Repairers and Restorers of True Religion
“And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places; thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.”—Isa. 58:12, AS.
1. What is true religion and false religion?
TRUE religion is the genuine worship of Jehovah. False religion embraces everything against the worship of Jehovah. The word “religion” in its simplest and most common form means “a form or system of worship.” Therefore the word itself does not mean “truth.” We speak of pagan religion as well as Christian religion, so that any form or system of worship, regardless of the motive or object, is properly called a religion. Regardless of the existence of many thousands of different religions there is only one true religion, and it is the worship of the Most High God, whose name is Jehovah. This true religion has now been restored to the people.
2. What attempts have been made against true religion, and why have they failed?
2 True religion is eternal, and can never be destroyed. Throughout the many centuries enemies have tried to throw it down and destroy it, but their works of evil have proved futile. There have been times when true religion has been almost completely hidden from view. It has been slandered and men have made it a treasonable offense to practice it. Indeed, during the nearly 6,000 years of man’s existence on this earth there have been many occasions when true religion hardly survived the terrific onslaughts made against it. But though sometimes almost in ruin, yet Jehovah has always raised up faithful men to champion its cause and fight for its existence, regardless of personal loss and even the danger of death. These men repaired the breaches and restored the paths, so that people might again worship Jehovah God in spirit and in truth. In just such a critical time we are living today.
3. In what way did pure religion exist in Eden, and why did it not continue?
3 Pure religion existed in Eden before Adam’s disobedience, because at that time there was the worship of but one God, Jehovah. Great blessings attended man while in that pure state, he being assigned very pleasurable services in connection with the lower creation, over which it was God’s purpose to grant him dominion. There were peace and quietness and nothing to mar the serenity of that garden of delight. Man needed no mediator with God, for Jehovah spoke to man in the end of the day, probably in the evening time. But this state of paradise did not last long, for Adam forsook true religion and embraced the false. A willful act of disobedience lost these blessings, and the happy, blissful relationship he enjoyed could be repaired and bestowed on his offspring only by one possessing the power and authority to do so. Mankind lost these wonderful blessings and life itself, and so far have they traveled from true religion that multitudes do not even know what it is. Such ignorant ones conclude that their idol-worshiping religion is the right one, entirely disregarding the terrible fruitage it has produced and how far it has destroyed any resemblance between Creator and creatures.
4. Briefly state what happens when true religion is lost.
4 Man’s being made in the “image of God” involves pure worship of Jehovah. He must operate on the same principles and rules of action as his Creator. When man ceases worshiping Jehovah, then immediately his recognition of responsibility toward God departs. He loses understanding and goes headlong into foolishness and spiritual insanity, for thereafter he goes in search of wood, stone or metal, fashions it into an image, paints on it a face, and then bows before it. Some creatures satisfy themselves by worshiping other creations, animate or inanimate. False religion breeds ignorance, fear, superstition, hatred, fanaticism and insanity. True religion produces goodness, joy, peace, love and life. The hope and salvation of mankind lie in the restoration of true religion.
5. Who is the creator of false religion, and what was his scheme in making the breach between God and man?
5 The creator of false religion is Satan, for he deliberately caused the rebellion of man in Eden to make a breach between God and man, and in this he was successful. Then Satan began to organize mankind into his way of worship. He has always done his utmost to prevent humankind from obtaining knowledge of Jehovah. To accomplish this he caused men to commence worshiping the creation of God, instead of the Creator, and so over the centuries men have made religion of everything, from the sun to creeping things on the earth. Earth-wide confusion has resulted. Paul writes: “If, now, the good news we declare is in fact veiled, it is veiled among those who are perishing, among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.” (2 Cor. 4:3, 4, NW) The time will come when Satan will not be able to deceive mankind with false religion, for it is foretold of Jesus: “And he seized the dragon, the original serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. And he hurled him into the abyss and shut it and sealed it over him, that he might not mislead the nations any more until the thousand years were ended.”—Rev. 20:2, 3, NW.
6. Explain the condition in Noah’s and Paul’s days, and how does this result from false religion?
6 The corrupt conditions resulting to mankind when true religion is lost are forcefully demonstrated by the terrible state into which the people of Noah’s day fell: “So God saw the earth and, look! it was ruined, because all flesh had ruined its way on the earth. After that God said to Noah: ‘The end of all flesh has come before me, because the earth is full of violence as a result of them, and here I am bringing them to ruin together with the earth.’” (Gen. 6:12, 13, NW) Again 2,000 years later conditions were the same, for Paul states: “Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God nor did they thank him, but they became empty-headed in their reasonings . . . Although asserting they were wise, they became foolish and turned the glory of the incorruptible God into something like the image of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed creatures and creeping things. . . . And just as they did not approve of holding God in accurate knowledge, God gave them up to a disapproved mental state, to do the things not fitting, filled as they were with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, injuriousness, being full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malicious disposition, being whisperers, backbiters, haters of God.” (Rom. 1:21-31, NW) Paul also declared that the same evil conditions would exist in the last days of this evil system of things.—2 Tim. 3:1-7.
7. What is necessary now for the saving of many people, and is such a work going on today?
7 These above-quoted scriptures clearly describe the desolation, the fallen-down condition and the low estate of humanity. It is absolutely necessary now for a mighty reparation and restoration work to be brought about so that some of the world’s dying population may be redeemed and saved from complete disaster. Such a world-wide reconstruction work has been in progress, and today hundreds of thousands of humans have thereby gained great benefits. Not that such persons have found a new religion, but rather they have been guided into the old paths again, having been led back to the religion of the apostles and of the faithful men of old like Noah, Abraham and others. The good resulting to those who have been restored to the faithful service of Jehovah has been immeasurable. They have come to learn that Jehovah is the Most High God, and the love of God kindled in their hearts and lives has produced obedience to the doing of his will. True religion has developed in these sincere and honest-hearted ones reverence, honor, gratitude, hope and godly fear. It has bound them securely to the Almighty, moving them to willingly surrender all to Jehovah.
8. Can we limit the blessings from true religion, and why do you so answer?
8 It involves the personal relationship, for it involves the decision of the creature to subject himself to the Creator. Such an act is virtuous, for it means that one is continually prompted to render to God the worship and reverence that are his by right. Then it is that those who are true worshipers find loving communion with the Creator and come to know and honor him as their own Supreme Lord, love him as a Father, finding in his family and in his sacred service complete rest, happiness and peace. So all-embracing are the blessings of true religion that they cannot be limited, for hope is born and the prospects of entering into everlasting life become part of one’s life, and more so as one learns to believe and trust in the promises of Jehovah and Christ Jesus our Lord.
9. How does true religion give hope, and with what results?
9 Hope produced by true religion transforms the life. It nullifies the disappointments, trials and sufferings of the present existence under this evil system of things, whereas the absence of hope numbs the mind and heart. Hope of life for all time can be given to us only from Jehovah God through His Son. “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3, NW) “Let us enjoy peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have gained our approach by faith into this undeserved kindness in which we now stand, and let us exult, based on hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but let us exult while in tribulations, since we know that tribulation produces endurance; endurance, in turn, an approved condition; the approved condition, in turn, hope, and the hope does not lead to disappointment; because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy spirit which was given us.” (Rom. 5:1-5, NW) This is the true religion.
10. What are the identifying marks of those having true religion?
10 Some may ask, How can you be sure it is the true religion? The answer is that everything pertaining to it must speak to the honor and praise of Jehovah. It must enlarge the heart and the mind toward Him. There must be a desire and a hope created to see his name exalted above every other name in the universe. Yes, to see his name JEHOVAH shining brilliantly, gleaming gloriously, prominently displaying its grandeur and majesty to the gaze of all creation. These are some of the marks of true religion. It is not formalism, not ritual, not a social function. No, it is not something to try to show oneself respectable, but a living, all-consuming zeal to worship Jehovah with spirit and truth. There must be a holding to the Creator and it must bind us in bonds that cannot be broken. Paul was a true worshiper, and he said, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 8:38, 39, NW.
THE NAME OF JEHOVAH AND TRUE RELIGION
11. Explain the manner in which Satan called into question the veracity of God’s word, and what resulted?
11 The substitution by Satan of false religion for true worship has brought great reproach upon Jehovah’s name. In Eden, Satan called into question the veracity of God’s word, his workmanship and the honor of his name, yes, and even his good purposes toward the human pair. It is recorded: “Now the serpent proved to be the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it began to say to the woman: ‘Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?’ At this the woman said to the serpent: ‘Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat. But as for eating of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “You must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it for fear you may die.”’ At this the serpent said to the woman: ‘You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.’” (Gen. 3:1-5, NW) These few words disclose much. Satan questioned the propriety of Jehovah’s commands. The enormity of this crime can be understood only when we consider the nearly 6,000 years of sinning, wickedness, sickness, sorrow, suffering and death inflicted on the human race. How despicably selfish and rebellious to the extreme to even cast a doubt upon the word of the Creator! Those sinister words “Is it really so that God said”—partly interrogative and partly simulated astonishment—were designed to arouse suspicion and distrust of the Creator. Yes, the depths of Satan’s wickedness are hereby revealed. His rebellion against divine law and order is demonstrated by his defaming the name of the Most High. Here it was that Jehovah’s name was first profaned and defamed. Satan’s plan of action was to cut the binding tie between the human pair and Jehovah, to make a breach that would be impossible to repair and restore to its original soundness.
12. What does the scripture mean, “At that time a start was made of calling on the name of Jehovah”?
12 It was in the third century of human history, during the lifetime of Enosh, son of Seth, that man began to openly profane the name of Jehovah. It is written: “At that time a start was made of calling on the name of Jehovah.” (Gen. 4:26, NW) Men were not repentant and seeking in humility to serve Jehovah. Hebrew scholars have contended that this text should read “began profanely,” or “then profanation began.” It is a fact that the same Hebrew verb is translated “profane” in the King James Version at Leviticus 21:6, but there the verb is in a different conjugation, formation or species. This time, however, was the time for external idolatry. In this connection note these pertinent comments: “In the days of Enos the sons of Adam erred with great error, and the counsel of the wise men of that age became brutish, and Enos himself was (one) of them that erred; and their error was this: they said, Forasmuch as God hath created these stars and spheres to govern the world, and set them on high, and imparted honour unto them, and they are ministers that minister before him; it is meet that men should laud, and glorify, and give them honour. . . . they began to build temples unto the stars, and to offer sacrifice unto them . . . that they might in their evil opinion obtain favour of the Creator; and this was the root of idolatry, &c. . . . So, in process of time, the glorious and fearful name (of God) was forgotten out of the mouth of all living, and out of their knowledge, and they acknowledged him not.” (Quoted from Treatise on Idolatry, by Maimonides) This shows the Jewish viewpoint on Genesis 4:26 as to the subtle scheme of Satan.
13. How did Nimrod defy Jehovah and work for false religion?
13 Nimrod the rebellious one despised the worshipers of Jehovah, for without doubt Noah and Shem had preached to mankind the commandments of Jehovah including the prohibition against the wanton shedding of blood. Nimrod defied Jehovah, and made himself a ruler over the people. “He displayed himself a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah. That is why there is a saying, ‘Just like Nimrod a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah.’” (Gen. 10:9, NW) The Jerusalem Targum says: “He was a mighty hunter [or, mighty in prey] and in sin before God for he was a hunter of the children of men in their languages, and he said unto them, ‘Depart from the religion of Shem and cleave to the institutes of Nimrod.’” His purpose was to destroy true religion. The beginning of his kingdom was Babel. (Gen. 10:10) When the great tower and city of Babel were being built it displeased Jehovah. The record states: “After that Jehovah said: ‘Look! They are one people and there is one language for them all, and this is what they start to do. . . . ’ Accordingly Jehovah scattered them from there over all the surface of the earth, and they gradually left off building the city.” (Gen. 11:5-8, NW) This city and tower were built to blot out the name of Jehovah, and in defiance make a name for themselves.
14, 15. (a) Pharaoh’s defiance of Jehovah resulted in what praise to Jehovah? (b) Explain the threatened breach in Moses’ day and in Elijah’s.
14 In the days of Moses, Pharaoh defied Jehovah, exalting himself before the world as the greater. Jehovah destroyed the power of this mighty world ruler, threw down his idols, and established himself as the Most High. To Pharaoh God’s warning was: “But, in fact, for this cause I have kept you in existence, for the sake of showing you my power and in order to have my name declared in all the earth.” (Ex. 9:16, NW) Throughout the life of Moses and his successor Joshua it became necessary to squarely place before the people the choice of adhering to true religion or falling away from divine favor by adopting false religion. The people of Israel were time and again saved from destruction. On one occasion Moses pleaded with Jehovah to save them for His own name’s sake; God heard, and that breach was healed. “Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.”—Ps. 106:23, AS.
15 Another serious breach was healed in Elijah’s day. This was due to Jehovah’s abhorrence of King Ahab’s apostasy to pagan religion. Jezebel, his queen, was the queen-daughter of an ex-priest of Astarte and Baal from Sidon in the Phoenician country, where lived the descendants of Canaan. Ahab should not have married this infidel hater of pure religion. She organized her own priesthood, of whom it is recorded that 450 were provided for at her table, which, of course, meant at the country’s expense. Some years before Samuel had abolished the false religion, but Jezebel reimported it. The time had arrived for decision to be made by the people of Israel as to whom they were going to serve, Jehovah or Baal.
16. State what happened in this contest between true and false religion.
16 True religion at this time was in a broken-down condition. However, Elijah was used by Jehovah to build up that which was broken down and restore true religion, for he exalted the name of Jehovah. King Ahab accused Elijah of troubling Israel, but the prophet’s fearless reply was: “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of Jehovah, and thou hast followed the Baalim.” Elijah commanded Israel to gather to Mount Carmel, and also the 450 false priests of Baal. Then Elijah said: “How long go ye limping between the two sides? if Jehovah be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” Now followed the contest, as described at 1 Kings 18:17-40 (AS). Note the helplessness and hopelessness of the Baal as the fanatics cried out and performed disgusting acts of licentiousness according to their pagan rites, hoping to appease their god. Read the account and try to imagine all the excitement, the mad frenzy. Then, as no answer came, their religious rites growing more senseless and shameless (for the worship of Baal was one of great obscenity), these insane devil worshipers began to knife themselves, and blood flowed freely. All day long this went on until they were exhausted. What an exhibition of demonic religion to those standing by who should have been worshiping Jehovah in holy array!
17. How did Elijah’s attitude contrast with that of Baal’s prophets?
17 Now observe Elijah. Calmly, reverently, without undue display of emotionalism, he offers prayer, with dignity and solemnity, in contrast with the lewd madness of the false prophets: “O Jehovah, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Jehovah, hear me, that this people may know that thou, Jehovah, art God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.” How clearly such a prayer can be understood, and how it reveals the deep love Elijah had for Jehovah and for Israel, for he was pouring out his heart to Jehovah in this prayer! He had strong faith, and he did not want the curse of Jehovah to fall upon these people. So he prayed that this people’s heart would be turned back to the safe old paths and that they would forsake the selfish, passion-arousing, devastating false religion of Baal.
18, 19. (a) How did Elijah repair and restore true religion? (b) Show how Jehovah answered prayer, and the result. (c) Why did Jehovah bring a breach in the days of Jeremiah?
18 Elijah honored and exalted Jehovah, refusing to use Baal’s altar, but rather himself repaired the altar of Jehovah that had fallen to the ground through disuse and disdain. Taking the twelve stones, he rebuilt the altar. In advance Elijah had announced what would come to pass, and his faith was complete. He was championing the name of Jehovah and restoring true religion to Israel, repairing that which was broken down of the true worship. Probably his prayer took only a few minutes, but immediately afterward the answer came from Jehovah. Beholding this instantaneous fire from heaven consuming the sacrifice, the onlookers could no longer be in doubt as to who was God. “And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, Jehovah, he is God; Jehovah, he is God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.”—1 Ki. 18:39, 40, AS.
19 It was a day of triumph for Elijah, as he was used to repair the breach and restore true religion, and to exalt the name of Jehovah. He had risked his life in protest against all this profanity, this God-dishonoring and bestial false religion, but Elijah was jealous for Jehovah. Jehovah himself is a jealous God, and therefore could brook no rival. Elijah’s conception of the Most High God was so lofty that it absolutely precluded all other gods and objects of worship. This contest on Carmel is one of the finest ever recorded. However, that decision did not end the contest forever, because the invisible Satan soon got busy again breaking down the work Elijah had built up and taking from Israel the true religion. Later there came a breach lasting for seventy years, during which time Jerusalem and the cities of Judah lay in ruins. Jeremiah had warned Israel over and over again concerning her false religion, and one of his messages was: “O foolish people, and without understanding; that have eyes, and see not; that have ears, and hear not: Fear ye not me? saith Jehovah: will ye not tremble at my presence? . . . But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone. Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear Jehovah our God, that giveth rain. . . . A wonderful and horrible thing is come to pass in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?”—Jer. 5:21-31, AS.
20. Why did false religionists cry “Peace!” and why was Jehovah displeased?
20 Jehovah said: “Every one [of them] is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. They have healed also the hurt of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” Jehovah’s wrath was bound to come and no pacifying by false prophets could stop it. These false religionists were acting treasonably before Jehovah by counteracting and countermanding the commands of Jehovah the Most High, the true king of Israel. They were seeking to undermine the loyal obedience of the faithful ambassador of Jehovah. “Thus saith Jehovah, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way; and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls: but they said, We will not walk therein.” And again: “Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease; for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous wound.” This breach was so wide that it took God’s people into captivity for over seventy years. They had to learn that there was only one way of worshiping and that was the right way. “Shall a man make unto himself gods, which yet are no gods? Therefore, behold, I will cause them to know, this once will I cause them to know my hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is Jehovah.”—Jer. 6:13-19; 14:17; 16:20, 21, AS.
21. How had Isaiah foretold that this great breach was to come?
21 The prophet Isaiah, many years before Jeremiah’s day, had warned Israel of the coming breach with Jehovah, but they refused to listen. “For it is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of Jehovah; that say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits, get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and rely thereon; therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall.”—Isa. 30:9-14, AS.
22. What was the reason for the false religionists’ pushing the name of Jehovah from them?
22 Israel did not want the truth and the pure religion. They pleaded with and induced the prophets to tell them only “smooth things.” The hard-hitting truth was too much for their guilty, fearful minds. They wanted assurance by their own prophets that these judgments from Jehovah would not come. They were demanding that Isaiah desist from even mentioning the name of Jehovah. They said: “Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” Their defiance of their Creator was complete. So hardened were they that they tried to bite the hand that fed them. They turned in angry hatred on the mother that brought them forth. What a terrible plight they were in, once again so forcefully showing how insane and brutal people get through false religion! They wanted to push the name of Jehovah from their memory. ‘We don’t want it!’ they said. But the faithful prophet would not even consider desisting from speaking in the name of Jehovah. Never will the faithful servant hesitate to preach the name and to declare the message from Jehovah, and never will true worshipers be found guilty of hiding the name Jehovah under such general titles as “Lord” or “God” to make his Word more acceptable to people in different parts of the world. Those who hide it are ashamed of it and afraid of the judgments proceeding from it.
23, 24. When one goes in forbidden paths what results? When did Jehovah cause Amos’ prophecy to be fulfilled?
23 Through Jeremiah the following message was given: “For my people have forgotten me, they have burned incense to false gods; and they have been made to stumble in their ways, in the ancient paths, to walk in bypaths, in a way not cast up.” (Jer. 18:15, AS) Forsaking Jehovah automatically meant leaving the ancient path. Israel departed from the infinitely glorious Jehovah for worthless, senseless, dumb idols, so causing its people to stumble. Unlawfully they trespassed on forbidden, unknown paths. They were then at the mercy of the enticers, and certainly they got into lots of trouble for leaving the King’s highway. They despised the warning from Jehovah and could not stand even to hear the fearful name Jehovah. No, they could not stand before his infinite holiness.
24 Following the seventy years’ desolation undeserved kindness was exercised toward Israel, and they were brought back to their own land and to the pure worship of Jehovah. They then rebuilt the temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel, and then later the walls were built and a great reconstruction program was carried on in all the land. The prophet Amos had prophesied these things when he wrote: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up its ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old; . . . And I will bring back the captivity of my people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them.” (Amos 9:11-15, AS) Not only did this prophecy have a literal fulfillment, but it was destined for further fulfillment on a grander and larger scale. The next article will discuss further fulfillment of this prophecy.