, “they began showing more appreciation for Messiah’s heavenly Father, Jehovah.” In fact, during the decade following 1919, The Watch Tower mentioned God’s name over 6,500 times!
10 By giving the name Jehovah proper recognition, our brothers showed their love for God’s name. Like Moses of old, they set out to “declare the name of Jehovah.” (Deut. 32:3; Ps. 34:3) In turn, as promised in the Scriptures, Jehovah took note of their love for his name and showed them favor.—Ps. 119:132; Heb. 6:10.
11, 12. (a) In what way did our publications change soon after 1919? (b) To what was Jehovah drawing the attention of his servants, and why?
11 Second, true Christians acquired the right understanding of the work assigned by God. Shortly after 1919, the anointed brothers taking the lead were moved to examine the prophecy of Isaiah. Thereafter, the contents of our publications underwent a change in focus. Why did that adjustment prove to be “food at the proper time”?—Matt. 24:45.
12 Before 1919, The Watch Tower had never discussed in any detail Isaiah’s statement: “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares Jehovah, ‘yes, my servant whom I have chosen.’” (Read Isaiah 43:10-12.) But soon after 1919, our publications began to pay attention to that Bible passage, encouraging all anointed ones to share in the work Jehovah had assigned to them—that of witnessing about him. In fact, from 1925 to 1931 alone, Isaiah chapter 43 was considered in 57 different issues of The Watch Tower, and each issue applied Isaiah’s words to true Christians. Clearly, during those years, Jehovah was drawing the attention of his servants to the work they had to do. Why so? In a way, so that they could be “tested as to fitness first.” (1 Tim. 3:10) Before they could rightly bear God’s name, the Bible Students had to prove to Jehovah by their works that they truly were his witnesses.—Luke 24:47, 48.
13. How does God’s Word reveal the most important issue to be settled?
13 Third, Jehovah’s people came to appreciate the importance of the sanctification of God’s name. During the 1920’s, they discerned that the sanctification of God’s name is the most important issue to be settled. How does God’s Word reveal that weighty truth? Consider two examples. What was the principal reason why God rescued Israel from Egypt? Jehovah stated: “To have my name declared in all the earth.” (Ex. 9:16) And why did Jehovah show mercy to Israel when they rebelled against him? Again, Jehovah said: “I acted for the sake of my name so that it would not be profaned before the nations.” (Ezek. 20:8-10) What did the Bible Students learn from those and other Bible accounts?
14. (a) By the late 1920’s, what did God’s people discern? (b) What effect did the deeper understanding acquired by the Bible Students have on the preaching work? (See also the box “A Powerful Reason to Preach.”)
14 By the late 1920’s, God’s people discerned the significance of what Isaiah had stated some 2,700 years earlier. Regarding Jehovah he said: “This is how you led your people, to make a majestic name for yourself.” (Isa. 63:14) The Bible Students understood that the primary issue was, not personal salvation, but the sanctifying of God’s name. (Isa. 37:20; Ezek. 38:23) In 1929, the book Prophecy summed up that truth, stating: “Jehovah’s name is the most vital issue before all creation.” This adjusted understanding further motivated God’s servants to witness about Jehovah and to clear his name of slander.
15. (a) By the 1930’s, what had our brothers acquired? (b) What time had come?
15 By the dawn of the 1930’s, our brothers had acquired a proper view of the importance of God’s name, a clearer understanding of the work God had assigned them to do, and a deeper insight into the main issue to be settled. Now, Jehovah’s time had come to give his servants the honor of publicly bearing his name. To see how that came about, let us consider some past events.
Jehovah Takes “a People for His Name”
16. (a) In what outstanding way does Jehovah exalt his name? (b) In the past, who first served as a people for God’s name?
16 An outstanding way in which Jehovah exalts his name is by having a people on earth who bear his name. From 1513 B.C.E. onward, the nation of Israel represented Jehovah as his people. (Isa. 43:12) However, they failed to keep their part of the covenant with God, and in 33 C.E., they lost their special relationship with him. Shortly thereafter, Jehovah “turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14) That newly chosen people became known as “the Israel of God,” which consists of anointed followers of Christ from various nations.—Gal. 6:16.
17. What scheme did Satan succeed in carrying out?
17 In about 44 C.E., Christ’s disciples were “by divine providence called Christians.” (Acts 11:26) Initially, that name was distinctive, for it referred to true Christians only. (1 Pet. 4:16) However, as indicated in Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds, Satan succeeded in his scheme to apply the unique name Christian to all kinds of imitation Christians. Consequently, for many centuries, true Christians did not stand out clearly from imitation Christians. But that started to change during “the harvest season,” which began in 1914. Why? Because angels began separating imitation Christians from genuine ones.—Matt. 13:30, 39-41.
18. What helped our brothers to see that a new name was needed?
18 After the appointment of the faithful slave in 1919, Jehovah helped his people to discern the work he had assigned them to do. They quickly saw that preaching from house to house set them apart from all imitation Christians. Once they realized that fact, it was not long before they understood that the designation “Bible Students” was not distinctive enough. Their prime purpose in life was not simply to study the Bible but to witness about God and to honor and exalt his name. So, what name would be fitting for the work they were doing? That question was answered in 1931.
19, 20. (a) What exciting resolution was made at a convention in 1931? (b) How did our brothers react to the adoption of the new name?
19 In July 1931, some 15,000 Bible Students arrived in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A., for a convention. Seeing the convention program, they were intrigued by the two large letters J and W printed on its front cover. ‘What do those letters mean?’ they wondered. Some thought they meant, ‘Just Watch’; others, ‘Just Wait.’ Then, on Sunday, July 26, Brother Joseph Rutherford presented a resolution containing the powerful statement: “We desire to be known as and called by the name, to wit, Jehovah’s witnesses.” At that moment, all in attendance understood the meaning of those puzzling letters—they stood for Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Scriptural name based on Isaiah 43:10.
20 The audience responded to that resolution with a tremendous shout and long applause. By radio, that enthusiastic reaction in Columbus was heard halfway around the globe! Ernest and Naomi Barber in Australia recalled: “When the applause went up in America, the brothers in Melbourne jumped to their feet and kept on applauding. We will never forget it!”a
God’s Name Is Being Exalted Worldwide
21. How did the new name stimulate the preaching work?
21 Having the Scriptural name Jehovah’s Witnesses gave God’s servants added strength to share in the preaching work. Edward and Jessie Grimes, a pioneer couple in the United States who attended the 1931 convention in Columbus, observed: “We left home as Bible Students, but we returned as Jehovah’s Witnesses. We were happy that we now had a name that helped us to magnify the name of our God.” After that convention, some Witnesses used a new method to do just that. They introduced themselves to householders by handing them a card with the message: “One of JEHOVAH’S witnesses preaching the Kingdom of JEHOVAH our God.” Yes, God’s people were proud to bear the name Jehovah, and they were ready to proclaim its significance far and wide.—Isa. 12:4.
“We left home as Bible Students, but we returned as Jehovah’s Witnesses”
22. What proves that Jehovah’s people have a distinct identity?
22 Many years have passed since Jehovah moved our anointed brothers to embrace their distinctive name. During the intervening years, has Satan been able to obscure the identity of God’s people? Has he succeeded in absorbing us into the world’s religious landscape? No, indeed! On the contrary, our distinct identity as witnesses of God stands out more than ever. (Read Micah 4:5; Malachi 3:18.) In fact, we have become so closely associated with God’s name that anyone who freely uses it today is quickly identified as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instead of being obscured by a range of mountainlike false religions, Jehovah’s true worship is “firmly established above the top of the mountains.” (Isa. 2:2) Today, Jehovah’s worship and his sacred name are, indeed, highly exalted.
23. According to Psalm 121:5, what important truth about Jehovah gives us much strength?
23 How strengthening it is to know that Jehovah will shield us against Satan’s present and future attacks! (Ps. 121:5) With good reason we echo the sentiments of the psalmist who wrote: “Happy is the nation whose God is Jehovah, the people he has chosen as his own possession.”—Ps. 33:12.